UA selects new vice chancellor of university relations

Laura Jacobs has been named the new associate vice chancellor of university relations at the University of Arkansas. Her selection comes almost four months after the sudden and controversial firing of John Diamond by Chris Wyrick, the UA vice chancellor for university advancement.

Jacobs, who will begin the job Jan. 27, is now the director of communications at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville.

“The university had many highly qualified applicants for this position,” Wyrick said in a statement. “Laura Jacobs stood out as clearly the best among these candidates, as a truly great choice to lead university relations, and an excellent addition to our Advancement leadership team.”

Jacobs worked with the office of university relations in 1998, with her jobs including manager of development communications, managing editor of Arkansas magazine, and senior director of strategic communications. She joined Crystal Bridges in November 2011, the opening month for the national art museum.

As associate vice chancellor for university relations, Jacobs will oversee a department that is responsible for all university communications and media relations, including social media; marketing and branding of the university; promoting and publicizing the university’s fundraising efforts; supervision of website design and development; the university’s design, photography and videography production, and campus wide crisis communications.

Jacobs is a graduate of the University of Arkansas with a bachelor’s degree in English and communications and a master’s degree in higher education administration.

“I am honored to have been selected for this role at my alma mater,” Jacobs said in the statement. “I’m eager to begin working with the stellar group of professionals charged with advancing the University of Arkansas. I’d like to extend my gratitude to Chancellor Gearhart, Vice Chancellor Wyrick, the search committee and especially the university relations staff for their support and vote of confidence.”

RECENT HISTORY
Jacobs’ transition into the job will attract more attention considering how the job became available.

Wyrick announced Aug. 23 that Diamond was “terminated from employment,” with his last day to be Sept. 22. Diamond, who earned $173,000 a year, was to work from home, with his work assignments received by e-mail or phone.

Wyrick alleged that Diamond responded inappropriately during an Aug. 22 meeting in which Diamond was informed that UA “senior leadership had lost faith” in him. It was during that meeting that Wyrick informed Diamond he was being reassigned to associate vice chancellor of communication for the campaign.

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Diamond asserted that Wyrick had created a “toxic environment” in the department, and threatened the university’s credibility through a “disregard for the University’s obligations” under Arkansas’ Freedom of Information Act. Diamond has also alleged that UA officials told him to destroy documents related to a budget shortfall in the UA Advancement Division.

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