Hamilton College President David Wippman has named Melissa Farmer Richards as vice president for communications and marketing, a new position for the College. The appointment is effective Sept. 9.
Richards, currently vice president for communications and enrollment at Sweet Briar College, will report to Wippman and serve as a member of the College’s senior staff. She will lead the communications professionals who develop, implement, and market the College’s brand, vision, and overall communications strategy, with direct responsibility for publications, periodicals, media relations, social media, digital communications, visual communications, crisis communications, and community relations.
“Melissa has broad experience working collaboratively to identify and shape messages that appeal to a college’s many audiences,” said Wippman. “She’s a strategic and creative thinker who believes strongly in the value of a liberal arts education as the best preparation for a life of meaning and purpose. I am looking forward to working with her to sustain Hamilton’s upward trajectory and make the College’s reputation even stronger in the minds of prospective students and the general public.”
“I have always admired Hamilton as a place that affords transformational experiences for every student,” Richards said. “The institution’s values are very much in line with my own educational philosophy. I am eager to work with President Wippman, the faculty, and staff on a communications plan that positions Hamilton another step forward as a pre-eminent liberal arts college.”
Richards spent the first 16 years of her career managing marketing and communications in the technology sector, then shifted her focus to higher education in 2009. She served as director of marketing and strategic communications and ultimately assistant vice president for marketing and publications at Virginia Tech and was vice president for communications at St. Lawrence University.
Most recently at Sweet Briar College, she led the institution’s media relations and communications strategy for a curricular and tuition reset that contributed to the college being named a “most innovative school.” The campaign received a silver award from the local chapter of the Public Relations Society of America and a bronze award for institutional branding from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education.
A 1993 graduate of the University of Virginia, Richards earned a master’s degree in public administration from Virginia Tech in 2014. She is a member of the American Marketing Association, the Public Relations Society of America, and the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education, among other professional groups, and is a regular presenter at higher education conferences focused on marketing and communications. For the last two years, she has served on the boards for the Girl Scouts of the Virginia Skyline Council and the College Communicators Association of Virginia and D.C. She co-founded two TEDx university events and is one of four co-founders of a children’s museum.