Q: Mark, when did you come to Wesleyan, and
why was there a need for a Development Communications director, and later a
A: I came to Wesleyan in March 2005 fresh from more than 20 years based in
sunny Southern California. My mission as director of Development
Communications is to lead development communications strategies and projects
for University Relations, based on Wesleyan’s new strategic plan and
increased fundraising efforts. This includes developing and supervising
ideas and information that marry message to dynamic visual presentation; and
building a strategic marketing communications infrastructure to support
alumni engagement initiatives. All of this to enhance Wesleyan’s
relationship with alumni, parents and friends.
Q: Since Development communications is a fairly new department, can you
explain its purpose?
A: Wesleyan does an impressive job of hewing close to its institutional
strengths amid cultural stresses, cyclical economic swings, and the
challenges of keeping up pace with expensive technological change.
Barbara-Jan Wilson, vice president of University Relations, saw the need for
preparing UR for an ever more challenging role in funding the 29 percent of
annual operating costs that are not covered by Wesleyan tuition and fees –
the so-called Gap. This Gap is usually covered by gifts to the annual fund
along with withdrawals from the university’s endowment. As costs rise, the
goal for funding rises. This year, University Relations must raise funds to
cover current operating costs in 2007-2008, campus renewal and the
Everything that goes into planning, shaping, and delivering information is
communication. Development Communications strives for a clear, vibrant,
one-to-one channel between Wesleyan and its alumni to build relationships
and foster support for the university.
Q: Who else is a member of the Development Communications staff? How often do you interact and
how do your jobs overlap?
A: Jenny Fields '03 is our Development Communications coordinator. An Etherington Scholar, she is a proactive coordinator of every project in
which Development Communications is engaged. Adrian Cooke, our Web
administrator, came to Wesleyan from Yale to manage UR’s many Web-related
areas of concern. He is a talented interface developer and advocate for
Wesleyan’s alumni on the university Web site. Although we each have distinct
responsibilities and skill sets, we work closely, looking for ways to
optimize every idea, publication, production and process. Teamwork is
critical in creative disciplines. I am happy to say we have it in
Q: Can you name a few recent, and up-and-coming projects you’re involved
A: As the facilitator of most University Relations-related communications,
Development Communications is deeply engaged in planning, scheduling,
developing, producing and supervising or collaborating on all communications
initiatives that touch alumni. For Wesleyan's 175th Anniversary, Development
Communications worked closely with Alumni and Parents Relations to plan
Wesleyan's 175th Anniversary observance and celebrations. This included
conceiving the 175th stamp created by Ryan Lee; authoring the tagline "The
Art and Science of Education since 1831;" creating parts of the 175th Web
site; advocating for those fabulous building banners created by Steven
Jacaruso, and being part of Jen Carlstrom’s "Then and Now" Web site
development. I also wrote the scripts and helped co-produce the Wesleyan
Fund and Reunion & Commencement multimedia Flash applications.
In addition, we've worked to rebrand the Wesleyan Fund, and branded the
Voices of Liberal Learning speaker, seminar and lecture series with Linda
Secord. We've created Fast Facts, designed by Anne Marcotty, which details
the costs of a Wesleyan education; created the Donor Excellence ad series in
Wesleyan Magazine; developed the new Wesleyan Note Cards; co-produced the
Alumni Association News pages, gift announcements, and that great "Do You
Know" photo series with Bill Holder, Cynthia Rockwell and Gail Briggs; and
the Planned Giving ad series with Christina Posniak.
We’re now attempting to reframe the way we update supporters about the state
of fundraising at Wesleyan and recognize supporters. We are creating a new
way of seeing and reporting on support for Wesleyan as an annual update.
Q: What is Development Communications relationship with alumni, and how does it differ from
the other branches of University Relations?
A: Ideally, Development Communications is invisible to alumni. We strive to
set the stage for others – fundraisers, senior staff, the president - to
conduct the important conversations with donors. We do that by creating the
communications climate, the branding, the creative positioning, and the
messaging to enhance their ongoing dialogue. We answer questions and
concerns before they arise.
Q: What do you find most appealing about directing the Development
A: Creating a Development Communications Department at Wesleyan to support
rising fundraising goals, finding talented, motivated individuals who thrive
on excellence, and collaborating with other professionals in University
Relations, on the Board of Trustees, and the Office of Public Affairs team
in South College is challenging and rewarding for all of us.
Q: During a typical day, how do you spend the majority of your time?
A: My day breaks down into a 30-40-20-10 schedule. Typically, I spend about
30 percent of my time strategic planning, concepting, writing and editing;
40 percent in meetings, follow-up correspondence and calls; and 20 percent
advocating initiatives; and 10 percent problem-solving.
Q: What attracted you to Wesleyan?
A: Wesleyan has it all: a history of scholarship, passion for liberal
learning, an institutional commitment to positive change, and people who
care deeply about making a difference every day. It is real and I value
being a part of it.
Q: What did you study in college and where did you attend?
A: I studied journalism and film as an undergraduate at Syracuse University,
then earned a master's degree in communications from the S.I. Newhouse
School of Public Communication at Syracuse. I also did graduate work at UCLA
and the Master of Professional Writing Program at the University of Southern
Q: Where are you from and where have you lived?
A: I moved here from Los Angeles. As a creative director, writer-director,
strategic marketing communications specialist, and author based there for
many years, I worked in major North American markets, Australia, the U.K.,
Ireland, Italy, and Switzerland. I was born in northern Vermont. Shoreline
Connecticut is my idea of home and working at Wesleyan is a privilege and a
Q: What are your hobbies?
A: Writing, photography, travel, history and being on the water.