SPH Welcomes New Senior Director of Marketing and Communications
Cara Willis discusses her new role, her central messaging priorities, and why she is excited about joining the SPH community.
With 15 years of experience building communications and engagement for mission-driven organizations, political leaders, and public health messaging, Cara Willis (CAS’08) joins the School of Public Health as the new senior director of marketing and communications.
Prior to coming to SPH, Willis served as the vice president for communications and marketing at Upstream USA, a nonprofit organization expanding access to patient-centered contraceptive care. At Upstream, Cara not only built the communications department to support Upstream’s growth—she also managed an SPH student’s practicum. Previously, Cara served in Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick’s administration and led communications for an advocacy campaign focused on multiple education and career pathways for young adults.
“The need to communicate evidence-based public health research has never been greater,” says Willis. “I love thinking about different ways to communicate compelling messages and stories of impact, while elevating the people behind the work. SPH is at the forefront of public health research and practice, and I am thrilled to be here to help support and push the reach of our institution even further.”
Willis shared more about her new role, her central messaging priorities, and why she is excited about joining the SPH community.
with Cara Willis
What do you hope to bring to your new role?
With the COVID-19 pandemic and the recognition of urgent, yet longstanding structural and systemic challenges that impact public health, I am honored to join SPH as we close out our 45th anniversary year. It is a privilege to tell the story of our School. I am eager to dive into our communications approaches to ensure that we are strategically engaging all of our constituencies—including (but not limited to) policymakers, peer institutions, thought leaders, faculty, staff, community members, and most importantly, our past, present, and future students.
I am originally from Massachusetts, and I am a proud BU alum. A distinguishing characteristic of BU, and SPH in particular, is a commitment to our global and local communities. This is demonstrated in a myriad of ways across SPH, and I believe best exemplified by our core purpose: “Think, Teach, Do.” I am excited to live into those words every day as a member of the MARCOM team as we elevate all of the ways in which SPH is fulfilling its mission.
What will be your main messaging priorities?
The SRDs are a tremendous opportunity to demonstrate the significant investment that SPH is making in five critical research areas: climate, the planet, and health; cities and health; mental and behavioral health; health inequities; and infectious diseases. This initiative sets SPH apart, and it is powerful to not only share the initial announcement, but to also highlight the milestones and outcomes as the work progresses.
The new online MPH will enable us to bring our world-class education to more students at scale—to individuals across the globe, and to those who are at different stages in their professional careers. The online MPH is another example of SPH’s commitment to innovation in the education space, and I look forward to helping communicate this new offering as a complement to our top-tier in-person program.
Finally, I’m looking forward to partnering with the MARCOM team and other departments across SPH to ensure that we are meeting all of our audiences where they are, including on social media.
In all that we do, I want to make sure that we take a “both/and” approach—continued momentum in delivering high-quality, best-in-class marketing and communications, and that we seek even more ways to grow SPH’s footprint in the world.
What makes you most excited about joining SPH?
The people! I am most energized when collaborating with people who are mission-driven, who are committed to making a difference in the way they are uniquely able to. The MARCOM team works diligently to increase visibility for the groundbreaking work happening every day across SPH, and I am grateful for their warm welcome (and indulging me in my love of ice breaker questions). Everyone I’ve met across the School has been so welcoming and truly committed to impact, and that’s what motivates me. I look forward to partnering with colleagues across the school in pursuit of our shared mission and goals.