Perhaps the best phrase to describe Roman Cooney's attitude towards his new job is enthusiastic and excited. As of Nov. 4, 2002, Cooney will become the University of Calgary's first Vice-President External Relations, a new position that includes duties such as alumni relations, marketing, public relations and government relations.
Cooney is currently the Vice-President Communications and New Business Development with the Calgary Health Region. He has spent 20 years in journalism. Now he turns his attention to the university, a place full of possibilities. He views his job as helping the university communicate its contributions to the public.
"You feel passionate, you're willing to give up time because you feel it's important," said Cooney. "I'm still enough of an old newsman to get excited about stories, to want to tell stories. I'm still personally engaged and I believe our community wants to know."
That theme of engaging the community is important to Cooney. He believes the community does not understand the university and does not appreciate the university's potential--a problem largely of U of C's own making, according to Cooney.
"The communication has tended to be fragmented and it's important to be able to work with the university to look for new ways to communicate that potential," he said. "That hasn't been done in the past and with a university as important to the community as U of C is, you have to put your shoulder to the wheel all the time communicating. The consequence of not having a great university is quite profound in a community like Calgary."
Cooney held many positions at the Calgary Herald, starting as a copy writer and finishing as the Assistant Managing Editor in his 20 years. He also acknowledges the work at the university is complicated but he hopes to communicate the essence of people's work. He wants to use his experience to craft the right story to send to the media and also into the community.
Cooney uses the word "story" because the contributions of the men and women are personal and could interest the potential audience.
"Men and women are making personal contributions to art, science and literature," said Cooney. "The more you can capture that passion, the more meaningful and relevant it is to the person hearing the story. It's not intended to trivialize it or diminish its importance. It's intended to capture that need in a way that make sense to the average person, how the things we do have a direct influence on people's daily lives."
Cooney believes that direct influence on people's lives makes research in the liberal arts important to publicize, when in the past the science and engineering research was pushed more in the media.
"It's important to see we are leaders in a whole bunch of fields," said Cooney. "And it helps the community appreciate how complex the world really is.
"People do want to understand the world. That's why they watch television, that's why they read newspapers. People want to make sense of the world and people at the university can help them do that," he concluded.