5 Questions for a Brunonian: Communications Strategist Zack Langway ’09

One Brown alum is bringing a sense of community to his work in nonprofit and corporate communications.

A passion for public service coupled with an appreciation for unfiltered storytelling has fueled Langway’s career in the nonprofit and business sectors. Currently a communications leader at Johnson & Johnson and serving as the chair of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee for Brown’s Association of Class Leaders, Langway is empowering others to recognize the importance of fostering inclusivity in the workplace, classroom, and beyond.

To learn more about his work philosophy and the role Brown continues to play in his life, read these five questions for a Brunonian:

Why do you do what you do?

For as long as I can remember, I’ve believed that we each have a responsibility to make the world better for the people around us. As a kid, this took the form of volunteering at the local YMCA. As a student at Brown, it meant getting involved in campus governance, and studying the ways that societal structures and political philosophies determine who has power and who does not. And throughout my career, it’s meant using my skills — as a communicator, a community mobilizer, an educator, a leader — to try to inspire others with a positive vision of what is possible. 

I’ve had some incredible opportunities over the years: to work towards improved health for mothers from Mumbai to Dar es Salaam and here in the United States, to help undocumented students and families find their voices, to advocate for companies to address inequity in our society. At Johnson & Johnson, I am helping advance understanding of science, data, and rigorous research both as the cornerstone of decision-making to put people first in health care and as a way to improve health equity for BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ communities.

“ For me, and for my family, the Brown experience is truly something that never stops giving back. I’m just grateful to be able to pay that forward for other alumni, students, family, and friends of Brown. ”

Why did you choose Brown? 

I chose Brown because of the Open Curriculum. I loved Brown because I had the academic and extracurricular freedom to explore things that I found exciting — from philosophy to screenwriting to Greek language to a cappella. I’ve remained committed to Brown because it has profoundly shaped who I am and given me many of the most important friendships and relationships I have in my life. 

Even as an alum, my Brown network expanded when I took on some volunteer roles. I’ve met older and younger Brown grads over the last 10-plus years through the Brown Club of Washington, D.C. and the Brown Alumni Association who I never would have met on campus but who also share my same values and energy. Many of those alumni have become close, lifelong friends. I feel strongly that Brown’s community of alumni, friends, and family share so much more than just a place. And, as a volunteer, it’s my privilege to be able to help connect and reconnect our passionate, diverse community to Brown.

Achievements don't happen in a vacuum. Who helped you get to where you are?

Zack Langway's familyOf course, my family has been the other significant force in shaping who I am and what I have been fortunate to accomplish — my parents, my sister, my wonderful husband, Matt, and now my beautiful son, Samuel. They’ve helped me understand what the best version of myself can be, encouraged my work towards an advanced degree and my professional achievements, and kept me honest and grounded.

Brown alumni have also had a huge role in my life. My first job after graduation, and really the origin of my whole career, I attribute in part to a Brown alumna, Jeanie Eastman Ryan '84, who happened to be with her son at a campus info session I was leading. When I joked about it being my senior spring and having no true plans yet, she offered to set me up with informational interviews in D.C. Long story short: her intro to one person in particular turned into my first role in global health communications and truly has inspired my entire career. Many of my first friends in D.C. were Brown alumni too and several were serendipitously my colleagues and managers mid-career. Dear friends from my own class have been my groomsmen, my travel partners, and even the ones sitting with my husband and I, calming our nerves, the night before we met our son and his birth parents for the first time. For me, and for my family, the Brown experience is truly something that never stops giving back. I’m just grateful to be able to pay that forward for other alumni, students, family, and friends of Brown. 

“ We cannot rewrite human history, but we can work towards a more equitable and inclusive future, and as alumni volunteers and leaders we have the opportunity to educate, engage, and mobilize. ”

What is one piece of advice you would give your younger self?

I’d tell myself that the road ahead will be unexpected, but to appreciate every twist and turn. Even though I work in a totally different field from my degree (not many folks are professional political philosophers), I know that what I learned in and outside of the classroom at Brown has shaped not just what I do, but how I do it — and how I see my opportunity to influence business and society for the better. 

I’d tell my younger self to slow down and take in each experience after graduating, but not to do anything differently. Take more time to notice, appreciate, and savor the experiences, and take that winding path through a variety of roles, organizations, and sectors… the travel, the exposure to new communities and different cultural contexts… all of that will make sense someday, even if it wasn’t always clear in the moment. Just don’t rush it.

What is happening at Brown today that excites you? 

The work that Brown is doing in diversity, equity, and inclusion is exciting and it’s important. There is no part of the University or alumni experience that is not touched by a renewed focus on DEI. Within the Association of Class Leaders, I chair our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, and I am excited by the opportunity to bring this focus of the University into our alumni class leadership. We cannot rewrite human history, but we can work towards a more equitable and inclusive future, and as alumni volunteers and leaders we have the opportunity to educate, engage, and mobilize a huge base of alumni, students, family, and friends towards that vision. President Christina H. Paxson set the tone in a letter to the alumni community: “I feel cautious optimism for the seeds of lasting change, but with an eye toward the hard work that must continue to combat systemic racism, inequity, brutality, and violence that exists in society.” As a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, I can tell you first-hand the work of change is hard. But, the potential of what the University and our society can be, and the opportunity to help pull that thread through into the alumni experience — that’s exciting.

“ Take more time to notice, appreciate, and savor the experiences, and take that winding path. ”

Zack Langway is a communications leader with broad experience, domestically and globally, across consumer healthcare, health equity, global health and development, and health care innovation. Throughout his career, Langway has worked with nonprofits, businesses, and change agents to combine science, storytelling, and community engagement into communications strategies that help advance health and wellness. Langway currently leads strategic communications for Johnson & Johnson’s Office of the Chief Medical Officer and also serves as Global Leader for Communication and Health Equity for the J&J Open&Out LGBTQIA+ Employee Resource Group. Prior, he has held leadership roles in digital strategy, advocacy, and strategic communications at agencies and nonprofit organizations. He graduated with a bachelor's degree from Brown University and a master's degree in communication from Johns Hopkins University, and he serves as an adjunct instructor at Rutgers University and Towson University. Langway lives in New Jersey with his husband, Matt, and their son, Samuel.