By Mary Alice Casey
Renea P. Morris -- a public relations executive with more than 20 years' experience in global communications, marketing, media relations, employee communications and crisis management -- has been named Ohio University's executive director of communications and marketing. She begins work Feb. 2.
Morris has worked for the past 13 years for Cincinnati-based Convergys Corp. As a global leader in relationship management, the firm delivers a broad range of customer and human resources solutions -- backed by technology, business analytics and consulting services -- for more than half of the top 50 Fortune 500 companies. She has served as director of public relations since 2002, having earlier held the titles of public relations manager and public relations specialist.
Those positions, Morris said, gave her responsibility for building the reputation and raising the profile of Convergys, which serves the financial, communications, technology and consumer product industries. She said that experience would serve her well at Ohio University, where she sees an opportunity to expand the university's name recognition and build on existing communications and marketing initiatives.
"Everything about this position is exciting to me," Morris said. "I have been in marketing and communications for over 20 years, and I am excited about the opportunity to make this university stand out among all others in the state.
"We have to ensure that we're top of mind now, but we have a lasting legacy to preserve, too," she said. "You have to communicate well today as well as build and sustain a brand that can last. I'm intrigued by what we can do and what already has been done."
Morris said she would spend her first weeks and months in the position in conversations with the University Communications and Marketing staff members and individuals across the university to develop relationships and gain insight into the institution's strengths and challenges.
"I want to spend time really getting close to the issues that Ohio University faces. Meeting with people and developing relationships, more than anything, is important right now," she said.
The economic recession along with trends in how prospective students learn about and select universities make effective communications and marketing essential, she said.
"It's a very unique economic situation that all universities are in right now. And whenever you're in a time when things are uncertain or volatile, it's important to communicate more, not less," she said. "On the marketing side, the sheer influence of and explosion in electronic communications and social networking means you can't reach today's prospective students in the same way you did those of previous generations."
President Roderick J. McDavis said Morris has strong credentials and a keen understanding of the role and influence of higher education.
"I am impressed by the experience, enthusiasm and professionalism that Renea brings to this position," he said. "She is clearly a very mission-oriented person, and we're pleased that the mission she is committed to promoting is that of Ohio University."
McDavis said Morris has agreed to a five-year contract, which will ensure consistent leadership in the role.
"Long-range planning and vision for the university's image, reputation and position are critical," he said. "Steady, consistent leadership for this important work for the university will allow us to make the gains that we all know are possible."
Prior to joining Convergys in 1995, Morris served as manager of corporate communications for the nonprofit Youth Job Awareness Project in Los Angeles. She also worked as a public relations specialist with Coast Federal Savings and Loan in Los Angeles and as a marketing communications coordinator with Angeles Financial Corp., also in L.A.
She holds a bachelor's degree in communications from the University of Illinois and three professional certificates -- in public relations from UCLA, financial management from the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University and financial management from the University of Chicago's Graduate School of Business. Morris also holds an Accreditation in Public Relations designation.
Morris and her husband, Reginald, have four teen-age children, Jonathan, Wali, Olivia and Amira.
Chief Information Officer Brice Bible, who chaired the committee that led the search for the executive director position, said the group was impressed by Morris' qualifications, which stood out among a strong pool of candidates.
"We had a tremendous pool of more than 80 candidates for this position," Bible said. "The committee met three times with Renea, and we were impressed with her communications style both in group settings and one-on-one. We feel very good about her fit for the position."
Gina Calcamuggio, the university's senior director of marketing communications, has served as interim executive director of communications and marketing since February 2008. She succeeded Joe Brennan, now associate vice president for university communications at the State University of New York at Buffalo, his alma mater.