Anna Cowenhoven named head of University Communications at Penn

The Senior Executive Director and Associate Dean for Communications for Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences will succeed Stephen J. MacCarthy on Aug. 21.

Anna Cowenhoven.
Anna Cowenhoven will begin her role as Vice President for University Communications on Aug. 21.

Anna Cowenhoven has been named Vice President for University Communications at the University of Pennsylvania, effective August 21, 2023. The announcement was made today by Penn President Liz Magill.

Cowenhoven comes to Penn from Harvard University, where she has held a variety of strategic communications leadership roles over the past decade. Since 2017, she has served as Senior Executive Director and Associate Dean for communications for Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS). 

In making the announcement, Magill noted Cowenhoven’s record of accomplishment and wide-ranging communications experience, which span higher education, health care, and financial services. “Anna brings a track record of great achievement in communications, and she will be an exceptional Penn leader,” said Magill. “She cares deeply about communicating the value of higher education to society, and she brings a strategic, creative, and collaborative approach to leading in an ever-changing media landscape. We are thrilled to have her join us at Penn.”

As Vice President for University Communications, Cowenhoven will be responsible for the development and implementation of a long-term communications strategy for Penn. Serving as a key strategic advisor to the President and other senior officers of the University, she will oversee the University’s internal and external communications operations and promote the widespread recognition of Penn’s contributions to the community, country, and world. 

“I am honored to join the Penn community and to support President Magill, her vision, and aspirations for the future,” said Cowenhoven. “I have long admired Penn’s rich history as America’s first university, and its commitment to educational access, interdisciplinary discovery and applied knowledge, and public service. I look forward to working alongside communicators across the university to help tell Penn’s powerful story.”

In her current role at Harvard, Cowenhoven leads communications and engagement for the FAS, the largest division and the historic heart of the university. The FAS is home to Harvard College, the Harvard Kenneth C. Griffin Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, as well as four academic divisions, 50 museums, more than 25 libraries, and Harvard Athletics. Cowenhoven is a key partner to Edgerley Family Dean of the FAS Claudine Gay, who will become Harvard’s 30th president on July 1, and a senior member of the university’s central communications team. She began her Harvard tenure as director of development communications for the Harvard Kennedy School, where she helped launch its capital campaign.

Prior to her time in higher education, Cowenhoven served as Senior Vice President for Corporate Affairs at the Bank of America Charitable Foundation, leading its global environmental philanthropy work, as well as its signature nonprofit leadership and sustainability program, the Neighborhood Builders. She has also held roles in writing, editing, and media relations at Boston Children’s Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and the American Cancer Society. 

Cowenhoven is a graduate of Indiana University, Bloomington. She is married to Peter Cowenhoven, chief financial officer of Harrell Holdings. They have a daughter, Grace.

She succeeds Stephen J. MacCarthy, who will retire on June 30 after leading University Communications for more than 11 years. Moira Baylson, Associate Vice President for University Communications, will serve as acting Vice President for University Communications upon MacCarthy’s departure, and prior to Cowenhoven’s arrival in August. 

“Since arriving on campus in 2011, Steve has been a transformative Penn leader, an invaluable advisor to my predecessors and to me, and an extraordinary colleague and friend to people across campus and beyond,” said Magill. “Anna Cowenhoven is an ideal successor who will build on the tradition of excellence that Steve has established.”