College inches forward in administrative searches


Colin King


By Campus Reporter

Nearly all of Columbia’s top administrators have left the college since President and CEO Kwang-Wu Kim took office in fall 2013.

With the March 13 departure of Alicia Berg, former vice president of Campus Environment, the only administrator still employed at the college from former President and CEO Warrick Carter’s administration is Mark Kelly, vice president of Student Success. 

In addition to an almost entirely new set of administrators compared to the team from nearly two years ago, numerous searches are in progress to fill vacant and newly created administrative positions at the college.

The college is in the process of identifying final candidates in its search for the new Vice President of Strategic Marketing and Communications, Kim said. 

The college began its search to fill a new position in the Department of Marketing and Communications in the Fall 2014 Semester. Originally titled Associate Vice President of Marketing and Communications, the position was created to facilitate general communications at the college, Kim said. However, he said he realized a few months into the search that it would be better to redefine the position, shifting its focus to creating an institutional brand.

“We need someone who is clear in thinking about how you market an institution and how you develop a coherent institutional brand,” Kim said. “In other words, [we need to] create a real strategy for developing messages, thinking about which audiences you’re trying to connect to, and then making sure those messages are connecting with the right audiences.” 

The new position will develop the key message of the college to improve its ability in recruiting students and generating interest from potential donors, Kim said.

“If you ask, ‘What is Columbia College Chicago?’ and you asked a hundred people on our campus, you’d get a hundred different answers,” Kim said. “If there are a hundred different answers, then that means that the outside world has no ability to understand who we are.”

Enrollment at the college has declined by 22 percent between 2010 and 2015, according to the Office of Institutional Effectiveness. The college also struggles to connect with alumni and donors, hindering fundraising efforts, Kim said.  The Vice President of Strategic Marketing and Communications position aims to address these problems.   

Jonathan Stern, vice president of the Department of Development and Alumni Relations declined to comment on the college’s fundraising. 

The college has hired Isaacson, Miller—an executive search firm that specializes in hiring executives in the nonprofit sector—to facilitate the search. The college has used the firm in a number of past searches, including its search for Kim, he said. 

Anne-Marie St. Germaine, interim vice president of Communications & Marketing, said contenders brought in by the firm for the position have all been strong, making the search process easier.

“[The search is] going very well,” she said. “From what I understand, [Isaacson, Miller] has had excellent candidates.”

According to Kim, the college is seeking candidates with experience in higher education.

Kim said two candidates have met the qualifications with a promising combination of experience with marketing in higher education and in the private sector, as of press time. 

“Without some on-the-ground experience in higher education, I think it’s too much of a learning curve,” Kim said. “The needs at our college are just too strong.” 

Kim said the hiring process has been extensive to ensure the right people are being considered for the job. Isaacson, Miller recommended candidates meet with Kim first to see if there is potential for a strong working relationship before the committee is involved, he said. The two candidates will be the first to have this opportunity. 

The search for a new Vice President of Strategic Marketing and Communications is just one of many ongoing efforts to fill high-profile jobs within the college. The college is also seeking to fill directorial positions in the Department of Development and Alumni Relations and the Office of Undergraduate Admissions.

Having an abundance of open administrative jobs is relatively normal for a college undergoing major changes, said Jack Gorman, vice president of Isaacson, Miller in an emailed statement. 

“It is very common for a college or university to experience an ongoing period of transition following a new presidential appointment, particularly when that president is an aspirational leader and has a profound vision for the institution,” Gorman said in the email. 

With hopes to have the position filled and the new vice president in the office over the summer, Kim said the goal is for the person to be able to hit the ground running well before the Fall 2015 Semester.