Jeri Ward, one of the foremost experts in branding and communications within the automotive industry, has been named Northwestern University’s new Vice President for Global Marketing and Communications, effective Oct. 1, 2018, reporting directly to President Morton Schapiro.
Ward, who has served since 2015 as senior vice president and chief communications officer for Audi of America, is a double alumna of Northwestern.
"Jeri brings significant experience as a marketing and communications executive with expertise in marketing strategy and branding, crisis communications and leadership in complex, global organizations," said President Schapiro. "I couldn’t be more thrilled to have her return to her alma mater and join our team at a time when Northwestern increasingly has a compelling story to tell."
Ward, a 2001 Northwestern alumna with dual graduate degrees from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management and the McCormick School of Engineering, returns to Evanston after a successful career in a variety of marketing and communications roles at Ford Motor Company and Audi.
Ward was the first female vice president at Audi of America. During her tenure there she handled brand, product, lifestyle, corporate and crisis communications for the rising premium carmaker.
"Together we will continue to elevate Northwestern University’s profile and reputation." - Jeri Ward
At Northwestern she will now be responsible for driving the University’s global branding and communications strategy. This includes advising Northwestern’s president, senior leadership and Board of Trustees on top-level communications and shaping the University’s global marketing approach.
Global Marketing and Communications is a recently created department merging the Department of University Relations and the Office of Global Marketing. The combined team of more than 50 journalistic, digital, publishing and creative professionals is dedicated to telling the Northwestern story and strengthening awareness of the University’s excellence and impact for local, national and global audiences.
"I am thrilled to return to Northwestern University and excited to work with our faculty and staff," Ward said. "Together we will continue to elevate Northwestern University’s profile and reputation, to ensure that this academic community can gain the support and resources it needs to carry out its remarkable, world-changing mission. I look forward to leveraging my expertise, while also inspiring and integrating this newly combined team to deliver innovative and breakthrough communications and marketing approaches on par with this great institution."
Ward earned her bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering at Kettering University. After launching her career in powertrain engineering at General Motors, she went on to earn her Northwestern degrees through the University’s MMM program (formerly the master’s in manufacturing and management). While at Northwestern, she interned at General Electric in consumer marketing. In 2001 she returned to the car business as a marketing leader at Ford.
Ward joined Audi in 2007 as general manager for Marketing and Product Launch, then in 2011 was named director of Customer Experience, a position that was new to the company. During her time in that role, Audi improved its customer experience performance to record highs, including an increase from 13th place in customer service rankings to maintaining a position among the top three luxury brands overall every year since 2014. Ward leveraged customer-centric design thinking methodologies to create customer delight by reshaping the company culture, processes and policies to drive results.
In 2017, Ward was named to a list of America’s 25 top innovators in the public relations field by the Holmes Report, a leading news outlet examining public relations and marketing trends. She was also honored in 2017 with the Outstanding Achievement Alumni Award recipient by Kettering University. She is a Michigan native.
Ward is engaged to be married and will relocate from Washington, D.C., to the Chicago area in the fall with her fiancé and their Labrador retriever.