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Vice President, Communications & Marketing
Montclair State University
As chief communications and marketing officer for New Jersey's second-largest university, I lead a team of 21 creative and technical experts who tell Montclair's story across paid, earned, shared and owned channels. I manage the institution-wide advertising and printing budget and provide strategic counsel to the institution's senior leaders. Under my leadership, the team has earned regional and national awards and accomplished many notable successes:
  • A research-based, inclusive brand refresh that was well received by the campus community
  • Earned news coverage has more than doubled and continues to grow, year over year
  • Social media engagement rates regularly exceed national benchmarks for higher education institutions
  • Montclair magazine received the first design and editorial update in more than a decade
  • External agency costs have been reduced by "insourcing" work.
  • An in-house market research capability has been established, and as a result, the marketing office now plays a significant role in academic program development
I serve on the senior leadership team that is charged with directing the institution's COVID-19 response, and I personally oversee all pandemic-related communications.
Founder and Principal Consultant
Joseph A. Brennan PhD - Communications Counsel for Higher Education
2018- 2019
I provided consulting services for higher education, non-profits, academic medical centers and professional services firms, including
  • Strategy development
  • Program reviews and audits
  • Leadership support and coaching
  • Team and organization development
  • Workplace culture assessments and interventions
  • Crisis training, planning and counseling
  • Structuring the marketing and communications function
  • Brand development
  • Culture assessments and interventions
  • Competitor intelligence
Clients included Washington & Jefferson College, Penn State Health, Communications Counsel Inc., Stamats, Resurrection University, and California College of the Arts.
VP Communications & Marketing | Clinical Professor of Business | Special Assistant to the President
University at Albany - State University of New York  2015-18


As Vice President (2015-18):

  • Reinvigorated brand and sharpened position; rebuilt messaging map; introduced persona-based storytelling; modernized student recruitment marketing, contributing to largest application pool and biggest freshman class ever; sponsored first major overhaul to website in 10 years; expanded strategic use of social media; unified campus communicators;  created digitally-based employee communications program; grew media coverage 77% in year one and 40% in year two.

  • Co-designed and co-led institutional strategic planning process, and aligned it with brand development project. Conducted brand research and engaged campus constituencies in redevelopment of brand.

  • Successfully managed communications for a nationally-visible crisis, a residence hall fire and a rape.

As Clinical Professor (2016-18):

  • Developed and taught MBA course in Services Marketing; supervised student honors thesis; published research papers and professional articles on crisis communications and social media strategy/metrics.

As Special Assistant to the President  (2018):

  • Provided marketing and communications analysis, strategy, counsel and services for targeted high-growth programs, including public health and entrepreneurship. Volunteer advisor to two start-ups.


Vice President, Strategic Communications - University of Iowa, 2013-2015
  • Planned and led comprehensive multichannel campaign that measurably improved visibility and changed perceptions statewide, which helped to fend off a $60 million state budget cut and contributed to more applications from in-state students, resulting in largest freshman class in history.

  • Managed communications for complex and sensitive issues including sexual assaults, racial tensions, controversial speech and student-athlete welfare.

Associate Vice President, University Communications -  University at Buffalo, 2008-2013
  • Led advocacy communications program to build public and legislative support for the university, resulting in $100 million in new capital and operating funding. Unified schools and colleges under one brand umbrella; designed and directed rebuilding of institutional web presence. Planned and managed sale of public radio station, netting $4 million and ending $350K annual subsidy.


Executive Director,  Communications & Marketing - Ohio University, 2006-2008
  • Planned and launched first-ever multi-channel brand awareness campaign; redeveloped alumni magazine; worked directly with president to articulate his vision and build support.

Executive Director, Marketing & University Relations -  University of the Pacific, 2003-2006
  • Grew media coverage by 34% in first year; directed communications for campaign that raised $355 million ($200 million goal); built reputation, helping Pacific move up 15 places in U.S. News rankings


Executive Director, Public Relations and Marketing - University of Toledo, 2000-2003
  • Rebranded the university; redeveloped admissions marketing to reverse 10-year decline in enrollment; created employee communication program that rebuilt trust after a president was fired.

Public Relations Director - Delgado Community College, 1995-2000
  • Consolidated all comms & marketing efforts and spending; won national award for “best PR campaign.”


Manager, Research Support Services & Public Communications - NYS Research Institute on Addictions, 1992-1995
  • Directed media relations, government relations, provider/clinician relations, external publications and web site for nationally-recognized JCAHO-accredited medical research and treatment center with staff of more than 200.

  • Placed stories and scientific experts in national media, including The New York Times and The Oprah Winfrey Show.


Coordinator, Conferences & Lifelong Learning - Niagara University, 1990-1992

  • Developed and marketed non-credit offerings. Supervised staff and managed budget. 

  • Revised offerings and enhanced marketing, resulting in net income growth of 30%.


BA  - English and Psychology - Wayne State University

  • Summa cum laude graduate. Phi Beta Kappa and Psy Chi honor societies.


MBA  - Marketing - University of the Pacific

  • Graduated with 4.0 GPA. Beta Gamma Sigma and Phi Kappa Phi honor societies.


MA, PHD - English -  University at Buffalo

  • Teaching assistant. Presidential Fellowship winner. Vice President, graduate student government.


2019-present national volunteer service to PRSA, including College of Fellows selection committee, MBA Initiative committee, and JJ&W Behavioral Research Prize selection committee

2018- present PRSA Counselors to Higher Education Advisory Group (CHEAG)

2017-present PRSA MBA Initiative recruitment committee member

2015-2018 AMA Symposium on the Marketing of Higher Education– conference planning committee member

2002-2017 PRSA Counselors to Higher Education professional interest section executive committee – chairman (2014-15); past chair (2016-17)

2013-15 Association of American Universities Public Affairs Network – executive committee member

2011-13 Marketing Committee, SPCA Serving Erie County

2009-2011 American Diabetes Assn., WNY Chapter, communication chair

2007-08 Athens County (Ohio) Chamber of Commerce - Marketing Committee Member

2005-06 Capital Public Radio (Sacramento) – Board Member

2001-02 Press Club of Toledo – Board Member

2001-03 PRSA (Toledo chapter) – Ethics Officer

2001-03 Sylvania (Ohio) Public Schools Communications Advisory Committee – member

1998-99 American Red Cross (New Orleans) – Board Member, PR Chair, and disaster services volunteer

1997-99 PRSA (New Orleans chapter) – Accreditation Chairman

1990-95 People, Inc. Services to the Developmentally Disabled (Buffalo, NY) – Board Member, 

P.R. & Marketing Committee Co-Chair



American Marketing Association

Council for the Advancement and Support of Higher Education

Public Relations Society of America



Phi Beta Kappa – liberal arts and sciences (Wayne State Univ.)

Phi Theta Kappa – top 10 percent of graduating class (Univ. of the Pacific)

Beta Gamma Sigma – business (Univ. of the Pacific)

Psy Chi – psychology (Wayne State Univ.)



Fellow, Public Relations Society of America (2017)

The College of Fellows is PRSA’s highest distinction, akin to a National Academy; membership is highly selective and limited to fewer than 600 of the Society’s 25,000 members. Lifetime appointment.


A.P.R.: Accredited in Public Relations (1998)

Conferred by the Public Relations Society of America after completion of rigorous written and oral examinations testing competence in all facets of the profession.




FEMA Emergency Management Institute courses

IS-100 Introduction to Incident Command System (Dec. 08)

IS-100.HE     Introduction to ICS for Higher Education (Nov. 10)

IS-200   ICS for Single Resources & Initial Action Incidents (Dec. 08)

IS-300 ICS for Expanding Incidents (Feb. 13)

ICS-402 ICS Overview for Executives/Senior Officials (Mar. 16)

IS-700   National Incident Management System: introduction (Jan. 09)

IS-702 NIMS Public Information (Nov. 10)

IS-800.b National Response Framework: An Introduction (May 16)

G-289   Public Information Officer Awareness (June 10)

G-290   Public Information Officer Basic Course I (June 10)

L-363 Multi-hazard Planning for Higher Educ. Institutions (Jan. 11)


Collaborative Institutional Training Institute (CITI) Program

Human Subjects Research: Investigators, Students, Key Personnel & Faculty Advisors – Stage 1: Basic (Mar. 17) - renewed August 2021.

Conflict of Interest mini-course (Marc 17) .

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