Interim Associate Vice President of University Communications Sherry Knight stressed the importance of establishing leadership and broadcasting the university brand in an open forum on Friday.
Knight is one of three finalists for the permanent position of VP of University Communications. She has served in the interim role since May, although she said she does not see her role as a temporary one.
“I’m not a place-holder kind of person,” Knight said. “I believe that we need to have an established leadership team (within University Communications) and make necessary accommodations to address the things that will have the biggest impact for the university.”
She said the ultimate goal of University Communications is to connect and serve students at CMU.
“Here at CMU, we need stability; we need to be unleashed and re-establish the reputation of CMU beyond our community,” Knight said.
Before holding the interim position, the 1986 CMU honors graduate held positions at Knight Writers, a communication firm of which she was the founder/president, Eviti Inc., Ameritech, the Jackson Citizen Patriot and Annapolis (Md.) Capital newspapers.
Reporting directly to the university president, the associate vice president of University Communications is the university’s chief spokesperson, responsible for developing and maintaining excellent outreach to and relations with the media and other external constituents.
This position is responsible for significantly enhancing the university’s visibility and increasing awareness and understanding of its mission, vision and academic programs among external and internal constituents.
Knight said two of the most important things to consider when it comes to University Communications are strong academic programs in addition to the experience that comes behind the degree programs CMU has to offer.
“Those two things are what people are always talking about,” she said. “That is what makes CMU unique.”
Knight also talked about the importance and evolution of social media with regard to University Communications.
“We have a great social media team spearheading this aspect of our department,” she said. “Just this week, our Facebook page has reached over 50,000 likes.”
Crisis response and intervention is also an imperative aspect of communication within the university, she said.
“What I saw in our team responding to the crisis last week is exactly what I want to see in my team,” Knight said, referring to the child pornography charges filed against former professor Bill Merrill. “I was very proud of how our team handled the changing facts and legal ramifications; everyone involved handled the incident effectively and professionally.”
Broadcasting the potential that CMU has to offer potential students was listed as one of the top priorities for Knight.
“Our ‘Discover CMU’ campaign provides an opportunity for prospective students to come to campus and see exactly what CMU has to offer and how we can help shape their future,” she said. “Our vision is to see more people who come to CMU saying ‘CMU was my first choice.’”
Open forums for the other two candidates, Lori Bauer, former chief marketing and communications officer at Arcadia University (Glenside, Pa.) and Jan Bond, director of communications and marketing at Ashland (Ohio) University took place Nov. 12 and 14, respectively.