Yale News

Vice President for Communications Nate Nickerson will step down in late September to join a venture capital firm, University President Peter Salovey announced Thursday.

Nickerson took on Yale’s top communications role in March 2019. He leads the Office of Public Affairs and Communications, or OPAC, and arrived after the departure of Eileen O’Connor raised questions for Yale administrators. He will next serve as a communications and public affairs partner for Palo Alto-based venture capital firm DCVC. 

“I have been extremely happy at Yale and it took an extraordinarily compelling opportunity  to make me even consider leaving this place,” Nickerson said in an interview. “But the chance to be part of a firm supporting companies that are using deep technology in areas like climate change and human health is just really interesting to me.” 

Nickerson previously served as the vice president for communications at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and held editorial positions at Fast Company and Technology Review. At Yale, he oversaw a restructuring of Yale’s communications department. 

“Nate arrived at Yale with a clear vision on how best to use communications to support the pursuit of Yale’s mission,” Salovey wrote in a statement. “He restructured OPAC to foster a greater focus on Yale’s teaching and research, engage deeply and systematically with the media on the work of all schools and departments, and nurture a collaborative approach to the university’s digital strategy.” 

The restructuring involved separating OPAC’s staff into media relations officers and editorial positions to publicize the University’s work. This also entailed creating new roles including Director of University Media Relations. Nickerson also had media relations officers develop expertise in specific areas of the University’s work.

In Jan. 2020, Nickerson also launched Yale Today, a daily email with Yale related news. Working on the editorial side to promote Yale’s accomplishments — particularly related to STEM — helped prepare him to take on his new role at DCVC, which focuses on health and climate change, he said.

Nickerson led the move of internal communications from Human Resources to OPAC and helped support the Yale Visitor Center, which is under OPAC,  as it hosted tours for the Office of Undergraduate Admissions due to disruptions caused by COVID-19. 

Nickerson focused on moving internal communications over the summer. Staff can expect new ways to meet in person and virtually in the fall, he said.

In his time at Yale, Nickerson also led the “Healthy Yale” campaign to help spread public health information about the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the communications for Yale’s For Humanity capital campaign, a fundraising push each president launches during their tenure. 

“Nate thinks clearly in a crisis and thinks boldly in moments of opportunity,” University Provost Scott Strobel said in a statement. “He has been a key strategic partner in the implementation of our academic priorities, and he created the communication plans to advance public health during the pandemic.”

Nickerson said he enjoyed his years at Yale, but that the job could be “intense” at times. 

“It’s a hard role to learn because there’s a lot to it and research universities are complicated places,” Nickerson said. “They’re complicated in how influence and power works, but once you sort of get the hang of it, it’s a pretty joyful job.”

The Office of Public Affairs and Communications is located at 2 Whitney Avenue. 

Sarah Cook covers student policy and affairs, and she previously covered President Salovey's cabinet. Originally from Nashville, Tennessee, she is a first year in Grace Hopper majoring in Neuroscience.