Higher Education Consulting

With a decade of experience as a higher education administrator and professor teaching online, I have deep insight into the inner-workings of colleges and universities. 

My experience as a spokesperson at the University of Virginia offered valuable involvement in all areas of university life that include academic program development, online academic strategy and design, faculty recruitment, governance, advancement, student life, admissions, continuing education, board relations, athletics, government relations and safety.

I have been utilizing my increasing academic interest in online education and public diplomacy/economic development to work with United States colleges and universities, UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), international education ministries and global higher education institutions to help them advance.

My work teaching and designing online courses and formulating online academic strategy and evaluation methods at top-tier universities that include the University of Virginia, Purdue University, Georgetown University, American University, and Northeastern University has provided me deep experience in helping make education accessible for all through technology. This helps improve quality of life and provide more economic development opportunities, as well as further public diplomacy and trust.

This work has been valuable in my service on COVID-19 (coronavirus) faculty emergency response teams at UVA and Purdue where I have helped in-classroom professors transition to the online space in a manner that retains robust teaching and student engagement.

My consulting work includes:

  • Stakeholder Engagement
  • Strategic Planning
  • Academic Program Analysis and Development
  • Online Academic Program Strategy and Design
  • Crisis Management
  • Strategic Communications
  • Governance
  • Workforce Development
  • Articulation Agreements
  • Community Relations (specifically higher education neighbor relations as it pertains to capital projects)
  • Admissions and Faculty Recruiting
  • Advancement (fundraising and grants)

FORTHCOMING CASE STUDIES

  • Lower Cost Models for Independent Colleges Consortium
  • Jaipuria Institute of Management (India)
  • Al Akhawayn University, Ifrane (Morocco)
  • Association of African Universities
  • US Department of State

CASE STUDIES

University of Virginia

Situation

As UVA’s deputy spokesperson during the tragic events of August 11th and 12th when Nazi groups descended upon Downtown Charlottesville and the University,  Matt was part of a regional group meeting since early 2017 to plan for this and the Ku Klux Klan rally held Downtown in July 2017. He was also part of UVA’s 24/7 emergency response team from 2015-18; writing and disseminating real-time communications to internal and external stakeholders, as well as liaising with UVA, City and County and Virginia State Police officials.

Action

When the Downtown event on the morning of August 12th became violent and it appeared groups were headed toward UVA Grounds, Matt had to run across Grounds to inform University leaders attending other events, advising that in the interest of safety, UVA needed to shut things down and evacuate. Matt sent messages to UVA stakeholders with situation updates and to inform them that the Governor had issued a State of Emergency, closing UVA until further notice. While Grounds were evacuated without incident, he and other UVA officials continued to work around the clock on August 11th and 12th. Matt’s police and special investigator experience prepared him for this and provided important perspective. The crisis communications statement template he prepared the previous year as part of UVA’s new crisis management and supplementary emergency preparedness plan helped guide UVA’s communications efforts.

Outcome

In the following months, Matt fielded a high number of media calls (local and regional media and national media that included The New York Times, CNN, The Los Angeles TimesThe Chronicle of Higher Education and The Washington Post), helped navigate a deluge of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, and assisted with draft revisions to UVA’s operating policy to better protect its students, faculty, staff and Grounds going forward. UVA’s communications efforts led to changes in state law. They also worked to include students and provide resources to help with their recovery after these traumatic events. In Fall 2018, UVA achieved its highest enrollments (both African-American students and overall applications with our strongest class matriculating to date with 352 African-American students enrolling [up 34% since 2013] and 1310 minority students enrolling [up 35% since 2013]). This outcome led to multiple high-profile confidential clients contracting Matt for strategic communications counsel and the formation of Matt Charles Public Relations+Strategy. Much of the strategic communications work led to organizations requesting Matt advise on overall organizational strategic efforts.

University of Virginia Darden School of Business

Situation

In Matt’s position as UVA’s Darden School of Business media relations director, he and his colleagues realized the need to advance the School’s national reputation through high-profile media relations efforts to help with MBA and Executive Education enrollments.

Action

Matt successfully pitched The Washington Post to run a series of articles, authored by Darden School professors, promoting the benefits of the School’s Executive Education program. Matt leveraged these articles, by incorporating a PESO (paid, earned, social and owned) media approach. This was critical to program survival, as the 2013 sequestration and government shutdown drastically reduced program funding.

Outcome

The Washington Post ran 14 articles over the next year which, with collaboration with the marketing, web and social teams, helped increase Executive Education enrollment by 135% over the next 15 months. Darden also achieved a No. 1 ranking, with media placements being a scored factor.

Purdue University

Situation

The Purdue University Brian Lamb School of Communication, located in West Lafayette, Indiana, is the top-ranked communications program in the United States. However, like most higher education institutions they have experienced increased competition that had resulted in decreased online format enrollments.

Action

As a professor of strategic communication with years of online teaching experience and as a former higher education administrator, Matt knows the landscape well. He worked with the Purdue team on course pedagogy, program deployment and strategy to increase enrollments. He also provided counsel on marketing efforts, allocating six-credit hours of coursework for an earned Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) certification and creation of badge certifications for courses completed.

Outcome

The School achieved a 23% increase in online format enrollment and received support from the University and Indiana Commission for Higher Education to allocate six-credit hours of coursework for an earned Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) certification which has helped bolster enrollment. Because of these contributions and his teaching and student engagement, Matt was appointed one of the first two continuing lecturers in the online program.

Northeastern University

Situation

Northeastern University is a top-tier private university, located in Boston, Massachusetts, whose public and media relations graduate communications degree concentration experienced a steep decline in students during 2018. Part of this was due to new immigration visa policies which prohibited many overseas students from completing their degree from overseas. Many of these students were from China.

Action

With Matt’s experience working with international media at UVA and teaching global strategic communications, Northeastern University asked him to reformat and rewrite a number of required courses within the graduate curriculum that include “PR Strategy & Planning,” “PR Research,” “PR Writing I,” and “PR Writing II.” Matt stressed using an integrated communications approach, and incorporated the PESO (paid, earned, social and owned) media model in these courses. He also leveraged his work with Chinese media to help tailor the coursework to Chinese students studying at the Boston campus. Matt worked with the Northeastern team to design a curriculum applicable to both an online and on-ground format that could be taught with the online and on-ground formats taking place simultaneously. Part of this design included introducing a virtual public relations agency to the course to provide the students real-world experience as they work with actual clients from different industry sectors.

Outcome

Enrollments for both formats have increased, with the online format increasing by over 50%. The program’s reputation has advanced, as the course clients helped by the students’ virtual public relations agency have served as brand evangelists, spreading the word that they are professional and provide actionable recommendations.

Georgetown University

Situation

Georgetown University, a nationally ranked private university located in Washington, D.C., needed to update it corporate communication and public relations coursework and outreach to prospective students. This was especially important given the increase in graduate online communications programs nationally, and a highly competitive market in the Washington D.C., area.

Action

As a professor of strategic communication with years of online teaching experience and as a former higher education administrator, Matt knows the landscape well. He worked with the Georgetown team on course pedagogy, program deployment and strategy to increase enrollments.

Outcome

Program enrollments have increased by 35 percent. The crisis communications course that Matt teaches is at capacity with additional sections added, as other Schools — including the McDonough School of Business — have students request the course.

Public Relations Society of America

Situation

Increasingly, colleges and universities are utilizing non-tenure track adjunct instructors to teach courses. The communications field is experiencing this increase at a high rate given the proliferation of strategic communications programs, especially at the graduate level and in the online format. As more and more adjuncts enter academia as practitioners with very little teaching experience, The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Educators Academy and College of Fellows jointly endeavored to create the Adjunct Resource Guide.

Action

In 2019, Matt was asked by the Educators Academy chair, who was also a College of Fellows member, to draft chapters on online learning methodology/practices and graduate-level course teaching practices. Matt also was asked to contribute syllabi, as he has taught about 20 different online graduate-level strategic communications courses. Matt was only one of two non-Fellows and two non-full-time academics who contributed to the Guide.

Outcome

The Adjunct Resource Guide was presented at the 2019 PRSA International Conference and subsequently uploaded to the PRSA “Resources” webpage. As of December 29, 2019, the Guidebook had been downloaded 39 times and is made available to hundreds of PRSA members.

University of Maryland Global Campus

Situation

Transitioning the University of Maryland Global Campus’ (UMGC) communications program from the School of Management to the School of Arts & Sciences, the need came to rename the program and update the course offering to meet the needs of the current professional environment. Matt was asked to help with both.

Action

Given Matt’s unique knowledge of the current academic space, work as a practitioner, and time working for the UVA Darden School of Business, Matt suggested the term “Master of Strategic Communication” for the new program. In addition, Matt was asked to design a required graduate-level course on communications leadership and management — a first of its kind course for the program.

Outcome

Matt’s suggestion for renaming the program the “Master of Strategic Communication” was supported and the change was implemented. He is providing UMGC with a course that teaches students how leaders from all sectors communicate with their internal and external audiences. This course will debut in either the Summer or Fall 2020 term and Matt will teach it.