January 26, 2023 / Thought Leadership

Inside Out: The Transition From Higher Ed to Agency Partner

Gene Begin, Managing Director, CP Education

Day 8. In a way that causes much annoyance and anger for those who know me. Eight is my favorite number and many decisions in my life are strangely shaped by my infatuation with it. What better day than Day 8 then to write a blog post about my transition from inside higher education to an outside partner and add some context to what starting as the inaugural Managing Director of CP Education actually means to me and Connelly Partners. 

I would be remiss in not sharing that leaving Wheaton College Massachusetts after becoming its inaugural VP of Marketing & Communications seven years ago certainly came with sadness. I learned so much from so many during my time within that amazing environment and I will take that knowledge and evolved mindset with me forever. From a brand strategy framework redesign and a college-wide website reimagination, to bringing enrollment marketing in-house and finding continued success despite the pandemic, a new foundation of integrated marketing was built to showcase the Wheaton story and brand to new audiences and advocates.

After 23 years in higher education, it was important for me to still be connected to the industry and continue to market and showcase the value of education to change lives. I have found so much joy in being part of brand evolution and digital transformation at multiple institutions and I really wanted to bring that energy, excitement and evolution to more organizations. As CP’s first managing director within the education vertical (BTW, we have an amazing practice for the health industry that I have already learned so much from!), I will get the opportunity to work with new and existing education clients on brand strategy and integrated marketing to digital transformation and media campaigns.

What I have discovered as I grow older (I mean, more experienced) in my career is that I have an entrepreneurial bug to build within established organizations. Having been at Babson College for 15 years as both an employee and a student, and intimately involved in the promotion of entrepreneurship as a mindset and not simply a start-up venture, I certainly can attribute my interest to that education, experience and environment. 

I may have a fear of starting something on my own, but I’m glad Steve Connelly did not in 1999. The opportunity to work with the leadership, senior partners and talent within Connelly Partners had always been an intriguing idea, something that was not quite dormant and ready to be activated. I have long admired CP throughout my career from close (as a client for five years) and from afar (as we built our Wheaton MarComms division over the past seven years). 

The education marketplace is at a transition point that is ripe for marketing excellence. The value of higher education in particular is often being questioned and sometimes being attacked as there is a lot of angst and disgust with it within some factions of society. Price sensitivity and a more educated, digitally-fluent consumer has also led to a more authentic search process for education seekers. Audiences are driven by truly understanding the value of the offered experience by matching the student needs and desires with the why and expertise of the educational organization. Delivering and amplifying the right message of your purpose at the right time to the right audience is more crucial than ever. This is why I’m excited to build upon and amplify the great work CP has already done in the education industry and help deliver solutions for even more educational organizations to showcase their why. 

Unrelated, but if you did make it this far and enjoyed the randomly intentional references to the movie Inside Out, a sequel is coming out in 2024.

Learn more about CP Education here.