WEB UPDATE, December 1, 7:55 a.m.
Bill Walker, Dartmouth's first vice president for public affairs, will leave his position in January, College President James Wright announced on Wednesday. Walker plans to accept a position at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute as the vice president for strategic communications and external relations, effective at the end of January.
Wright noted that Walker's new position at RPI would entail a "more comprehensive set of responsibilities," which will include "university-wide integrated marketing communications and branding, strategic communications on federal, state and local political issues, and alumni communications," he wrote in an internal memo.
According to Walker, the position at RPI will combine his interests in government and communications.
"[This is] the next logical step for someone that does what I do," Walker said.
The Office of Public Affairs has worked with multiple national media outlets in recent weeks, as current campus controversies have pushed the College into the national press. While Walker considered these events "high priority," he said the role of the Office of Public Affairs is primarily to facilitate student-coordinated events such as Wednesday's "Solidarity Against Hatred Rally."
"We maintain close contact with major news organizations. Our goal is to tell the straightforward and true story," he said.
Walker joined Dartmouth in 2001 and led a College-wide branding program, which involved convening a group that combined communications offices from different sectors of the College in order to centralize communications.
"Dartmouth is a decentralized place. There really had not been a culture here of coordinating communications," Walker said of the College prior to his efforts.
Wright praised Walker on his efforts to provide a consistent image of Dartmouth to the public.
" I think that people don't do their homework," Wright said of media writers who often rely on Animal House references when they write about the College. "Bill Walker's worked very hard to communicate effectively what Dartmouth is. We have to hope that media would pick up on it."
Walker pointed to the redesign of the College's homepage website as an example of the College's effort to communicate more efficiently.
Wright echoed Walker's position and highlighted the fact that prospective students, faculty and staff get their first impression of Dartmouth through the College's homepage.
"I think the website is the front porch [to the College]," he said.
Prior to Dartmouth, Walker served as the executive director of university relations at Rutgers University. He has also held similar positions at the College of William and Mary, Skidmore College and the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Walker also served as chair of the board of trustees of the Council for Advancement and Support of Education's Communications Commission from 1998 to 2001 and has received awards in for excellence in public relations and communications programs.
Wright was informed of Walker's intentions to accept the RPI position before the Thanksgiving holiday, though he was asked not to disclose the information until now. Wright was also made aware of Walker's ongoing dialogue with RPI about the position.
"I regretted the timing, but I think that [the position] offered Bill a chance to take on some additional responsibilities," Wright said. "We have to look for someone that will build on what Bill has done."
Following the announcement of Walker's leave, the College will appoint a search committee to find his successor and will announce interim plans.
Sondra Walker, Bill's wife, will join him in Troy, N.Y., and leave her position as the associate director of Dartmouth's Institute for Information Infrastructure Protection in April.