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Finalists Named for UT System Vice President for Communications and Marketing

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KNOXVILLE – Three public relations executives with experience in higher education have been named finalists for the University of Tennessee System vice president for communications and marketing.

The finalists will visit the UT System Administration office in Knoxville in April. They will speak at a public forum and meet with President Joe DiPietro, the president’s staff, chancellors from each UT campus, communications staff from each campus and the UT System marketing and communications staff. The dates and times of each forum will be announced next month.

“This position is very important to the implementation of the UT System Strategic Plan, particularly the fifth goal, advocating for the UT System. The vice president will collaborate with the campus and institute leaders and communicators to raise awareness in our state and in the nation of the value of the University of Tennessee System and the impact it has daily in the areas of education, research and public service,” said Johnnie Ray, president of the UT Foundation and chair of the search committee. “This opening comes at an important time in the life of our University, when we are planning our future and seizing upon the national emphasis on public higher education and its value.”

The finalists are:

Deborah Fullerton

President of dF Consulting in Chicago since 2010. Prior to starting her own consulting firm, Fullerton was vice president of marketing at Loyola University Health System for nine years before her role was expanded to planning and marketing. She worked at Duke University Health System for 10 years, ultimately serving as director of public relations and marketing communications. She began her career as a reporter for the Courier-Tribune in Asheboro, N.C. Fullerton earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and her master’s degree in business administration at the Duke University Fuqua School of Business.

Virginia Hunt

Vice president for the Commonwealth Medical College in Scranton, Pa., since 2007. In that role, she developed the marketing and branding, philanthropy and government relations programs and currently oversees strategic planning. She operated her own strategy consulting firm, Hunt Consulting, for four years before leaving to join the medical college. Hunt also served as chief strategy officer for the Scott and White Health System in Temple, Texas, and was vice president of strategic initiatives for West Virginia Health Sciences. She also was vice president of communication at Shands Hospital at the University of Florida. Hunt earned her bachelor’s degree in mass communications and political science at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and her master’s degree in urban affairs at Boston University.

Tonjanita Johnson

Chief deputy to the president at Stony Brook University since 2010. In that role, she assists with strategic planning and communicating presidential priorities. Prior to her current position, Johnson was associate vice president for marketing and communications at Middle Tennessee State University. During her seven years at Mississippi Valley State University, she served as executive assistant to the president, associate vice president for university relations and chief of staff. She began her career as a post-secondary education reporter for the Decatur Daily in Alabama. Johnson earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in communication at the University of Alabama and a doctorate in urban higher education at Jackson State University.

The vice president will oversee the communications and marketing operations of the UT System, including strategic communications, crisis communications, issue management and fostering institutional trust. The vice president will work closely with policy makers, industry and public service leaders, the media and our campuses and institutes across the state to promote the UT System’s agenda. This position has liaison responsibilities with all campuses and institutes. The vice president will work collaboratively with each campus to develop a UT System identity while respecting the unique message of each individual campus and institute.

To learn more about the search, read more about the finalists and download photos of the finalists, visit

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Category: Announcements