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VP search: Telling true stories

BY HOLLY HINES | NOVEMBER 13, 2009 7:20 AM

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UI alumnus Jeff Iseminger described a scene of 76 trombonists parading through the campus and playing the “Iowa Fight Song” to draw people together.

Iseminger, the final candidate for the position of vice president of Strategic Communication, used the reference to The Music Man to show how portraying a unified message would help people remember the university among a sea of other brand names.

Speaking at a public forum on Thursday, Iseminger, the assistant vice president for integrated marketing at Minnesota State University-Mankato, said it’s important to convey true stories about the university community’s accomplishments to the public.

“I don’t do spin,” Iseminger said. His job is to convey true, powerful stories that emerge from the university, he said.

In his current position, he helped produce television commercials highlighting achievements — such as increasing fuel efficiency in cars — of specific Minnesota State graduates.

If he can achieve that, he said, UI students would likely benefit from his work. Ensuring the university has a memorable, positive image in the marketplace means employers are more likely to hire its graduates, he said.

But Iseminger doesn’t want to be totally in the limelight.

In response to an anonymous question from an audience member, he said he would define and measure his success in the position by surveying public opinion before and after implementing changes.

Part of that success, he said, includes using media sources to project university-related stories and not his own image.

“I shouldn’t be well-known,” he said.

Another audience member asked Iseminger how he would dispel some people’s beliefs that UI officials are overpaid and predominantly liberal.

If hired, he said he would work to understand what assumptions the public makes and challenge them when necessary, adding he doesn’t feel political labels can sum up a complex organization such as the UI.

Iseminger has also served as the assistant director of university communications at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and director of communications at Oxford Brooks University in England. Michael Cooper, director of media relations at Minnesota State, said he values Iseminger as a colleague, though he’s unable to evaluate if Iseminger would be a good fit for the UI.

But his UI ties and experience as a student are what inspired him to apply for the position, said Iseminger, dressed in a black suit and gold tie.

“It really makes a difference when your alma mater says it needs help you can offer,” he said.


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