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Renee Walker, head of CMU communications, resigns

Renee Walker

Associate Vice President of University Communications Renee Walker has resigned from her job, according to a letter from Central Michigan University President George Ross.

In an email sent to faculty and staff Friday afternoon, Ross said he and Walker came to a mutual understanding that a change was needed to “to prepare for the next academic year with a fresh perspective of its communications opportunities.” She leaves her job on June 8.

“We deeply appreciate Renée’s strategic vision, leadership and dedication in helping to significantly elevate CMU’s reputation, profile and brand nationally,” Ross wrote in the email. “She has established a solid communications platform on which we will continue to build.”

Walker came to CMU in May 2008 as associate vice president for public relations and marketing. Prior to joining the university’s administration, she helped lead a team of international public professionals at Fortune 500 company Kelly Services Inc. and served on former Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer’s administration.

Walker and her staff suffered a series of communication gaffes this year, including Central Michigan Life’s investigation into the university’s quiet $10 million allocation toward the Events Center renovation. Just recently, Ross and Vice President of Information Technology Roger Rehm blamed “miscommunication” on the incorrect amounts paid to Ohio-based Blue Chip Consulting Group for the redesigned cmich.edu. The project, of which she was partly responsible for — Walker’s name appears in several of the contracts — was finished eight months behind schedule.

On Wednesday, CM Life published an editorial calling the website fiasco a “blatant act of long-term misrepresentation.”

“I am extremely proud of what our team has accomplished over the past four years despite circumstances that were at times extremely challenging,” Walker said in the statement. “Working together, we have transformed what is now University Communications from a tactical operation to a strategic communications department while introducing operational efficiencies and new technologies and enhancing the functionality and performance of CMU’s Web presence.”

A national search will be conducted to find a replacement.

11 Comments

  1. Bruce Wayne says:

    Didn’t she used to work with Blue Chip Consulting Group? Something smells funny.

  2. “The project, of which she was partly responsible for…” You should do research on WHY Blue Chip was used. I can assure you it wasn’t because they were the cheapest, most qualified, or even recommended by OIT.

  3. This administration has a lot to asnwer for. Ms. Walker has been an unmitigated trainwreck with highly questionable conduct. 

    When we look through the wide-angle lens from marketing to athletics and internal confidence levels, one asks “where is the board?” CMU is on the precipice of a great era ahead yet lacks the most critical ingredient: leadership.

  4. Michmediaperson says:

    In fairness to Ms. Walker, the best marketing and PR minds in this country know very little about IT projects.  One wonders why she was involved in it from the start??

    That’s the question I’d ask if I were a board member.

    Do you really want to tie-up your marketing, PR and branding chief on a website?  I’d think that would fall on the shoulders of your Chief IT person.

    Maybe, I missed the beginning of this whole fiasco, but who said CMU needed a website upgrade?

  5. To answer Michmediaperson’ s question why a PR and marketing person would be involved in a website.

    IT is responsible for the container (servers, software, databases) and everyone else has ownership of the content. The CIO is responsible for the overall project management – which appears to have gone gone terribly wrong.

    The new website is just not attractive or interesting and most of all does not reflect the technology and design that should appear in 2012.

    • Michmediaperson says:

      Vince, I’m trying to understand why any organization as big as CMU would have had their chief marketing person so involved in this.  I would think the top IT person would be responsible.  Your marketing/PR/branding people would tell them what they want from their strategic standpoint.  So, why would CMU get its chief marketing person so deeply involved in such a project. 

      DOES IT drive CMU or is it marketing?   It should be marketing.

      Over my many years in business, I’ve seen IT departments and HR departments destroy companies.

      Marketing should always run the company or organization.

      If Marketing had requested this, my question would be—–why didn’t someone question them why they needed it and why they’re so involved.

      Also, how much $$$ can senior officers and Ross spend without getting the Board’s approval??  There should be a limit.

      • CLINT FLICKER says:

        “DOES IT drive CMU or is it marketing?”

        Question is answered, refuses to recognize answer that deviates from his schizotypal world view. Nobody is surprised.

  6. Being a CMU employee who worked closely within the project team, I can clarify a few common misconceptions.  The incredibly terrible design and non-intuitive UI of the new site was completely 100% the work of UCOMM.  While Blue Chip Consulting may take heat over the steaming pile of crap they handed over, they delivered exactly what UCOMM instructed them to. 

    Furthermore, it was the UCOMM department who made the call that Blue Chip Consulting should migrate all of the old websites into the new server.  I was present early in the project for a meeting when Blue Chip Consulting actually recommended that each college/office/department move its own content, since they are most intimately familiar with it.  This suggestion was met with a resounding “H— No” from the UCOMM staff present.  I believe this to be the single biggest mistake on CMU’s part, hampering project progress, and eventually the project completion date.

  7. Ms. Walker is famous for bullying people into supporting her initiatives whether or not they’re the right thing to do. President Ross now has the opportunity to hire someone with integrity and sincerity. Let’s all hope that happens.

  8. GladReneeisgone says:

    Ms. Walker is a bully. She has been since she stepped foot on campus. I watched her degrade people in meetings. Many TALENTED people left UCOMM because of her. She wouldn’t budge on anything that was not her idea. She had no idea what the shareholders of CMU thought about this university, so I still have no idea how she believed she could sell a university she had no real understanding of. The website sucks. There is NO nice word for it. IT SUCKS. I hope they fix it before we can’t recruit any talented students.

  9. Sara Miller says:

    That’s what happens when you hire someone with political connections as opposed to the other candidate who was way more qualified with a track record of marketing successes and two web redesigns under their belt. Shame on Rao…just saying.

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