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University of Oregon
Website URL:
Posted: 04/27/2021
Vice President for University Communications
Eugene, Oregon

The University of Oregon (UO) seeks a strategic, collaborative, and innovative executive as its next Vice President for University Communications at a pivotal time in the university’s history as it reaffirms its commitment to educational access and support for all students as well as academic and research excellence across all disciplines.

Founded in 1876, UO is the flagship university for the state and home to 21,800 students and 5,180 faculty and staff. Under President Michael Schill’s leadership, UO has pushed to achieve its aspirations as a preeminent and innovative public research university encompassing the humanities and arts, the natural and social sciences, and the professions and meet its goals to educate the whole person, and to foster the next generation of transformational leaders and informed participants in the global community.

Reporting to President Schill and a member of his cabinet, the Vice President for University Communications (VPUC) will play a critical role in helping UO frame and convey its commitments to access and excellence, importance in national and global dialogues alike, breadth of research, and contributions to state, national, and global communities. This is an exceptional opportunity for a dynamic and accomplished communications and marketing executive to partner with a president of an AAU university, working with senior administration and key stakeholders alike, to develop and implement a comprehensive communications and marketing strategy. The VPUC will oversee and influence communications and marketing efforts across the university to establish a strategic platform that unifies messaging and positioning for UO, supports and furthers the goals of the entire university and its individuals units, and engages internal and external constituents. Beyond the traditional scope of this role, the VPUC also will serve as counsel and sounding board to the president and his cabinet on a variety of university-wide issues.

The VPUC will have a clear record of success as an innovative and collaborative leader in a large, complex, mission-driven organization with substantial experience developing and implementing multi-faceted communications and marketing efforts that position and elevate the perception of an entire institution, brand, or company with multiple audiences. This person will need exceptional diplomacy, discretion, and judgment; a full understanding of the communications and marketing process from creative conceptualization to implementation; expert knowledge of traditional, digital, video, and emerging media; a robust base of experience dealing with the media; and demonstrated success fostering a team culture and building an efficient, cohesive, and collaborative team. In addition, the VPUC must possess the ability to articulate a vision for communications and marketing that advances UO’s reputation, nationally and internationally, and inspires internal communications partners across the organization. Equally important are a collaborative, collegial orientation and the political savvy and flexibility to navigate a complex academic community. A bachelor’s degree, at least seven years demonstrated senior leadership, and a minimum of five years of supervisory experience are required. Significant experience in higher education is strongly preferred, ideally in a public research university.

The University of Oregon has retained the services of Mr. Jack Gorman of the national executive search firm Isaacson, Miller to assist in conducting this search. Confidential inquiries, nominations, and applications should be directed to Isaacson, Miller as directed at the end of this document.

Founded in 1876, the University of Oregon is the flagship institution of the state. It brings together 21,800 undergraduate and graduate students from all 50 states and over 100 countries and offers 316 undergraduate and graduate degree programs through its nine academic units:
The College of Arts and Sciences
The School of Journalism and Communication
The Charles H. Lundquist College of Business
The School of Law
The College of Design
The School of Music and Dance
The College of Education
The Graduate School
The Robert D. Clark Honors College

Undergraduate enrollment in Fall 2020 totaled 18,903 students. Of the 3,940 students in the freshman class, 34 percent are ethnic and racial minorities, 29 percent are first-generation college students, and 24 percent are eligible for Pell Grants. Graduate enrollment as of Fall 2020 totaled 3,712 in a variety of doctoral and professional degree programs. Across all student groups, 29.8 percent are students of color and 8 percent are international students, while 53.3 percent are female, and 46.7 percent are male.

UO is Carnegie R1 research university, a member of the Association of American Universities, and currently employs 2,094 teaching and research faculty. The faculty include a Nobel Prize Winner, a MacArthur Fellow, two National Medal of Science recipients, two American Cancer Society Fellows, three Pulitzer Prize Winners, nine National Academy of Science Members, and 41 Guggenheim Fellows. In Fiscal Year 2020, UO received $168.5 million in grants, contracts, and competitive awards including $16 million from the federal CARES Act. The university also employs 3,086 staff.

In October 2016, the university announced a $500 million gift from Penny and Phil Knight, the largest gift ever received by a flagship public university. The donation paved the way for the Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact—a $1 billion, ten-year initiative in the applied sciences. The Knight Campus builds on the longstanding interdisciplinary traditions of the UO, bringing together life scientists, physical scientists, engineers, human health researchers, and more to solve problems of import in today’s society, collaborate with universities in Oregon and beyond, and engage with industry and funders to commercialize technology.

The Knight Campus is an initiative to fast-track scientific discoveries into innovations that improve the quality of life for people in Oregon, the nation, and the world. The campus creates the intellectual infrastructure to establish Oregon as a center for both research and development, making Oregon a place where companies can start up, grow, and stay. This major expansion in the research capacity of the university will change the profile of the University of Oregon in perpetuity.

In 2018, UO announced the Oregon Data Science Program, which will build on the UO’s long history as a liberal arts research university with a strong culture of interdisciplinary collaboration by integrating, enhancing, and expanding preexisting initiatives into a university-wide program. With new research and degree programs with a focus on areas such as environmental big data, business analytics, linguistics, and biomedical data science, the data science initiative is an exciting step in UO’s ongoing focus on collaborative, innovative, and impactful scholarship. Following on this, in 2019 UO announced a partnership with Oregon Health & Science University to further catalyze discovery and scientific impact, with a focus on research collaborations, educational programs, and administrative policies, including a new joint Center for Biomedical Data Science.

Athletics are an integral and valuable part of the University of Oregon community and a strong connector for both current students and alumni to the university. The mission of the UO department of athletics is to provide an exceptional student-athlete experience and strive for broad-based excellence. The UO sponsors 20 sports at the Division I level and is a member of the Pac-12 Conference, and the Ducks routinely win conference championships while also competing at the highest level nationally, winning 38 national championships across multiple sports. Students also engage in intramural and club sports with their own events and tournaments; there are 40 club teams with over 1,300 participants and many compete at a national level.

University of Oregon 247,212 living alumni include winners of Emmy, Oscar, and Tony awards, Pulitzer Prizes, Guggenheim Fellowships, MacArthur Genius Grants, the Nobel Prize, Olympic medals, Rhodes Scholarships, the National Humanities Medal, and countless other honors for achievement and public service. The university’s ROTC program graduates more officers than any other civilian school, and UO ranks 16th for Peace Corps volunteers produced by the nation’s largest universities. The University of Oregon Alumni Association includes domestic and international chapters and offers a breadth of personal and professional engagement programs.

In 2014, UO publicly launched a comprehensive fundraising campaign which is headed towards a $3 billion goal. The campaign has three priorities: Furthering Access, Excellence, and Experience. As of September 2020, the campaign has raised $389 million for student support, $639.5 million supporting capital construction and improvements, and $1.355 billion for faculty, programs, and the Knight Campus.

The university is an integral economic driver for the state, with an estimated $2.2 billion annual economic return to Oregon. The main campus is spread over 295 acres serves as an arboretum and a tree identification classroom. Annual budgeted revenues for fiscal year 2020 were around $1.5 billion, which includes significant one-time philanthropic support; revenues for fiscal year 2021 are on track to be $1.2 billion; and the endowment was valued at $1.07 Billion as of December 31, 2020.

Michael Schill, President
Michael H. Schill is the 18th president of the University of Oregon. He has served as the institution’s chief executive officer since 2015. As president, Schill is focused on four priorities to advance the UO’s mission: enhancing academic and research excellence, supporting student access and success, providing an outstanding campus experience, and improving inclusion and diversity. As a first-generation college graduate, Schill is a champion of public higher education and its power to transform lives, which informs his leadership of the university.

Schill has launched a series of initiatives in support of his priorities. The Oregon Commitment, an effort started in 2015, focused on supporting student success by improving four-year graduation rates and providing more access to higher education through programs like PathwayOregon, which provides free tuition, fees, and specialized advising to Pell grant-eligible Oregonians. As part of this effort, Tykeson Hall opened in August 2019, home to two dozen new advisors trained in an integrated approach to providing academic and career advising to students. The university reached the goal of improving four-year graduation rates by 10 percentage points a year early in 2019.

In 2016, Schill announced the launch of the Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact, a billion-dollar initiative to transform innovation at the UO. The first phase, anchored by a $500 million gift from the Knights, was completed in December 2020 with the grand opening of the campus’s first building. Under Schill’s leadership, the UO partnered with Oregon Health and Sciences University to seed new opportunities to create societal benefit. The UO and OHSU have also partnered on a biomedical data science initiative in hopes of detecting treatments and cures for cancer.

In an effort to make campus more inclusive and encourage the exchange of ideas, Schill held a series of events focused on the freedom of expression, launched an African American Speakers series, and championed the creation of a new Black Cultural Center, which opened in fall 2019. Schill also recommended the denaming of two campus buildings to send a clear message that racism has no place at the UO and that the welfare, inclusion, and success of Black, indigenous, and other students, faculty, and staff of color is central to the university’s mission. In 2020, Schill and Provost Patrick Phillips announced a major initiative to hire more faculty of color and retain those already at the university, to establish a center on racial disparities, and to promote inclusion in the UO’s classrooms.

Schill previously served as the dean and Harry N. Wyatt Professor of Law at the University of Chicago Law School. Prior to joining the University of Chicago in 2010, Schill served as the dean of the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law from 2004 to 2009. His other faculty appointments include tenured positions as professor of law and urban planning at New York University and professor of law and real estate at the University of Pennsylvania.

A nationally recognized expert in property, real estate, and housing law and policy, Schill is the author or co-author of three books and more than 40 scholarly articles. His work includes studies of the determinants of value in condominium and cooperative housing, the impacts of housing programs on property values, the enforcement of Fair Housing laws, mortgage securitization, and the deregulation of housing markets. His casebook, Property, co-authored with James Krier, Greg Alexander, and Lior Strahilevitz is one of the best-selling casebooks used in American law schools.

In 2004, Schill founded the Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy at New York University. Under his and subsequent leadership, the Furman Center has become one of the nation’s leading research centers on housing and the built environment.

In addition to serving as the president of the University of Oregon, Schill serves as Chair of the PAC-12 CEO Group, is on the Board of Trustees of Ithaka, the nonprofit parent of JSTOR, and is a former member of the Board of Governors of Argonne National Laboratory. He was elected as a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2011. Schill graduated with an AB in public policy from Princeton University in 1980 and a JD from the Yale Law School in 1984.

The division of University Communications (UC) is charged with telling the University of Oregon’s stories to a broad range of audiences, positioning the university to succeed and thrive. UC develops and implements research-driven, results-oriented communications and marketing plans in support of the university’s mission. It is also responsible for crisis and issues management during challenging times. The division also plays a critical role in communicating that the UO values diversity and seeks to foster equity and inclusion in a welcoming, safe, and respectful community. UC manages a comprehensive suite of communications strategies including public relations, brand journalism, internal communications, branding, advertising, licensing, marketing, social and digital media, analytics, and more.

The division employs 61 staff, and its units include Content Strategy, Marketing and Brand Strategy, Strategy and Operations, Strategic Initiatives, and KWAX.

•The Content Strategy team manages news and editorial communications, media relations, issues management, brand journalism, internal communications, and executive communications. The Content Strategy team also provides strategic counsel to university constituencies, including th e Office of the President.
•The Marketing and Brand Strategy team manages trademark licensing, branding, advertising, design, video and photography, web services, analytics, and social and digital media.
•The Strategy and Operations unit manages academic communications; school- and college-based communications directors reporting jointly to this unit and the deans.
•The Strategic Initiatives unit leads communication efforts for major UO priorities, including the Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact and other projects with significant impact to the institution and the reputation for the university.

UC partners with University Advancement and the UO Alumni Association in support of alumni and development communications. Similarly, it partners with Student Services and Enrollment Management as well as Student Life in support of student, recruitment, and enrollment communications. University Communications works in an integrated communications model partnering with communicators and others across campus to create strategic, accurate, professional, and consistent communication and marketing strategies that conform to UO style and standards. University Communications has also been able to draw upon the resources and talents of UO faculty and students, especially those in the School of Journalism and Communication, on a variety of projects.

Reporting to President Schill, the Vice President for University Communications (VPUC) will serve as the chief communications officer for the university, leading and managing internal and external communications and marketing strategy, execution, and evaluation. The VPUC will provide strategic vision and leadership in the creation and implementation of a comprehensive, innovative communications and marketing program that highlights the university’s academic strengths and research, demonstrates its commitment to creating an inclusive environment, and fosters relationships with university constituents (e.g., prospective students and families, current students and student leadership, university and unit administrators, faculty and staff, employee groups, alumni and donors, and affinity groups) and external constituents and audiences (e.g., local, national, and international media; local community members and leaders; local, state, and national governments; and peer institutions, associations, influencers, and thought leaders in higher education). This position will serve as a critical member of the President’s senior leadership team and work closely with the President's Chief of Staff, the Vice President for University Advancement, the University Secretary, and other senior leadership on overarching issues both in the long term and day-to-day. The VPUC will also work closely with unit-based teams to create a comprehensive communications and marketing program that serves the needs of both the overarching university and the specific colleges and units.

Following are the responsibilities and duties of this role:
Strategic Communications
•Act as senior counselor to the president, the provost, and other university leaders on all communication matters and messaging, internal and external, as well as broader strategic and operations issues affecting the university.
•Conceive of and implement an overarching strategic communications and marketing plan that is innovative, progressive, and proactive, resulting in cohesive messaging and a brand identity that extends across all media and vehicles in ways that appropriately support and reflect the goals and objectives of the university.
•Commit to working with diverse colleagues to develop communication strategies that reach out to and connect with traditionally underrepresented and under-served communities to support and enhance diversity in the university community.
•When appropriate, serve as chief spokesperson on behalf of the university and its leaders.
•Provide leadership in crisis management planning, including establishing crisis communications policies and procedures. Provide real-time crisis management, counsel, and support to university leadership.
•Advise deans and other senior university leaders in their efforts to translate and communicate academic, research, and service accomplishments to the university community and external audiences.
•Build and manage an outstanding strategic communications and marketing program that incorporates all traditional and digital channels and media, and which can be considered best-in-class compared to its peers across higher education. Evaluate the effectiveness and success of communications vehicles with different internal and external audiences on an ongoing basis.
Management and Leadership
•Manage a team of communications, marketing, and branding staff to develop, implement, and measure a comprehensive communication plan including tactics to tell the university’s story and brand differentiators.
•Similarly, work with staff to proactively reinforce and protect the university’s reputation; anticipate and mitigate potentially negative and high-profile issues or crises that may impact the university.
•Develop and oversee the annual budget for communications division and personnel.
•Design, establish, and maintain an organizational structure that will effectively support the university’s mission and objectives, and accomplish the division’s goals. Continually assess staff strengths; recruit and retain a high-quality, diverse communications and marketing team.
•Perform the duties of a supervisor, including: provide clear communication of objectives, goals, and priorities with direct reports; provide guidance and timely feedback; ensure direct reports have access to the appropriate training in order to perform their duties as assigned; maintain management practices that are fiscally responsible and in compliance with departmental and university policies; and respond to employee concerns appropriately and utilize university policies and procedures when needed.

Outreach and Collaboration
•Build relationships with and leverage the expertise of key stakeholders, including those within the Office of the Provost, Student Services and Enrollment Management, Student Life, Finance and Administration, Athletics, University Advancement and the UO Alumni Association, and with all academic deans.
•Convene, support, and inspire collaboration and coordination among decentralized communication professionals across UO. Build strong, collaborative, and collegial relationships with all unit-based communications and marketing teams, understanding their specific priorities and how those integrate with the university overall. Provide appropriate levels of support and service to those individuals and teams.
•Build relationships with key stakeholders and influencers, including the local community, members of the media (local, national, international), and public officials (local, state, national).

Other Duties
•Maintain a healthy, fair, and inclusive work environment by promoting diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging.
•Promote and model teamwork and collaboration when working with students, employees, donors, alumni, volunteer groups, and others.
•Actively promote a professional workplace culture of mutual respect and collegiality for all members of the institution.
The Vice President for University Communications will bring many of the following professional qualities and experiences:
•A deep appreciation for the history, achievements, and aspirations of UO and the ability to articulate the university’s relevance and uniqueness.
•Substantial experience leading, envisioning, and implementing a strategic communications and marketing program that was successfully leveraged across an enterprise with multiple constituencies and a wide variety of audiences, ideally in higher education.
•Unwavering focus on diversity, inclusion, equity, and anti-racism, and how this work is amplified in the language, images, and channels that are used by an institution. Commitment to and experience with promoting and enhancing diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging.
•A record of success as an innovative and collaborative leader in a large, complex, mission-driven organization with numerous and distributed stakeholders, shared decision making, and often rapidly shifting priorities.
•Advanced knowledge of the strategies and industry best practices for all aspects of communications, marketing, positioning, and messaging, including sophisticated and creative use of brand journalism, social media, analytics, and other forms of digital communications.
•Substantial experience evaluating the strengths of existing communications and marketing programs and identifying opportunities for improvement. Ability to increase efficiency and effectiveness of the communications process without sacrificing quality and impact. An aptitude for using data and metrics in decision-making and evaluating success of programs and campaigns.
•Proven effectiveness engaging and working directly with local, national, and international media on background and on the record.
•Broad experience in strategic communications, crisis and issues management, communications planning, media relations, public relations, perception management, and internal communications.
•Collaborative and collegial orientation, eager and able to engage diverse stakeholders and build strong professional relationships. Demonstrated experience serving as a resource to others and obtaining their input, thereby able to synthesize many ideas and produce work products that address a wide variety of goals and objectives.
•Experience managing and inspiring teams in a highly complex organization, leading by influence and unifying the work of communications professionals across the enterprise. The ability to build, lead, mentor, motivate, and retain high-performing professional teams in order to create a robust and collaborative communications and marketing ecosystem.
•Experienced staff manager capable of working effectively with, delegating to, and providing directionand leadership for a team within budget restraints and under deadline requirements.
•Sharp eye for operational efficiency and optimal use of resources; deep understanding of budgets and proven success managing them.
•The ability to intuit the unspoken and perceive what others do not understand. Exceptional diplomacy, discretion, and judgment as well as political savvy.
•Engaging and persuasive in written and oral communications, clearly able to serve as a professional and trusted representative of the university.
•Able to communicate, relate, and work effectively with people at all levels of the organization and wide variety of diverse backgrounds and cultures.
•Outstanding management, operational, and planning skills, including the ability to handle multiple projects simultaneously in a decentralized environment.
•High degree of integrity, character, and emotional maturity, demonstrating respect for individuals at every level of an organization; humility, a sense of humor and life balance; an outgoing, optimistic personality; strong executive presence; and commitment to the highest standards of professionalism.
•Minimum of seven years of demonstrated senior leadership experience overseeing a communications effort in a complex organization similar in scope and complexity to the University of Oregon is required.
•Minimum of five years supervisory experience including hiring, training, assigning staff; evaluating work and projects; and handling disciplinary problems is required.
•Experience in a public research university is a decided plus.
•Bachelor’s degree is required; an advanced degree is preferred.
Please note: Applicants who are considered by the committee must provide a resume, cover letter, and statement regarding how their leadership has furthered the goal of building a culturally diverse and respectful work and educational environment in their current / prior institutions. A criminal background check will be completed on the hired candidate.

Jack Gorman is leading this search with Elizabeth Neustaedter and Megan Gorman. For more information, to submit a nomination, or to apply for this role, please visit:

The University of Oregon is an equal opportunity, affirmative action institution committed to cultural diversity and compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.