Harper Named Director of University Communications at Southeast


Kathy Harper, an experienced communications and marketing leader, has been named director of University Communications at Southeast Missouri State University.

Harper was selected following and national search. She will begin her new duties prior to Oct. 1 and follows Ann Hayes, who retired as director of University Communications on July 31.

Southeast’s director of University Communications is responsible for reputation management of the University, reports to Southeast President Carlos Vargas and serves as a member of the Executive Staff. The director of University Communications promotes Southeast and its initiatives, conveying a positive public perception of the University to local, regional and national media outlets through strategic media outreach, and managing the daily news flow of the University. Additionally, the director of University Communication researches, writes and edits news releases and a variety of documents; and serves as a University spokesperson/public information officer in response to media inquiries.

“During the search process, Ms. Harper conveyed a clear understanding of the ever-changing landscape of higher education and was able to demonstrate through her work at other institutions the impact that an experienced strategic communications and marketing professional can have on University initiatives,” Vargas said. “We look forward to her joining us, and helping us enhance Southeast’s story and reputation in southeast Missouri and beyond.”

Harper said she is honored to be selected as Southeast’s next director of University Communications.

“I have a passion for higher education and how it can change the trajectory of a person’s life, not only for them but their family as well. Southeast’s student-centered mission and vision fits with my passion and is what attracted me to the position,” she said.  “Throughout the interview process I was impressed by commitment and focus of President Vargas and the leadership team.  I look forward to joining them in helping the university, and most importantly its students, soar to even greater heights.”

Vargas also offered his thanks to Hayes for her many years of service at Southeast.

“I would be remiss not to offer my sincere gratitude to Ann Hayes for her nearly 30 years of superior communications guidance and support at Southeast,” he said. “Ann began at Southeast in 1991 as News Bureau Director and subsequently became Director of University Communications serving five University Presidents. She played a central role as the University’s spokesperson, managing crisis and emergency communications, and coordinating the University’s messaging on key initiatives such as the Will to Do brand and so much more. She has given tirelessly of her time and talent in service to Southeast, and I wish her nothing but the best on a very well-deserved retirement.”

Harper served as a marketing and communication consultant for the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Division of Continuing Studies during the 2019-2020 academic year, where she provided strategic direction and guidance in areas of marketing and communications; created fully integrated marketing and communications plans; provided recommendations and assisted in developing relationships, structures and processes between departments on campus; produced budget scenarios and models; and developed analytics, metrics, dashboards and best practices for determining marketing effectiveness, return on investment (ROI) and strategic planning to support the institution’s effort to launch fully online undergraduate degrees.

Harper comes to Southeast with more than 10 years of higher education experience, which extends beyond her time at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and includes service at the University of Florida. While at the University of Florida, Harper worked on initiatives that helped generate new tuition revenues and increased enrollments, facilitated communications with students through natural disasters, assisted in the execution of University events, handled media inquiries, established internal and external partnerships, supported legislative and other University-related initiatives, and managed budgets and supervised staff, among other accomplishments.

She holds a Master of Business Administration from the University of Florida and a Bachelor of Arts in communications from Brigham Young University, and is currently pursuing a doctorate in mass communications from the University of Florida.

In addition to her extensive higher education experience, Harper brings to Southeast more than 15 years of professional and not-for-profit experience including Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida; Visit Jacksonville, the official travel information resource for Jacksonville, Florida; Special Olympic World Games; Salt Lake Olympic Organizing Committee; Delta Air Lines; Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games; and the Georgia State Games Commission.