Vice President for Communications & Public Affairs

Vice President for Communications & Public Affairs

Smith College

Northampton, MA   |   January 31, 2020

About Smith College

Since its founding in 1871 Smith College has provided women of high ability and promise an education of uncompromising quality. Today Smith stands as one of the top 20 liberal arts colleges in the nation and continues to meet the mission of educating women for lives of distinction and purpose.

Primarily an undergraduate residential college, Smith offers a broad curriculum of more than 1,000 courses in some 50 majors. In particular, Smith has earned a leadership position in preparing graduates for careers in science and engineering as well as law, medicine, business, art, and public service.

A world-class faculty is fully engaged in the intellectual development of 2,600 Smith College students. Smith is large enough to have the resources of a university, yet small enough to form an intimate community. Smith is a well-resourced institution, with a $1.9 billion endowment.

There are more than 53,000 Smith alum in all 50 states and over 120 countries. The Smith alumnae, parent, and friends community is an active one with more than 15,000 donors providing financial support to the college in FY19 and almost 2,500 “Smithies” serving in a wide variety of volunteer roles.

Smith is known for its iconic 150-acre campus, sitting at the center of the vibrant city of Northampton. The Smith College Museum of Art has noteworthy collections and the Mendenhall Center for the Performing Arts houses one of New England’s finest concert halls. The central campus landscape was designed by the famed architect Frederick Law Olmsted and is one of the nation’s oldest botanic gardens.

Smith is a member of Five Colleges, Inc., a consortium that presents students with an array of academic, cultural, and social advantages. The consortium, a unique private/public partnership among five educational institutions, is one of the oldest and most esteemed in American higher education. Its members are Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke, and Smith Colleges and the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Smith strives continually to foster an inclusive, equitable, and accessible educational community founded on the free and open exchange of ideas. Diversity, equity, and inclusion are central to the college’s mission and values and are pillars of the college’s strategic plan. Smith is at an important moment in its history; it is actively bringing together staff, students, and faculty to catalyze systemic and progressive change in which all members of the community know that they are valued and feel a sense of connection and belonging.

While much has changed since Smith’s founding in 1871, the constants of an uncompromising defense of academic and intellectual freedom, an attention to the relation between college education and the larger public issues of world order and human dignity, and a concern for the rights and privileges of women, endure at the college today.

For more information on Smith College, please visit website.

Smith guarantees to meet the full demonstrated financial need, as determined by college policy, of all admitted students who apply for aid by the published admission and financial aid deadlines.

Two years after graduation, 91 percent of alumnae are employed and 41 percent have enrolled in graduate studies.

The Opportunity

Smith College, one of the largest independent women’s colleges in the country, is seeking a visionary and strategic Vice President for Communications and Public Affairs (VP) to play a pivotal role in shaping and sharing the story of the college’s impact. In this role, you will serve as the chief communications officer and senior marketing strategist responsible for communicating and building awareness of and appreciation for Smith College.

Reporting directly to the president and serving as a key member of the cabinet, you will provide strategic thought leadership to the college and lead communications strategies to inform and inspire people about the impact Smith students, alumnae, and faculty are having on campus and around the world.

You will also:

  • Work in close partnership with Admission overseeing the in-house creation of promotional materials and social media strategy with the goal of increasing awareness of Smith as a top college choice for talented women from around the globe.
  • Work in close partnership with Alumnae Relations and Development, ensuring collaboration and alignment between teams and objectives, with the goal of increasing fundraising revenue and alumnae engagement.
  • Model and build collaborative relationships across the organization
  • Share Smith’s mission, vision, and story with a wide range of audiences including prospective students, alumnae, donors, media and policymakers.
  • Oversee internal communications to help promote collaboration and knowledge-sharing across Smith’s campus.

As an engaged manager, you will educate, motivate and lead a team of 21 dynamic and creative individuals in applying best practices, with a particular focus on brand strategy, marketing, digital communications, and data-driven approaches. You will ensure a robust and highly functioning department that serves the needs of the college today and into the future. You will manage an annual operating budget of approximately $1 million and a total budget of $3.7 million.

Guided by a clear strategic plan and a strong commitment to financial sustainability, Smith is actively preparing to face the opportunities and challenges of the future. You will join the college at an exciting moment in its history and your specific responsibilities will include, but not be limited to:

  • Creating and implementing an innovative and compelling integrated marketing, communications, and branding strategy consistent with Smith’s culture, academic mission, and long-range, strategic goals that will enhance visibility and increase awareness, relevance, and revenue;
  • Leading and developing a talented unified campus communications team; creating annual department management plans for marketing, communications, and engagement activities, with objectives, goals, strategies, tactics, measurements, and outcomes;
  • Leading brand implementation for Smith, including strategic brand positioning, identity, brand supervision, and execution across multiple platforms;
  • Overseeing media relations and effectively leveraging earned media, helping amplify the voices of faculty and students in the media and public discourse; developing proactive and responsive strategies for print, broadcast, and social media;
  • Leading the college on the logistics, strategy, and execution of issues management and crisis communications;
  • Developing and implementing standards and policies for marketing and communications activities across the campus; creating metrics-driven strategies to measure and evaluate the effectiveness of Smith’s marketing activities;
  • Overseeing admission and development marketing campaigns; donor and alumnae engagement outreach, including the award-winning ​Smith Alumnae Quarterly;
  • Collaborating with the alumnae relations and development team to provide strategies and materials for fundraising initiatives, , such as the new Maya Lin-designed Neilson Library; through consistency and coordination of efforts, help drive increased and diversified revenue streams;
  • As a member of the president’s cabinet, serve as a strategic thought-partner, offering new and innovative ideas for communicating about the college and its impact; ensure consistency of key organizational messaging and develop and execute an internal communications plan to engage the staff; serve as co-liaison to the External Engagement Committee of the Board of Trustees;
  • Fostering an equitable, diverse, and inclusive culture across all campus constituents and stakeholders, by ensuring that messaging is inclusive and reflective of Smith’s values;
  • Leading through change. Smith’s strategic plan and technology transformation will help ensure the college maintains its position as a leading liberal arts college for the 21st century. You will help communicate thoughtful and prudent change across the college, partnering with senior leaders, while supporting and driving creative ideas to foster better communication, collaboration, and connections on and off-campus.
Campus Leadership 

Kathleen McCartney is the 11th president of Smith College. A summa cum laude graduate of Tufts University, she earned master’s and doctoral degrees in psychology from Yale University.

Since assuming the Smith presidency in 2013, McCartney has led a strategic planning effort that is resulting in important new academic and cocurricular programs that expand opportunities for women. They include the Jill Ker Conway Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center; the Wurtele Center for Leadership; a design thinking laboratory; innovation grants for students, faculty and staff to work on complex problems such as equity and inclusion; and a network for women C-suite leaders. She has launched important initiatives on college access and affordability and campus discourse.

McCartney has forged education partnerships that have resulted in new programming, including a MOOC, or massive open online course, on women and activism with edX, the Harvard/MIT platform. In 2016, Smith became the first liberal arts college to offer a major in statistical and data sciences, funded in part by the Mass Mutual Life Insurance Company. Forty percent of Smith women now major in one of the STEM fields, double the national average for undergraduate women.

Women for the World: The Campaign for Smith, which McCartney led to its culmination in 2016, raised $486 million, setting a record as the largest and most successful campaign ever undertaken by a women’s college. Notably, the campaign raised close to $130 million for financial aid, including 103 new endowed scholarships.

Under McCartney’s leadership Smith has engaged architectural designer Maya Lin to re-envision the historic Neilson Library in the context of Smith’s renowned Frederick Law Olmsted-designed campus. The $110 million project is scheduled for completion in late 2020.

Previously McCartney was dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE)—only the fifth woman dean in Harvard’s history—a position she held from 2005 through 2013. A signature accomplishment of her tenure was the creation of a three-year doctorate in educational leadership developed in collaboration with the Harvard Business School and Harvard Kennedy School. She also developed a Ph.D. program in collaboration with Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Other accomplishments include dramatically increasing fellowship support for doctoral students, establishing the Center for the Developing Child and forging partnerships with local school districts.

An authority on child development, McCartney has conducted research on childcare and early childhood experience, education policy and parenting. She has edited nine volumes and written more than 160 journal articles and book chapters. Much of her research has focused on a 20-year longitudinal study of 1,350 children and their parents on the effects of child care, funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, for which she served as one of 10 principal investigators.

A thought leader on issues of gender, education and parenting, McCartney publishes essays and letters in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Inside Higher Ed, Worth magazine,, The Boston Globe and The Huffington Post.

McCartney is the recipient of numerous awards. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Education, the American Educational Research Association, the American Psychological Association and the American Psychological Society. She was the recipient in 2009 of the Distinguished Contribution Award from the Society for Research in Child Development. The Boston Globe named her one of the 30 most innovative people in Massachusetts in 2011, she received the Harvard College Women’s Professional Achievement Award in 2013, and the Boston Business Journal named her one of its Women of Influence in 2016.

Candidate Profile

The ideal candidate will have the following professional and personal qualities, skills and characteristics:

Strategic Communications Expert

You are a creative and thoughtful leader with deep experience in strategic communications.

Colleagues and friends describe you as a dynamic and exceptional communicator who can converse with diverse audiences, adapting the presentation of ideas for various needs and perspectives in an energizing and inspiring way.

You are a natural storyteller with a proven track record of setting and implementing integrated communications strategies as a catalyst and innovator.

You are proficient in devising and implementing effective strategies across communications channels, including digital and social media, organizational websites, newsletters, etc.

You are excited about identifying new and creative ways to raise the profile of Smith College while enhancing the messaging and brand across a wide variety of platforms and staying rooted in the values of the organization.

Team Builder and Manager 

You have demonstrated experience managing a team of creative individuals and content producers and can build and communicate a structure and workflow for the team and how it relates to the larger organization.

You enjoy building a positive, highly engaged team and culture and understand the importance of leading teams towards ambitious results.

You are a listener and a learner who brings a high level of emotional intelligence to each interaction and communication. People who have reported to you are drawn to your mentor-driven approach that empowers others to do their best work.

You believe deeply in equity and are committed to building and supporting diverse and inclusive teams. 

Brand Strategist 

An innovative and solutions-oriented problem solver, you will lead strategic conversations to help rethink and reimagine the way Smith communicates with various audiences.

You translate organizational objectives into marketing strategies.

You build relationships and gain insight from diverse groups of people in a variety of disciplines to weave together a strong narrative and consistent brand across the organization.

Forward-thinking and results-driven, you refine and adjust strategies based on analysis of data and trends.

Collaborative Leader 

You are a natural and proactive relationship builder, with the ability to lead through expertise and influence. You bring a consultative approach to leadership, with a genuine desire to partner with staff across the organization.

As a member of the president’s cabinet, you understand how to partner with others to shape and integrate communications into the college’s overall strategy.

You have the ability to effectively lead a function in a complex organization with multiple layers of stakeholders, including faculty and students.

You understand how to build collaborative relationships and effectively share information to create consistency and fidelity across messaging while also allowing flexibility to meet the unique needs of differing departments, divisions, or units.

Additionally, you are:

  • Committed to continuous improvement;
  • A bold thinker with innovative ideas and creative problem-solving approaches;
  • Flexible and nimble, able to respond quickly to and integrate new information. You possess the confidence and directive to prioritize, reprioritize, and adapt as needed;
  • Calm under pressure and are a clear thinker and measured decision-maker in moments of urgency;
  • Empathetic and able to tell stories with respect and dignity;
  • Deeply metrics-driven and believe in measuring impact whenever possible;
  • Passionate and mission-driven;
  • Energized by the prospect of working for a college focused on educating generations of women leaders; and
  • In possession of a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution or have an equivalent combination of education/experience.
How to Apply

Koya Leadership Partners has been exclusively retained for this search. Molly Brennan and Tom Phillips are leading this search. To express your interest in this role, please submit your application materials here. To make recommendations for this role, please email Tom here. All inquiries and discussions will be considered strictly confidential.

Smith College is an equal opportunity employer encouraging excellence through diversity.

About Koya Leadership Partners

Koya Leadership Partners, a member of the Diversified Search Group, is a leading executive search and strategic advising firm dedicated to connecting exceptionally talented people with mission-driven clients. Our founding philosophy—The Right Person in the Right Place Can Change the World—guides our work as we partner with nonprofits & NGOs, institutions of higher education, responsible businesses, and social enterprises in local communities and around the world.

Koya is an equal opportunity employer fully committed to creating an environment and team that represents a variety of backgrounds, perspectives, styles, and experiences. We encourage all to apply because we believe a diversity of voices leads to better discussions, decisions, and outcomes for everyone.

For more information about Koya Leadership Partners, visit