Rice alum and board member takes flight

Josh Earnest

Rice University’s impact is measured in part by the success of its alumni. Josh Earnest ’97 is an example of alumni who are making an impact. A current member of the Rice Board of Trustees, Earnest was promoted this week to executive vice president of communications and advertising with United Airlines.

Josh Earnest headshot
Josh Earnest

Earnest joined United in 2018 as senior vice president and chief communications officer. He leads the airline’s global communications and advertising strategies and serves as the company’s chief spokesperson.

Under Earnest’s direction, United developed a more integrated approach to communications — public relations, social media, advertising, employee engagement and investor and executive communications — that helped drive awareness of the company’s leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic as well as industry-first investments in technology, sustainability and the customer experience. The airline has seen a boost in its reputation and overall standing, recently named among Time’s Most Influential Companies, Fast Company’s Brands That Matter, Fortune’s Most Admired Companies, Ad Age’s Marketer of the Year and PRWeek’s Best In-House Comms Team.

Before joining United, Earnest spent two decades in politics and government, including as White House press secretary from 2014–17 and as an analyst for NBC News from 2017–18.

Throughout his career, Earnest has received recognition for leadership in communications, including regularly appearing on PRWeek’s annual “Power List.”

His leadership extends into the community as well. Along with his board of trustees position at Rice, he serves on the board of trustees at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago and the board of directors at the Harry S. Truman Library.