About Us

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

Client list

Current and past clients include:


Our team

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.

Lisa RudgersLisa 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.

Steve KloehnSteve Kloehn

Steve Kloehn is a senior strategist and Peterson Rudgers Group associate. Over a three-decade career, Kloehn has been a leader and executive at two of the world’s top universities and a major national newspaper. Most recently at Carnegie Mellon University, he served as Vice President for Marketing & Communications, creating and leading a new division of 50 professionals who provide strategic communications planning, integrated marketing campaigns, media relations, social media, executive communications, web development, creative design, video, photo, visitor experience, and university events.

Colleen NewquistColleen Newquist

Colleen Newquist, an associate of the Peterson Rudgers Group, is a leader in creative strategy, development and execution, and an expert in building and nurturing successful creative teams. Over a 25-year career at the University of Chicago, Newquist restructured and led creative teams in the business school, university communications, and alumni relations and development, contributing to record-breaking increases in MBA and undergraduate applications and the business school’s first No. 1 U.S. News ranking, and launching the most ambitious fundraising campaign in the university’s history. As a consultant, she continues to provide creative leadership, most recently as Vice President for Marketing and Communication at Loyola University Chicago.

Grant Schexnider

Grant Schexnider is an award-winning designer and marketing communications professional with over 25 years of design, branding, and marketing experience, with a focus on higher education and non-profits. Schexnider spent much of his career at the University of Chicago, joining as Design Director in 1998 and rising to Brand Manager and university-wide Creative Director. For over 17 years he helped lead, grow and invigorate the communications teams within the Graduate School of Business and University Communications, and developed the visual language and standards of the university.

Sandra MarsSandra Mars

Sandra Mars is a graphic and web designer and has led her own design practice, Sandra Mars Design, for more than 15 years. She specializes in clean, smart, stylish design combined with technical savvy to create unique, engaging websites, logos and print media. Mars developed PRG’s visual identity, website and social media sites, and serves as the firm’s webmaster.

Omeca WadleyOmeca Wilkins Wadley

Omeca Wilkins Wadley serves as an executive assistant for the Peterson Rudgers Group. Wadley served in senior administrative support roles to several University of Chicago executives, including the Vice President for Communications, Vice President for Research and National Labs, and the Arts and Public Life team. Her portfolio also includes several years of development experience as Assistant Director of Annual Giving at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine. Wadley is an avid crafter who loves handmade paper and designing unique invitations.

Debra J. Serwach

Debra J. Serwach serves as an executive assistant for the Peterson Rudgers Group. Serwach previously spent 40 years at the University of a Michigan, working in executive assistant roles to senior University of Michigan executives, including two Athletic Directors, top development officers, President’s Office leadership, and two Vice Presidents for Communications. Serwach’s detail-oriented approach holds organizations and families together. She and her husband reside in Michigan and are the proud parents of three grown children and one grandchild.