Gilkey Lecture ‘Caring Is Good for Business’ to Confront Homeless Crisis

February 20, 2018

Michelle CardinalMISSOULA – Michelle Cardinal didn’t choose to become a prominent voice in the movement to address Portland’s homeless epidemic. But when the problem showed up outside her office, the founder and CEO of one of the nation’s top independent advertising agencies quickly got involved.

Cardinal will speak at the University of Montana College of Business as part of its Gilkey Executive Lecture Series on Thursday, March 8. “Caring is Good for Business,” which is free and open to the public, will take place at 5:30 p.m. in Gallagher Business Building Room 106.

Cardinal helped found R2C Group, a $600 million Portland firm with more than 220 employees and offices in four cities across the nation. While not an expert on homelessness, she will engage in a conversation to share her “honest, authentic story about what businesses go through when they’re grappling with homeless issues.”

In 2015, she returned from a business trip to find that a large homeless camp had settled right outside the doors of her business. The development had a cascading effect on her enterprise – visiting clients were harassed and issues related to drug use and prostitution surfaced, as well as safety and sanitary concerns for everyone from employees to passersby.

“This is about business’ responsibility and our social contract,” Cardinal said. “Businesses have a right to run their business and have sanitary and safe conditions. But the question I would pose is, ‘What is our responsibility in return?’”

Cardinal’s career spans more than 25 years in advertising and media. During that time, she has pioneered the use of data to guide informed marketing decisions through the development of leading media analytic tools to target consumers, derive brand insights and measure behaviors.

This unique approach leads to highly effective creative and media strategies that drive massive transformational growth for their clients. Some of these clients include Peloton, Chewy, Wayfair, Humana Healthcare and many more.

Cardinal is an entrepreneur at heart and has successfully built three companies from startup and effectively steered the agency through four company acquisitions, successfully merging staff and cultures in four cities nationwide. In 2009, she co-founded Nero Del Gallo, with olive groves in Santa Ynez, California. The company produces and bottles more than 60 gallons of artisan olive oil per year.

UM alumni Harold and Priscilla Gilkey established the Gilkey Executive Lecture Series to enrich business education at the University. Since its founding in 2004, the series has drawn speakers such as BlogHer co-founder Lisa Stone and Potlatch Corporation CEO Michael Covey to address issues regarding marketing, management, finance, ethics and leadership.

In addition to the public lecture, each visiting speaker leads classroom discussions with students and interacts with faculty, staff and campus and community leaders. Visit to learn more about the series and to see a complete list of past speakers. Email with questions.


Contact: Elizabeth Willy, director of marketing and communications, UM College of Business, 406-243-4436,