University of Illinois System — Vice President of External Relations and Communications

The University of Illinois System seeks an innovative and strategic leader to serve as its inaugural vice president of external relations and communications with oversight of the Offices of University Relations (communications, marketing and branding) and Governmental Relations (federal and state). 

The University of Illinois System is the state’s largest system of higher education and home to more than 90,000 students. The system has three universities – Urbana-Champaign, Chicago and Springfield – a vibrant healthcare enterprise, and numerous public and private partnerships. All of these components, exponentially greater in sum, drive outstanding advances in research, teaching, discovery and unparalleled economic contribution. 

Reporting directly to University of Illinois System President Timothy L. Killeen, the vice president will serve as a member of the system’s executive cabinet, lead the development of a transformative marketing strategy and implement a strategic communication plan that celebrates the University of Illinois System’s extraordinary accomplishments and response to today’s education, public health, social justice and research agendas. 

The vice president will work closely with system-wide partners to ensure that there is a synergistic approach to matters related to core messaging, reputational issues, earned media and brand management. Additionally, the vice president will maintain a strong, collaborative relationship with members of state and local government agencies, higher education associations and local community leaders to gain public support for the system and promote its mission through advocacy at the state and national levels. The vice president will execute innovative campaigns utilizing print, social, digital and emerging media, and assume a leadership role in integrating the efforts of communications and marketing teams across the three universities through system-wide cohort coordination. 

The vice president must be a skilled communicator, possess an instinct for win-win solutions and proactively engage and develop relationships with colleagues to ensure that the interests of all constituents are understood and represented. The vice president will work comfortably in a highly visible environment with impeccable moral character and conviction in serving the greater good of the university and its communities. The vice president will deeply resonate with the transformative impact of higher education; enhance diversity, equity and inclusive excellence; show an eagerness to tie in to the academic and intellectual enterprise; understand and appreciate the role of shared governance; and possess an ability to take a principled position, even in times of crisis. The ideal candidate will possess progressive leadership experience at an institution of higher education or other public service organization of similar size and complexity. The vice president will have the flexibility to take residence near any of the three university campuses – Chicago, Springfield or Urbana-Champaign.

This is a timely opportunity for an ambitious leader and thought partner to join the University of Illinois System and tell the story of an institution that is radically rethinking the reach of higher education.

All applications, nominations, and inquiries are invited. For fullest consideration, candidate materials should be received by Monday, January 25, 2021. Interested parties may apply using the buttons below. 

Applications should include, as separate documents, a CV or resume and a letter of interest addressing the themes in the profile. For more information, questions or nominations, please contact University of Illinois System’s consultants, Melissa Fincher, Dennis Barden and Kim Brettschneider at:

The University of Illinois System (U of I System) conducts background checks on all job candidates upon acceptance of a contingent offer of employment. Background checks will be performed in compliance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act. The U of I System requires candidates selected for hire to disclose any documented finding of sexual misconduct or sexual harassment and to authorize inquiries to current and former employers regarding findings of sexual misconduct or sexual harassment. The U of I System is an affirmative action/equal opportunity employer dedicated to building a community of excellence, equity and diversity. The U of I System welcomes applications from women, underrepresented minorities, individuals with disabilities, protected veterans, sexual minority groups and other candidates who will lead and contribute to the diversification and enrichment of ideas and perspectives.