Ann Duffield has worked in higher education for 38 years, is the founding principal of Ann Duffield & Colleagues (ADAC), and formerly founded a joint practice, The Presidential Practice, in 2005.
Ann spent over 26 years at the University of Pennsylvania (1973-2000). From 1973-1980, she learned the field of public relations and communications, first as a speech writer and alumni coordinator at the Moore School of Electrical Engineering, then as typesetting manager and publications coordinator for the University’s central publications office, and finally as publications manager and editor of the alumni magazine for The Wharton School. In 1980 she became Director of Penn’s Office of Publications and in 1982, she was promoted to chief communications officer, directing the Office of University Relations and Penn Medical Center’s Office of Communications. During this period of time, she was responsible for developing one of the first major admissions marketing programs in the country, which evolved into the University-wide identity program Penn continues to use to this day. In 1988, Ann formed a small internal marketing group, called the University Design Group, to design and produce the University’s major outreach communications, including Penn’s 250th Anniversary and its Billion Dollar Campaign, “Keeping Franklin’s Promise.” Ann served on numerous University planning, fundraising, marketing, and management committees and designed the communications plan for the Penn Plan, one of the first university-backed student loan programs in the country.
Also in 1988, Ann joined forces with her long-term colleague, Professor Robert Zemsky, Penn’s Chief Planning Officer and Director of the Institute for Research on Higher Education, to develop the national and international communications program for the Pew Higher Education Roundtable, funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts and later by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. As director of communications for the Institute for Research on Higher Education, she created both a media outreach program for the Roundtable and Policy Perspectives, one of the leading higher education periodicals in the United States. She directed the Pew Higher Education On-Campus Roundtable and The Knight Collaborative and was responsible for strategic planning roundtables on and collaborative projects between more than 100 colleges and universities across the country, many of which she personally facilitated. She also worked with the American Council on Education (ACE) to coordinate an international roundtable series, called the Transatlantic Dialogue, and with the Association of Governing Boards (AGB) to develop joint programs with boards. As part of the Institute’s development of and involvement in two national centers, she was communications director for EQW (the National Center for the Educational Quality of the Workforce) and NCPI (the National Center for Postsecondary Improvement). As such, she worked with research faculty from Penn, the University of Michigan, Cornell University, Stanford University, and Williams College.
In 2000, Ann joined the national fundraising consulting firm of Marts & Lundy, to establish and head a new practice in communications and planning. In 2005, she established with a colleague from Penn The Presidential Practice and in 2011, set up her own practice, Ann Duffield & Colleagues, which comprises a small group of former presidents and other experts in higher education research and media, who provide confidential and comprehensive counsel to presidents and chancellors, provosts and deans, senior officers, and boards of colleges and universities.
Ann is a member of the board of trustees at The Sage Colleges (Russell Sage College in Troy, NY and Sage College of Albany in Albany, NY) and is on the advisory board for Inside Track, a student advising and retention firm for higher education. She is also affiliated with The Learning Alliance through which she has an ongoing partnership with Robert Zemsky, chair of The Learning Alliance and founder of and current professor in Penn’s Executive Doctorate Program in Higher Education.
Ann grew up in Omaha, Nebraska where she graduated from the Brownell-Talbot School. She received her BA from Chatham College in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and was a graduate teaching assistant in English at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. She and her husband, Timothy, have four sons and two grandchildren. They live in Philadelphia, PA and Bluff, UT.
I am one of those college graduates who entered graduate school in the early 1970s, just in time to hear the calling for faculty—particularly English faculty—become a whisper. Being the daughter of a mother (ironically a late blooming English professor) who suddenly found herself having to support four children at the age of 45, I determined that becoming a professor would have to take a back seat to putting bread on my table. This decision coincided with the opportunity for me to join my future spouse in England for several years where I would discover the value of my undergraduate preparation in the liberal arts.
The question was, “What am I prepared to be if I’m not going to become a faculty member right now?” I knew I loved literature (particularly 18th Century British literature) and poetry and I could write reasonably well. I also knew I could do research, because Chatham College had been one of those rare undergraduate experiences back then that required writing and defending a senior thesis. I also thought I could translate almost any content into words that could be readily understood by multiple audiences, and I proved this to myself by first writing job manuals for an insurance company and then creating training books that prepared people who ran letterpress printing presses for the new world of offset printing and paperboard manufacturers for innovative coatings and papermaking equipment.
After visiting most of the major paper mills in England, I moved to Philadelphia so that my husband could take a Master’s program in Landscape Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania. It was at Penn that I discovered that I could translate almost any content into not just understandable words but also visual images and metaphorical concepts. Communications became a passion of mine. But not public relations. While I enjoyed working on publications and media programs for Penn, my real calling was to be a proactive communications strategist, facilitator, and planner, someone who figured out how to engage people in meaningful discussions that resulted in action. I ultimately found my best voice when I joined the Institute for Research on Higher Education and through the Pew Roundtable, began working with leaders in higher education who wanted to make a difference not only for their own campuses but also for all of higher education.
“Making a difference” on a campus and in the wider world it touches—its community, its alumni, its region, and beyond—requires university and college leaders to draw upon a unique set of talents and tools: facilitation, communication, and strategic planning. They need to be able to listen to others as well as to themselves. They need to facilitate interactions that lead members of their communities to think concretely about the future and to discover innovative ways to realize real results. They need to communicate in multiple ways—and over and over again—what their goals are. They need to know when to exercise patience and when to provide energetic leadership. In sum, they need to know how to harness the future into an action plan that begins today and evolves beyond their wildest dreams and perhaps into quite unexpected manifestations.
I have spent my professional life as a facilitator, a communicator, and a planner. I have helped my colleagues at Penn and my clients at Marts & Lundy, The Presidential Practice, The Learning Alliance, and Ann Duffield & Colleagues to think through their goals, to make plans, to identify and engage the individuals internally and externally who they need to realize their dreams, and to achieve the results they seek. By working with universities and colleges of all sizes and types—from the University of Maryland Baltimore County, Northeastern University, and Tarrant College County District to Millsaps College, Central College, and Hamilton College—and other nonprofit institutions, like the National Geographic Society and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, I have had a spectacular lifelong learning laboratory for both the art and craft of my profession. I have studied, practiced, taught, and used communication as a foundation for the coaching, facilitation, and strategic planning services I now regularly provide to my clients.