When he first heard of an open position for executive director of marketing communications at the University of Nevada, Reno, Thomas White knew it was a job he wanted to pursue.
White saw a potentially prosperous university with a growing enrollment and exceptional academic programs that had the potential to get better. Not to mention he found the northern Nevada community very appealing.
“Undergraduate admissions were growing very rapidly and retention is very high, which speaks to the students’ educational experience here,” he said.
White is the keynote speaker at the Reno-Tahoe Chapter of the American Marketing Association’s luncheon on Tuesday, March 17. He will provide an overview of the university’s strategic priorities and how the Office of Marketing and Communications supports those priorities. He will also discuss how the department is building UNR’s brand and reputation while monitoring its effectiveness.
Since taking over the position, White has spearheaded the university’s marketing and public relations program, all while doing so with a limited budget and manpower.
“We have to be very creative and disciplined in our approach,” he said. “For example, we can highlight the good work of our faculty. It’s worth millions of dollars in coverage each year.”
And White and his staff have tried to utilize every aspect of digital and social mediums, such as continuously updating the university’s Web site or posting huge banner ads walls near security checkpoints at Reno-Tahoe International Airport.
Some of the hard work has already garnered some recognition. The work on UNR’s Web site earned “Gold” and “Best In Show” awards at the Annual ADDY awards, presented by the AAF Reno, an affiliation of the Advertising Association Federation.
A goal of White’s is also trying to promote UNR to The Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education to designate the university as a top research institution.
“The opportunity to market the University of Nevada, Reno as it is growing so steadily in excellence is the first and foremost reason for moving to Reno,” he said.
A veteran of the media industry, White studied marketing as an undergraduate and graduate student at Indiana University in Bloomington, Ind. He worked in newspaper advertising during college and eventually landed a job with Seagram Wine Co.
While living in Chicago, White met an acquaintance in the city league softball circuit that was serving in the Peace Corps. Tempted, White eventually decided to join the organization himself.
Once there, he served two years with a team that was trying to bring drought relief in the South African country of Botswana. Among the projects they performed was clearing an airplane landing strip out of a field and building a makeshift community health clinic out of cinder blocks.
White later took over as press secretary for the organization, a position he served in for seven years. As press secretary, White was able to witness the Peace Corps’ most explosive membership growth since its inception in 1961.
White has also served in the communications departments with other colleges and universities around the country including the University of New England in Maine, St. John’s University in Queens, N.Y., Seton Hall University in South Orange, N.J. and Washington and Lee in Lexington, Va., prior to taking over the his current post at UNR.
The AMA luncheon runs from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Atlantis Resort Casino Spa. For details, go online at www.renoama.com.