Nate Nickerson will serve as Yale’s second vice president for communications, University President Peter Salovey announced on Thursday, ending a search that began last summer when Eileen O’Connor left the post.
Nickerson comes to the University from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he spent 15 years in media and communications roles and currently serves as the vice president for communications. Previously an editor at Fast Company and Technology Review, Nickerson is also a member of the Public Affairs Network Steering Committee of the Association of American Universities, the announcement said. Nickerson will begin his term on March 1.
The vice president for communications — a position created in 2016 — oversees the Office of Public Affairs and Communications as the chief communications officer and fills one of the nine vice presidential seats on the University cabinet — Salovey’s 25-member advisory body.
“In searching for a vice president, I was looking for a strategic leader — a smart and energetic person who could join our team of deans and vice presidents and create a strategic communications plan for Yale,” Salovey said in a statement to the News. “Nate’s work at MIT is incredibly impressive, and he brings deep experience in creating thoughtful communications that convey excitement about what is happening at the frontiers of knowledge to a general audience.”
Unlike his predecessor, Nickerson has prior experience in higher education communications. Before coming to Yale, O’Connor served as deputy assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia and senior advisor to the special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. O’Connor also advised non-profits and corporations on crisis management.
In early 2016, after a semester of racially charged protests on campus, the University tasked O’Connor with forming a more effective strategy for OPAC. In an interview with the News at the time, Salovey said that while he was proud of the way Yale handled the events in the fall of 2015, O’Connor’s appointment could result in a more well-organized and effective operation.
“If she had been here last semester, I think she could have been very helpful in assisting anyone who wanted to express an opinion around campus issues — issues of inclusion, free expression, racism,” Salovey told the News at the time. “I’m hoping this semester we’ll be able to move more quickly in helping the outside world hear Yale’s message … and more effectively communicate the kind of campus we want to have here at Yale, rather than having outside media characterize our campus as they imagine it and Yale merely responding to those characterizations.”
In an email to the News, Nickerson said he “hope[s] to benefit from all [he has] learned at MIT,” where he worked “to help committed, brilliant people come together around shared purpose.”
He added that when he assumes the role in March, he will work towards using communications “as imaginatively and effectively as possible in service of the university’s mission.”
“I’ll seek to understand as deeply as I can the internal and external audiences that we most need to engage — and give them experiences that lie at the intersection of their and Yale’s passions,” he said. “I am very much looking forward to meeting my new colleagues in OPAC and to exploring, together, the exciting possibilities that this kind of approach can unlock.”
In a statement to the News, senior trustee Catharine Bond Hill said that Nickerson “seems fantastic” and “will be helpful and effective in conveying … [the] transformative work that is taking place at Yale.”
University spokesman Tom Conroy assumed the role of the vice president for communications during the search.
Serena Cho | firstname.lastname@example.org