Sean Findlen ’99 to step down as vice president for communications and public affairs at Bates

Bates President Clayton Spencer announced today that Sean Findlen ’99 will step down on March 4, 2022, as vice president for communications and public affairs to accept a corporate communications position with a Fortune 250 financial services company. 

Chief Communications Officer Sean Findlen '98
Vice President for Communications and Public Affairs Sean Findlen ’99 has been a member of the college’s senior leadership team since 2015. (Josh Kuckens/Bates College)

“Sean is a wonderful colleague and leader who has contributed to Bates in so many ways. Under Sean’s leadership, the Bates Communications Office has told the Bates story with creativity, clarity, and power,” said Spencer. “His expertise and guidance, paired with a genuine love for his alma mater, have been invaluable to Bates during times of challenge and significant accomplishment. We will all miss Sean’s energy and ready sense of humor, not to mention his love of Maine politics and storehouse of local lore, but we know that he will remain an enthusiastic member of the Bates community as he pursues this next professional opportunity.” 

As a member of the college’s senior leadership team since 2015, Findlen has built a Bates Communications team with broad expertise. Pivotal achievements in support of college goals have included communications supporting The Bates Campaign, the college’s largest-ever fundraising effort; expanding national awareness of the college’s Purposeful Work program; and developing a highly effective content marketing and social media strategy, covering academics, student life, the arts, athletics, admission, and advancement. The office has made concerted efforts to integrate practices of equity and inclusion into Bates communications, and played a key role in communications relating to COVID-19 policies and the impact of the pandemic on campus life.

Under Findlen’s leadership, Bates Communications established strategic collaborations with campus offices that have led to prominent industry honors, including a Grand Gold award for the video series Ask the (College) Experts from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education, the preeminent organization for higher education communications and advancement professionals. Developed and produced by Bates Communications and Admission staff, and geared toward students, their families, and their high school counselors, the video series uses wit, warmth, and candor to shed light on the college search process.

In 2019, Bates Communications and the college’s Center for Purposeful Work, in partnership with the polling firm Gallup, undertook a national survey to explore the extent to which college graduates seek purpose in their work, and how many find it. The report detailing the survey results, “Forging Pathways to Purposeful Work: The Role of Higher Education,” expanded the visibility of the college’s Purposeful Work program, while confirming its premise that helping students find purpose in work contributes powerfully to an individual’s overall well-being. 

Under Findlen, Bates Communications teamed with Admission to create and deploy an interdepartmental enrollment marketing task force that has successfully leveraged communications strategy and tactics, including content marketing and social media advertising program. With the benefit of this strategy, Bates application numbers have climbed more than 55 percent since 2016, totaling more than 8,250 applications for the Class of 2026, an all-time high for Bates.

“I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to have served my alma mater over the past six and a half years. With the hard work, creativity, expertise and insight of my colleagues, we have helped Bates achieve and maintain new heights in key areas, including Admission and Advancement,” Findlen said. “The COVID-19 pandemic introduced a new and relentless set of communications challenges, but I am proud of how the college communicated throughout one of the most challenging and uncertain periods that higher education has faced in decades.” 

“From the very first time I stepped on campus as a kid from Aroostook County 30 years ago, Bates has been a constant presence in my life on a personal, educational, and professional level. As I return to the alumni ranks, I know that Bates will remain a steady influence in my life. I will cheer loudly for Bates, and I look forward to watching the college continue to reach for and meet ambitious goals,” he added.

Findlen earned a bachelor of arts degree in French from Bates in 1999 and was one of 20 Maine students selected to receive inaugural scholarship awards from the Sen. George J. Mitchell Scholarship Program, now part of the Mitchell Institute. After graduation, Findlen served on the staff of then-Maine Gov. Angus S. King Jr. before becoming manager of community relations for the Sisters of Charity Health System (now St. Mary’s Health System) in Lewiston. In 2009, he earned a juris doctor degree, cum laude, from Suffolk University Law School in Boston.

Before joining Bates, Findlen spent more than a decade with the global communications firm Weber Shandwick as a senior vice president leading the firm’s largest practice group in New England. 

The college will commence a search for the next vice president for communications and public affairs in the next few weeks. Jay Burns, editorial director and Bates Magazine editor, will serve as interim director of the Bates Communications Office until the search is completed.

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