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Digital Leadership Behind the Scenes

Social media allows leaders to amplify messages and make an immediate impact. From presidents to deans, leaders are more and more active online, engaging with their campus and stakeholders. 

So, what is the role of marketing professionals in coaching campus leaders, from technical skills to crafting and carrying out a defined strategy? This session will feature an example of a dynamic and lively partnership between Dr. Terisa Riley, Chancellor at University of Arkansas Fort Smith, and Rachel Rodemann Putman, the Associate Director of Strategic Communications at UAFS. 

The conversation will be guided by Digital Leadership in Higher Education author, researcher, and executive coach Dr. Josie Ahlquist. Collectively they will discuss how marketing professionals can assist campus leaders in using social media to share their voice, their values, and their vision, with their entire digital community.

How Josie supports higher ed marketing pros: 

  • RenewA free retreat series for higher education digital communications, marketing, and social media professionals. 
  • Digital Community Building CohortTwo-month professional development program for marketing pros to increase digital community building strategies. Starts January 31st!
  • Executive Coaching Services: 1-1 coaching, self-paced course, and executive team training. 
  • Campus consulting and speaking.Customized strategies, from one time projects to yearlong support.

Resources for campus executives, and those that support them 


Dr. Terisa Reily

Dr. Terisa Riley has served as chancellor of the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith since July 2019. For nearly 30 years, she has dedicated her career to fostering access, affordability, and success through education. Throughout her career, she has served in virtually every facet of higher education at both public and private universities. 

Chancellor Riley leads UAFS with a commitment to open communication, transparency, and shared governance. Over her time in higher education, she has collaborated with campus leaders and stakeholders to prepare and implement strategic plans to drive enrollment and improve graduation rates. She has optimized spending practices, implemented campus reorganization and rebranding processes, and launched a university investment in student success practices. She emphasizes personalizing student experiences and has invested in the adoption of sophisticated online communication platforms, in-depth listening and research tools, and advanced mobile-first web strategies. Using technology to empower access to education, she has also invested in tools to strategically package financial aid to reduce the economic burden on students.

Dr. Riley believes that social listening is key to fostering connections within her university community and is an active user of social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, LinkedIn, Discord, and Twitch. Find her online @TerisaRiley.

Rachel Rodemann Putman

Rachel Putman

Rachel Rodemann Putman, associate director for strategic communications at the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith, has worked in higher education since 2014, following close to a decade in journalism. Finding her passion at the intersection of these two fields, she values authentic communications that reach audiences where they are, online, in person, or in print, in order to bring the life-changing power of education into view. Following her graduation from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, she worked for a variety of regional newspapers as a photojournalist, news reporter, and feature writer – earning numerous honors from the Arkansas Press Association and national publications.

At the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith, Putman uses her journalistic appreciation of transparent, honest communication to foster trust and build community among UAFS students, employees, donors and alumni. Noticing the need to communicate directly with audiences online, she successfully lobbied for a dedicated social media position in 2017, which evolved into her current role as associate director of strategic communications. She has implemented strategic advancement and monitoring of the institution’s print, broadcast and social media presence, instituted comprehensive data analysis and reporting processes, and developed a responsive social media policy and strategy that has earned industry accolades. 

Putman has researched and presented on developing comprehensive social media policies and plans, social listening, strategic content matrixing, leveraging student-generated content for authentic communication, and building digital communities.

Dr. Josie Ahlquist, Moderator

josieThrough speaking, coaching, teaching, and consulting, Dr. Josie Ahlquist guides educational leaders, organizations, and students to practice purposeful digital leadership. Her practical, evidence-based frameworks empower clients to build and implement a digital engagement strategy that fits their life, their audience, and their purpose. Josie’s work is grounded in her grant-funded and award-winning research that has allowed her to train thousands around the globe as a speaker; provide consulting services to institutions and companies; and coach professionals in branding, voice, and positioning.

Josie’s work has appeared in The Handbook of Student Affairs Administration, The Journal of Leadership Studies, NASPA Leadership Exchange, Technology and Higher Education, and Contested Issues in Troubled Times: Student Affairs Dialogues on Equity, Civility, and Safety (Stylus Publishing, 2019). She also served as co-editor and author of the New Directions in Student Services volume Engaging the Digital Generation, and the New Directions in Student Leadership volume Going Digital in Student Leadership.

Josie is a three-time LinkedIn Top Voice in Education, has been recognized by Ed Tech Magazine as one of the “Top 50 Must-Read Higher Education Technology Blogs” for five years. Her podcast, Josie and The Podcast, has been featured by The Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed. Her new book, Digital Leadership in Higher Education: Purposeful Social Media in a Connected World was listed as an Amazon #1 new release for college and university student life.

Josie received her EdD in higher education leadership from California Lutheran University, an MEd in counseling from Northern Arizona University, and a BA in sociology and human development and family studies from South Dakota State University. Prior to her independent path, Josie spent nearly 15 years on college campuses in areas of student leadership, student activities, residence life, and student affairs communications and marketing. She currently serves as a research associate and instructor at Florida State University Leadership Learning Research Center, where her curriculum builds digital literacy and leadership skills for undergraduates to doctoral students.

For more information about Josie Ahlquist’s research, speaking, coaching, and consulting, visit Connect with Josie on TwitterInstagramLinkedIn, and Facebook.

About Josie

I’m Dr. Josie Ahlquist—a digital engagement and leadership consultant, researcher, educator, and author. I’m passionate about helping people and organizations find purposeful ways to connect, engage, and tell their unique story. I provide consulting, executive coaching, and training for campuses, companies, and organizations that want to learn how to humanize technology tools and build effective and authentic online communities.

My blog and podcast have been recognized by EdTech Magazine, Inside Higher Ed and the Chronicle of Higher Education. My book, Digital Leadership in Higher Education, was published in 2020 and was listed as a #1 new release for college and university student life. I have been growing my consultancy since 2013 and am based in Los Angeles. When I’m not helping clients lead online, you might find me training for a triathlon, spoiling my nieces and nephews, or exploring with my husband and our rescue dogs in our new RV called Lady Hawk.

I’d love to connect! Find me on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

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