At the beginning of the semester, the University introduced the position of chief marketing communications officer and hired Graham Garner to fill it. He officially started the job on March 8.
In his new role, Garner reports directly to the University president, serves in his cabinet, and oversees the Marketing Communications department.
“Mr. Garner’s fundamental role will be to plan and implement a comprehensive strategic marketing and communications plan for SFA,” Vice President of Advancement Jill Still said. “He will work to coordinate our marketing efforts across campus, including the athletics, enrollment and fundraising areas. We know there are benefits to the synergies that will be created by a unified group effort. It is important that we leverage SFA’s assets to develop consistency in messaging and strengthen the authentic SFA brand.”
Originally part of the 2023 Strategic Plan, Still said the in-house position replaced the Carlberg Agency, which represented SFA out of Houston since 2013.
“We believe our marketing efforts will be more impactful if they are based on work that originates here on our campus under the direction of a leader who is working daily with divisions and departments across campus,” Still said.
Garner has worked in similar roles at four different institutions in four different states before coming to SFA. He said he was intrigued by the leadership of the University and its students and accepted the job before ever seeing the campus or even East Texas.
“I had heard of SFA, but I didn’t know that much,” Garner said. “I’ve mentioned that I’ve been in Idaho and South Dakota and Iowa and New York, and those are moving constantly east but they’re pretty much the same latitude. I haven’t ever been in this region of the country before, so I definitely had an interest coming down here and learning more.”
While at previous universities, Garner worked through changes in branding, such as logo, mascot, website and university name changes. However, even with branding being one of Garner’s focuses, he said he didn’t come to SFA with those ideas in mind.
“This is my fifth institution in five states. There are things that everybody needs, and there are distinctive or even unique needs. The most important thing I can do to start is ask a lot of questions and do a lot of listening,” Garner said. “I haven’t come to SFA with any kind of preconceived ideas, other than, I would say more general goals. I would even go as far as to say values. For me, it’s really about discovering who SFA is.”
In a press release, President Scott Gordon said Garner is known for recognizing trends that will benefit the University.
“Graham Garner is known among higher education leaders for building a brand based on the perspective of education as a public good that can benefit from private enterprise as it brings value to individuals, communities and industries,” Gordon said. “He is well-respected for his ability to see trends on the horizon and to lead organizational change that benefits the entire institution.”