Faculty participate in workshop to enhance, empower their personal advocacy efforts

Faculty from across the institution participated in an inaugural faculty advocacy workshop co-hosted by the Faculty Senate, Government and Community Relations, and Communications and Marketing to inform participants on how Vanderbilt currently advocates on behalf of the university and share best practices to help faculty members who want to advocate on topics of interest. This workshop was designed in response to requests made within the Faculty Senate over the past year to learn more about advocacy efforts at Vanderbilt and strategies for faculty to become better advocates.  

Vice Chancellor for Communications and Marketing Steve Ertel and Vice Chancellor for Government and Community Relations Nathan Green each presented on the art of advocacy communications and shared tips for effective advocacy practices. 

Ertel emphasized two primary objectives of advocacy: “Applying the right pressure” to decision-makers and “providing cover” for potential champions. He explained that both of these approaches involve the thoughtful dissemination of evidence and stories that can mobilize key influencer groups. During the seminar, Ertel also discussed the concept of “power and influence mapping,” focusing on identifying key decision-makers, their influencers, their concerns and the most suitable messengers for advocacy efforts. Ertel highlighted examples related to Vanderbilt and to his past roles leading communications and campaigning for international environmental and conservation organizations. 

Green, who spoke from a policy advocacy perspective, emphasized the important work carried out each day by Vanderbilt’s Government and Community Relations team at local, state and federal levels. He also spoke to the need for active participation in the advocacy process by individuals as well as institutions. The event underscored the importance of strategic advocacy efforts, including supporting or opposing legislation, requesting changes to legislation, and seeking support from elected officials and policymakers. 

Faculty participants talked with Green, Ertel and other attendees about how they might develop their own advocacy plan to reach the right audience in the right way and effect change on issues important to them. The ideas presented were reinforced through a “How to be an Effective Advocate” handout. Read more here. 

“Faculty are interested in meaningful engagement in issues that are important to them,” said Andrea Capizzi, chair of the Faculty Senate. “Partnering with Government and Community Relations and Communications and Marketing allowed faculty to learn advocacy skills and tools they can take forward in this work.” 

Future faculty programming related to advocacy will be part of the newly launched Dialogue Vanderbilt initiative, which will showcase Vanderbilt’s commitment to free expression by providing a range of programs to students, faculty and the public to promote civil discourse and to better understand and address polarization.