Cindy Lawson joined DePaul University as vice president for Public Relations and Communications in 2012. With more than 30 years professional experience at various-sized higher education institutions and with a Fortune 500 company, Lawson’s breadth of public relations experience includes crisis communications, issues management, media relations, web communications, integrated marketing, advertising, institutional research, photography and videography, event planning, publications, community relations, visitors centers and speakers bureaus.
In addition to her current job responsibilities at DePaul, Lawson provides crisis communications consultation to many universities throughout the United States, Canada and the world. She also provides timely webinars on a variety of crisis communications and marketing topics through Academic Impressions and HigherEd Hero, and she has been a lead instructor at past crisis communications institutes hosted by Academic Impressions. In addition, as an observer/controller for the National Emergency Response and Recovery Training Center in Texas, she has provided consultation to cities, counties and municipalities on their crisis communications preparedness. Lawson has been a guest speaker at Harvard’s Crisis Leadership in Higher Education, one of that university’s Institutes for Higher Education programs specifically designed for presidents, chancellors and other senior leaders.
Prior to her current position, Lawson served in several senior-leadership positions as assistant to the chancellor for Marketing and Communications at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, as vice president for Communications and Strategy Development for the University of North Carolina system and as executive director for University Relations at Texas A&M University. Prior to that, she provided departmental leadership for marketing and communications programs at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, the Culver Academies and Eastern Michigan University. Before moving to the higher education arena, Lawson worked for more than 14 years in public relations, marketing, community and governmental affairs, and economic development at Detroit Edison, gaining valuable experience with crisis communications in the nuclear industry arena.
During the 1999 bonfire collapse at Texas A&M University, in which 12 students died and 27 others were injured, Lawson’s handling of all crisis communications became the benchmark for crisis communication in higher education. CNN, CBS, NBC and ABC reporters praised her for handling the crisis “as well or better than the Tylenol crisis.”
Lawson has authored the crisis communications chapter for “Campus Crisis Management: A Comprehensive Guide to Planning, Prevention, Response, and Recovery” published by Jossey-Bass, and she has authored “Effective Crisis Communications,” a set of instructional materials for the National Response and Recovery Training Center. In addition to the many news and magazine articles written about her handling of the bonfire crisis, several authors have written about her crisis communications leadership, including Kathleen Fearn-Banks’ book “Crisis Communications, A Casebook Approach;” PRSA’s “Strategies and Tactics;” and “Weathering the Storm” by Christopher Simpson. She has written a chapter on crisis leadership for a book soon to be published by the American Council on Education. Lawson is also a frequent commentator on current crisis communications issues covered by Academic Impressions’ Higher Ed Impact.
Lawson received both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in education, with an emphasis in strategic communications, from the University of Michigan. She also is a graduate of Harvard University’s Institute for Educational Management and has completed additional coursework in public relations at New York University and in micro-economics at UCLA. She holds an economic development certification from the University of South Florida and a Master’s certificate in advanced interactive online marketing and measurement from the University of San Francisco.