Williams faculty, students and staff,
As I announced in my Board email earlier this week, Jim Reische will retire on June 30 from his positions as Chief Communications Officer (CCO) and Senior Staff member, to be succeeded in both roles by Associate Vice President for Communications Meike Kaan. After Jim retires he will step into a new, part-time position in my office as Special Advisor to the President for Executive Communications and Media Relations.
I write today to publicly congratulate them and share a few more details in support of a smooth transition.
A good many of you already know Meike, who will become our next CCO and Communications representative on Senior Staff on July 1. Meike joined Williams as creative director in 2016 after a career that had taken her from arts management into senior communications leadership roles at Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle and Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of the Arts in Qatar. Since arriving at Williams she has been the driving force behind development of our visual identity and a key partner with College Relations and Admission in creating college-wide strategic communications and messaging plans. Behind the scenes, she has cultivated and mentored an extremely talented, focused team of professionals in editorial, creative, video, web, social media and sports information, among other areas. Now, in her new role, Meike will have lead responsibility for college communications and messaging strategy, stewardship of our institutional identity and the team’s partnerships with Admission, College Relations and Human Resources, among other areas.
Born and raised in Germany, Meike earned her B.A. in journalism and art history from the City College of New York and studied art history at the Art Institute of Florence and in the Master’s program at the University of Washington, Seattle. She is a board member of Berkshire Nursing Families and lives in Williamstown with her three children and husband, John Burrow, sound and media manager at the ’62 Center for Theatre and Dance.
Jim is not leaving the college, so I do not want to sum up his career prematurely. But at this moment of transition I want to acknowledge his contributions to date. Since joining us as CCO in 2017, his strengths in strategic leadership and executive communications have proved invaluable: He managed communications strategy through a presidential transition and my arrival with care; led comparable efforts in support of the strategic planning process and was a key author of the final plan; and perhaps most notably kept our community informed and engaged during COVID through near-constant, open and informative messaging. The trust Jim helped build through that work was essential to our navigating the pandemic as carefully and safely as we did. His keen mind has meanwhile made him an important member of my senior team, and he and I even co-taught a Winter Study this month about the importance of communications to effective leadership. I look forward to continuing my partnership with him in his new role, where he will advise me on presidential communications and crisis management, represent Williams leadership to the media and coordinate on-campus communications from the senior administration.
I am grateful to Jim for continuing on in this new capacity, and to Meike for joining the senior team as our next CCO. The two of them have been very close partners in running the Communications office, and I know they will sustain that level of collaboration after the transition. I hope you will join me in congratulating them each on their respective moves.