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University Gazette

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Curran, top public relations executive, named vice chancellor for communications

Joel Curran at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.Joel Curran, a senior executive in one of the world’s largest public relations agencies, has been named Carolina’s first vice chancellor for communications and public affairs.

Chancellor Carol Folt announced the appointment, effective Dec. 2, which was approved by the UNC Board of Trustees. She selected Curran after a national search and the work of a search committee led by Trustee Steve Lerner and former interim vice chancellor for development Julia Grumbles.

Curran, a UNC alumnus and North Carolina native, is a 27-year veteran of the public relations industry in a career that has included leading key offices for prestigious agencies and corporate communications offices for The Walt Disney Co.

Currently, he is the managing director of the flagship New York office for MSLGROUP, the world’s fourth largest public relations and engagement agency and the strategic communications group for the Paris-based Publicis Groupe. In that role, he is responsible for nearly 200 employees. Previously, he ran MSLGROUP’s Midwest operations.

“Joel Curran is a highly respected public relations professional who has an intimate understanding of the strategies and techniques essential to effectively reaching the University’s key audiences in today’s complex communications environment,” Folt said. “He has a real love for the mission of higher education and Carolina, and is an outstanding addition to our senior leadership team.”

At Carolina, Curran is a member of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication’s Board of Advisors. A native of Lexington, Curran earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism in 1986.

As vice chancellor, Curran will be the University’s senior public relations professional and manage the overall efforts to help interpret and promote Carolina’s mission with key audiences. He will oversee a University Relations staff that works closely with other campus colleagues supporting schools and units. The central staff produces top-level stories and content for the University’s homepage and includes units responsible for media relations, official social media accounts, internal communications, and print and web design.

Curran has worked at public relations agencies in Los Angeles, Chicago and Charlotte and spent more than a decade with The Walt Disney Co., rising to director of synergy for the company’s network television and professional sports franchises. He was the Chicago Public Relations Society of America chapter’s “Public Relations Professional of the Year” in 2010, and was an adjunct instructor in public relations and marketing at the University of Chicago’s Graham School.