Final UI VP candidate stresses transparency


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In the eyes of John Diamond, 58, the value of the public research university has waned in recent years, despite historic notions that they have forever changed the way of American life.

But the third candidate vying to become the University of Iowa’s next vice president for Strategic Communication maintains that by staying relevant, these institutions for higher education could see fewer threats.

Serving as the current associate vice chancellor for university relations at the University of Arkansas, Diamond’s Wednesday visit marked the final in a series of on-campus forums by the candidates in the past week.

Calling attention to nationwide issues of transparency among top college officials, Diamond said in today’s age of changing new media platforms, it is now more important than ever to be brutally honest.

“There are times when universities use a spokesperson as a firewall,” he said about the common use of disclosing only certain pieces of information. “The worst thing you can do is say ‘No comment.’
“Nobody should ever be surprised by the things I say or do.”

So how does a college or university with expansive revenue streams and thousands of young people under its student body address this notion?

Diamond said establishing strong relations with the mainstream press, including newspapers and broadcast agencies, as well as growing social-media platforms and blog sites is a key first start.

“If you have that relationship [with the media], and the credibility, you’re going to be more effective,” he said. “You’ve got to be as candid as possible about problems.”

While Diamond’s first trip to Iowa City and the UI campus came about this week, he said the signs pointing to him as a future administration member have been prominent.

In his current position, Diamond oversees Arkansas’ strategic communications, marketing, and brand management. Additionally, he serves on the chancellor’s administrative policy council, is a partner and collaborator with the associate vice chancellors for alumni affairs and development, and is the university’s chief spokesman on policy matters and sensitive, high-profile issues, according to a UI news release.

Diamond has also held positions as the executive director of external affairs for the University of Maine system in Bangor, the director of public affairs at the University of Maine-Orono, and as an assistant professor of journalism and mass communication at the University of Maine.

The other two candidates, Jeff Iseminger, interim vice president for university advancement and marketing at Minnesota State University-Mankato, and Joseph Brennan, associate vice president for university communications at SUNY-Buffalo, participated in public forums on July 11 and Monday, respectively.

During Iseminger’s July 11 visit, he stressed the importance of the UI’s self-branding efforts, saying that the university could learn from Apple’s mentality. When Brennan visited on July 15, he noted the necessity of having a strong digital presence and preparedness efforts.

The candidate chosen for the position of vice president for Strategic Communication will report directly to UI President Sally Mason and will serve as the “chief communication officer responsible for conveying, internally and externally, the university’s mission, vision, and values,” according to the job description. The position will also oversee university-related communication and marketing, Hancher, and the UI Alumni Association.

The chosen candidate will replace Tysen Kendig, who left the position for a similar role at the University of Connecticut in December 2012.

Mark Braun, Mason’s chief of staff, is serving as the vice president on an interim basis; he will return to his original role when a new vice president is chosen.

Vice President for Student Life Tom Rocklin, a co-head of the search committee, said he is anxious to present Mason with information regarding the three “strong” candidates. In a recent email to the DI, Rocklin said an expected announcement seems reasonable in the next several weeks.

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