Executive Director, Strategic Communications

26 Apr, 2022


Executive Director, Strategic Communications

University of California San Francisco
San Francisco, CA

University of California San Francisco
Executive Director, Strategic Communications


Role Specifics
Position: Executive Director, Strategic Communications
Organization: University of California San Francisco (UCSF)
Location: San Francisco, CA
Reporting Relationship: Vice Chancellor for Communications
Website: www.ucsf.edu


Position Summary
The University of California San Francisco seeks a dynamic and creative communications leader to serve as Executive Director, Strategic Communications. As one of the world’s premier biomedical research and health-science institutions, UCSF advances health worldwide by educating the next generation of healthcare professionals, translating leading-edge scholarly and scientific research into knowledge, therapies, and cures for debilitating diseases, providing compassionate patient care, and serving the local and global community through community service, public policy research, and advocacy. UCSF embraces a common set of values – articulated in its commitment to PRIDE – professionalism, respect, integrity, diversity, and excellence. 


The Executive Director, Strategic Communications, will be joining the University at a critical juncture marked by significant growth aimed at expanding their overall impact and reach. To this end, the Executive Director will play a critical role in serving as the enterprise-wide expert on strategic communications as well as issues and crisis management. 


Reporting to the Vice Chancellor of Communications (VC-C) and serving as a key member of the Office of Communications (OOC) leadership team, the Executive Director, Strategic Communications, will provide the vision, direction, and execution of communications programs that promote and defend UCSF’s strategic initiatives. In addition, the Executive Director will serve as the lead strategist for issues management, developing communications that not only showcase UCSF’s impact on a national and global level but also uphold its world-class brand and reputation. 


The Executive Director will join the Office of Communications at a time of significant investment and expansion, which are intended to better serve the growing needs of UCSF’s mission and strategic initiatives. The Executive Director will drive complex communications strategies working collaboratively with colleagues across the University and health system, including in communications, marketing, community and government relations, real estate and planning, and legal, among other internal and external stakeholders.


As a senior leader within the Office of Communications, the Executive Director, Strategic Communications, will develop and execute a comprehensive communications strategy around key institutional priorities, leading a small team of talented communications professionals to advance UCSF’s overarching public mission, thoughtfully engage its stakeholders, and enhance its overall reputation.

The Institution
The University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), is a leading university exclusively focused on health. Through advanced biomedical research, graduate-level education in the life sciences and health professions, and excellence in patient care, UCSF is leading revolutions in health worldwide. 


Founded in 1864, UCSF includes the 107-acre Parnassus campus that is home to graduate schools in dentistry, medicine, nursing, and pharmacy; a graduate division for predoctoral and postdoctoral scientists; UCSF Medical Center and UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital San Francisco – part of UCSF Health; and Langley Porter Psychiatric Institute. In 2003, UCSF opened its 43- acre Mission Bay campus just south of downtown San Francisco. Over the past decade, UCSF Mission Bay has become a vibrant and vital campus and biotechnology hub where academia and industry come together for cutting-edge, lifesaving research. UCSF Medical Center at Mission Bay opened in February 2015, designed specifically to set new standards in patient care and to support groundbreaking partnerships between basic science and clinical researchers that will speed the delivery of new therapies to benefit patients. 


UCSF includes UCSF Mount Zion, UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland, and a regional campus in Fresno. UCSF maintains partnerships with two affiliated institutions: Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center and the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center. UCSF, which became part of the University of California system in 1873, is the only campus in the 10- campus UC system that is exclusively focused on the health sciences. With a workforce of about 26,750 UCSF is San Francisco’s second-largest employer after the City and County of San Francisco and the fourth- largest employer in the Bay Area. UCSF has approximately 3,100 enrolled students, 1,100 postdoctoral scholars, and 800 residents (physicians, dentists, and pharmacists in training). A $7.1 billion enterprise, UCSF receives 60 percent of its revenue – more than $4.3 billion – from clinical services provided by UCSF Health, and nearly $1.4 billion in grants and contracts. UCSF receives less than 3% of its revenue from state funds. 


The Office of Communications
The Office of Communications works to advance UCSF’s role in public life, telling powerful stories about the work being done, and building relationships with the media and  community. As UCSF’s enterprise communications team, the OOC provides comprehensive and coordinated leadership in planning, creating and implementing integrated strategies across all media to foster increased awareness and support of UCSF’s mission, vision, accomplishments and strategic priorities among its diverse internal and external constituencies. It serves as the official voice of UCSF to regional, state, national, and international news media. 

The Office of Communications leads integrated, outcome-driven communications to strengthen awareness of UCSF’s excellence across patient care, research and education. They also partner with the Office of Community & Government Relations on advocacy efforts that drive engagement in the issues that matter to our campus and clinical enterprise.

The office is led by Vice Chancellor Won Ha, who joined UCSF in 2019. In his role, Ha oversees the development and implementation of multichannel communications programs to champion the University’s mission of advancing health worldwide. As a member of the chancellor’s executive team, he serves as lead counsel to the chancellor and senior leaders across the University and health system on issues related to internal and external communications. He also is counsel to the UCSF Foundation Board.

Organizationally, UCSF has a decentralized model. An outcome of this model is that the University’s academic divisions and research enterprise enjoy autonomy in allocating resources and investing in areas of excellence.  Consequently, certain internal and external communications activities have been localized within schools, departments, institutes, and centers.  These activities are staffed by individuals with diverse communications expertise and experience who direct unit-centered activities, including design, digital and social media presence, and communications with their internal and external constituents. As the enterprise communications team, the OOC guides and influences the work of communicators across UCSF and UCSF Health.

Key Responsibilities
In this highly visible role, the Executive Director will be responsible for establishing UCSF’s reconceived strategic communications function as well as providing oversight for two director-level staff. The Executive Director will be charged with developing, implementing, and leading communications strategies in support of dynamic, complex, time-bound initiatives that have high public profiles and often encounter opposition from special interests.  Strategies will span subject matter across all of UCSF’s mission areas—including issues stemming from care delivery, research, and education—and strategic initiatives, including the modernization of UCSF’s Parnassus Heights campus and the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital campus. In addition, the Executive Director will be tasked with establishing, executing, and overseeing a preemptive issues management system, including the creation of an Issues Council comprised of a cross-section of UCSF functions and units, as well as a crisis management protocol that is integrated with Legal, Risk Management, and other UCSF units.

UCSF’s strategic initiatives are complex and involve multiple units and teams across the University and health system, as well as the University of California system.  In many cases, including the most visible UCSF strategic initiatives, the ED-SC will be the primary communications leader responsible for developing the overarching communications strategies that integrate the work of other UCSF units involved in a project.  

The strategic communications function is, by design, meant to be channel-agnostic and therefore will collaborate closely with others who manage key units, verticals, and channels—such as public affairs, community and government relations, real estate and planning, brand/marketing, digital, and legal—to execute UCSF’s strategies.

The primary responsibilities of this role include but are not limited to:

  • Serve as the expert and advisor for the University’s strategic communications and issues management efforts, bolstering the institution’s brand and reputation while addressing potential risks and threats. 
  • Support the OOC in strengthening an operating framework to coordinate distributed activities in service of integrated communications strategies that drive and support UCSF’s high-profile initiatives, including the modernization of the University’s oldest campus at Parnassus Heights and the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in Oakland.
  • Lead real-time support efforts and communications related to issues management, including overseeing organizational rapid response.
  • Promote the University’s values, programs and contributions to the community; embrace diversity, equity and inclusion; foster strong relationships through initiatives that encourage support from the community, alumni, faculty, staff, students, corporations, and foundations. 
  • Contribute to the overall enhancement of the image and visibility of the University and health system at the local, national, and international levels, by working closely with the Vice Chancellor, Communications, and the Office of Communications leadership team.
  • Recruit, develop, and oversee department staff, implementing measures to develop and maintain a strong team environment and a goal-oriented approach to all communications activities.
  • Maintain highly productive relationships with key stakeholders (e.g., leadership, staff, faculty, learners, and external stakeholders) on communications strategies.
  • Closely coordinate efforts with the broader communication team, as well as key business partners in Community and Government Relations, Real Estate and Planning, and UCSF Health, to ensure consistent and compelling messaging. 


Professional Qualifications
The Executive Director, Strategic Communications, must be a proactive, goal-oriented, and agile leader with demonstrated success working within healthcare, higher education, or related organization to set and achieve effective communications strategy. The ideal candidate will bring a proven track record of developing and leading communications strategies in complex and competitive environments, proactive leadership and team building skills, outstanding communication skills, and a strong commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

The ideal candidate must have exceptional relationship skills along with the necessary diplomacy and tact to collaborate and partner with a variety of internal and external stakeholders. The Executive Director, Strategic Communications, must possess a high degree of emotional intelligence and be sensitive to the ongoing needs of UCSF and its constituents.

Other desired qualifications and leadership characteristics include: 

  • Ideally candidates will bring a minimum of 12 years of experience in strategic communications leadership in healthcare or higher education. Consideration will be given to candidates who have 10 years of progressively responsible experience coupled with an exceptional track record of success.
  • Expert messaging skills with advanced knowledge of strategic communications, including issues and crisis management in complex and competitive environments. 
  • Solid understanding of healthcare or university institutions and communications. 
  • Demonstrated leadership skills with the ability to oversee and motivate communications professionals and business partners—at leadership and staff levels—across the enterprise to achieve targeted goals. 
  • Demonstrated commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism, which are foundational values central to the UCSF’s mission.
  • Exceptional written and oral communication, presentation, and interpersonal skills coupled with the ability to relate to administration, colleagues, faculty, staff as well as external stakeholders.
  • Proactive stance coupled with an ability to work in a highly matrixed organization.
  • Detail oriented and strong organizational and analytical skills along with the ability to demonstrate initiative, tact, diplomacy, and creativity.

An undergraduate degree is required. Graduate degree is strongly preferred. 

Compensation and benefits will be competitive and commensurate with experience.

Application Process
Candidate nominations and interested and qualified candidates are welcome to submit a resume and cover letter to:

The University of California San Francisco is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, age, protected veteran or disabled status, or genetic information. 


Candidates whose work experience or community service has prepared them to contribute to the organization’s commitment to professionalism, respect, integrity, diversity and excellence – also known as UCSF’s PRIDE values – are encouraged to apply.

Job posted: 2022-04-26