UR President Joel Seligman named William Murphy as UR’s first Vice President for Communications on Monday, the first step in his plan to improve the visibility of UR through enhanced communication.

“With [Murphy’s] appointment, the university will jump-start a communications process that more consistently and proactively communicates our strengths and potential,” Seligman said. “He has the experience and diplomatic skill to make substantial improvements in communication both within and outside the university.”

Murphy comes to UR from Ohio State University where he served as vice president for university relations and special assistant to the president.

He is the former Associate Chancellor for Public Affairs at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and began his career at the University of Chicago where he ultimately served as the assistant vice president for university news and publications. Murphy will take office at UR in mid-March.

Murphy believes that by creating a more cohesive structure for communicating UR’s accomplishments, he can bring together the qualities of all of UR’s divisions to help UR improve its reputation in the academic world – among prospective employers as well as among prospective students.

“The decentralized culture was very effective with addressing academic issues,” Murphy said. “But was that same decentralized culture serving communication as well? The consensus seemed to be no.”

Murphy stressed the value of a unified identity and of improving how UR communicates its accomplishments to the public.

“People want to be from a place people have heard of,” Murphy said. “We want to increase the value of a degree from UR.”

The addition of a vice president-level position to oversee internal and external communication was one of 15 major recommendations made to Seligman last Aug. in an evaluation report on university, school and program public relations.

The report was prepared by Vice Chancellor for Public Affairs at Washington University in St. Louis Fred Volkmann.

The Volkmann Report reaffirmed a problem UR presented to Seligman before he took office. The Presidential Search White Paper identified national recognition as the second most visible task for the incoming president behind revenue development.

“Although we are organized in six schools and affiliated programs and value decentralization, we are all part of the university of Rochester,” Seligman wrote in a memo explaining the Volkmann Report. “We have much of which to be proud at our University. But, to put it simply, we can do a better job communicating our accomplishments and our identity.”

Murphy also hopes to improve national media attention focused on UR.

“We will be looking at the placement of stories in the national media,” Murphy said. “We will look at our nuts and bolts operation and compare it with places that we think do it the best and then look at if what we are doing is the best fit for UR.”

Improving UR’s reputation through national media attention may help boost national rankings and its image among potential applicants.

“When you look at the individual components of rankings, press coverage does not play into many of them,” Murphy said. “That said, every University should look into the rankings so they know they are an accurate reflection.”

More important than rankings, Murphy believes, are the feature stories that accompany the rankings in magazines such as US News and World Report. Murphy hopes to highlight undergraduate programs and draw attention to the school through such features as well as in education supplements to newspapers like The New York Times.

One of Murphy’s main goals is to review the visual message UR sends through its graphics. “Clearly something needs to be done about graphic representation of UR,” Murphy said.

Murphy plans to look at the historical graphic representation to find consistencies and then put together an image that sends the appropriate message for all of UR’s divisions.

“The challenge is putting together the various units,” Murphy said. “Something that works for Simon may not work for Warner.”

Students realize the importance of improving UR’s image.

“If UR becomes a household name, that can make it easier to get a job after graduation,” freshman Katie Koeblitz said. “There is a lot of good work being done here and its reputation should match the quality of the education. People will hear UR and think ‘I know that place is a high quality institution.’ It will also help attract quality students to the school.”Bruml can be reached at abruml@campustimes.org.

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