VP of Communications Nancy Nicely to be Chief of Staff at University of Denver

Nancy Nicely, Secretary of the College and Vice President for Communications on the campus of Swarthmore College on Monday, March 19, 2018, in Swarthmore, Pa. (Laurence Kesterson / staff photographer)

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

Editorial Note: The following is the transcript of an email sent to Swarthmore faculty and staff at 2:00 PM on Monday, April 16th. Though President Smith is listed as the author of this article for clarity’s sake, neither she nor any member of the College administration requested the publication of this letter in The Gazette. See here for the announcement made by the Chancellor of the University of Denver (former Swarthmore President Rebecca Chopp).

Dear Members of the Swarthmore Community,

With mixed emotions, I write to share the news that Nancy Nicely, Secretary of the College and Vice President for Communications, has accepted the position of chief of staff and vice chancellor at the University of Denver (DU), effective August 1.

As chief of staff, Nancy will work closely with the Chancellor (former Swarthmore President Rebecca Chopp), members of the Board of Trustees, and members of the University administration to ensure that the needs of students, faculty and staff are met in a strategic, coordinated, and timely way. She will be an integral leader in the successful implementation and communication of major campus and institutional initiatives. She will support DU’s active partnerships with local, state, national, and global communities. Nancy will provide strategic support to DU’s Board of Trustees and will facilitate coordination of the senior staff as a team, collaborating with colleagues to align operations as well as special projects in the University’s administrative units.

Since she joined the Swarthmore community in 2007 as the College’s first director, and soon afterwards vice president of communications, Nancy has been instrumental in ensuring that Swarthmore’s commitment to access and inclusion, rigorous academics, and education for the common good is communicated effectively and consistently across the College and beyond. Her sound judgment, collaborative spirit, keen strategic thinking, and insight have been invaluable to me and many others.

Nancy is known for several other “firsts” during her 11 years at Swarthmore. Among her most notable achievements, she brought under one umbrella a strong and highly skilled communications team that works effectively across campus to support and amplify the work of students, faculty, staff, and alumni. During her tenure she has embraced the opportunity to build and strengthen a cohesive communications team that includes Admissions, Advancement, Media and Web Communications, Internal Communications, Digital and Social Media, and the Bulletin staff. Under her leadership College communications have consistently received awards and recognition by industry peers around the country.

Since 2011, Nancy has also been the first staff member to serve as Secretary of the College. Her achievements in this area include superb support of the Board and its leadership as well as its Nominating and Governance Committee. During her tenure, she has worked to ensure seamless leadership transitions for three presidents and two board chairs. As Secretary, she creatively led the efforts to organize and execute my inauguration in 2015. With colleagues across campus she has overseen our commencement and baccalaureate ceremonies as they have grown in size and complexity, including the addition of live-streaming and Spanish and Mandarin language translations, as well as the development of a severe weather plan.

Nancy has also been known to approach new projects with vision, energy and insight. She ably led the collaborative effort to produce the College’s first-ever TEDx Swarthmore event, in which the College community came together to explore the question, “What Makes a Good Society?” She also led the effort to promote 18 months of events in honor of Swarthmore’s sesquicentennial and oversaw the production of the book, Swarthmore College: A Community of Purpose (2014). Most recently, and at my personal request, she launched our coordinated “Get Out the Vote” efforts by bringing together a working group of students, faculty, and staff to increase voter registration and turnout. Her tireless commitment to advancing the values of the College is one of her signature attributes and the quality I will miss about her the most.

I am pleased to let you know that Alisa Giardinelli, director of communications, will serve as interim vice president of communications while we undertake a national search. Alisa has worked in numerous communications roles during her more than 18 years at the College. I am deeply grateful for her willingness to assume this role when Nancy departs this summer.

You will soon receive information about a farewell reception to honor Nancy’s time at Swarthmore. Please join me in thanking her and wishing her all the best as she and her family embark on this new and exciting phase in their lives.


Valerie Smith

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