Commemorating a Complicated Moment in History

A temporary piece by Ogrydziak Prillinger Architects called Nuclear Thresholds commemorates the 75th anniversary of the first controlled, self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction. Photo by Richard Barnes

This fall the University of Chicago, together with Argonne National Laboratory, celebrated the 75th anniversary of the first self-sustained nuclear reaction. UChicago has a reputation for producing world-changing ideas, and it was fitting to honor the contributions of the scientists whose major scientific discovery shaped human history in profound ways. Yet, at a time of renewed international nuclear tensions, this could not be purely a moment of celebration—it also required serious reflection.

The range of events, stories, media coverage, and multi-media content that UChicago created is a wonderful case study in how to take a single idea, explore it from multiple directions, and have it reach a huge audience with messaging that reinforces the university’s intellectual brand.

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Photography: Stories, Community, Memory

 

Holocaust survivor Bertha Frank at her home Thursday, March 9, 2017. (Mark Mulville/Buffalo News)

Julie and I often counsel college and university clients about the powerful storytelling impact of photography, hoping to encourage a greater use of imagery in institutional communications portfolios. We know it can be a challenge in environments with constrained resources. Yet riveting photographs—those that capture an authentic tone and very “real” experience—can create an evocative narrative in an instant, and even build a shared sense of community.

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Schools Need to Teach Social Media Skills, and Fast

I’ve been fascinated and increasingly troubled by the steady stream of faculty, students and staff in colleges and universities who have blown up their careers in social media. It’s possible these episodes will not create lasting harm in all cases, but for many of these individuals the experience is potentially life-changing. I also suspect that the majority of these episodes are stemming from naïveté about how overwhelming the response can be when you wander into the path of an online mob.

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What a Year It’s Been

Higher ed insights on our company’s one-year anniversary

We’ve learned so much.

This year we fulfilled a long-held dream after decades in higher education: We launched our own company. Now we consult with presidents and senior leaders on strategy and communication, and our work has been a joy: fulfilling, exciting, creative and launched at a critical time in higher education. Though our client base is quite broad—public and private, large research universities and small liberal arts colleges, associations and boards—these institutions share many common challenges and opportunities that are affecting higher education in 2017. Here are some of the most prominent themes and trends we have observed over the past year:

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How to Write a Killer Op-Ed

PRG has a particular interest in helping college, university and nonprofit leaders to articulate their vision effectively and find their individual “voice.” So we were delighted to see this piece by Bret Stephens of the New York Times offering tips for aspiring op-ed writers.

Lisa and I follow media coverage of higher education closely and publish a wide range of leadership op-eds in The Scan, our free daily and weekly newsletter. (You can sign up here.) We’ve observed an explosion of channels where academic leaders, administrators and faculty members can share their expert opinions on a wide range of topics.

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