Media relations director fills longtime communications vacancy

By David Mamaril Horowitz

Media Relations Director Connie Chan (left) speaks to The Guardsman's news editor David Mamaril Horowitz (right) about her role at City College. Photo by Sarah Berjan/The Guardsman
Media Relations Director Connie Chan (left) speaks to The Guardsman’s news editor David Mamaril Horowitz (right) about her role at City College. Photo by Sarah Berjan/The Guardsman

With its renewed accreditation and the passage of the Free City initiative, City College needed an experienced media relations communicator to tell the stories of its community on behalf of the college.

On July 9, the college hired Connie Chan, previously the Recreation and Parks Department’s deputy director of communications and public affairs, as its media relations director.

Chan’s role is one where accuracy is paramount, and every matter is managed with a sense of timeliness and urgency. She handles press releases, communications with reporters and news outlets, social media, and the internet newsletters known as City Notes, which are forwarded to every City College faculty, staff and student email. She also helps the facilities department provide real-time updates about the conditions of college facilities when necessary.

“I am here to tell the great stories of our diverse college community,” Chan stated in an email. “And I am ready.”

Chan’s position may have been vacant since 2011 due to budget cuts and accreditation challenges, Vice Chancellor of Human Resources Dianna Gonzales stated in an email. In early 2017, former Chancellor Susan Lamb attempted to hire a director of marketing and communications, but the search did not yield sufficient candidates, Gonzales added.

Meanwhile, the college’s communications with the news media were often delegated to Jeff Hamilton. Although he was hired as the college’s government relations director in 2014, Hamilton functioned as the college spokesperson and marketing director.

When Mark Rocha became the chancellor a year ago, the position known as “director of marketing and communications”was split into two, Gonzales said. There would be both a director of marketing and a director of media relations. With Chan becoming the latter, Leslie Milloy becoming the college’s director of marketing in March, and Hamilton able to focus mainly on government relations, the college’s communications team was finally fully-staffed.

“City College is extremely fortunate to have Connie as our Director of Media Relations,” Rocha stated in an email, adding that she had already positively impacted the college through City Notes and her outreach on social media. “She comes to us with a wealth of experience and accomplishments with the City of San Francisco.”

Chan has more than a decade of experience working in city government and politics as well as in communications management. In addition to being the former director of communications and then of interagency collaborations for District Attorney Kamala D. Harris, Chan was a legislative aide for two years to former District 10 Supervisor Sophie Maxwell and later, sitting District 3 Supervisor Aaron Peskin. More recently, she directed communications and public affairs for six years on behalf of the city’s Recreation and Park Department.

The college has played a more intimate part in Chan’s life as well. Her mother, a single parent of two teenagers, took ESL classes at City College that enabled her to land her first job processing claims at Chinese Hospital.

“City College gave me and my family the opportunity to survive and grow in the City,” Chan stated.

Throughout her career, Chan watched Harris, Maxwell and Peskin each contribute to the college by holding former school officials accountable, supporting its education programming in the city’s southeast sector and rallying for the faculty union, respectively.

Working with them taught her how crucial the college is to the socioeconomic health of communities; that is why she feels excited to work for the college, she said.

“In my three decades as a reporter, I’ve depended many times on the energy, patience, diligence and sheer kindness of media relations people,” San Francisco Chronicle higher education reporter Nanette Asimov stated in an email.

“It is an enormous relief that City College has hired an experienced, dedicated media relations person after many years without one,” Guardsman Editor-in-Chief Peter Suter said. “I look forward to working with her to improve our coverage of City College.”

The Guardsman