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Kelley proposes communications czar

UND President Robert Kelley is considering adding a vice president to his executive team, one charged with all aspects of communicating the university's image.

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UND President Robert Kelley is considering adding a vice president to his executive team, one charged with all aspects of communicating the university's image.

Alice Brekke, vice president of finance and operations, told the Herald the move is meant to improve the way the university talks to all its constituents, whether it's prospective students or the community at large.

She made the announcement Wednesday before the University Council, asking for comments from the university community. She and four other vice presidents make up the current executive team.

Reading from Kelley's statement, Brekke said UND has expanded and evolved over the past decade, citing enrollment increases and research program growth.

"It is increasingly clear that we have a great story to tell," she said. "It is also clear that we need to find a more strategic approach to telling our story and to managing our key communication processes at all levels. We need a communication champion at the highest levels of the university who will be able to mold a more robust approach to -- and provide leadership for -- all aspects of communication."

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There's nothing broken about the way UND communicates now, Brekke told the Herald, but it could do better. The new communication champion would, for example, ensure that she and other leaders speak with one voice without worrying that they may step on each others' toes or leave out important information, she said.

According to Kelley's formulation, the new vice president would take charge of an "office of external affairs" -- the name is not set in stone -- and oversee everything from marketing, to relations with government leaders, to relations with news media, to ceremonies and special events.

The position is not new, having been created under former President Charles Kupchella, but its responsibilities are, said UND spokesman Peter Johnson. From 2005 to 2008, Don Kojich held the job, Johnson said, but it has been empty since Kojich's resignation, and its funding temporarily used for other functions.

Brekke said if Kelley does create an office of external affairs, it wouldn't necessarily mean the university would hire more employees. The more likely scenario is a reorganization of some existing employees, she said.

Online: To read the statement or make a comment, go to Kelley's website . There's a link on the left side of the page.

Reach Tran at (701) 780-1248; (800) 477-6572, ext. 248; or send e-mail to ttran@gfherald.com .

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