Winner: Allison Barber, Chancellor, Western Governors University Indiana
Western Governors University Indiana Chancellor Allison Barber has demonstrated communications mastery in introducing and raising the awareness of Indiana's nonprofit, online university by targeting adults who want/need to finish their Bachelor's or earn a Master's degree.
Barber was selected by the governor of Indiana to lead the university as the chancellor and chief communications executive not just because of her passion for higher education and her extensive expertise in the management—her expertise in the technical applications of public relations played a huge role. She has called upon her past success as PR professional working in the White House and Pentagon, along with running her own agency in Washington, D.C.
As the first chancellor for WGU Indiana, Barber needed to create a PR campaign to increase enrollment that would penetrate the entire state. She had to leverage many people to help her since the university is nonprofit with a small marketing budget. She designed a PR campaign around the theme of "Go Further" and focused on relationships, ambassadors and visibility: In terms of relationships, Barber executed strategic partnerships with governments, businesses, nonprofits and individuals, including the state of Indiana and Indiana University Health, to offer tuition discounts to employees. Relationships were sustained through digital communications, social media, traversing the state in a WGU-branded "Go Further" mobile, and targeted use of collateral. Barber also championed an HR-specific page on the university's website to further build relationships with business leaders who could offer higher-ed opportunities to their employees.
Barber's 2011 efforts resulted in increased enrollment (769%) to more than 2,000 students statewide. Inquiries increased 264% and applications increased 570%. "Likes" on WGU Indiana’s Facebook page increased 80%. Barber's innovative and strategic outreach—from grassroots PR to extensive statewide media relations—created a buzz among higher education leaders and PR professionals. —Steve Goldstein
· Leon Rubin, Director of Communications, Office Depot Foundation/JKG Group