Associate Dean, Office of Marketing and Communications
Samara Sit is a strategic communications and branding expert helping universities to achieve institutional goals through creative digital storytelling and innovative editorial strategies that unify campus communities and instill pride. In her role as associate dean for marketing and communications at the Cornell University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (Cornell CALS), Samara is responsible for promoting and elevating the college’s top-ranked reputation by serving as its chief communications strategist, spokesperson and marketing lead. She directs a digital-first, data-backed integrated strategy that supports two campuses, 4300 students and 360 faculty members. Samara also provides message development, issues management and crisis communications counsel to the dean and senior leadership.
Her team is currently relaunching the cals.cornell.edu digital ecosystem of 60+ websites after a systematic rethink project to realize Samara’s vision - helping audiences connect with relevant stories quickly using state-of-the-art technologies. In 2017, she released the college’s first-ever comprehensive strategic message strategy and visual identity, created in collaboration with the design firm IDEO. The new branding unified outreach efforts and helped achieve a 22% increase in first-year prospective student applications in the following school year. Samara has successfully advised or led more than ten additional identity projects throughout the college. One specific project of note is the rebranding of the college’s Geneva, NY campus, now known as Cornell AgriTech, which immediately resulted in increased attention by journalists and elected officials.
Samara’s career spans three start-ups, two universities and a national news program, always with a driving ambition to push the boundaries of what education and technology can achieve together. After working on interactive museum displays and managing an educational facility for K-12 students post college, Samara answered the call of the Internet revolution and joined a new venture editing teen-authored stories for an early content distributor. She took her passion for youth journalism to the PBS NewsHour with Jim Lehrer as the manager of their multimedia engagement program for high school students and teachers. Her love of telling a good story through technology developed further as a television producer for the flagship broadcast, producing live discussions and taped feature stories for a nightly international audience of two million viewers. A junkie of complex projects, she also managed communications initiatives, operations and programs at George Washington University. Her accomplishments there included facilitating sold-out major campus events which were often livestreamed or shown on live national TV. They drew national media attention and trending Twitter hashtags, featuring VIP guests including renowned journalists, cabinet and Congressional members, and the occasional president.
Currently an at-large board member for the Public Relations Society of America’s Finger Lakes chapter, Samara previously supported youth journalism as a board member for Washington D.C’s independent teen newspaper “Young D.C.” She was inducted into Phi Alpha Theta, the international history honors society, and delivered the commencement address for her graduating class at American University. Samara resides in Lansing, NY, with her husband Dave, the wine writer for Ithaca Times. In her spare time, she can usually be found at the gym pursing mind and body wellness without any technology whatsoever.
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