The University of Michigan, the state’s public flagship university and one of the preeminent research universities, seeks an energetic leader, skilled communicator, and collaborative campus partner to serve as Director of Strategic Communications for the Division of Public Safety and Security.

The Position

RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE POSITION

Reporting to the Executive Director of the Division of Public Safety and Security (DPSS) and serving as an integral part of the DPSS Executive Leadership Team, the Director of Strategic Communications administers a broad, comprehensive array of internal and external communications and manages all messaging emanating from the division, including Public Information Officer (PIO) duties such as time-sensitive emergency messaging and crisis communication that can occur at any time of day or night.

This position also develops a robust array of marketing, education, and outreach materials that enhance public awareness of DPSS programs and services and reduces anxiety through carefully crafted communication. The Director proactively identifies, develops, and implements short-term, long-term, and strategic communication goals and plans for DPSS; advises, engages, and collaborates with executive leadership, University administration, and community partners, including local, state, and federal law enforcement communicators. The Director is responsible for sharing and distributing information and, utilizing innovative and cutting-edge tools, developing rich content for the division’s website, social media, and electronic and print communications.

The Director develops collaborative partnerships with other institutional stakeholders, including, but not limited to, Student Life, Michigan Medicine, Public Affairs, U-M Social Media, Athletics, etc.; directs, leads, updates, and monitors communications projects and online platforms to ensure website content and communications are accurate, appropriate, timely, and error-free; serves as an adviser to DPSS executive leadership on public relations issues; creates presentations and talking points for the Executive Director; and utilizes benchmarking and other evaluation methods to assess key metrics (e.g., website traffic, media attention, and social media following) to identify emerging or trending campus or local safety and security issues. Additionally, the Director serves as a member of the University’s Key Communicators Group, coordinating any collaborative content opportunities, and promotes high-quality overall communication by assisting in general writing and editing for the division.

The Director supervises and provides strategic direction for three full-time professional staff, as well as a small group of student staff, and manages an annual budget of $464,000.

QUALIFICATIONS AND CHARACTERISTICS

The position requires a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field, at least five years of progressively responsible leadership, work experience in public or private sector communications or marketing, or an equivalent combination of education and experience. Other requirements include visionary leadership, diplomacy, tact, and the ability to present compelling arguments and work in a law-enforcement environment where confidentiality is imperative. This position is privy to classified data and sensitive information; HIPAA, FERPA, CJIS, and other related data security requirements must be maintained.

The successful candidate should possess excellent oral and written communication skills, keen discernment with regard to information sharing, and Public Information Officer experience or comparable training (or the ability to obtain this training within the first six months of service); demonstrated experience with a variety of social media platforms, including a proactive and creative approach to using evolving technology and social media to support communication strategies; a history of solid performance and leadership initiative; proven experience working collaboratively and communicating effectively with a wide range of constituencies across a diverse community; and experience working on multiple projects and programs requiring coordination under tight deadlines. The successful candidate should possess demonstrated persuasive, narrative, and descriptive writing skills and the ability to anticipate communication needs. This individual should have a proven track record in developing original communication approaches and utilizing best practices, with a demonstrated ability to generate time-sensitive, quality work products and thrive in a fast-paced environment. The Director must be flexible and willing to adapt to schedule changes as needed, including after-hours, weekends, and during holidays.

The successful candidate must pass a thorough background investigation and drug screen.

In addition to the minimum academic and experiential requirements indicated above, other desired characteristics, skills, actions, and abilities noted from campus stakeholder discussions include:

  • An energetic and creative professional who is a leader and visionary, driving innovation and collaboration and possessing a deep understanding of media culture.
  • A compassionate, accessible, transparent, ethical leader with excellent communication skills to articulate vision, direction, and purpose, with the ability to earn the respect and confidence of the University community through a strong level of emotional intelligence, leadership, and authenticity.
  • Cultural competency and humility, including demonstrated experience successfully communicating with diversity, inclusion, and social justice embedded at all levels.
  • The ability to actively listen to all sides of an issue, ask knowledgeable questions, adapt to significant changes on the spur of the moment without being reactive, engage in difficult conversations when pertinent, remain “cool under pressure,” accept input from all levels of the community, and make complex, well-informed decisions.
  • A highly proactive and collaborative partner willing to strengthen relationships with critical stakeholders who are instrumental in advancing the mission of DPSS.
  • A solid commitment to confidentiality in all matters.
  • An objective eye that can point out situational nuances from a nonbiased perspective.

HISTORY OF THE POSITION

In 2015 the Division of Public Safety and Security (DPSS) hired a Communications Specialist for DPSS, which later evolved into a director role as Strategic Communications grew into a department that includes graphic design, social media, and enhanced internal communications. The previous Director left the position to accept a role outside of higher education. U-M has retained Spelman Johnson to assist in the search for a new Director of Strategic Communications.

OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES OF THE ROLE

The new Director of Strategic Communications must possess a broad and deep understanding of national best practices and innovations concerning a wide array of communications, marketing, and public relations and then utilize these skills to promote consistent, timely, and inclusive messaging around safety and security in all forms throughout the University of Michigan community. The Director should be an experienced or aspiring leader and communicator who has had success building and advancing a progressive program at another institution (preferably within a higher education or related environment), capable of managing multiple complex priorities and equipped to contribute at both a strategic and tactical level to a vibrant and dynamic Division of Public Safety and Security.

It will be critical to identify a competent and visionary individual who can set and implement multi-tiered priorities; employ forward-thinking strategies in the evolving social media environment that can more effectively reach students; promote, support, and develop the professional staff amid a fast-paced work environment; remain adaptable and flexible in the face of emergencies and work in tandem with the Executive Leadership Team to progressively and comprehensively ensure that communications from DPSS focus on the safety and security of the U-M community. The following were identified as opportunities, priorities, and challenges that the new Director of Strategic Communications would face.

  • Eddie Washington, Executive Director of Public Safety and Security, is deeply committed to the safety and security of all aspects of the U-M community, including the main campus, Michigan Medicine, and the Dearborn and Flint campuses. He and the Executive Leadership Team understand the Director’s critical role and indicate that they will provide extensive collegial support to this individual. The new Director of Strategic Communications must capitalize on this opportunity to quickly discover the vast number of critical “touchpoints” with whom they will frequently interact. Given the broad scope of interactions and partnerships on which Public Safety and Security depend to communicate the necessary messaging effectively, these relationships will be vital to the success of the incoming Director. With a campus culture that promotes collaboration and partnerships at all levels and is committed to building strong, healthy, and mutually supportive relationships as a foundation, it will significantly benefit the Director to conduct a listening tour early in their tenure to gather as much input as possible within DPSS, across campus, and in the greater Ann Arbor community. These connections are essential to assess the real needs of constituents, provide exceptional and timely service, and ensure that DPSS is known for its customer- and student-centered approach at all times through its communications initiatives.
  • Because Michigan Medicine and the two regional campuses at Dearborn and Flint are so important to the institution and the U-M community, it will be imperative that the new Director reach out to stakeholders on each campus, learn the nuances of these areas, and how their needs differ from the main campus and develop a clear understanding of how Strategic Communications can most effectively support these partners.
  • The Director must be willing to provide comprehensive professional development opportunities for the Strategic Communications team members. The Director should also review the department structure to maximize strengths, encourage unity and participatory management, and forge a shared vision among the staff.
  • With a continuously-evolving national landscape in campus safety and security, and as incidents can occur without warning, the Director should be able to consistently gather critical information, make quick decisions, and distribute necessary information promptly.
  • Diversity, equity, inclusion, and social justice are core values of the University of Michigan and DPSS. The Director should be a leader in supporting, understanding, embracing, and nurturing these concepts, internally to department staff and externally to the campus and surrounding Ann Arbor area. There are many underrepresented populations throughout U-M, and DPSS must be a model for maintaining a strong sense of equity and an unbiased, supportive environment. With many marginalized communities represented at the University, and given the national conversation around policing and racial inequalities, the Director will be expected to devise collaborative and innovative communication methodologies that are culturally sensitive in their outreach to underrepresented groups on campus and beyond.
  • Because the Strategic Communications team is relatively small in numbers, the Director must be skilled at multitasking, prioritizing, and balancing the workload between themselves and the staff, understanding that this role requires ample fieldwork and effective delegation of tasks.
  • The University of Michigan is a very public, renowned, and influential institution of higher education, with many high-level connections to prominent alums and government agencies, so the new Director must be politically savvy and have a keen awareness of how any messaging from DPSS will be received at all levels.
  • The Director must be willing to question the status quo and embrace change when needed; as priorities are developed and plans are initiated, the Director should be prepared to identify strategies and protocols that are working well, as well as those areas that are not efficient or effective, and be willing to enhance or sunset programs as necessary. The new Director should be ready to “hit the ground running” and be prepared to multitask on many fronts from day one.
  • The Director must develop a robust array of marketing, education, and outreach materials that enhance public awareness of DPSS programs and services and the overall mission of DPSS. Providing a safe and secure environment for the community is a top priority, and DPSS offers a myriad of educational and interactive opportunities that promote a safe campus. The Director and the staff of Strategic Communications will ensure that all possible avenues are utilized to promote these programs and services and to continually develop new and innovative methods to reach the U-M community better. Seeking out best practices at other institutions, remaining current on professional benchmarking opportunities, and being involved in professional marketing and law enforcement associations will be greatly encouraged.
  • It is an exciting time to join the University of Michigan. Divisional stakeholders reiterated that they liked working at U-M and are very supportive of each other. They enjoy the vibrant environment of the University and feel an excellent sense of collegiality. There are many opportunities for the next Director of Strategic Communications to make significant contributions. Additionally, Ann Arbor and the surrounding communities contain a robust assortment of restaurants and food options, many cultural and arts-related events, opportunities for recreation and sports, and abundant year-round outdoor activities that appeal to a wide array of interests.

MEASURES OF SUCCESS

At an appropriate interval after joining the University of Michigan, the items listed below will initially define success for the new Director of Strategic Communications.

  • Strong, collaborative relationships have been established across campus and in the community, including the academic and administrative departments, faculty, students, the upper administration, and local partners in the community.
  • Communications emanating from DPSS are timely, accurate, detailed, comprehensive in scope, and appropriate when handling sensitive content.
  • Strategic Communications has developed a robust array of marketing, education, and outreach materials to promote and advertise the education and awareness programs and services offered by DPSS around safety and security.
  • The Strategic Communications team is growing together, staff report positive job satisfaction and are working toward common goals, teamwork is prevalent at all levels, and professional development opportunities are abundant.
  • The Director exhibits a positive attitude, is engaged with the staff, and consistently promotes a futuristic mindset.
  • The Director has established a sense of situational awareness, and “surprises” are at a minimum; as a result, the Executive Director is consistently informed and is not caught off guard on critical matters.

Institution & Location

OVERVIEW OF THE DIVISION OF PUBLIC SAFETY AND SECURITY

Created in October 2012 to unify security functions that previously were embedded within different areas of the institution, the Division of Public Safety and Security is responsible for a comprehensive array of integrated, collaborative programs and services designed to maximize campus safety and improve the quality of life for all those living, learning, working, healing, and visiting within the community.

For a complete overview of the division, click here.

INSTITUTIONAL OVERVIEW

From the time of its founding in 1817, the University of Michigan has developed into a national model of a complex, diverse, and comprehensive institution of higher learning that supports excellence in research; provides outstanding undergraduate, graduate, and professional education; and demonstrates a commitment to public service and engagement. It is one of only two institutions consistently ranked among the nation’s top ten public universities, and many of its departments and professional schools are ranked among the top ten in the country. The University has an annual budget of over $10.7 billion and an endowment of $17 billion, among the largest in the nation. The Ann Arbor campus is 35 miles southwest of Detroit, with regional campuses located in the cities of Dearborn and Flint.

THE STUDENT BODY (Fall 2021)

Total Enrollment: 47,659

Undergraduate: 32,282

Graduate: 15,377

First-Year Retention Rate: 97%

Female: 50%

Male: 50%

Student to Faculty Ratio: 15:1

INSTITUTIONAL LEADERSHIP

Santa J. Ono, PhD – President

Santa J. Ono, Ph.D., is the 15th President of the University of Michigan. He began a five-year term on October 14, 2022.

President Ono, a recognized leader in higher education in the United States and Canada, is an experienced vision researcher whose pioneering work in experimental medicine focuses on the immune system and eye disease. At U-M, he is a professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences in the medical school.

Ono joined U-M from the University of British Columbia, where he served as President and Vice-Chancellor beginning in 2016.

Organizational chart for the Office of the President

DIVERSITY, EQUITY, AND INCLUSION AT THE UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN

The University of Michigan’s dedication to academic excellence for the public good is inseparable from its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. It is central to the University’s mission as an educational institution to ensure that each community member has full opportunity to thrive in any environment; U-M believes that diversity is key to individual flourishing, educational excellence, and the advancement of knowledge.

Benefits Overview

In addition to a career filled with purpose and opportunity, the University of Michigan offers a comprehensive benefits package to help employees stay well, protect themselves and their families, and plan for a secure future. For a summary of the benefits provided, please click HERE.

Application & Nomination

Review of applications will begin February 17, 2023, and continue until the position is filled. To apply for this position please click on the Apply button, complete the brief application process, and upload your resume and position-specific cover letter. Nominations for this position may be emailed to J. Scott Derrick at jsd@spelmanjohnson.com. Applicants needing reasonable accommodation to participate in the application process should contact Spelman Johnson at 413-529-2895 or email info@spelmanjohnson.com.

The salary range for this position is $120,000 to $125,000.

 Visit the University of Michigan website at https://umich.edu/.

 The University of Michigan is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer.

COVID-19 vaccinations, including one booster when eligible, are required for all University of Michigan students, faculty, and staff across all campuses, including Michigan Medicine.