Jaime Hunt, University of Miami vice president of academic communications and director of marketing and communications, has accepted a new position this semester at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia.
At Old Dominion, Hunt will serve as vice president of strategic communications and chief marketing officer. Jessica Rivinius, Miami’s director of news and media relations, will assume the position of interim vice president from Hunt and lead university communications and marketing (UCM) while Miami launches a formal search for candidates.
Hunt’s first day in Miami was Sept. 1, 2020. It all started, she said, with an 8:30 a.m. meeting about the status of COVID-19 at the university. That semester, students on campus didn’t move in until September 21, but problems were already emerging.
“We had had a lot of students testing positive the day before, and I was just thrown right in, ‘Okay, COVID is here. We have a lot to do to communicate about this,” Hunt said. “It was a very intense way to start a new job.”
While working with campus departments to ensure students received clear messages about the impact of the pandemic on their college experience, UCM has also been impacted. Most of Hunt’s staff were working from home at the start of the pandemic, and she hasn’t met several people on her team in person for months.
For many days, Hunt was the only person in the UCM office at Nellie Craig Hall. It almost felt like an apocalypse, she said.
“There were all these empty desks,” Hunt said, “and everyone left thinking they’d come back after a few weeks, so it was just all these empty desks and cups of coffee sitting outside. was very strange.
Rivinius began his work at UCM four months after Hunt arrived in Miami. Even though they both started during the height of the pandemic, Rivinius said Hunt worked hard to make the staff feel like a team.
Every Wednesday morning, Rivinius said staff meet for a 15-minute “Idea Cafe.”
“We just stand in the kitchen and one of us leads the invite,” Rivinius said. “Sometimes it’s totally work-related, like, ‘What’s the best story on campus we should tell right now? Sometimes they’re looser, like “What’s your favorite podcast?” We use it to stimulate a conversation and get to know our colleagues.
In addition to leading the university’s communications efforts throughout the pandemic, Hunt has also led several other initiatives. These include a placement strategy to position faculty members as experts in local and national media and the development of a new cohesive brand platform that the university is rolling out this semester.
Beyond his own department’s initiatives, Hunt and his team have worked with every other department on campus to help them effectively communicate and market their messages.
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“There isn’t an area that we don’t have some sort of connection to or touch,” Hunt said. “Everything we do has to be communicated for the most part.”
One of Hunt’s most significant collaborations has been with the Office of Admissions. There, she worked with Brent Shock, Vice President of Enrollment Management and Student Success, to ensure Miami’s recruiting efforts were successful.
Every way the university reaches out to prospective students, whether it’s email, print materials or digital websites, goes through UCM, Shock said. He has worked with Hunt several times a week since arriving in Miami.
“I found her to be extraordinarily talented and creative and easy to collaborate with,” Shock said. “We both have a similar mindset when it comes to the idea that collaboration matters and produces better results…and I’m going to miss her when she’s gone.”
When Rivinius steps into the acting position, she said she would take what she learned under Hunt with her.
“She told me, ‘It’s never a bad idea to be the calmest person in the room,’ and I think that guides her,” Rivinius said. “It guides me. It guides our approach. There can be issues that get on people’s nerves, like how do we tell the truth and the context and ease the anxiety? I think keeping communication clear and transparent is a way exceed.
Hunt will begin in his new role at the start of Old Dominion’s fall semester. There, she said she expects her colleagues from Miami to want to visit for the proximity to the beach.