Managing Big Changes at Higher Ed Institutions

Episode 64

EP. 64:

Managing Big Changes at Higher Ed Institutions

Allison and Scott featuring Holly Duncan

with Holly Duncan

Holly Duncan is a marketing and communications executive who helps brands reimagine themselves for relevancy, sustainability, and profitability. She guides these organizations to define their brand through asking WHY, WHAT, and HOW and engaging them in two-way conversations with their communities. Her 16 years’ experience has been within higher education, sports, entertainment, retail, and telecommunications, and she’s led cross-functional teams on both the brand-side and agency-side. Her approach to work as an entrepreneurial innovator and team motivator has proven successful in amplifying brand conversation, engagement, and affinity across global, national, and local platforms.

Holly is currently the Chief Communications Officer at Converse College in Spartanburg, SC. In this role, she has the responsibility to represent and promote the College, increase its visibility and reputation, and advance the institution’s mission, vision, and goals. Prior to joining Converse, Holly served as the world-famous Harlem Globetrotters’ Director of Brand Marketing, after working in marketing roles for organizations like Verizon Wireless and Atlanta Track Club, and she even spent some time on the agency-side at Momentum Worldwide and EP+Co (formerly known as Erwin Penland), a Hill Holliday agency.

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • How Converse College is changing from a women’s college to a co-ed university, and how Holly’s corporate experience helps her manage these major changes as they relate to branding and communications
  • How Holly’s work with the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team to refresh their brand image and relevancy with today’s audience informs her work at Converse
  • Why formally making the case for “why” is the first step to creating big changes, and how the Converse team made the case for change to internal staff, faculty and alumnae
  • How Converse approached stakeholders with intentionality and planning through numerous channels such as videos, town halls, in print and face-to-face
  • Why the leadership team was consulted from the beginning, and how Converse created an ad hoc committee with members of all stakeholder groups to help guide decision-making
  • What eye-opening realizations Converse had while having conversations with their community around going co-ed and shifting from college to university
  • How the team had crucial conversations around their brand and shifting from a single-gender institution to co-ed, and what core information they uncovered
  • How Converse is preparing for the future through the change, while still honoring the rich history of their past as a women’s college
  • How Holly and her team are making the shift from information gathering to implementation in their brand messaging


Additional resources:


Holly Duncan

Chief Communications Officer at Converse College