Ten years ago, after the Great Recession sent the business world into turmoil, John Kawauchi began looking to transition into a new career path. In higher education, he found a landing spot where his skills were needed.
“I spent most of my years in financial services, and marketing and selling those sorts of products and services. And these days I think in order to grow, colleges have to do a better job of communicating and marketing themselves,” he said.
Kawauchi began his work on campus as the Vice President for Communications and Marketing on Oct. 28, filling the senior staff vacancy that was opened last school year by the departure of Megan Scott, ‘96.
Kawauchi earned his MBA from the University of Chicago before working in the corporate world for companies including JPMorgan Chase and Nationwide Financial. When he began looking to switch careers, a former boss gave him the opportunity to do marketing and enrollment management for Western State University in Colorado.
Knox is the first private school Kawauchi has worked at, and he has been impressed by the quality of student experience and education at the school. He identifies this as meaning that Knox has less gaps that need to be filled, with the focus instead being on finding the students who will succeed at the school.
“I think the product is relatively good. It’s a question of raising our communications and marketing efforts to the level that, to some extent, is being dominated by the big schools,” he said.
Technology has, according to Kawauchi, given larger universities an advantage because of the large budgets and staff they are able to dedicate to communication and marketing efforts. The rise of social media and digital channels has also changed the operating model for higher education.
“Marketing communications has a lot of moving parts now. It’s not just creating a brochure,” Kawauchi said. “That means not just creating more communications, but more specific communications and doing it more on a real time basis. With social media you can’t just say, ‘Well, we’ll publish something in two month.’ It’s real time.”
Kawauchi sees specific areas where business experience comes into play in changing how higher education has traditionally operated in communications. For instance, with college demographics changing and becoming more diverse, he believes colleges have to target their marketing to specific segments in a way that has been more common in the business world.
“And as you can imagine, particularly with Generation Z, there’s a huge need for authenticity in the communication … so that’s something that we have to further develop.”
Kawauchi is beginning his work at Knox by evaluating the way Knox’s communications currently operate, and says he will progress from there with what he recommends the college should make changes in.
“I think that Knox is a great college with a lot of great things going on. It’s just that the competition is requiring that we get better at communication and marketing. Even if we were doing a good job before, we need to be better now. Because that’s just the competitive environment that we’re in,” he said.