Barbara French Named Associate Vice Chancellor of University Relations

Barbara French

Bay Area native Barbara French, a seasoned journalist and communications consultant, has been named associate vice chancellor of University Relations at UCSF. French will report to Bruce Spaulding, vice chancellor of University Advancement and Planning, and will serve as second in command of the division, effective May 9. In her new post, French will oversee the departments of Public Affairs, which is responsible for communicating news and information about UCSF to internal and external audiences, and Community and Governmental Relations, which fosters relationships with neighbors, community groups and government officials. She also will oversee the UCSF Center for Gender Equity, which provides advocacy, education and support for men, women and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities. French brings a wealth of related work experience to UCSF, having served as a business editor and reporter, political and general assignment reporter, public affairs consultant and, since 1998, as the chief executive officer and president of her own private communications consulting firm, Reputation. She plans to gradually wind down her consulting business with her clients in the coming weeks. "I've had my own firm for seven years now, and I've been constantly moving in and out of different projects for various clients for several months at a time. At this phase in my career, I'm looking to establish a long-term commitment with UCSF," French said. "The thing that intrigues me the most about UCSF is the stature of the institution and the people who work there. I'm looking forward to using my skills for a world-renowned health sciences university that has such an important impact on people's lives." At UCSF, French will play a key role in cultivating honest communication, mutual understanding and creative collaboration to champion the University's mission among the public at large and policy makers alike. "During all of the discussions I have had recently at UCSF, I was impressed with the commitment of people to the institution. I found a very consistent effort to strive to make it better and to make it more responsive to the community. "Obviously, one of first things I will do is to take time to talk to people in the community to get a better feel for what they think about UCSF. When I went to interviews, the constant theme was that campus leaders want UCSF to be better known for what it has accomplished and for what is now on the drawing board." French joins UCSF at a very important juncture as it nears the completion of the first phase of development at its 43-acre Mission Bay life sciences campus and prepares to launch a major communication and marketing campaign designed to raise awareness of and support for the second wave of development at the new campus. "I think Mission Bay is truly the most exciting thing happening in San Francisco right now," French said. Implementing strategies to ensure key audiences get the right message has been the hallmark of her success at Reputation. French has worked extensively with community, business and civic leaders, playing a critical role in launching and advancing major issues and initiatives, including the opening of the International Terminal at San Francisco International Airport, development of a cruise terminal at San Francisco's Piers 30-32 and the development of affordable housing in Bayview Hunters Point. "With my own clients, I've always tried to approach communication in a very organized way. From the very outset, it's important to instill trust in them. You can't control everything, but you can control the process." French, who was born in San Francisco and raised in San Bruno, is familiar with UCSF and has over the years served as a communications consultant for the merger and de-merger of UCSF and Stanford as well as an advocate for the California Poison Control Center, managed by the UCSF School of Pharmacy. "Communications exist to move the mission of the institution," French said. "I am really looking forward to bringing a lot of creativity to the team - I'm a people person." Prior to starting Reputation, French was an executive vice president of Solem & Associates, a well established public relations and public affairs firm in San Francisco. Before joining that firm, she worked as business editor at the San Francisco Examiner, an editor and reporter at Connecticut's Hartford Courant and a reporter at the San Jose Mercury News. While working for the San Jose Mercury News, French broke the story that the reason the San Jose Fire Department didn't have a single female firefighter was because of the false notion that women couldn't pass the physical exam. As a reporter, French took and passed the test and wrote about it, winning widespread recognition. "It was one of my first experiences understanding the power of the media," said French, who added that the story brought awareness of gender equity issues in San Jose and beyond. French views her job overseeing the department of Public Affairs as "one key avenue for communicating and dispersing information and receiving information about UCSF's tremendous impact locally, statewide, nationally and internationally." To accomplish that challenge, French will examine all communications tools available, including employing the benefit of web-based communications as well as more traditional forms. "The web is a key part of the tool kit, but it doesn't touch all demographics. The question is how can you reach your key demographics? As diverse as San Francisco and California are, you have to be sensitive and aware of multicultural differences and communicate appropriately to your audiences. Not everyone receives information in the same way." Asked how to balance internal and external communication and their sometimes competing interests, French says, she follows an editorial philosophy of keeping her sense of humor and dedication to honesty and respect for others. "Your internal audiences are your primary ambassadors to the rest of the world," she said. "You want that individual to be well informed. Effective internal communication is critical to all stake-holder groups. "Obviously I want to get in and see what the culture is at UCSF. I've always been a believer in the power of communication. You tell the truth and you try to deliver the information in a timely manner. You want people to trust you; your credibility is crucial. But you also have to make communication work for the institution. UCSF is starting at a very solid place with an excellent reputation." In short, French says, "You have to be truthful and consistent and you have to listen." Source: Lisa Cisneros