Vision & Mission
Peterson Rudgers Group is a consulting firm focused on strategic planning, vision and goal setting, communications, leadership and organizational development for higher education and related institutions. We do this critical work in support of organizations that advance the world’s knowledge, including colleges and universities, independent schools, associations, foundations, cultural organizations, nonprofits, start-ups, and other entities with a related mission.
We believe in the power of these organizations to transform the world through research, analysis, education, and the development of human and intellectual capital. No other set of institutions in the world has generated as much societal benefit and impact over time. Yet this is a time of enormous change and challenge. The public compact and business models on which such institutions have relied face numerous threats: wavering demand, diminished public funding, questions about cost and value, ever-growing community expectations, and increasingly polarized beliefs about the roles of data and science in shaping policy.
As counselors to some of the nation’s leading universities and other mission-driven organizations, we understand higher education’s culture and complexity in the midst of this shifting landscape. Leadership teams need ever-more-sophisticated strategies to chart an ambitious course, carve out a distinctive position, convey the value they deliver, and build positive, long-term relationships with their stakeholders. Strength in reputation and market position require institutional focus, sharp messaging, and differentiation. Leaders must develop a distinctive voice and effective processes for successful change.
An institution’s public perception is deeply important, and this perception is driven first and foremost by what it chooses to invest in and how it prioritizes leadership attention. How does an institution best deliver on its promises to stakeholders and for the greater good? What decisions will an institution make that build momentum, spark investment, inspire partnerships, and increase demand? What distinctive characteristics and programs? What exciting future vision? What new knowledge and new value? What compelling leadership voices?
Portfolio of services
We partner with presidents, chancellors, boards, and leadership teams to facilitate and advance an institution’s vision, distinction, and reputation. To achieve these goals we:
- Assess the competitive landscape to anticipate opportunities to stake out a distinctive position and mitigate risks that can damage institutional standing
- Identify institutional strengths, vulnerabilities, opportunities, and competitive advantages
- Design research that delivers insights about how the institution fits into the competitive landscape, how it is regarded by important stakeholders, and how its potential directions and decisions will affect its relative position
- Conduct strategic planning retreats and processes for institutions, academic units, and strategic initiatives
- Work with governing boards to conduct self-assessments and align their structures and practices with the strategic imperatives of the institution
- Design and implement branding and brand refresh processes that reflect the institution’s distinct mission and offerings
- Develop processes for change that are biased toward action and responsive to market demand while effectively engaging internal and external communities
- Translate leadership vision and action plans into compelling messaging and communication strategies
- Work with new and current presidents and other senior leaders to establish voice, point of view, and thought leadership platforms via speeches, opinion essays, and other channels
- Provide expert guidance and counsel to navigate institutional change and leadership transitions
- Provide personalized coaching and support for emerging leaders and teams
- Deliver customized communication, media, and presentation training programs
- Assess organizational structures and effectiveness of leadership teams in a range of functional areas, with a particular expertise in communications and marketing
- Advise on leadership search processes that convey the institution’s distinctiveness and momentum to prospective candidates; recommend search firms and assist the organization in evaluating candidates
- Plan and help to launch exciting new initiatives and special projects for maximum impact
Current and past clients include:
- Academy of Management
- Associated Colleges of the Midwest
- Association of American Universities (AAU)
- Barnard College
- Bellarmine University
- Bentley University
- BigTen Academic Alliance (formerly CIC)
- The Bryn Mawr School
- The University at Buffalo
- Carnegie Mellon University
- University of Chicago
- University of Chicago Civic Leadership Academy
- University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy
- University of Chicago Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation
- University of Chicago Urban Labs
- The Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success
- Colby College
- Columbia College in Chicago
- Dartmouth Tuck School of Business
- Eastern Michigan University
- Erikson Institute
- Furman University
- Grand Valley State University
- The Hockaday School
- University of Illinois at Chicago
- Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis
- University of Michigan
- University of Michigan Law School
- University of Michigan Robotics Institute
- University of Michigan School of Dentistry
- University of Michigan School of Social Work
- University of Michigan-Flint
- University of Michigan-Dearborn
- University of Montana
- Mount Holyoke College
- New York University
- The Sphinx Organization
- Stanford University
- Susquehanna University
- University of Texas at Arlington
- University of Texas at Austin
- Towson University
- University Research Corridor (Michigan)
- Washington University in St. Louis
Julie A. Peterson
Julie A. Peterson is co-founder and partner of Peterson Rudgers Group. Prior to launching a successful consulting practice in 2015, Peterson spent more than 30 years in higher education leadership roles, as well as teaching and presenting on strategy, leadership, communications, and issues management. She has led communications for a wide range of topics across higher education, including academic medical centers, college athletics, student life, fundraising campaigns, admissions and student recruitment, civic engagement, diversity and inclusion, and the launch of new academic programs.
As Vice President for Communications at the University of Chicago from 2007-15, Peterson was responsible for transforming the external visibility and reputation of the university among a broad range of audiences in the United States and around the world. Her work helped to elevate the university in the U.S. News rankings from 15 to 4, more than triple student applications to the College, strengthen faculty recruitment, and dramatically increase fundraising. The university’s homepage (www.uchicago.edu), developed under her creative leadership, won two prestigious Webby awards in 2014. She led the communications for the university’s successful bid to win the Barack Obama Presidential Library to Chicago’s South Side.
Before joining the University of Chicago, Peterson served as interim vice president for communications at the University of Michigan, overseeing all aspects of both internal and external communications. As associate vice president for media relations and public affairs at Michigan from 2000 to 2007, she managed emerging public issues, guided communications for university strategic priorities and initiatives, and became a senior adviser to the president and executive leadership team, providing critical leadership for a number of important challenges including the Michigan affirmative action lawsuits that went to the Supreme Court. Prior to that, she served 6 years as the news director at the University of Michigan and 10 years at Indiana University as managing editor of the news service and as a public relations representative for the business school.
Peterson holds a BA in journalism and psychology with high distinction from Indiana University and an MBA in marketing research from IU’s Kelley School of Business. She has taught in the University of Chicago Civic Leadership Academy and Chicago Booth’s Executive Program for Emerging Leaders, and is a member of the Executive Committee and Board of Directors of the Seminary Co-op Bookstore in Chicago.
She is a member of the Public Relations Society of America, the American Marketing Association, the Higher Education Roundtable, and the Economic Club of Chicago. She has served on the UChicago Diversity Leadership Council, the public affairs committee of the Association of American Universities, the public issues committee of the Consortium on Financing of Higher Education, and the founding council of Futurity.
Lisa M. Rudgers
Lisa M. Rudgers is co-founder and partner of Peterson Rudgers Group, and has more than 30 years experience in higher education, strategy, marketing, public affairs, issues management and leadership coaching. She has served as in-house counsel to seven university presidents. Previously, Rudgers was the University of Michigan’s vice president for global communications and strategic initiatives. She served a total of 12 years in that role, and was responsible for developing communication strategies to enhance U-M’s visibility locally, nationally and internationally.
As an executive officer at the University of Michigan, Rudgers was a member of the cabinet-level leadership team and served as senior counselor to the president and other executive officers. She directed and managed the global communications division, including marketing, public affairs, internal communications, news, social media, photography, and presidential communications as well as the university’s top-ranked public radio station, Michigan Radio.
Rudgers played a crucial role in leading the public outreach messaging and related strategies surrounding the university’s historic defense of its admissions lawsuits up to the U.S. Supreme Court. She directed communication supporting many presidential and university initiatives, including the president’s international delegations to China, Brazil and India. She was one of the creators of the University Research Corridor, aligning the three largest research-intensive universities in the state to spark greater collaboration and economic prosperity. Her communications strategies supported U-M initiatives in diversity and inclusion, entrepreneurship, library digitization, sustainability and the arts.
U-M efforts under her leadership also included revamping the university’s web presence called the Gateway, now with more than 20 million visits each year. She led the development of the Michigan Difference and Victors for Michigan fundraising campaign themes. She established the university’s first global communications initiative including the Global Michigan web portal in five languages and U-M’s Weibo presence. She launched the university’s first social media office and spearheaded a university-wide branding initiative and visual identity program recognized as best in class by the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE). She has managed several presidential transitions, including the introduction of U-M’s Mary Sue Coleman and Mark S. Schlissel.
Rudgers established her own consulting firm from 2007 – 2011, Lisa Rudgers & Associates, working with university presidents and other key leaders to develop strategic communications plans including institutional positioning, messaging and branding, assessment of in-house communications resources, media relations and issues management. She also held an appointment as special counsel for communications at Michigan Law.
Previously, Rudgers has served as assistant vice president and director of public relations at Michigan State University, marketing director and director of news and communications at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and account executive at Media Logic Inc., a marketing and public relations firm in Albany, N.Y.
Rudgers is a graduate of St. Bonaventure University.