Position Description

The position

Individuals seeking the position of VPMSC will find new president Dr. Edward Montgomery and a highly-engaged university community ready to lead WMU into its next phase of success in advancing a broad and ambitious mission in the community, state, nation and world. 

The VPMSC is responsible for balancing central and decentralized communication authority, providing strategic guidance and cultivating collaborative relationships with the marketing and communication staff across the campus, colleges, as well as the Offices of Enrollment Management, Development and Alumni Relations, and Intercollegiate Athletics. She or he will be expected to acquire a comprehensive understanding of the key issues facing the university and its various units, and then shape appropriate strategies, structures, resource allocation, and staffing to ensure that those issues are effectively addressed and communicated. Given the decentralized nature of the institution, the VPMSC will need to function as a leader in a relationship-driven culture and have a tolerance for complexity and ambiguity.

The VPMSC will also need to keep the variety of constituents that make up Western Michigan's community informed in a timely fashion of the various priorities and activities of the different parts of the university.

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Opportunities and challenges

The VPMSC will arrive at a transformational time at the university, with enormous excitement about the future of the university. The opportunities and challenges include:

Ensure that the university is broadcasting a consistent and compelling message and migrate towards an integrated marketing and communication platform.

  • Create a formal integrated communication and marketing vision that will promote the university's public identity. Engage administrators, faculty, students and alumni in discussions about the vision, incorporating feedback and introducing processes for its consistent application across the university. Utilize quantitative market research and analysis to measure effectiveness and impact of the overall branding effort and specific communication.
  • Create strategies for addressing the different needs and interests of WMU's diverse audiences, both internal (faculty, staff and students) and external, including alumni, potential donors, prospective students and their families, the public media, and various federal, state and local bodies. Develop additional vehicles to communicate with specific audiences when appropriate.
  • Collaborate closely with campus partners, including but not limited to Enrollment Management, Development and Alumni Relations, Extended University Programs, and Intercollegiate Athletics, as well as all academic deans, their college leadership teams, and other units to ensure that all communication leverages the university's brand, look and feel.
  • Provide a standard of excellence in all communication and marketing activities, auditing and assessing Western Michigan's internal and external communication and marketing vehicles. Identify best practices as well as inefficiencies and duplications.
  • Establish an appropriate degree of consistency in both the messages conveyed and the means and methods employed to convey them. Monitor the impact of messages and relay the results so successful paths can be capitalized upon in subsequent outreach.

Provide partnership, counsel, and support to enhance collaboration with internal constituencies to better serve WMU's dedicated communities.

  • Assist the undergraduate and graduate admissions offices and the academic colleges with their messaging needs. Partner on division and departmental recruitment and yield communication to support the achievement of their long-term strategic enrollment goals.
  • Review and assess the digital and social media platforms, which have been and will continue to be critical to building national and global brand recognition and to continued enrollment success. Assist in and ensure the adaptation and execution of university's overall branding strategy to these media to further support Western Michigan's long-term and strategic enrollment needs.
  • Leverage the accomplishments of students, faculty, and staff to reinforce and enhance strategic messaging, particularly in the areas of student success, research accomplishments, and athletic successes.
  • Exhibit poise and leadership during crisis situations and in associated communication by acting as the university's chief spokesperson. Serve as an integral and positive resource for the Western Michigan University community during challenging times.
  • Enhance the mechanisms of support and counsel to the full range of university stakeholders, helping them to achieve their communication objectives while promoting the priorities and messages of the university as a whole.
  • Increase the quality of communication among internal constituencies at Western Michigan. Periodically evaluate the effectiveness of internal communication, digital and social media, and recruitment publications approaches and adapt as necessary.

Increase the regional, national and international visibility of the university overall as well as its faculty, students, staff and alumni. Highlight a rich and diverse array of outstanding academic and student development programs and community initiatives. Ensure that the significant economic, intellectual and cultural roles that Western Michigan plays at the regional and national levels are well documented, represented and appreciated.

  • Serve as senior counselor to the President, the President's Cabinet and other university leaders as they assess, monitor, manage and respond to issues that put the university in the public eye. Create an environment where opportunities for positive public relations are generated and aggressively pursued and where negative attention is adroitly handled.
  • Assess and analyze all the ways WMU communicates with its constituencies, including, but not limited to: the website, publications, news releases, social media, admissions materials, campus and department-specific advertising including athletics, and events.
  • Assist with WMU’s strategic communication response to major political issues at the federal, state and local levels. Where appropriate, draw upon the expertise and intellectual range of the university community to help inform political decision-making.
  • In conjunction with university leadership, support a broad strategic approach for WMU's interaction with, contributions to and partnership with the State of Michigan, and enhance public awareness of the university as a vital resource to the State and the communities that surround its campuses.
  • Coordinate with all campus partners to ensure that the impact of WMU's actions and activities on local communities is carefully considered and factored into decision-making at all levels.

Lead the University Relations staff, promoting a culture of excellence, collaboration, and professional growth.

  • Build a cohesive, professional team. Inspire and motivate staff through the free flow of information, placing staff members' work within the context of the brand marketing and communication strategy as well as within the university's overall strategic goals.
  • Lead by example; foster a working environment that rewards new ideas and risk-taking, builds confidence, and encourages team-based efforts. Encourage and promote collaboration between the Office of University Relations staff and their counterparts throughout the university.
  • Maintain a leadership style that is open and fluid, that empowers staff through active communication and delegation, and that ensures staff accountability for excellence through clearly defined and measurable goals.
  • Establish goals in a collaborative manner to ensure that staff has a sense of responsibility and ownership for the successful outcomes of the university's communication and marketing efforts.
  • Actively support, mentor, and train staff, providing frequent opportunities for professional development and growth.
  • Actively advance WMU's demonstrated and determined commitment to diversity in all its forms on all campuses.
  • Assess the existing organizational structures for marketing and communication, adjusting as necessary to fully leverage staff strengths and develop the optimal structure for achieving results and ensuring effective collaboration and coordination.

Minimum qualifications

  • A record of significant experience envisioning, developing, and implementing a successful and comprehensive integrated marketing and communication program across a complex enterprise with multiple constituencies and a wide variety of audiences is required.
  • A demonstrated ability to craft substantive and cohesive messages based on the institution's strategic goals, communicate them successfully to key audiences, and adapt and adjust as appropriate over time is required.
  • Excellent oral and written communication skills are required.
  • Superlative interpersonal skills with a demonstrated ability to work well with people at all levels of an organization, across a diverse range of education and social backgrounds, and to demonstrate an honest respect for each individual, is required.
  • Bachelor's degree is required.

Preferred qualifications

This is an exciting opportunity for an innovative, experienced leader to join one of America's premier learner-centered public research universities and play a key role in its evolution and continued success. The ideal candidate will bring a distinguished record that commands the respect of the university community and encourages sustained collaboration and innovation. In addition, the individual must have significant leadership experience appropriate to the size and complexity of Western Michigan University. The next Vice President for Marketing and Strategic Communication will possess many of the following qualities and experiences:

  • Significant experience in strategic marketing, communication planning, media relations and crisis management. Experience with federal, state, and local public policy issues.
  • Substantial experience evaluating the strengths of existing marketing and communication programs and identifying opportunities for improvement. Ability to demonstrate effectiveness of programs and initiatives, using data-driven techniques and benchmarking.
  • Ability to eloquently convey WMU's vision and priorities to administration, faculty, staff, students and outside constituencies.
  • Ability to support the President and other key university leaders and stakeholders in their personal presentations as appropriate, as well as to serve as an effective and compelling spokesperson for Western Michigan University when necessary.
  • Expertise on the advantages and drawbacks of emerging digital media (websites, social media, etc.) in marketing and strategic communication for an institution, conveying information and content in ways that engage and excite constituents, including prospective students and their families, alumni, and the wider public.
  • Skill working in a complex, decentralized environment serving many, and sometimes competing, internal clients and external constituents. Outstanding management and planning skills, including the ability to handle multiple projects simultaneously.
  • Ability to craft and advocate data-driven positions, persuasively describing evidence and rationale with the president's cabinet and key academic leaders across the campus.
  • Collaborative and collegial orientation, eager and able to engage a diverse client base, and able to build strong professional relationships. An approach that stresses customer service. A convener who synthesizes many ideas and produces work products that address a wide variety of goals and objectives.
  • Record of creative and entrepreneurial management; the ability to build, lead, mentor, and motivate staff; and the ability to encourage change and growth in both people and programs. A strong commitment to personal and professional development, and the ability to build a strong, autonomous, and collaborative team.
  • The intellectual depth, maturity and confidence to garner the trust of the President, Trustees, faculty, staff, alumni and other constituents. Strong personal integrity and work ethic, as well as a sense of humor and perspective.
  • A keen eye for operational efficiency and optimal use of resources; the ability to plan, monitor, and manage a budget.
  • Advanced degree preferred.


The salary is competitive and commensurate with qualifications and experience.