When are you not new anymore? From the perspective of a new job, especially in higher education, I believe it is the one-year mark. You need those first 365 days to understand the academic calendar, recruitment cycle, and days of significance. It takes time to learn an institution’s culture, assess challenges, and build relationships with people inside/outside your department.
But the “one-year” benchmark is for normal times. A pandemic can delay things a bit…
After a debut year spent at Washington State University reacting to the daily twists and turns of COVID-19, my second year as the social media strategist within WSU’s University Marketing and Communications was more of what I envisioned my first year would be. I actually worked from the office, tackled projects, set strategy, and built relationships. By the end of that 24th month, I didn’t feel new anymore.
And with that, I was perfectly set up for my third year at WSU.
My third year as a Coug can be characterized by progress. If the first year was reacting and the second year was building, then the third year was activating. By the time March 16, 2022, rolled around, a strategy was in place, content avenues were established, and roles within our department relating to social media were defined. It was beautiful.
But even if you have a process that is spelled out, you won’t get anywhere if you don’t have buy-in. We have it within our department. From our designers to our photographers to our videographers to our writers to our web experts, no one thinks twice about devoting their talents to help our social media efforts. I can’t thank my colleagues enough.
Another theme from my third stanza at WSU was emergence. I crept from behind the anonymity of the screen to the front of conference rooms. I had the opportunity to do a lot of speaking this year. I spoke in Vancouver at our WSU Communicators Conference, presented with my fellow PAC-12 peers at the American Marketing Association Higher Ed Symposium, gave a flash talk to a senior group of Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) communicators, served on an APLU-sponsored panel, and gave numerous private presentations. Although not a natural speaker by any means, I did appreciate the chance to share the cool things WSU is doing to audiences comprised of professionals from across the nation.
As adrenaline-inducing an activity like public speaking can be, I much prefer keeping quiet and contributing to team projects. This year, I worked with a core group of my UMC colleagues on some high-profile integrated campaigns. The portfolio includes a major effort to celebrate a record-setting gift from Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories (SEL) and an initiative to highlight a nearly 60-year partnership with Boeing. After closing out the calendar year by promoting how WSU is leading the quest for cleaner air travel, we launched our #GoCougsMeans brand marketing campaign at the beginning of 2023. This campaign uses powerful storytelling to share the innovative ways that WSU is positively impacting the state. To say I am grateful to have the opportunity to run point on the social strategy for all these important WSU campaigns is an understatement. No outsourcing here!
Working at WSU doesn’t mean I must stick in my digital marketing lane. During this third year, I worked with two colleagues on our CARE team to foster unity within our department as we organized events and outreach. I sat on multiple search committees that allowed me to meet people in other areas and help hire new Cougs. I wrote award submissions on behalf of the amazing work our team is doing and was elated when one of those entries was presented the CASE Circle of Excellence gold award, the organization’s highest honor. To be empowered to contribute in other ways beyond what it says on my position description makes my job even more fulfilling.
This third year wasn’t without its challenges. My team responded to various negative developments, nothing more jarring than a former WSU student’s involvement in the tragic University of Idaho murders. I will always remember where I was on December 30 when the news broke and the morale-crushing work that ensued that day.
With that said, there was never a time when my co-workers and bosses ceased to support one another and persevere through the challenging times. There really is something to be said about that one-of-a-kind Coug Spirit.
As I wrap this up, I have a couple people I must recognize by name. First, I couldn’t ask for a better boss. Holly Sitzmann has supported me and allowed me to grow. Whether it be her attending my AMA presentation or accommodating my family schedule or just her overall leadership, I am grateful and so lucky. I also would like to give a big shoutout to Matt Haugen, our social media manager. Our department is fortunate to have someone so passionate and knowledgeable about WSU. His contributions to our social media program are immense and are reflected in many ways, including the ascension of WSU Pullman in the respected Rival IQ Rankings. This year, our social program ranked #23 out of 300+ colleges/universities.
I am so happy to be a Coug! This third year was the best one yet. From the people around me to my hybrid schedule to the work I get to do, I have it made. I look forward to Year #4 and pledge to serve this university with pride and integrity. Go Cougs! Don’t Blink.