California university pays top dollar for former USC official

preese@sacbee.comAugust 5, 2013 

KAREN ROACH/ISTOCKPHOTO.COM

— Former University of South Carolina official Luanne Lawrence’s move to California landed her an almost 10 percent raise.

The University of California-Davis hired Lawrence, formerly of USC, as associate chancellor for strategic communications earlier this year, an investment toward improving the college’s image.

Lawrence will make an annual salary of $260,000, more than any other campus communications chief in the University of California system, according to a survey by The Sacramento Bee. As part of her benefits package, Lawrence is eligible for 90 days of temporary housing and to participate in the university system’s low-interest home loan program, UC Davis officials said.

Her job title is new, so comparisons to her predecessors at UC Davis are inexact. But she will make more than others before her who did a similar job.

Mitchel Benson earned $182,000 in 2011 as UC Davis’ associate vice chancellor for university communications. Barry Shiller, who was interim executive director for strategic communications, earned $203,000 in 2012. Beverly Sandeen made $218,000 in 2010 as vice chancellor for university relations, a broad position that no longer exists.

Lawrence steps into her role as the university tries to put a public relations nightmare behind it: the 2011 incident in which campus police officers used pepper spray against students during a protest focused on tuition hikes.

UC Davis also wants to grow enrollment, increase research funding and maintain its high academic ranking even as the state spends less on higher education. Lawrence said a key part of her job will be convincing potential students and donors that the university is up to the challenge.

As a result, Lawrence said, the university’s communications department will expand. She hasn’t determined by how much yet.

“If you are going to increase enrollment by 5,000 students, you need a strong communications presence,” Lawrence said, referring to the possibility of growth that Chancellor Linda Katehi outlined in her “2020 Initiative” plan.

Lawrence, who started in May, oversees the campus’s news services, publications department, campus Internet home pages, social media websites and marketing units. Those offices have a budget of roughly $3 million and 27 full-time employees, according to her official job description.

The new position is vital to “help raise the public profile and visibility of UC Davis,” said Susan Gilbert, the university’s associate vice chancellor for human resources.

Lawrence is one of about a dozen administrators at the dean level or above at UC Davis who earn at least $260,000, according to state records. That does not include doctors and administrators in the UC Davis Health System.

Lawrence said her new salary is not much higher than what she earned at the University of South Carolina. She made about $237,000 in that position in 2012, according to state records. “I was offered a salary and I took it,” Lawrence said. “It was such a great opportunity.”

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