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Member profile: Paul Pecilunas

Paul Pecilunas
Multimedia Producer, University Relations

Joined the U: October 2001 (started current position April 2013) and joined UMCF in 2006

What brought you to your current job? 
9/11.  My wife was a flight attendant. Driving home that day, I said, "you're done." She said, "Okay".  

I'd been an independent contractor in production in the Twin Cities market since '81, and had always wanted to "try" a full-time job. So I applied for an opening with the College of Continuing Education, and was hired.

13 years later, I'm still here at the U.

What advice do you have for communicators at the University of Minnesota?
Always keep your audience want/needs in mind. Oftentimes drilling down into who exactly our audience is, is glossed over.  

And then once we've nailed who they are, hang on to them dearly.  

As communicators we have many other variables coming at us (budgets, politics, personalities, trends, timelines, etc.), but if we always keep our audiences' interests at the forefront, they will hear us.

What is your favorite place on campus?      
I've been on all 3 campuses now, and they're all wonderful and distinct:  

St. Paul campus has the feel of a bucolic small-town college.  My dad was a prof, and St. Paul is the type of campus I grew up on.

West Bank is funky, bohemian, multi-cultural, AND Carlson- and Mondale-corporate.  Great mixture.

And now that I'm on the East Bank, the choice of eateries is off the charts.  And yes, it comes down to food, doesn't it?

What do you do for fun?    
I have a hobby farm/compound in Western Wisconsin, where I raise grass fed Scottish Highland cattle among other animals. We heat with wood, so if I'm not feeding or maintaining critters, I'm filling up the wood shed.

Paul's favorites:
Favorite book/author?  Anything by Dostoyevsky.
Favorite website?
Favorite source of inspiration?   My Mother 
Most annoying phrase:  "Thought it in my head".  
Favorite food and drink? My grass-fed beef and bourbon
Favorite TV show? Saw every episode of MASH more than once.  
Favorite movie, "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest".
Favorite musician or band? Lynard Skynard
Favorite place on Earth? I like to go where my dogs like to go.  So, the woods on my farm.  

People may be surprised to know: I've never had plastic surgery.  

Member profile: Sara Danzinger

Sara Danzinger
Strategic Communications Consultant, CLA-OIT

Twitter: @saradanzinger


When did you start working at the U? July 2014

What is your current job title / Unit? Strategic Communications Consultant for CLA-OIT

When did you become an UMCF member? July 2014

What brought you to your current job? I have felt the pull to non-profit/education for several years and knew it was a good fit after spending a few years working at Girl Scouts River Valleys. I had my eye on the U for years and was excited when I saw this position become available. I am thrilled to be here.

What is your favorite aspect of your job? My department takes an attitude that we "work with friends" so the atmosphere is both respectful and fun. I also love all the opportunities I am receiving to broaden my skill set.

What is your favorite accomplishment at the U, so far? I received a People's Choice Award for my team's efforts in this year's Community Fund Drive. We put in a lot of work and it was a wonderful surprise to be recognized.

What is your favorite place on campus? I am still exploring campus, but do appreciate a short line at any of the Starbucks locations.

Your hometown and the first place you lived after leaving your hometown? I was raised on a dairy farm in Alma, WI and the first place I lived when I left home was Auckland, New Zealand. I was an exchange student during my sophomore year of high school.

What was your worst or most unusual job? I pulled glass on an assembly line for a summer during college. I had to wear a full suit of protective gear to minimize injuries if any glass cut you.

Motto or personal mantra: I encourage people to take responsibility for their own happiness. It is a decision you make ('cuz it could always be worse).

I'm happiest when: I am relaxing with my kids (Caleb - 7 and Harper - 2).

People may be surprised to know: I marked an item off my bucket list last year when I became a real estate agent. I love houses and interior design, so it is the perfect side gig to help pay for all the little extras in life.

Before I die, I would like to: live in a few more states. I've lived in five so far (WI, MN, IA, WA, NM), but both my husband and I want to live in NYC for a year after the kids graduate. We'd also like to live overseas again.

Member profile: Catherine "Cat" Dehdashti

DSC01171 crop.JPG

Catherine "Cat" Dehdashti 

Public Relations Manager and Writer, University of Minnesota Extension




Joined the U: Started working at the U in 1994 and joined the UMCF in 1996.

What is your favorite aspect of your job? Writing is my first love, but I've discovered that I can direct photo shoots. It helps that I work with fantastic freelance photographers, so I can focus on finding a way to make the photo tell the story in harmony with the text.

Getting out for the photo shoots is one of the ways I get to see U of M Extension in action. Meeting the people who use the research and education for the good of their communities--that's what makes the stories matter to me and how I can make them matter to our audience. We usually write our stories before we shoot them, but I often get some new little nugget or quote on the photo shoot that I can sneak into the story at the last minute. 

What excites you about working at the U/your unit? U of M Extension reaches people in all parts of the state, even children and teens through 4-H. Education for people in every county isn't what people always think of when they think of a major university campus, but improving lives is what a land-grant U is about. Our main areas are agriculture and environment, youth development, gardening, families and, communities. Those are rich topics, and always changing. 

It's exciting to see University research being shared everywhere, far beyond campus. I know that the outreach piece is a part of other units too. I briefly worked in the Department of Speech-Language-Hearing Sciences and saw their research helping children overcome major impairments. It was what felt most meaningful to me in that department, so I'm happy to work in Extension where it's core to our mission to bring the research and education out to the people where they live. 

What advice do you have for communicators at the University of Minnesota? Get out of your office when you can to see the people affected by your department's good work. You might feel like you're chained to your desk a lot, but every once in a while look down and notice that there is no chain there after all. 

What is your favorite place on campus? Many people on the St. Paul campus would say the horticultural research gardens on Gortner Avenue, and I agree. But in the middle of winter, I treasure the rare chance to visit the greenhouses. The smell of the soil and plants when it's below zero outside (and the bright lights!) boost my energy until the landscape comes back to life.

Favorite book/author and do you prefer paper or e-book?  Three books that are amazing to read together, in this backward time-period order: Jane Eyre, Wide Sargasso Sea, Book of Night Women. Different authors and time periods, but they form a trilogy to me.  

Favorite word and word that annoys you? Favorite word: Potion. Words that annoy me are flush and flesh, as in "flush it out" and "flesh it out." I hate when people say those two things in work meetings. Gross!

Favorite place on Earth? North Carolina Outer Banks. I have a little obsession about the Lost Colony of Roanoke Island.

Before I die, I would like to: Visit Iran. My husband came here from there when he was only 18 and hasn't been back. I think I want to see it more than he does! I want our children to see the famous Persian gardens and Persepolis, and I'd like to hang out and cook with my husband's old aunties.

Member profile: Laura Vitko

Laura Vitko profile picture.jpg

Laura Vitko
Membership and Volunteers Specialist, Bell Museum of Natural History

Where is your hometown and the first place you lived after leaving your hometown?
My hometown is a very small town, Garden City, South Dakota. I left to move to the Twin Cities and have lived here ever since.

Started working at the University of Minnesota in 2005 and started her current position in August 2014. UMCF member since 2013.

What brought you to your current job?
I have a passion for museums and communicating with museum audiences. I feel lucky to work for a museum that strongly supports research, education, and outreach and that has both natural history and art collections.

What is your favorite aspect of your job?
I enjoy the variety of my job, both in program areas that I work in and in the museum's exhibits and collections. I prefer to work in an environment where there is always something new to learn, or a desire to look at information from a new perspective. I value that the Bell Museum promotes its audience to participate in critical thinking and discovery.
What do you consider to be a best kept secret about the U?
For personal and professional development: The Regents Scholarship, which I have been grateful for when taking non-degree courses and completing a Masters degree.

For a perfect way to end your Wednesday: Visit the Dairy Salesroom on the Saint Paul Campus to purchase delicious cheese and ice cream. It is only open on Wednesday afternoons.

What do you do for fun?  
I am enthusiastic about exploring the outdoors, visiting museums, traveling, baking, and completing house renovation and craft projects. Biking, hiking, swimming, and skiing are some of my favorite activities.
What is your dream job (besides the one you have!)?
World traveler to museums and cultural sites or writer/researcher for the Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

Member profile: Stuart Robbins-Butcher


Stuart Robbins-Butcher
Global Enrichment Program Manager, Carlson Global Institute

Started working at the University of Minnesota in 2008 and started his current position in May 2012.

Became a member of UMCF when he began developing the Carlson Global Institute's social media strategy.

What is your favorite aspect of your job?
The best part of my job is being able to travel internationally. I've always loved to travel, and though my expertise is focused on Russia and Eastern Europe, our programs have allowed me to visit locations that I might never have visited on my own.

What is your favorite accomplishment at the U, so far?
I developed a social media strategy and opened several of the accounts for my department, the Carlson Global Institute. Previously, the department had been running social media without a strategy, so it finally feels like I'm able to report of successes and failures accurately.

What is your favorite place on campus?      
Is the Triple Rock on campus? On a more serious note, my favorite place to catch up on work outside the office is the little study balconies overlooking the Humphrey atrium. It's usually quiet in the late afternoon and you're just isolated enough to control the distractions around you.

Your hometown and the first place you lived after leaving your hometown? 
I'm originally from Hudson, WI and immediately moved to Boston, MA after graduating from St. Olaf College.

What do you do for fun?
I make beer. Coincidentally, I also drink beer.

What is your dream job (besides the one you have!)?
I think location scouting for movies would be very fun, just because of the travel component. Any job that has a manageable amount of international travel that allows you to get outside of a hotel conference room would really be OK with me.

Member Profile: Pamela Belding

P Belding.jpgPamela Belding

Design Director, University of Minnesota Foundation

Started at UMN in December 2013

UMCF Member since March 2014

What brought you to your current job?

At my last job, I lived in a field station in Gamboa, Panama. In the small parking lot of the field station was a collection of beat-up white pickup trucks. On one of the trucks was the logo of the University of Minnesota. It connected me to home.

When I returned to Minnesota, I could think of nothing better than to work for a place that is making a difference in climate change, medical breakthroughs, technology, education, law--all of the issues I care about. I want to tell the stories.

Tell us about one of the coolest projects you've worked on for your job at the U?  

One of many projects was to art direct a photo shoot for a one-year-old girl who was born with a struggling heart. The physicians at the U's Children's Hospital used a Berlin heart to assist her until she could have a transplant, then performed the transplant. The photographer managed to capture a dragonfly magically alighting on her finger. To spend time with her was a gift.

What is your best/more amusing U-related memory?

Best memory so far was a Heritage Society event for the Foundation. Marla Spivak, renowned bee researcher was speaking. Standing at the edge of the large McNamara commons filled with passionate donors listening to Spivak, I snapped a photo of Marla on the large screen with a sea of donors before her. I sent the photo to a former colleague in Panama, also a renowned bee researcher, then interim director at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. He said, "Yes! Marla. She introduced me to Donna (his wife!). She's a great friend of ours." Smallest world.

It was such a strong impression to see that kind of commitment to the University, and to understand the value of developing relationships with donors to help them craft their contributions and make things happen. I felt appreciation for the Foundation that night, for their partnership with the generous donors that help scientists doing basic research in the rainforest, students pursue their futures, and a thousand other forms of good. (Had I had another occupation, I would've been an entomologist.)

What do you do for fun?    

Travel. There's nothing else like it for opening the soul, destroying old perceptions, and invigorating the creative juices.

What is your dream job (besides the one you have!)?

Top 3:

Shadow scientists around the world, photograph their stories, and blog about it.

Create art guided by scientific and cultural influences.

Air marshal (they'd never suspect me).

I'm happiest when: 

I'm in the process of making art and time is no object.

Thank you to our 2013-14 volunteers!

They gave it heart and they made it happen. These are true professionals and they rose to the challenge.

Rebecca Noran, chair
Kate Sophia, chair emerita
Honey VanderVenter, vice chair
Sarah Hollerich, at-large director and designer
Patrice Johnson, at-large director
Kess Knight, recorder and newsletter editor
Nicole Price, treasurer
Kris Junker, awards committee co-chair
Ann Nordby, awards committee co-chair
Serena Wright, conference committee chair
Katie Covey, membership committee co-chair
Erin Kober, membership committee co-chair
Sarah Howard, programs committee chair
Lani Payette, technology committee co-chair
Mandee Nguyen, technology committee co-chair

Programs Committee: Derrick Aly, Jenna Egan, Kelsi Klaers, Laura Krueger Vitko, Vickie Lee-Her, Martin Moen, and Holly Santiago
Events Circle Workgroup: Julie Bartels, Geida Cleveland, Sue Couling, and Christina Owen
Awards Committee: Echo Martin, Maggie Catambay, Amelie Hyams, Pamela VoldMatthew TveterJoAnne Makela, and Sara Cannon
Membership Committee: Tracey Bartlett
Technology Committee: Vickie Lee-Her
Conference Committee: Lindsay Bork, Karina Carlson, Crystal Fernandez, Wokie Freeman, Sara MacKenzie, and Nathan Waldvogel

Member Spotlight Editor: Janelle Nivens

Lindsay Bork, conference committee
Echo Martin, awards committee

Who me, volunteer? Yes!

This summer we build the teams who make the year's activities happen. We have an opportunity for Recorder/Scribe on the board and opportunities on all the committees.

Do you care about the Communicators Forum? Membership and volunteers are the foundation of what keeps us going as an organization. The Membership Committee hosts a table at every new employee orientation, leads the member drive, plans the Member Appreciation Event and Awards Celebration, works on volunteer recruitment and appreciation, and more. If interested contact Patrice Johnson ( and Tiffany Clemens (

Looking for a leadership role within a committee? The Communications and Technology committee is seeking members to take on these important roles, if interested contact Honey VanderVenter (, Mandee Nguyen (, and Lani Payette ( 

  • Designer: Design all the stuff! Awards, conference, fancy email banners, and more materials of an array of formats, with a theme to inspire you (and past files and production info to have for reference!).
  • Social media coordinator: Be in charge of our social media accounts, working with other volunteers and setting the strategy, including starting any new accounts.
  • Newsletter editor: Produce the newsletter each month.
  • Web content manager and contributors: We're undertaking a web revamp in the coming year, and need content created, edited, and improved. Could this be you?
  • Photographer to capture and share key moments, gather images from our existing supply for the website project.
  • General support with our technology and communications tools
  • And...wherever you see a need and want to offer support and solutions!

Member profile: Lindsay Bork

Lindsay received a 2014 "Volunteer of the Year" award from the University of Minnesota Communicators Forum. 

Research Program Manager, Natural Language Processing-Information Extraction (NLP-IE) group within the Institute for Health Informatics

Started working at the University of Minnesota in 2008 and started her current position in July 2013.

UMCF member since 2011.

What excites you about working at the University of Minnesota and for the Natural Language Processing-Information Extraction group?
I love working at the U because of the diverse and innovative environments existing here. There are endless possibilities for the kinds of work to be accomplished and I take pride that the effort being put in results in change at the individual level for students as well as at the societal level for our state and nation. 

What is your favorite place on campus?      
My favorite place on campus is the first level of Coffman Union. I love sitting in one of the oversized chairs and working or people watching or just enjoying the views outside, especially when there is a pianist playing. 

What do you consider to be a best kept secret about the U?
I think the best kept secret is the opportunities available here not only for personal growth but also employment. Before starting at the U as a student, it never occurred to me all of the roles that must be filled by staff to keep the University running effectively. I think this is something many do not consider. 

I'm happiest when:
I'm at the beach staring out into to the seemingly unending ocean, breathing in the fresh, salty air. 

Motto or personal mantra:
Be the change you wish to see in the world. -Gandhi

If I could do it all over again, I would:
Change nothing. Learn from past experiences, negative or positive, to create the future you choose. 

Member profile: Echo Martin

Echo received a 2014 "Volunteer of the Year" award from the University of Minnesota Communicators Forum. 

Communications Coordinator, Department of Horticultural Science

Started working at the University of Minnesota in 2012.

UMCF member since April 2013. 

Connect with Echo online: 

What excites you about working at the University of Minnesota and for the Department of Horticultural Science?
I love to learn--about everything from biology to history to sociology--and working at the U allows me to continue to learn new things constantly even if I'm not taking a class here. People say that college prepares you for lifelong learning, and I think the U does a great job of fostering that even outside of the classroom. It's definitely improved my trivia scores.

When I came to the Horticulture Department, I thought that horticulture only dealt with flowers. Now I can tell you about the difference between sustainable and organic, the life cycle of two varieties of strawberry, and what plants changed Minnesota. No matter where I end up working at the U as time goes forward, I hope to continue learning new things about the world around me and the amazing projects taking place here.

Tell us about one of the coolest projects you've worked on for your job at the U?    
By far the coolest project I've worked on is the one I'm doing now. I'm leading a project to create an interactive e-textbook on how to grow and sell strawberries in cold climates. It's allowed me to work with a huge variety of people (researchers, farmers, videographers, conference organizers), and it's something I'm really excited to show off.
The program we're using to create it, Inkling, goes above and beyond most e-textbooks by allowing you to have widgets, guided tours, tests and quizzes in-text, zoomable images, videos, and more. Cold Climate Strawberry Farming is being released in early July and will be available at no cost, so if you have any interest in growing strawberries you should check it out. I really hope to work on creating more textbooks in the future, because this project has been a great experience.

What is your favorite place on campus?
The Display and Trial Garden on St. Paul campus. It's tucked away on the back corner of Gortner and Folwell Avenues. A lot of people who only visit campus on occasion don't go much out of the way of the campus connector route, so most of the visitors are staff and students who work in the nearby buildings. The garden is full of a variety of flowers, herbs, and shrubs, and even has a few different varieties of Minnesota grapes on the entrance trellis. The chipmunks and squirrels will even come right up to you because they're used to people tossing them food, and there's a pond with fish in it as well. If you've got a little bit of extra time when you come to campus, take a moment to eat lunch in the garden. You won't regret it.     

Your hometown and the first place you lived after leaving your hometown? 
I grew up in the tiny town of Roseau, MN in the northwest part of the state. For those who don't know about it, it's a beautiful little town of about 3,000 people and it is the county seat of Roseau County. It's 10 miles from Canada, near Lake of the Woods. Just to give an idea of how "middle of nowhere" rural Minnesota it is, here are some reference points: it takes one hour to get to the nearest Walmart or McDonald's, and two hours to the nearest Starbucks or mall. In any direction, including Canada. I suggest visiting there some time during the summer, and be sure to stop by Earl's Drive In.

The first place I moved to was Minneapolis. I came in 2008 to start college at the U, and decided this was a good place to stick around for awhile.

Motto or personal mantra:
The Sunscreen Song by Baz Luhrmann. Not quite a motto or mantra, but when I start to feel down or too worried it centers me again. Here's just one piece of great advice from this song:
"Maybe you'll marry, maybe you won't
Maybe you'll have children, maybe you won't
Maybe you'll divorce at 40, 
maybe you'll dance the 'Funky Chicken' on your 75th wedding anniversary
Whatever you do, don't congratulate yourself too much
Or berate yourself either
Your choices are half chance. So are everybody else's."

People may be surprised to know:
While I grew up in a small town, I traveled a lot when I was younger. My parents were fair vendors, so I spent every summer until I was seven traveling to and living at different state fairs across the country. After that I started spending summers with my older sister. With her I spent one summer at a Girl Scout camp in Ely, MN, a couple more summers in South Dakota, and a few more in Colorado. Today, fairs have a very special place in my heart and I get really excited about the Minnesota State Fair; you'll see me volunteering there and attending with friends as frequently as I can manage.

Member profile: Lisa Anderson

Lisa-Anderson.jpgWeb & Graphic Designer, Printing Services

Started working at the University of Minnesota in January 2011.

UMCF member since 2011.

What is your favorite aspect of your job?
I love that I have the opportunity to work with so many people and departments across campus. It is a unique and rewarding experience to be a part of one great organization and yet work on so many diverse projects.

What excites you about working at the U/your unit?
My co-workers are great. Not many people can wake up excited to go to work in the morning like I do. Our office is such an amazing working environment, and I couldn't ask for anything more.

What is your favorite place on campus?      
I love the Education Sciences Building. The historic building itself is pretty amazing with the bricks and beams, and the views of the river are beautiful. Having grown up along the Mississippi River, I feel a special connection whenever it is in view. So that is definitely my favorite building on campus.

What do you do for fun?    
Backpacking, remote camping, BWCA, biking, rock climbing, photography ... anything outside with my kids.

I'm happiest when:
... I'm camping on a remote beach. My favorite camping beach so far was a 4.6-mile hike to a remote beach along the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. It was absolutely amazing.

Before I die, I would like to:
... hike to the waterfall at the back of Honopu Valley, which is only accessible after a strenuous 11-mile hike on the Kalalau Trail, a quarter-mile ocean swim around cliffs, and finally climbing up a waterfall to get from the beach into the valley. 

Member profile: Cheryl Hoffman

Communications Specialist, Boynton Health Service, Public Health and Communications

Started working at the University of Minnesota and in her position in August 2013.

UMCF member since August 2013.

What brought you to your current job?
A former co­-worker told me how much fun he was having at Boynton. When a position opened up there, I immediately applied. As a lifelong Minnesotan, the University was on my hot list of places I've always wanted to work. There were more than 250 applicants, but  I made it! 

What excites you about working at the University of Minnesota and Boynton Health Service?
I love the vibrant energy on campus, and working at a place like Boynton where my work makes a difference. 

What is your favorite accomplishment at the University of Minnesota, so far?
Our tiny three­ person marketing team kept all the balls in the air over the last few months, despite being down a manager and writer. Go Team!

Your hometown and the first place you lived after leaving your hometown?
I grew up in St. Paul, but defected to Wisconsin for college­­ at the University of Wisconsin­-River Falls. 

What is your dream job (besides the one you have!)?
I've always thought it would be fun to drive a Zamboni for a day. 

People may be surprised to know:
I was a summer intern for a Minnesota congressman in Washington, D.C. As part of my duties, I lead constituents on tours of the U.S. Capitol. Coolest job ever! 

Message from the chair - April 2014

Hello communicators!

Communications professionals show amazing versatility at work. We can get pretty crafty on our own time, too! 

The conference committee has created an opportunity to showcase the talents of Communicators Forum members and U employees at this year's annual conference, June 19, to complement this year's theme "Craft the future." 

Along with the standard vendors, there will be a "craft vendor" space available. More information will be sent soon to members through the email list ( Printmaker, knitter, jewelry artist? It's your chance to show your colleagues another side!

Speaking of conference, in addition to lining up three amazing keynote speakers, the committee has filled the vendor fair, secured an all-day coffee supply, and is honing in on diverse, engaging sessions. And they have a special treat: All registered conference attendees will receive a free Dessa CD.

Conference registration to come later in April or in early May. Need to get budget approval now? Cost is $120 for members, $160 for non-members. (Membership is $40, and you can join any time--it's not tied to conference registration like it used to be.) 

Rebecca Noran, chair, Communicators Forum, 2013-14

Member profile: Bill O'Connor

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Bill O'Connor

Assistant Director of Communication, Orientation & First-Year Programs (OFYP)

Started at the University of Minnesota in December 2005.

UMCF member since 2006.

What brought you to your current job? 
I was working at Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota and decided that I wanted to work on a masters degree. My hope was to find a job at the U of M to take advantage of the Regents Scholarship Program. I started job searching and luckily found my current position. In spring of 2011, I earned a Master of Public Affairs from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. 

What is your favorite aspect of your job?
Although many things are consistent, there is a lot of variety in my projects. Orientation and First Year Programs (OFYP) conducts focus groups, surveys, and is constantly looking for ways to improve. I like the balance of familiarity and change that happens in my job.

What advice do you have for communicators at the University of Minnesota?
We have so many talented colleagues throughout the University. I feel that many of my successes have happened because of the great people we work with and the willingness to share ideas and resources. Collaborate whenever possible! 

Your hometown and the first place you lived after leaving your hometown? 
Knoxville, Tennessee. In 1994, I finished my undergraduate degree but had no idea what I wanted to do. I found a job in Deerfield, Illinois working as a volunteer naturalist for Ryerson Woods, a preserve in Lake County. I taught basic environmental education classes, led nature hikes, and cared for an injured Red-Tailed Hawk named "Boo Boo". 

I'm happiest when: 
When I feel free: driving across the country, backpacking, biking, sitting in an unfamiliar coffee shop and people-watching. 

Before I die, I would like to: 
Live in another country for a few years, learn the language and customs, and experience life through a completely different lens.

Member profile: Ashley Piediscalzi

Multimedia Designer in Creative Services, University Relations 

Started working at the University in 2006 and has been in her current role since 2011. 

UMCF member since 2006. 

Connect with Ashley online: 
Ashley Piediscalzi
What brought you to your current job? 
I was very eager to experience a work culture that was devoted to communications and communicators. University Relations has given me an opportunity to not only feel safe and supported as a designer, but it has also allowed me to grow and excel with new multimedia opportunities.

What is your favorite aspect of your job?
I am very lucky to work in a flexible environment that is very supportive of differing work styles. As a creative, I excel with a fluid work schedule that allows for mobility and sometimes unorthodox work hours. (Some of my most productive and creative times are in the evenings). So I am most grateful to work for and with colleagues that support and inspire our differences so we can all come together in the end to do our best work.
What excites you about working at the University of Minnesota and for University Relations?
I love working at the U of M for all the obvious reasons, but most especially for the optimism, energy, and creativity of the students. 

What is your dream job (besides the one you have!)?
I am a volunteer with the Twin Cities-based Animal Rights Coalition. As of late, most of my free time has been spent with these amazing people, who are trying to save the world one animal at a time. My dream job would be to do this kind of work everyday for the rest of my life--whether that's designing a social media graphic, handing out pamphlets, or holding up a protest sign.

Motto or personal mantra:
"Be the change you want to see in the world." --Gandhi

I'm happiest when:
I'm with my rescue dogs--Coraline, Jessie, and Tula.

Do I need to renew?

With the member drive email going out recently, we've received a number of questions from members about whether they need to renew. Here's how to check. Did you receive this newsletter? If yes, then you should be set. If it feels like you haven't received Communicators Forum emails or the newsletter recently, you can always check the member list. Want to be sure? Email and ask.

Member profile: JoAnne Makela

Traffic Manager and Vendor Coordinator for Creative Services, University Relations

Started working at the University of Minnesota in 2005 and has been in current role since 2012. 

UMCF member since 2008.

What brought you to your current job? 
A colleague brought the job posting to my attention and it was so uniquely congruent with my skill set that I had to apply.

What is your favorite aspect of your job?
I love the people I work with. We all work on very fast-moving news and information on a daily basis, so there's no real routine that is reliable. The people I work with are quick on their feet and must respond professionally in all situations, yet we still manage to laugh a lot.

What excites you about working at the University of Minnesota?
I've worked in higher-ed or non-profits for most of my career and the U is the biggest place I've ever worked. I am proud to be part of a world-changing institution. And yet, it still feels like a small town with people who respect and care about each other.

What is your favorite accomplishment at the U, so far?
I earned my masters degree last year and I couldn't have done that without the Regent's Scholarship.

What advice do you have for communicators at the University of Minnesota?
Keep your eyes open and your head up. You are uniquely situated to tell great stories. So, tell them with enthusiasm and integrity. And then make sure to send them to University Relations so we can promote them for you!

Tell us about one of the coolest projects you've worked on for your job at the U?    
I helped coordinate the 2013 Year-End Video that highlighted U achievements from the past year. I got to meet some fascinating people and learn even more about what goes on here. It was a fun project with a terrific result.

What is your favorite place on campus?      
Farmer's Market on Church Street in the summer. The patio at the Campus Club. Rapson Hall atrium.

What do you consider to be a best kept secret about the U?
That you can get almost anywhere with minimal exposure to the weather. I love walking outside on campus, but during this latest Polar Vortex, I was happy to find as many Gopher Way passages as I did. I'm surprised more people don't use them. And the great restaurants and coffee shops in the Dinkytown and Stadium Village. People who don't work here or go to school here are missing out if they don't eat here.

Your hometown and the first place you lived after leaving your hometown? 
Erie, Pennsylvania. Then I went to college in Painesville, Ohio and grad school in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I would live in Pittsburgh again.

What is your dream job (besides the one you have!)?
To own a winery and olive grove in Tuscany or Puglia and write murder mysteries.

I'm happiest when:
Reading a book that I never want to end.

Member profile: Jacqueline Brudlos

Jacqueline Brudlos
Communications Manager for Parking and Transportation Services

Started at the University of Minnesota in December, 2001.

UMCF member since 2001. My boss at the time, Lori Ann Vicich, was a big supporter of the organization. She believed in the value of communicators networking with others on campus.

Connect with Jacqueline online:

Tell us about one of the coolest projects you've worked on for your job at the University of Minnesota?   

Grand openings are always a lot of work, but they are an opportunity to be really creative. When Parking and Transportation Services brought car-sharing to campus in 2006, our small committee brainstormed ways to make a splash on campus with this kick-off. What did we do? We hired an ice sculptor to carve a car out of ice on Coffman's Front Plaza. The Star Tribune, Pioneer Press, KSTP, WCCO, KARE and Minnesota Daily all sent people to cover the event/story. The successful launch ensured that a majority of students, staff and faculty heard the name Zipcar.  

What is your best/more amusing U-related memory? 

When the Metrodome collapsed in December of 2010, the University had several meetings with the Vikings. I was invited to one of the transportation planning meetings at the last minute. Without thinking, I grabbed my coat and walked into the meeting in my Green Bay Packers jacket surrounded by Vikings communications staff. I'm still surprised that no one made a joke. It was professional, I understand that.  But come on; that was a golden opportunity for a rivalry jab!

What is your favorite place on campus?  

I love to eat! Campus Pizza has the best calzone I've eaten IN MY LIFE and Big Ten Restaurant has fabulous onion rings. For a stunning view of East Bank, you can't go wrong with the fourth floor of Coffman at the Campus Club. I also love a quiet, contemplative moment in the glass elevator in McNamara; I find the mechanics to be fascinating.

Your hometown and the first place you lived after leaving your hometown? 

I grew up in a small town -- Dodgeville, Wisconsin with a population of 4,500 people. After graduating high school with a class of 88 people, I went to St. Cloud State University ("the big city"). I never would've imagined my life bringing me into the heart of Minneapolis with so many people around me.

Some of my favorite things

Favorite author: Kristin Hannah 

Favorite book: a tie between The Bridge Across Forever: A Love Story by Richard Bach and A Knight in Shining Armor by Jude Deveraux  

Favorite classic: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Favorite website: (my artist husband's Web-comic) and for fun/nostalgic purposes,
Favorite brand? Hard Rock Cafe (I have their t-shirts from Atlanta, Las Vegas, New York, London, and Bahrain)

Favorite food and drink? Crab legs and Coca-cola

Favorite current TV show: "Person of Interest"

Favorite TV show of all time: "Beauty and the Beast" with Linda Hamilton and Ron Perlman

Favorite movie: tie between Casablanca and Titanic

Favorite musician or band: Storyhill 

The Top 3 highlights of my life: 

Marrying my wonderful husband Joe; white-water rafting in Idaho with a good friend; and skydiving with the University of Minnesota sky-diving club.

Member drive

All University of Minnesota employees with communication related job codes should be receiving the Communicators Forum annual member drive email on or near February 5. Please share this email with anyone you think would be interested in joining the Forum. 

Wondering if you need to renew your Communicators Forum membership? We will email you when your membership nears expiration.

Member profile: Janelle Nivens

janelle headshot.jpgWeb project manager and content strategist, Academic Health Center Office of Communications

Started at the University of Minnesota in April, 2002 until January 2006 and returned to the University in February 2012.

UMCF member since 2012. 

Connect with Janelle online: 

What brought you to your current job? 
Prior to becoming a web project manager for the Academic Health Center Office of Communications, I spent twelve years in the field of career counseling. The last six years was at Capella University (online university headquartered in downtown Minneapolis) where I managed the Career Center's web presence, created online career courses and workshops and produced a number of YouTube videos. I grew more and more interested in web work and started a blog (now retired Minneapolis 81) and helped a Minneapolis business council revise their website and build a stronger social media presence. I regularly attended numerous professional development events and activities and eventually had enough confidence in changing my professional identity and applied for my current job. I knew that I wanted to return to the University of Minnesota and I am thankful that I was able to successfully change careers. 
What excites you about working at the University and for the Academic Health Center?
Because of its size and complexity, the Academic Health Center has unique opportunities and challenges. I am proud to be part of a web team devoted to making connections between all of the colleges, schools, departments, divisions, centers, institutes, hospitals and clinics. We are working on a number of exciting projects that will help external audiences find the information they need to make important health care and educational decisions. We are also working on ways to help AHC employees manage their online presence more efficiently and effectively. That said, above all else, I'm excited to help hundreds of web contributors pack up and leave UMContent and welcome them to Drupal with open arms. 

What is your favorite accomplishment at the U, so far?
Creating the Academic Health Center (AHC) Resource Hub ( This was done in conjunction with a redesign of We took this opportunity to extract the faculty/staff section of the old site, which was in demand but difficult to find, since the site focused on health-related news. The new site provides a much needed, go-to source for employees to find key info and resources to do their jobs. I have created features create a sense of community and a dose of fun within the AHC such as the employee spotlights, screen wallpaper downloads, and announcements.

What is your favorite place on campus?
I love walking around campus and appreciate that we have access to so many beautiful spaces; many with views of the Mississippi River and downtown Minneapolis. Some of my favorites: Campus Club dining room and patio, Washington Avenue BridgeScience Teaching and Student Services staircase, Education Sciences Building, and McNamara Alumni Center.

Your hometown and the first place you lived after leaving your hometown? 
I can't help but give the long answer. Fun fact: I've moved my belongings 17 times. 

I was born in Sioux Falls, South Dakota and moved to Sheldon, Iowa at the age of three. After high school, I left home to attend the University of Nebraska in Lincoln. Go Big Red! The football team won three national championships while I was there. 

In 1999, I moved to Flagstaff, Arizona to earn a master's degree in counseling from Northern Arizona University. My first professional job was at Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa and it only took 18 months to determine this fish needed to be in a bigger pond. Fortunately, the good people of the College of Liberal Arts agreed and hired me as a Career Counselor and pre-law advisor here at the University of Minnesota. 

I lived in St. Paul, St. Louis Park and Hopkins before landing in Minneapolis. I have lived in the City of Lakes for 10 years and feel like I'm finally home.

What is your favorite memory?
Visiting my sister in Namibia. I spent time in the capital city of Windhoek; watched big game in Etosha, dipped my toes in the cold Atlantic ocean in Swakopmund; and hiked the dunes of Sossusvlei. 

What do you do for fun?    
Take long walks. During the warmer months, I can be found on the Grand Rounds Trail with my husband, Scott. During our 10+ mile urban hikes, I enjoy taking photos of beautiful, curious, or unique gems of the city. A great benefit to walking all over the Minneapolis is enjoying its many watering holes. Craft beer is great fuel for more walking! Scott and I also take shorter walks with our Bichon Frise, Stewie.

Member profile: Sarah Oslund

Director of Communications and Public Relations, University of Minnesota Rochester (UMR)

Started at the University on July 28, 2008.

Sarah was nominated by Todd Reubold.

Connect with Sarah online:
Twitter: @sarahoslund
LinkedIn: Sarah Oslund

What excites you about working at the University of Minnesota Rochester (UMR)?
I love the unique nature of what's happening at UMR and in Rochester. Not only does UMR collaborate institutionally with the assets of Rochester to meet the needs of our students, but we are working hand-in-hand with the city, Mayo Clinic, and others to position Rochester as a destination for students, workers, and visitors. In the twelve years I've been in Rochester (almost six of those at UMR), it's been so rewarding to see the downtown become more and more vibrant. People can no longer say "there's nothing to do here."

Tell us about one of the coolest projects you've worked on for your job at the U?   
I've been told I have control issues (what?!) so having the opportunity to solely develop and manage UMR's mascot selection and naming campaigns was a dream for me... Community-wide reveal events, logo development, trademark and licensing, social media campaigns... it was one of the biggest and most enjoyable projects I have had the opportunity to manage in my time at UMR.

What is your best/more amusing U-related memory?
I spent months working toward the reveal of our mascot in 2009, engaging over 3000 people in text and social media campaigns, conducting focus groups about what attributes we did and did not want our mascot to exhibit, etc. By the night of the actual reveal, I had only one job left: on the Chancellor's cue, unclip the banner hiding the chosen mascot to reveal the new mascot and logo. The Chancellor was mid-sentence when I decided to make sure the clips were securely fastened and, incidentally, dropped the banner to the stage, revealing the new UMR mascot and logo to the hundreds in the audience but leaving the Chancellor, with his back still to the banner, clueless that there was no longer a cue needed. It was not my finest moment. Fortunately, he has a great sense of humor and rolled with it. I still get grief today from him, the students, and staff though.

My hometown:
Waldorf, Minnesota. Population: 179.
My dream job (besides the one I have!):
My college roommate and I have a shared dream: we are moving to Madeline Island to co-write a screenplay about the Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

Motto or personal mantra:
Make yourself happy. No one is going to do it for you. - Jodi Kelling (my sister who is 20 years my senior)

I'm happiest when:
I'm at our cabin in Chetek, Wisconsin. It is my own slice of heaven.

My favorites:

Favorite source of inspiration:
Pinterest. I'm an addict.

Word that annoys me:
"Glad" - why can't people just say "happy???"

Favorite food and drink:
Pizza and red wine

Favorite TV show and movie:
TV Show - Sons of Anarchy; Movies - Almost Famous and National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

Favorite musician or band:
Toss-up between Stevie Nicks/Fleetwood Mac and Stone Temple Pilots

Favorite place on Earth:
Madeline Island

Pet peeves:

People who don't use the Oxford comma. And gum chewing.

Member profile: Adam Overland

adam-overland.jpgEditor/Writer, University Relations Marketing Communications and Creative Services

Started working at the University in April 2008

UMCF member since 2008

When asked if we can find Adam online, he had this to say:
There are far better things to find online than me. Start with this YouTube video.

Adam was nominated by Andria Waclawski who appreciates his sense of humor and the energy he brings to the table.

What brought you to your current job?
For starters, a tremendous boredom with my last job. I'd begun post-college life by working for an airline in Minneapolis as a ramp-agent, aka those guys with the orange wands who direct aircraft and load your luggage. To be clear--I loved that job. The people, the airplanes, the cheese-curd eating contests (I ate 93 in 60 minutes*)...but two years in, a communications position opened up and I began writing and editing the company's newsletter. That was great for about a year, but the challenge wasn't there.
What excites you about working at the University and for Creative Services?

University Relations is packed with people who a) care about their work/the U of M at a level I've never seen in previous work; b) are talented in ways that consistently amaze me; and c) love to go to happy hours.
What advice do you have for communicators at the University of Minnesota?
Take classes. There's no better way to get to know the U than from inside the core.

Your hometown and the first place you lived after leaving your hometown?
Sioux Falls, SD (aka "The Big City")
Moved to Brookings, SD and shortly thereafter, to Anchorage, AK
What do you do for fun?   
Landscape/stone work, exercise, and anything outdoors.
What is your dream job (besides the one you have!)?
I'm torn. If I had a better body I think I would like to build rock patios, gardens, walls, etc. But alas, my back and knees weren't made for a lifetime of it. So I'm left with ink to make my mark, and I feel pretty good about that.
Motto or personal mantra:
"The rich get Richard, and the poor get Phil."

I'm happiest when:
I'm reading a good book in the sunshine.
Favorite book/author?  
Favorite authors via acronym-soup: KV, HST, and DFW
Favorite food and drink?
Steak and red wine.
Favorite musician or band?
Once upon a time it was Ween. I credit them with giving me a keen sense for the absurd. Today I don't play favorites.
Favorite place on Earth?
Looking down on it from an airplane.
People may be surprised to know:
That I can almost certainly bench press more than you, and that this is incredibly important information.
If I could do it all over again, I would:
Have been born with special powers. Specifically, I would have had a genetic mutation that made my bone density equivalent to steal, my muscle strength that of a bear, and with a built-in retractable cape.
Pet peeves:
Pay your bills on time.
Before I die, I would like to:
Go to outer space. I'm serious. I'm saving hard for it.

Member profile: Colleen Ware

Colleen WareWeb editor, College of Liberal Arts (CLA) Office of Communication

Started at the University in December 1996 with CLA Student Services and left in 2003. Colleen came back to CLA in November 2006.

Colleen was nominated by Carrie Van Hallgren because "she knows so much about the U and is so versatile in that knowledge. I call on her for advice for all kinds of things. She always has time for my questions (or at least she pretends to!) and she always has such wise answers."

What is your best/more amusing U-related memory?
I met my husband in my German class when I was a student here. (Yes, to me German is the language of love.) He was absent the first day of class, and I remember thinking, "That loser's gonna lose his place in class." Good thing for me that he didn't.

What is your favorite place on campus?
I have many. I loved walking through the foyer of Northrop Auditorium (when it was open, of course), and Folwell Hall with its updates is wonderful. Walking into Rarig Center always gives me a thrill because it smells the same as it did when I was completing my theatre arts minor as an undergrad. I think our campus is beautiful. (Stuff it, Travel + Leisure!)

What do you consider to be a best kept secret about the U?
University Theatre and University Opera productions! Our students are amazingly talented. Go see them! Plus the tickets are so affordable. Tickets and events website

Member profile: Todd Reubold

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Todd-Reubold.jpgDirector of Communications / Ensia Director, Institute on the Environment

Started at the University of Minnesota in 2005 and has been in his current role since September 2007.

Todd was nominated by Andria Waclawski who has gotten to know Todd and thinks he has a great story to tell. Andria adds that he is leading a solid team at the Institute on the Environment and respects what they have built.

Connect with Todd online

Twitter: @treubold

What is your favorite aspect of your job?

The people I work with! They're all incredibly creative, professional and committed to making the world a better place. Plus they're really great people, too. Together we've been able to produce some wonderful work in support of the U's Institute on the Environment.

Tell us about one of the coolest projects you've worked on for your job at the U?
One of the coolest projects I've worked on is probably the launch of Ensia - a magazine and events series showcasing solutions to the Earth's biggest environmental challenges. Through Ensia we've been able to raise the profile of the Institute on the Environment with our core audience while also connecting with new environmental leaders around the world.  

What do you consider to be a best kept secret about the U?
The St. Paul campus! It's quiet, the trees are beautiful, parking is easy, the ice cream is fresh, the gardens are gorgeous and each morning we enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of livestock. What could be better?!

I'm happiest when:
I'm skiing down a blue or black run high in the mountains right after a new snowfall. Especially if the ski run is at Whistler, Big Sky, Breckenridge or Vail. Pure bliss!

People may be surprised to know:
I've been playing the drums since I was ten and I spent most of my 20's touring the country with my band while signed to an Indie label.

If I could do it all over again, I would:
Start playing tennis at the age of two and win a Grand Slam by 23. (Guess I'll just have to settle for hopefully going to a Grand Slam tennis tournament someday!)

Member profile: Carrie Van Hallgren

Carrie-VanHallgren.jpgProducing Director for Theatre Arts & Dance

Started at the University of Minnesota in July 2012

UMCF member since Fall 2012

Carrie was nominated by Kelly O'Brien who thinks we'll all be envious of her job promoting University Theatre Arts & Dance and the Showboat.

Connect with University Theatre Arts & Dance and the Showboat online:

What excites you about working at the University of Minnesota and for Theatre Arts & Dance?
The Twin Cities is an amazing city for theatre and dance. Our artists are revered locally, nationally, and internationally. Most of those Twin Cities-based theatre and dance artists are working with us, in some form of another. They are teaching and mentoring our students, they are directing, choreographing, designing, and writing for us and with us.

What is your favorite accomplishment at the U, so far?  
This summer we entertained 12,800 audience members on the University of Minnesota Centennial Showboat, a five year high for us, the largest number since the the economy tanked in 2008. The student performers on the boat this summer we extraordinary. I was honored to be working with them.

What is your favorite place on campus?      
Rarig Center. The big concrete bunker is buzzing with art-making 24 hours a day. In every nook and cranny a student or faculty member is creating a scene, a design, or a performance that will move you or shock you.

Your hometown and the first place you lived after leaving your hometown?
My hometown is Platteville, WI. I lived there for 18 years and then moved to Davidson, NC for college.

The Top 3 highlights of my life:  
Aside from wedding my husband and the birth of my two kids, I had the opportunity to work on projects with Royal Shakespeare Company, Manhattan Theatre Club, and Yale Rep as a young professional.

People may be surprised to know:  
My husband put his career in public radio on hold to be a stay at home dad with our two kids.  And he used to work for Ira Glass, so that is really saying something.

Member Profile: Chuck Tombarge

Chuck-Tombarge.jpgDirector of Public Relations/University Relations

Started at the University of Minnesota in January 2012

UMCF member since 2012

Chuck was nominated by Kelly O'Brien who admires him for managing the University's reputation and believes we should all have a deeper appreciation for what that takes.

Connect with Chuck online:
Twitter: @ctombarge

What brought you to your current job?
I was seeking a change after 7.5 years doing public affairs agency work. Specifically, I wanted to work for a single, mission-driven organization. A former colleague who was aware of changes in University Relations suggested I watch for this position posting. She believed the position would be in the sweet spot of my media, public organization communications and public affairs experience. I applied and everything fell into place. It was a great fit.

What is your favorite aspect of your job?
I love the variety. There is always something new, exciting -- and challenging -- happening at the U. It also feels like I'm experiencing college all over again. Having graduated from a private, liberal arts university (the University of St. Thomas), my college experience was much different than what is a Big Ten experience. I'm really enjoying the Big Ten, research, land-grant university experience.
What excites you about working at the U and for University Relations?
University Relations is incredibly fun because we touch all aspects of what the U does, and we have an opportunity to work with colleagues in all capacities across the U of M system. I enjoy supporting and helping to amplify the amazing things that happen on all of our campuses every day.

What is your favorite accomplishment at the U, so far?
Building a News Service team that pours its heart and soul into everything it does. We are well equipped to support our colleagues across the system and when we misstep, we are usually the first to point it out and find a solution to correct the situation. The News Service -- and everyone in U Relations and Gov Relations -- truly work as a team and have each others' backs. I'm proud to work among such great professionals.

What advice do you have for communicators at the University of Minnesota?
Be willing to ask for help and tap each others' expertise when you need to. There is a wealth of experience and unique expertise among the U's communicators. And the collegial and collaborative atmosphere among communicators is second to none.

Tell us about one of the coolest projects you've worked on for your job at the U?
Though I'm at arms length from it, I've enjoyed my involvement in and watching the Discover/new UMNews web site come together. It will be one of the most visible representations of how U Relations and the News Service are approaching media relations and communications in a new way. Rather than being bound by our own structures and tools (e.g. a press release vs. a web site story vs. a media advisory), the site will present all great stories as great content. That will make the site seamless for visitors and should allow all of the communicators involved a more effective way to achieve our common goal of effectively telling the U's story.

What is your best/more amusing U-related memory?
The team trips to the Big Ten News Directors conferences in Nebraska and Wisconsin with the U's News Service team.

What is your favorite place on campus?  
I really like the St. Paul campus, despite the limited amount of time I'm able to spend there. The green, open space makes it feel like a retreat in the city.  

What do you consider to be a best kept secret about the U?
That it truly is a world-class University. Growing up in Minnesota, the U wasn't looked to as a place that provides a great education, a personal student experience and the location of life-changing research. I think Minnesotans and others are beginning to catch on, but there is more work to do.

Your hometown and the first place you lived after leaving your hometown?
St. Anthony Village, MN. My first job out of college was as a reporter for the Austin Daily Herald in Austin, MN.

What do you do for fun?   
Travel and being outdoors in fall.

If I could do it all over again, I would:
Study abroad in college.

Member profile: Andria Waclawski

Andria-Waclawski.jpgCreative Services Lead for the Office of the VP for Research

Started at the University of Minnesota in September 2006

UMCF member since 2006

Andria was nominated by Kelly O'Brien who is excited to hear more about Andria being a Google Glass beta tester.

Connect with Andria online:
Twitter: @SoBatman
Personal website:   

What is your favorite aspect of your job?
My job is super varied (graphic design, photography, strategy, web design, and more) and has changed over the years, but getting out to take photos/interview researchers, meet their students, and learn about their work has been a constant perk. Bonus: Working for a University-wide office means I get to work with people in all the various colleges/units. There is so much going on here; it's staggering and inspiring and intimidating all at once.

What advice do you have for communicators at the University of Minnesota?
It's a big place and we've got a lot of work to do to get the word out. The most important lesson that I've learned is to see where you can partner and coordinate with fellow communicators to get the most out of every story and ultimately deliver a more consistent, informed message to your audience. It also doesn't hurt that this can help dodge the dreaded Duplication of Effort.

Tell us about one of the coolest projects you've worked on for your job at the U?   
Right now, I'm working on a special project called U of M Explorer ( I was selected by Google to join their Glass Explorers program--sort of an alpha test for their new wearable technology platform--and I've been using Google Glass to bring a new perspective to the storytelling I do on behalf of the U of M. It's been a unique experience to say the least and I'm excited to do more with it.

(Want to join Andria in her adventures w/@googleglass? Click here for more information.) 

My favorites:
Either the bizarre J-Pod by Douglas Coupland or the Scott Pilgrim series by Bryan Lee O'Malley.

YouTube. Come for the cute animals, stay for the PBS Idea Channel, Crash Course, Mental Floss, and more.   

Source of inspiration: 
HOW Magazine, Pinterest, and being behind my camera (be it my Nikon or iPhone). 

Favorite word and word that annoys me:
Dude and twee, respectively.

Food and drink:
I am a fool for toast with butter and Tupelo honey and a hot cup of peppermint tea.

TV show and movie:
I tried to answer this question for 15 minutes. If anyone wants to go talk movies and tv with me, let me know. I love City Lights and The Wire just as much as I love Galaxy Quest and Fawlty Towers.

Musician or band:
This is just as hard to answer as the previous one, but I can say that I often turn to Spotify genre stations based on David Bowie, The Beastie Boys, and Nina Simone.

Place on Earth:
So far Bogotá my most special destination, since I got to explore my Colombian heritage (the music, the food, the art, the lifestyle, the natural landscapes). 

The Top 3 highlights of my life:
  • Going to Comic Con International in San Diego
  • Seeing a Shakespeare play at the Globe Theater in London
  • That one time Hugh Jackman touched my hand
People may be surprised to know:
You can act as your own marriage officiant in Colorado. I know, because I eloped there almost two years ago and married my best friend at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. Related fun fact: You can simply show up at a museum in a wedding dress, take a bunch of pictures, and get married for the price of a regular admission.

Member profile: Matt Tveter

Matt TeveterMatt Tveter
Communications/Organizational Effectiveness Coordinator in Academic Support Resources

Started at the University of Minnesota on October 29, 2012

UMCF member since 2012

Matt was nominated by Kess Knight who had this to say: Matt's energy is contagious. He has a genuine passion for the communications field and it shows through his work. He joined the UMCF Awards Committee this year and will be a great contributor to the Forum.

Connect with Matt online:

What brought you to your current job?
I spent about 7 years working for a public school district in the Northwest metro and a few years before that teaching abroad, so I've always worked in education. I enjoy working for Academic Support Resources because I like knowing that we help keep the entire University running.

What is your favorite aspect of your job?
Working with our team, half of which is on the Communicators Forum board.

What excites you about working at the University and for Academic Support Resources?
I think that spreading knowledge and discovering new things are the most exciting things a person can do, so I'm proud to work for an organization that is devoted to those pursuits.

What is your best U-related memory?
I received both my Undergraduate and Graduate degrees from the U, and my dad went here when I was younger, so I often get déjà vu when walking around campus. My favorite memories are of the times I spent on campus with my wife, long before we were married.

What do you do for fun?
Read, write, go to concerts, museums, go camping, take kids to zoo.

What is your dream job (besides the one you have!)?
Baseball manager.

Motto or personal mantra:
Never give up.

The Top 3 highlights of my life:
My two kids being born, getting married. Non cheesy highlight: living and traveling in Europe and Asia.

People may be surprised to know:
I am certified as both a reverend and as a Thai masseuse.

Pet peeves:
When someone tells me that one of my habits is one of their pet peeves.

Member profile: Kelly O'Brien

Kelly O'Brien, Past UMCF Chair (2011-12)
Public Relations/Communications Consultant in the College of Liberal Arts
Started at the University of Minnesota in 2003
UMCF member since 2003

Kelly was nominated by Rebecca Noran who had this to say: Kelly is a highly skilled communicator and engaged community leader. She has provided exceptional service to the Communicators Forum over the years: as chair in 2011-12, serving 5 years on the board (at large director, co-chair of programs, chair-elect, chair, chair emerita), and prior to that serving 3 years on committees (2 on conference, 1 on programs).

Kelly-OBrienPhoto: Kelly O'Brien in the Governor's office at the Minnesota Capitol. Photo by Lisa Miller, CLA

Connect with Kelly online:

What brought you to your current job?
My professional background is in arts administration, particularly marketing and communications. I initially came to the College of Liberal Arts (CLA) to do marketing and PR for the West Bank Arts Quarter. It was really fun to work to raise the profile of our fantastic arts departments here, and to collaborate with stellar communications professionals, whom many of you may remember (Jen Keavy, Justin Christy, Christopher James). Alas, after a few years the project was unfunded and my efforts were folded into the greater efforts for CLA, which has turned out to be really amazing too.
What excites you about working at the University and the College of Liberal Arts?
I love to learn and I want my work to support a greater good. I get both of those working in CLA. My work brings me into contact with faculty who are making remarkable discoveries, publishing fascinating work, and teaching surprising ideas. I learn something new all the time. We have centers in CLA that are doing important work about human rights, so when I have an effort to work with them I feel I am also helping to make the world a slightly better place. And the students are just humbling. Really. I am an alumna of the U and I wonder if I would be able to get into college here if I applied today.

Tell us about one of the coolest projects you've worked on for your job at the U?   
Sometimes I think if I could do only one kind of project it would be building remodels. I love historic architecture, political campaigns, and the smell of fresh lumber, and that's the space where they all converge. I was lucky to get to do one of these for Folwell Hall.

I have experience working on political campaigns and doing advocacy work with Minnesota Citizens for the Arts (an amazing organization). So when it was time for Folwell Hall to be fully remodeled, in 2008, CLA called on me to use my experience to design a grassroots advocacy campaign to get the Minnesota Legislature and Governor Tim Pawlenty to support bonding money for the project. I worked with the team in the U's Government Relations office and rallied students, faculty, and alumni to contact their legislators and the governor to support the project. Things were going well, but due to some political maneuvering (duh), Folwell got dropped from the University's request that year. But in 2010, the project was back as the top building project in the U's request. We worked just as hard, if not harder, that year; in fact, more contacts to legislators were made on behalf of Folwell than for the University request as a whole.

The project was funded that year and gutting and remodeling commenced over the next 15 months or so. I was allowed to visit the building many times while it was under construction, and I documented the project on Facebook and the campaign web site. I cannot even begin to describe how much I love going into buildings under construction. So this was a dream project for me! And of course, we reopened in September 2011 with a beautiful, historic classroom building that better serves student needs and the four language/culture departments housed there.

What do you do for fun?  
Bar trivia (my team is called Gorilla Panic); DFL politics; normal girl-things like cooking, gardening, knitting; visiting outsider art environments like the Forevertron; hiking and snowshoeing.

What is your motto or personal mantra?
"The road to hell is paved with good intentions." I use this to remind myself that it's not enough that you meant to do well--you have to actually make it happen.

What are some of your favorites?
Favorite book/author and paper vs. e-book 
Paper, absolutely. I love Ian McEwan, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Maira Kalman, Etgar Keret (met him on campus last year!!), so many others. I am reading Louise Erdrich's The Round House right now because it is CLA's common reading for our first-year students this year, and it is, I think, her best novel ever. I can't believe how much I am loving this book.

If I could recommend two books for all UMCF members to read, they would be Content Strategy for the Web (2nd ed.) by Kristina Halvorson and Melissa Rach, and Content Everywhere: Strategy and Structure for Future-Ready Content by Sarah Boettcher-Wachter.

Favorite source of inspiration   
If I'm at work and need to clear my head and refresh my thinking, I either walk to the Weisman and pick a gallery, or walk across the river on the #9 Bridge behind Educational Sciences. I look at the Mississippi River every day. I can't believe I work next to it! If I'm at home, I might just look at Pinterest for 10 minutes.

Favorite food and drink?
Smoked salmon, caviar, Irish whisky, bubbly water. I love this Swedish fish roe spread in a tube, Kalles. IKEA sells their own generic version, you should try it.

Board member profile: Kate Sophia

Kate Sophia, UMCF chair emerita
Student Communications Lead for the Enterprise Systems Upgrade Program
Academic Support Resources      

About my role on the UMCF board:
I provide a bit of continuity and organizational memory and get to work on a little project of my own. This year I'll be focusing on how we communicate with the student population and how we can improve that.

About my role at the University:
I currently work in Academic Support Resources as the Student Communications Lead for the Enterprise Systems Upgrade Program. That means I do a lot of coordination and collaboration to support and spread the word of the Student Project (admissions, financial aid, SEVIS, student finance, and student records). The project kicked off in fall 2012 and will wrap up in fall 2014. It's been an amazing opportunity to understand the complexity of the work of those units and to work side-by-side with the incredible staff within him. Prior to my work in ASR, I worked in the Global Programs and Strategy Alliance (in the China Center and Confucius Institute) and in the Office of Information Technology. December 2013 marks my 9th anniversary working at the University and it's still one of the most energizing places to be.

Board member profile: Serena Wright

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Serena WrightSerena Wright, UMCF Conference Chair
Director of Events
College of Education and Human Development Office of Communications

About my role at the University
I am currently Director of Events for the College of Education and Human Development Office of Communications. I started at the University of Minnesota in 2000.

Favorite place on campus:
Overlooking Northrop mall from the Campus Club Terrace.

What I like about working at the U:
I love engaging with our students, staff, and faculty. Creating an environment where all of these constituency groups have a sense of community, feel safe, respected, and know there is a place that they can call there home away from home. I look forward to Fall semester when all of the campus is a "buzz" with excitement.

Students are my first priority at the college and making sure that our college and the dean shines in the absolute best light. I think of myself as an ambassador of CEHD.

A person at the U whom I admire:
I have several people that I admire and two of them have retired, but remain a tremendous force and support in my life. Josie Johnson (former Regent and civil rights activist, extraordinary gifted woman) and Jeanne Lupton (former dean of General College and a trailblazer).

Both of these women were firsts at everything they did. It takes a tremendous amount of courage to be first when you are not sure the others will follow. I have always admired that in both of them. My mother was the same and I have in many situations that I have been the first. Speaking up for others who cannot speak for themselves. It is also an attribute that I'm most proud of too.

Some of the coolest projects I've worked on at the U:
Well this is difficult for me because there are so many cool projects that I've have and continue to work on at the U. Each project had its own uniqueness. Situations were different for all of them.

For the 30th Anniversary for the MLK Concert sponsored by the Office of Equity and Diversity and the School of Music I was hired to plan that event.

Two years later I was asked to emcee this event. Stepping outside of my comfort zone but was up for the challenge and was surprised that I enjoyed it as much as I did.

Also, having less than 5 weeks to plan the grand opening for UROC, Urban Research Outreach Center. Dr. Robert Jones asked me to step in an take over and it was an absolute AMAZING event. His reputation was on the line because this was a partnership that took 5 years in the making between the University and the Northside of Minneapolis. The attendees included, the mayor of Mpls RT Rybak, the Board of Regents, legislative representatives, internal and external communities, the media, (TV, radio, newspapers, etc). Now that I think of this, it truly was a remarkable event with over 800 attendees who walk through the doors.

More about Serena

My hometown:
Plainfield, New Jersey | view it on a map

Accomplishments I'm most proud of:
Making the transition from New Jersey and New York City to Minneapolis. Very different places, different culture, but making a home for me and my husband, having some amazing friends, I'm like a tree. I planted myself, my roots took hold, my branches always expanding and reaching up and out to the sky and my leaves continue to grow and I always have flowers blooming. I have people in my life who have nurtured me from the time I step foot on Minnesota soil. This is a very good thing!!!! I have an amazing life in Minneapolis.

Paper book or e-book:
Favorite source of inspiration:
Elders in a community. In particular women elders.

Favorite words:
Respect and courage

Word that makes you cringe:
When people are uncouth.

What I do for fun:
I love to do the following: play tennis weekly, frequent the theatre (plays), listen to "old school" and jazz music.

Love to dance and sing. Love to cook and entertain friends at home. Lover of great food and wines.

Travel, travel, travel anywhere and everywhere with my husband, family, and friends. Antique shopping, love old movies of all genres.

Fashion has always been a part of my life and creating my own style is important to me. Love television programs related to favorite which are Silverback gorillas and horses. Love science and nature shows.

Love to be surrounded by beautiful things so I have my doll collection in my office. Flowers on my desk and home and lovely aromatic scents. I also have an extensive perfume bottle collection. Both the dolls and perfume bottles have been acquired from my travels and gifts from around the world.

I most enjoy spending time with women elders. They have an amazing amount of wisdom and are generous in spirit. I just love them!!!!!!!!!!! I love volunteering.

My dream jobs (besides the one I have!):
To plan events and travel with Oprah Winfrey. To play professional tennis with Serena Williams.

Board member profile: Ann Nordby

Ann Nordby, UMCF Awards Committee Co-Chair
Web manager
Extension Center for Youth Development
Became a member of UMCF: 2007

About my role on the UMCF board:
This is my second year as co-chair of the awards committee, together with Kris Junker. I was also on the programs committee for five years previously. We are in charge of recognizing the best communications work done across the U in a given year. That is a great learning experience for my own work. My favorite part is working with the judges, who come from outside the U, and learning what they think is excellent. Each year there are 5 judges, including one student, and last year one of the sharpest judges was our student judge.

Some great Forum memories:
I always learn something at monthly programs and at conference sessions. But networking is a big part of what the forum does, and I am happy to be a part of a small committee that is reviving the Forum's monthly mixers at the campus club. (Watch for that notice soon!!)

About my role at the University
I am currently Web manager for the Extension Center for Youth Development. I started at the University of Minnesota in 2007.

What I like about working at the U:
Being surrounded by smart people who are all working to make everybody smarter!

Some of the coolest projects I've worked on at the U:
Right now I'm on a team that's developing an online learning environment for kids in 4-H. This is exciting because it hasn't been done before. We're building in the adult mentors, educational goals, formal evaluation, and of course it has to be fun or the kids won't go there.

Board member profile: Nicole Price

Nicole PriceNicole Price, UMCF Treasurer
Operations Coordinator
Carlson Executive Education

Became a member of UMCF: May 2013

About my role on the UMCF board:
I am responsible for all financial records, and oversees financial functions such as collecting of dues and fees, depositing income, paying bills approved by the board, and providing necessary financial information for reports. I also provided monthly reports to the board.

Some great Forum memories:
My first event was a program and event planning program. The info I received there was very informative and also gave me the chance to network with other event planners. From there, I decided to become a member of the UMCF.

About my role at the University
I am currently Operations Coordinator for Carlson Executive Education. I started at the University of Minnesota in April 2011.

Board member profile: Lani Payette

lp.jpgLani Payette, UMCF Technology Committee co-chair   
Educational Technologist
Training Services, Organizational Effectiveness/OHR

Became a member of UMCF: 1999
About my role on the UMCF board:
The Technology Committee maintains the website and membership database, supports special technology projects, and advises on technology-related topics. I like working with the other board members and all of the opportunities for creative thinking that come up.
Some great Forum memories:
I especially enjoyed last year's tour of the "For the Common Good" exhibit at Andersen Library and the archives/storage caverns. The history is interesting. Here's a video about the exhibit.

About my role at the University
I am currently an Educational Technologist in Training Services, Organizational Effectiveness/OHR. I started at the University of Minnesota in 1999.

Favorite place on campus:
Andersen Library caverns

More about Lani

My hometown:
Green Bay, Wisconsin | view it on a map

Paper book or e-book:

Favorite website:
Cute Overload

Board member profile: Katie Covey

Katie CoveyKatie Covey, UMCF Marketing and Promotions Committee Co-Chair
Program & Project Specialist
Weisman Art Museum

Became a member of UMCF: 2011
About my role on the UMCF board:
The Marketing and Promotions committee is responsible for marketing and promoting the Communicators Forum through member outreach, the annual member appreciation event and member drives. My favorite part of being part of the Marketing and Promotions committee is planning the member appreciation event.
Some great Forum memories:
My favorite forum event is always the annual conference. This past year I loved hearing from author and illustrator Debra Fraiser. Her talk on the creative process inspired me to start a notebook of my own!
About my role at the University
I am currently Program & Project Specialist for the Weisman Art Museum. I started at the University of Minnesota in May 2010.

Favorite place on campus:
The Weisman Art Museum!

What I like about working at the U:
I have a unique position at the U where I get to work directly with students but also with the wider University and community. I really enjoy planning and executing public programming that brings people together in creative collaboration. I love the hustle and bustle of being on a University campus and getting to experience the changing seasons and semesters.

A person at the U whom I admire:
I admire Lyndel King, the Director and Chief Curator of the Weiman Art Museum for her tenacity and determination to help fund and build our beautiful Frank Gehry designed facility. I am really lucky that I get to work at both a world class public University and in one of the most unique buildings in the country.

Some of the coolest projects I've worked on at the U:
One of the coolest projects that I've worked on is a collaborative design competition with the college of design's apparel design program. Last spring, non-traditional materials students took inspiration from one of our traveling exhibitions, Laylah Ali's 'Greenheads' series, and interpreted the work into a ready for the runway garment. It was amazing to see the different interpretations of the green-heads projected on to clothing.

Accomplishments I'm most proud of:
I am probably most proud of the student group that I started for the Weisman, WAM Collective. The Collective started with five members in 2010 and is now a full fledged campus life program with twenty undergraduate and graduate students who create art experiences for University of Minnesota students.

More about Katie

My hometown:
Good Thunder, Minnesota | view it on a map

Paper book or e-book:

Favorite website:

Favorite source of inspiration:

Favorite word:

Word that makes you cringe:

Favorite brand:

Favorite band:

Bon Iver

What I do for fun:
Ride bike, garden, read and seek out Mexican restaurants with my husband Reggie.

My dream jobs (besides the one I have!):
Someday, I'd love to run my own gallery and boutique in NE Minneapolis.

Board member profile: Sarah Hollerich

Sarah Hollerich, UMCF At Large Director
Graphic Designer
Academic Support Resources

Became a member of UMCF: 2012
About my role on the UMCF board:
I help all of the committees with their design needs.
Some great Forum memories:
The WonderBarry improv program. Amazing!

About my role at the University
I am currently Graphic Designer for Academic Support Resources. I started at the University of Minnesota in May 2012.

Favorite place on campus:
The railroad bridge.

What I like about working at the U:
Vibrant atmosphere.

Some of the coolest projects I've worked on at the U:
StrengthsQuest monster magnets

More about Sarah

My hometown:
St. Paul, Minnesota | view it on a map

Paper book or e-book:

Word that makes you cringe:

What I do for fun:
Go on walks.

Board member profile: Patrice Johnson

Patrice-Johnson.jpgPatrice Johnson, UMCF Board member
Registration Coordinator

Find me online:
Twitter | Cultural Construct website | Culinary Construct | Called to the Table
Became a member of UMCF: 2002   

Some great Forum memories:
I love the Annual Conference.

About my role at the University
I am a Registration Coordinator for Extension. I started at the University of Minnesota in 1993.

Favorite place on campus:
The cows in St. Paul and the mall in Minneapolis.

What I like about working at the U:
Being surrounded and inspired by youthful energy.

More about Patrice

Paper book or e-book:

Favorite word:

Word that makes you cringe:

Favorite brand:

What I do for fun:
Think about cats.

My dream jobs (besides the one I have!):
Research, writing, teaching.

Board member profile: Erin "E" Kober

Erin-Kober.jpgErin "E" Kober, UMCF Marketing & Promotions Committee Co-Chair
Marketing Team Leader
Student Unions & Activities- Marketing Department      

Find me online: Twitter | Facebook
Became a member of UMCF: September 2011     

About my role on the UMCF board:
We promote the Communicators Forum to get people involved in the Forum. I like this role because I really enjoy talking to people, networking, and spreading the word about this great opportunity.  

Some great Forum memories:
I love attending the Conference each year. It is a great way to learn more about a variety of different topics and it is one of the few times each year that brings all the members together. I always feel refreshed after the Conference.

About my role at the University
I am currently Marketing Team Leader for the Student Unions & Activities- Marketing Department. I started at the University of Minnesota in August 2011.

Favorite place on campus:
Coffman Front Plaza

What I like about working at the U:
I really enjoy the pulse of campus. Students are eager to learn and get involved and I love that I get to help communicate all the opportunities that are available to them.

Some of the coolest projects I've worked on at the U:
Homecoming 2013: Ski-U-Madness marketing and communication campaign. We start planning for Homecoming months ahead of time so it is exciting to see when it all comes together and we bring thousands of people to our events.

Accomplishments I'm most proud of:
Seeing the growth of our student workers. Many of our students start their roles with little marketing experience, and it is exciting to see them grow in their roles and be able to prepare them for their professional careers.

More about Erin

My hometown:
Lonsdale, Minnesota | view it on a map

Paper book or e-book:

Favorite website:

Favorite source of inspiration:

Favorite word:

Word that makes you cringe:
None, although some songs make me cringe.

Favorite brand:

What I do for fun:
Bike, run, camp, travel and explore breweries and vineyards..

My dream jobs (besides the one I have!):
Be a consultant- helping organizations to realize how they can better lead and utilize their spaces to support innovation and creativity.

Board member profile: Mandee Nguyen

mandee_nguyen_pic.jpgMandee Nguyen, UMCF Technology Committee Co-Chair
Writer and Editor
Academic Support Resources
Find me online:
Personal website | Twitter | Instagram | LinkedIn
Became a member of UMCF: January 2012    

About my role on the UMCF board:
The Technology Committee handles a lot of technical support for the other committees. We update the website, maintain the membership database, and also help with email communications. I enjoy learning new technologies and being in a supportive communication role.
Some great Forum memories:
I have two favorite programs: one about work/life balance and the improv one. The work/life balance one was very enlightening. The improv one was a nice break from daily work.

About my role at the University
I am currently Writer and Editor for Academic Support Resources. I started at the University of Minnesota in January 2012.

Favorite place on campus:
Folwell Hall

What I like about working at the U:
It's a great atmosphere. Everyone is always pushing themselves to be better and tries to produce the highest quality product possible.

Some of the coolest projects I've worked on at the U:
I handle a lot of the website content strategy on my team. One project I loved was a redesign of the Classroom Technical Services page. It was basically a place for me to play with the website and let my creativity run wild, within University standards. :-)

Accomplishments I'm most proud of:
Before starting at the U, I was heavily involved in journalism and wrote a lot of advocacy-type articles.

More about Mandee

My hometown:
Plymouth, Minnesota  | view it on a map

Paper book or e-book:

Favorite website: (awesome recipes!)

Favorite source of inspiration:

The Internet

Favorite word:

Word that makes you cringe:
Errands (annoys me more than makes me cringe)

Favorite brand:
Old Navy

What I do for fun:
I love to read, mostly nonfiction/memoirs, but a little bit of romance novels thrown in for fun. I also am a TV and Netflix addict. My husband and I always have a new show to marathon watch. Other activities include cooking, crafting, running, and talking way too much about my animals.

My dream jobs (besides the one I have!):
A mental health advocate/researcher

Board member profile: Kris Junker

Junker-UMCF-Blog-Photo-09-2013.jpgKris Junker, UMCF Awards Committee Co-Chair
Office Manager, Sr. Programs Coordinator
Center for Animal Health and Food Safety  

Became a member of UMCF: 2011

About my role on the UMCF board:

The Awards Committee is responsible for all aspects of the annual UMCF awards, including submissions, judging, awards procurement and presentation. I like this committee first off because the people are great, we really enjoy getting together, I like getting a first hand look at all the submissions, seeing what others are doing, getting ideas for my unit, and being a co-chair has improved my project management skills. 
Some great Forum memories:
Creative Work Break: Improvisation with Barry Kudrowitz in Feb 2013. I enjoyed it because it got me out of my comfort zone, and helped me see a different way to look at things.

About my role at the University
I am currently Office Manager, Sr. Programs Coordinator for the Center for Animal Health and Food Safety. I started at the University of Minnesota in July 2006.

What I like about working at the U:
The collaborative approach, everyone's voice is heard. This can be a negative thing too at times, when I just want to move forward on something and have one person make a decision.

More about Kris

My hometown:
Stillwater, Minnesota | view it on a map

Paper book or e-book:

Favorite website: 

Favorite source of inspiration:
Really good advertisements 

Favorite word:

Word that makes you cringe:
Circle back   

What I do for fun:
Traveling for sports is probably my number one. I love Tennis and College Basketball (primarily Duke Blue Devils and Minnesota Gophers). If I had the funds to support my sports habit, I would be on the road half the year and at every tennis major, senior night, conference tournament and NCAA tourney. 

My dream jobs (besides the one I have!):
Leading my own organization that is a hybrid of venture capital and coaching to help people start and build their own businesses.

Board member profile: Rebecca Noran

Rebecca-Noran2-180x180.jpgRebecca Noran, UMCF chair
assistant director for web communications
Academic Health Center Office of Communications      

Find me online:
Personal website | LinkedIn | Pinterest | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook

Became a member of UMCF: 
January 2001

UMCF member profile 2010

About my role on the UMCF board:

According to the Forum bylaws, the chair "presides at all meetings of the board of directors ... generally supervises the activities of the organization ... represents the organization."

Some great Forum memories:
  • Two programs I helped plan in my early days at the U on the program committee: 1. inviting a favorite professor from Macalester, Ruthann Godollei, to talk about typography, and 2. the infamous institutional identity talk where Janet Abrams, head of the Design Institute, trash talked the work of U communicators (and we loved to hate it!).
  • When the design swap group would meet
  • Helping develop the concept for a people's choice Mike award as a member of the awards committee, inspired by a paper event where they did this
  • Designing the Mission: Possible conference "FBI" file
  • The hands-on sessions at conference, like paper cutting this year, letterpress a few years ago
  • Debra Frasier
  • Grammar Girl
  • Wing Young Huie's workshop (which inspired a session at Extension program conference)
  • Touring the U Library archives 
  • And of course, seeing everyone at annual conference and enjoying the day talking to all my communications colleagues... and sometimes winning prizes at the raffle (Vikings tickets! First Aid kit!)!

About my role at the University
I am currently assistant director for web communications for the Academic Health Center (AHC) Office of Communications. I started at the University of Minnesota on January 1, 2001. I previously worked leading the communications team in the Extension Center for Food, Agricultural, and Natural Resource Sciences (EFANS/CFANS-Extension) and as part of the communications team for the College of Education and Human Development (CEHD).

Favorite place on campus:
Weisman Art Museum and my morning walk across the Washington Avenue Bridge.

What I like about working at the U:
There are interesting, amazing things happening in all its nooks and crannies. It is filled with potential... and bringing that potential to reality through various projects is an exciting challenge. I learn new stuff all the time here.

A person at the U whom I admire:
Nance Longley, graphic designer/design coordinator in CEHD communications, course leader for Philosophy Camp, sometimes instructor for basic media graphics in the School of Journalism: I sat next to Nance for more than 7 years in the CEHD communications office, and she is an inspiration and a mentor. She gives back greatly to the U community in so many ways, and definitely has to the Forum over the years: She was a volunteer of the year, her Imagine! Inspire! Ignite! matchbook for the 13th UMCF conference invite was fantastic, and she's the person who actually found the Mike and had it made into an award!   

Some of the coolest projects I've worked on at the U:
So many!
  • At CEHD: I loved going on photo shoots and interviewing people when I worked for the alumni magazine (would end up in the most interesting places!), the visual identity project, creating recruitment materials for our diversity programs and for the first undergraduate programs when we became a new college, designing various T-shirts, designing the "education in every nook and cranny" building notecards, planning our State Fair booth, our Get smart(er) campaign. The project of getting banners on our buildings for CEHD was an eye-opener. Finding grass in January for a summer catalog photo shoot my first month working at the U (turfgrass lab had some we could use!).
  • At CFANS Extension: It was neat being there when emerald ash borer was discovered in MN, and our team created a go-to web page and educational materials.... also getting to know all the amazing Extension educators! I am proud of establishing some clear processes in a time of transition, the EFANS Connects webinars to stay connected across the state, of the work our communications team created (what a great team, and interesting content!), and speaking to a room full of people at Extension program conference in Duluth after less than two months on the job.
  • Other: I love the projects I did for the Weisman Art Museum with Springsteen, Gehry, Dylan, and for the Goldstein Museum of Design (Hip Art That's Square, Seeing Color, Mayan Textiles...), doing the Places to Go: Bathrooms of the Twin Cities exhibit for my M.F.A. in College of Design, assignments for documentary filmmaking and artists' books classes, participating in training and such for Art of Hosting Conversations that Matter.
  • At AHC: And now it's really interesting being part of the health sciences, including launching our new and websites, planning our web upgrade transformation, and working with an amazingly talented team of great people!
Accomplishments I'm most proud of (at the U):
  • Getting an M.F.A. while working full time -- what a great perk of being at the U!
  • Doing the President's Emerging Leaders (PEL) program and the Women's Leadership Institute -- working on our PEL innovation project.
  • Serving on the CEHD diversity committee for a number of years and helping make some of the committee ideas come to life.
  • Being photo editor on Connect magazine.
  • Contributing to the visual identity projects for CEHD and Extension.
  • Helping get Extension's web overhaul off the ground.
  • Embarking on a web transformation for the Academic Health Center.
  • And since this is a Forum interview, of course: Being on the receiving team for 27 Maroon and Gold Awards, including 4 MARGOS, 3 GREENS, and 2 MIKES!

More about Rebecca

My hometown:
Montclair, New Jersey | view it on a map

Paper book or e-book:

Favorite website (most used, anyway):
Wikipedia | Metro Transit
Favorite source of inspiration:
Walking. Sketching. Looking at examples. Visiting a museum.

Favorite word:

Word that makes you cringe:
"Harvesting" in reference to an animal or anything that requires unsuck-it.

Rebecca-muppets.jpgFavorite brand:
The Muppets

What I do for fun:
Color with markers while listening to music. Watch the tube. Connect with friends and family. Take photos and write captions for them. Explore. Travel. Riff. Play Boggle (when the opportunity arises).

My dream jobs (besides the one I have!):
Museum director. Creative director at IDEO or such. Innovation think tank thinker. Person like Diana Vreeland who says "I'm thinking magenta elephants with a NY77 vibe" and amazing things result. Fancy pen and marker tester.
Did you know: UMCF isn't just for University of Minnesota employees. That's right. If you are independently employed/outside the University or if you are a student enrolled in a University program, you can become a member. The general membership fee is $40; $20 for students. So if you know of anyone who may be interested, spread the word. 

To register or for more information, please direct people to our website. For full information on the benefits and values of becoming a University of Minnesota Communicators Forum member, check out this page.

Volunteer for the Technology Committee!

Interested in contributing to the Communicators Forum? Have a love for technology? The Technology Committee is looking for volunteers! The Technology Committee provides support for leveraging the use of technology to support the mission of the Forum and advises the board on technology-related topics. The committee maintains the Forum website, database integration, and membership mailing lists.

Liaison Arrangement 
Designated members of the Technology Committee act as liaisons to each of the other UMCF committees and to the board of directors. Liaisons are responsible for the following duties as they relate to their assigned committees:

1. Attending assigned committee meetings as needed based on the workload of the committee and time availability of the liaison, recognizing that this is voluntary commitment.
2. Coordinating updates to the web pages related to the committee and its work. This may include working with other members of the committee to obtain photos, written statements, or other materials to be posted to the website.
3. Updating in a timely manner those web pages related to the committee and, if necessary, asking for assistance from other members of the Technology Committee.

Interested? Contact Mandee Nguyen at or Lani Payette at

Board member profile: Honey VanderVenter

Honey VanderVenterHoney VanderVenter, UMCF Vice Chair
Constituent Relations Coordinator
College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences     
Find me online: Twitter | LinkedIn

Became a member of UMCF: 2007     

About my role on the UMCF board:
I work with other board members and committees on any special projects that need extra support.
Some great Forum memories:
The Forum conference has always been a favorite of mine. I enjoy learning from the other speakers and forum members.

About my role at the University

I am currently a Constituent Relations Coordinator for the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences. I started working at the University of Minnesota in February 2007. 

Favorite place on campus:
Dairy salesroom and the libraries

What I like about working at the U:
I enjoy the diversity of topics that come up in all the projects that we do. I get a chance to work with staff, faculty, students, and the public in the work that I do. I find it a great asset to learn about the variety of perspectives and experiences people have with the University of Minnesota and with CFANS.
Some of the coolest projects I've worked on at the U:
I just finished coordinating exhibits and volunteers for a wing in the Agriculture/Horticulture building at the State Fair. It included Extension Master Gardeners, Research and Outreach Centers, Flavor Center, Healthy Foods Healthy Lives, the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, the Bell Museum of Natural History, Entomology, and other department exhibits throughout the fair. We also had an activity called Garden in a Glove that both kids and adults enjoyed. Plus we handed out Goldy Gopher ears that people could wear!

 More about Honey

My hometown:
Lino Lakes, Minnesota | view it on a map
Paper book or e-book:

What I do for fun:
Cooking and biking are my two favorite activities. I'm not competitive in either, but they are great stress free activities for me.     

Board member profile: Sarah Howard

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Sarah HowardSarah Howard, UMCF Programs Committee Chair
Communications Manager
School of Journalism & Mass Communication   

Find me online: Personal website | LinkedIn
Became a member of UMCF: June 2011      

About my role on the UMCF board:
The Programs Committee plans the monthly programming for UMCF members. Because the programs bring together members of the Forum, it's fun to get to know members through this group. Plus, if we have a topic we want to learn more about, we can plan a program around it! Have an idea of a program you'd like to see? Contact me!   

Some great Forum memories:
I really enjoy the annual conference. Taking the day to learn and network with colleagues is a great way to stay refreshed at work. I also really enjoyed last year's program on work-life balance. Not every program or activity has to be directly related to your job. Taking time for personal development is important as well.

About my role at the University
I am currently Communications Manager for the School of Journalism & Mass Communication. I started at the University of Minnesota in June 2011.

Favorite place on campus:
Northrop Mall, especially in the spring!

What I like about working at the U:
I'm a 2006 alumna of the University of Minnesota, so being able to come to work everyday at a place where I have such warm memories is just great. I also really enjoy the emphasis on professional and personal development here. I've learned so much in some really great sessions through different organizations here on campus (UMCF as well as Office of Equity & Diversity and Organizational Effectiveness).  

A person at the U whom I admire:
Diana Harvey (UMN's chief communications officer) is a great inspiration to me. Not only is she personable and available to colleagues, but she has a really strong track record of effective communications leadership -- both at the University of Minnesota and at a variety of organizations around the Twin Cities community.  

Some of the coolest projects I've worked on at the U:
Every year, my department has a spring celebration for students and donors. When I came to the U, the event was in need of a make-over and myself and a colleague were charged with making that happen. Starting from scratch, adding new elements, renovating the program and seeing the event come together as a great success was really fulfilling.

Accomplishments I'm most proud of:
I recently finished my master's degree in strategic communication from the University of Minnesota. I never thought I'd go to graduate school, much less enjoy it!

More about Sarah

My hometown:
Excelsior, Minnesota | view it on a map    

Paper book or e-book:

Favorite website:
Favorite source of inspiration:  
Fast Company magazine

Favorite word:

Word that makes you cringe:   
Like. When it's, like, overused!

Favorite brand:

What I do for fun:
I love to play tennis, take my dog, Jack to the dog park, be on or near water or take road trips whenever possible.


Upcoming Programs

Find details and register for upcoming programs.

Wednesday, September 18, 3-4:30 p.m. - Digital Technology Center, 402 Walter Library

Kick off the new year with the UMN Communicators Forum. This event features a reception and networking, plus a presentation from OIT's Matt Nuttall, who will give us a run-down on such IT initiatives as Lyris mass email replacement, drupal, Google sites and more. 
Register here.

UMCF & Web Standards present Health Quest: Story of a UMN iPhone App
Friday, September 20, 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. - 35 Nicholson Hall
Pizza at 11:30 a.m. 
Presentation w/Q+A: Noon to 1 p.m.

This presentation will be available live via Google Hangout and a recording will be provided afterwards.

Do you want to make an app but aren't sure where to start or the commitment involved? Justin Paquette, Patrik Dousa, and David Krewinghaus from Academic Health Center (AHC) Communications will share the story of creating their first iPhone app called Health Quest, a photo scavenger hunt for the Minnesota State Fair. From initial concept, in-house development/design, and approval from Apple, to the hot summer Fair days of cheese curds, Pronto Pups, and the KARE 11 barn, we'll cover:

1. Overview (why an app, how it works)
2. Design and development process
3. Promoting the app
4. Results, lessons learned, and future plans

There will be a Q&A session after the presentation with time for anyone in the audience to share their own experiences with creating an app. This presentation is for a wide range of audiences and will cover both technical and general aspects of this app project.

RSVP by Wednesday, September 18.

Communicators Forum Monthly Mixer
Thursday, September 26, 3:30-5:30 p.m. - Campus Club (4th floor, Coffman Union) - reserved area

There's a new opportunity to connect with colleagues for a professional, social, networking fun good time: introducing the Communicators Forum Monthly Mixer at the Campus Club. You know that time in between sessions at conference or at the start/end of a program where you get into a good conversation with a colleague but need to break it off? This is all about those informal but extremely helpful conversations.

- Anyone welcome -- stop in whenever and bring a friend, even if they aren't a member
- Nachos provided! (Drinks and other items on your own)
- Attendees will be entered into a raffle to win a free lunch at the Campus Club.

This is the launch of a monthly event held the first Thursday of the month (except this one). The next one and (first actual first Thursday) will be November 7.

Please RSVP if you think you might attend (to help with planning, you can still attend if you haven't RSVP'd).

The Enterprise Portal: Your Future BFF
Thursday, October 24, 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. - 102 Fraser 

Have you heard about the Enterprise Systems Upgrade Program (ESUP)? Did you know about the new Portal? Come to this brown bag to learn all about it and how communicators will play a crucial role in its success!

Check back here later for more details (including RSVP form); or find us on Facebook or Twitter!

Save the Date: Annual Communicators Forum Conference
June 19, 2014 - Carlson School of Management
Keynote speaker: Ellen Lupton

Board member profile: Kess Knight

Kess-Knight-180x180.jpgKess Knight, UMCF Recorder

Find me online:
Personal website | Twitter | Instagram | LinkedIn

Became a member of UMCF: February 2013

About my role on the UMCF board:
As the Recorder, I am responsible for taking the board meeting minutes, organizing the UMCF newsletter and blog, and managing the UMCF social media sites. I love social media, like, a lot. Some may call it a sickness. I love the opportunity to connect with other communicators through these channels - so tweet, post, share with us!

Some great Forum memories:
I've only attended the conference, which was a great experience. Debra Frasier's keynote was exceptional and hope to utilize the tips and tricks she spoke about in my day-to-day life.

About my role at the University
I am currently a Communications Coordinator for Academic Support Resources.
I started at the University of Minnesota in July 2007.

More about Kess

Accomplishments I'm most proud of:
Receiving my MA degree in Strategic Communication.

Hermantown, Minnesota | View it on a map

Paper book or e-book:

Favorite website:

Favorite word:

Word that makes you cringe:
I can't even say it. I'll just say, the "m" word.

Favorite brand:

My dream jobs (besides the one I have!):

Remember that awards entries are due by noon on Thursday, March 21. We know that you are doing great work, and we want to recognize you for it!

We particularly would like to see more entries for use of the Driven to Discover campaign theme, "Discovery illuminates everyone". Read about the categories and judging criteria.

Won't your boss be pleased when you tell her that you've won an award? By the way, you can invite her (or him) to the awards ceremony at our fabulous member appreciation party on May 29 at the Weisman Art Museum. 

Don't forget, entering is free. Learn more and enter.

--Ann Nordby, co-chair, awards committee

And the winner is ...

Have you produced good work in the past year? Of course you have, and you should be recognized for it in front of your peers! Start picking out your best work of the past year to enter in the 2013 Maroon and Gold Awards. The submission period is March 1-21.

gwyneth-paltrow-crying-after-receiving-an-oscar-pic-getty-images-634733872.jpgEntering is free, and there are 22 categories all told for print, web, campaign, writing and more. See all the categories, past winners and details on the UMCF website.

This year we will give a new award for best use of the "Illuminate" Driven to Discover campaign theme. Also new this year, the "people's choice" MIKE award is going fully digital. Once submissions are in you will be able to see all the entries and vote for them online.

All the winners will be revealed and winning entries displayed at our fabulous Member Appreciation Party on May 29 at the Weisman Art Museum. (Along with mulling your MAG awards entries, you should start selecting your +1 now.) Watch for an e-mail on March 1 with complete instructions for entering.

Here are some tips for entering (and winning) a MAG award:

  • You can't win if you don't enter. And people who win a lot of awards have usually entered multiple times in multiple categories.
  • If you produced anything using the D2D Illuminate campaign, be sure to enter it. One of this year's MAG judges is from Olson, the agency that created the campaign.
  • Crying when you receive an award is completely optional.
--Ann Nordby, awards committee co-chair

Member survey results - 2012 - Communicators Forum

Thank you everyone who took the Communicators Forum member survey. 125 of our 311 members -- from different campuses and locations -- took the time to let us know what you'd like to see from the University of Minnesota Communicators Forum (UMCF). Your input is greatly appreciated. The Communicators Forum board is meeting next week and will consider this feedback to inform efforts for the next semester and beyond.

There are many ways to maximize your membership and make it your communications year:
Attend a program

Volunteer for a committee - several still need members, it's not too late!

Save the dates for member appreciation (May 29) and conference (June 25)
Feel free to send ideas any time to and to comment on this post to share any ideas for future speakers, topics, member benefits, and other ideas.

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