Vice President for Communications

Apr 28, 2017
Institution Type
Four-Year Institution
About The Unit: Founded in 1890 by John D. Rockefeller, the University of Chicago is one of the world's leading universities and widely known for its research eminence, its excellent faculty, graduate programs that rank at or near the top of their respective fields, a consistently strong and increasingly diverse student body, and impressive, constantly improved fundraising and endowment growth. In 2016, US News and World Report ranked the University of Chicago 3rd among national universities in its annual report of Best College Rankings. The University is home to over 2,700 faculty and academic personnel and more than 15,000 students, and claims nearly 150,000 alumni worldwide. Faculty are organized in four divisions (physical sciences, biological sciences, social sciences, and humanities), six professional schools (business, medicine, law, divinity, public policy, and social service administration), and the Institute for Molecular Engineering. More than 80 Nobel Laureates are associated with the University of Chicago, including eight current faculty members. In addition to the academic units, the University comprises a medical center with exceptionally strong programs in cancer biology, immunology, and gastrointestinal disease; a charter school with four distinct campuses; a pre-K-12 private school; a professional theater; museums; and the nation's largest academic press. The University enjoys a close relationship with Argonne National Laboratory, a preeminent federal R&D center which the University has operated for the U.S. Government (currently through the Department of Energy) since Argonne's founding in 1946. Argonne is the nation's first national laboratory and applies a unique mix of world-class science, engineering, and user facilities to deliver innovative research and technologies that address the most important scientific and societal needs of our nation. In addition, the University partners with a consortium to manage the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and operates the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) North America's oldest, private, marine laboratory located in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. In July of 2006, distinguished mathematician Robert J. Zimmer became the 13th President of the University of Chicago. He has led a remarkable period of growth and innovation at the University that has enhanced its already powerful position among leading institutions of higher education. The current trajectory of the University is impressive as evidenced by dramatic improvements in the number and quality of undergraduate applications, major increases in philanthropy, and a series of ambitious strategic investments in academic programs, capital projects and campus improvements. For more about the University of Chicago visit: To express confidential interest or to nominate a candidate, please send submittals to:

Unit Job Summary: Vice President for Communications: In addition to leading the University's overall communications strategy, the Vice President for Communications has direct responsibility for the following on a day-to-day basis: - Advise President Zimmer and other senior officers on a broad range of internal and external communications. - Reach and build relevant audiences leveraging all elements of the University's communications capacity including: media relations, public affairs, and branding; the University's news office and internal news channels; the University's creative communications group, UChicago Creative; and the design and content of the University's website. - Work closely with academic deans and officers to coordinate and integrate communications across the University, including University planning, trustee relations, development activities, alumni outreach, and recruitment of students, faculty, and staff. - Inspire, lead, mobilize, and advocate for a team of 20+ professionals building bench strength and functional capability positioning the office of communications as a results oriented partner and trusted advisor to the campus. - Define and drive a clearly articulated narrative arc that consistently positions the University of Chicago as the leading, cross-disciplinary intellectual voice and that highlights the University's accomplishments across all areas. - Enhance media coverage at the community, regional, national, and international levels resulting in increased awareness and understanding of the University of Chicago and its positioning as a leading intellectual voice. - Establish clearly defined, accessible, and pragmatic issues management and crisis communications plans and procedures. The successful candidate will have an established record of effective leadership of a dynamic communications enterprise within an organization with diverse and complex constituencies. He or she will understand and have enthusiasm for the University's mission and will be excited by the opportunity to apply a strategic vision for raising the University's visibility and impact. The successful candidate will provide leadership by exhibiting a combination of insight, innovation, transparency, fairness, persuasiveness, and commitment to the institution. He or she will thrive as a leader in a relationship-driven culture where intellectual acuity is highly valued and where new ideas are openly deliberated and refined. This professional will be energized by the opportunity to propose, debate, develop, and implement new communications strategies across the University, creating new approaches to communications that gain widespread acceptance and support.

Unit Education: - Bachelor's degree required, advanced degree preferred.

Unit Experience: - 15+ years of professional experience in the fields of strategic communications and communications planning. - Proven ability to develop integrated, strategic communications plans that advance reputation, brand identity, and increase visibility across a range of audiences. - Leadership of and advocacy for a team of at least 15 individuals, and the development of effective approaches for addressing any organizational gaps in performance levels. - Demonstrated ability to draft highly nuanced written communications that successfully capture and articulate the values, identity, and voice of top organizational leaders and of the institution. - Experience in crisis communications and issues management, in an environment of complexity and politicization. - Proven ability to cultivate and enhance meaningful relationships with sophisticated audiences and stakeholders, including internal clients, the media, and key influencers. - Demonstrated success leveraging social media and other forms of communications and marketing technology. - Exposure to a mission oriented academic or non-profit enterprise.

Unit Job Function Competencies: Strategic Leadership In a highly intellectual yet hard charging environment where a tolerance for complexity and ambiguity is valued, the Vice President for Communications will be energized by solving large, multi-dimensional communications challenges. He or she will have strong analytical skills, the capacity to understand human and organizational dynamics, sound judgment, and the proven ability to move forward and make meaningful progress in the absence of perfect information. He or she will demonstrate the ability to proactively identify challenges and emerging issues, assert a thoughtful point of view, and will be adept at recognizing internal and external communications opportunities and solutions as well as defining and executing appropriate strategies to support them. Driving Results In an environment where executing, delivering, and delighting clients are great measures of success, this individual will work to achieve the University's communications goals by coordinating the development, deployment, management, and delivery of proactive and responsive communications strategies. In doing so, this leader will show a strong sense of urgency about reaching targets without sacrificing quality and will inspire a results-focused orientation throughout the organization. Building Capability As an advocate for the communications team and its output, the Vice President for Communications will spend time building a clear understanding of the capabilities and potential of the whole team, set a clear and high bar for performance, identify opportunities to build strategic capability in support of the entire University, and systematically develop the communications team. He or she will bring promising individuals to the fore, identify individuals' specific capabilities and growth potential, and implement development systems and structures.

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