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Jeri Ward to step down as vice president, chief marketing and communications officer

Ward, at Northwestern since 2018, will leave Dec. 31
Jeri Ward helped to elevate Northwestern’s marketing and communications, overseeing significant gains in media engagement, brand management, social media growth and reputational measures, guiding them to all-time highs.

Jeri Ward, who has led Northwestern’s Office of Global Marketing and Communications (OGMC) for the past four years, announced today she will step down from her role on Dec. 31, 2022. Ward, Vice President and Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, joined Northwestern in 2018.

Ward said her decision to leave Northwestern was prompted by the desire to tend to family matters after the recent passing of her father. She plans to relocate to her farm in Virginia and pursue new endeavors in the new year.

Assistant Vice President of Marketing and Chief Creative Officer Andy Madorsky and Assistant Vice President of Communications Jon Yates will serve as co-interim Vice Presidents, co-leading OGMC, and marketing and communications for the University, while an international search is undertaken to identify the successor.

“My time here at Northwestern has exceeded expectations,” Ward said. “I have thoroughly enjoyed learning something new every day, working alongside the talented and dedicated team at OGMC, and communicating the fascinating research and discoveries of our faculty. I am incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to return to my alma mater and contribute to the University’s success these last four years."

Ward, who came to the University after serving as Senior Vice President and Chief Communications Officer at Audi of America, helped to elevate Northwestern’s marketing and communications, overseeing significant gains in media engagement, brand management, social media growth and reputational measures, guiding them to all-time highs. During her time at the University, the total media reach of Northwestern stories in local, national and global media outlets grew by 54%, and the number of faculty quoted as experts in the media grew by 170%. 

She also formed the University’s first Internal and Crisis Communications team and established processes and procedures for emergency, crisis and reputational issues management. In addition, she strengthened relationships with key stakeholders and partners to improve organizational effectiveness.

Ward led the University’s communications throughout the pandemic and led integrated communications plans for several leadership transitions. She placed a focus on Northwestern’s important audiences, championing a complete redesign of Northwestern Magazine to create a flagship multimedia platform to reach our alumni; rebuilt Northwestern Now, the University’s news and information website; created a Leadership Notes site to reach the University’s entire Northwestern community; and redesigned OGMC’s For Journalists website to better engage with media.

“I could not have achieved such goals without the contributions of Andy, Jon and the entire OGMC team,” Ward said. “Our communications and marketing staff is unparalleled, and I cannot wait to see how they continue to elevate the University’s reputation in the years to come.”

The revamped Northwestern Now website, built with input from the Northwestern community, helped drive an 83% increase in unique page views compared to 2018. Social media grew similarly, with a 48% jump in total followers to the University’s institutional handles.

“Jeri Ward has boosted Northwestern’s brand and helped people around the world to understand the growing impact of this university,” President Michael H. Schill said. “She also worked tirelessly to strengthen this university community at every level, and I am grateful for her service.”

A double Northwestern alumna, Ward earned graduate degrees from the Kellogg School of Management and the McCormick School of Engineering. She held a variety of marketing and communications roles at Ford Motor Company and Audi and became the first female vice president at Audi of America. 

After returning to Northwestern in October 2018, Ward worked to integrate OGMC, which had previously been two departments — the Department of University Relations and the Office of Global Marketing — by restructuring, breaking down silos and a focus on teamwork. Leaning heavily into analytics and benchmarking, she set new goals and guidelines for communications and marketing. Ward also built deeper communications-based connections across the University to increase research storytelling and showcase the impact the University has on its communities and the world.

“I have achieved what I had hoped to accomplish here,” Ward said. “I wish Northwestern, and the wonderful people here, nothing but continued success moving forward.”