My Second Year at WSU: Growth

I ended the workday today in the exact same spot I started my first workday as a WSU staffer exactly two years ago. On March 16, 2020, I walked into my office in the Information Technology Building (true Cougs just call it “ITB”) and tonight I strolled out of it at a little past 5 p.m. During any other two-year stretch over the past several decades for American workers, those first two sentences wouldn’t hold much significance other than I didn’t screw up too much to get fired. But that was before something called COVID.

This was me during my first day at Washington State University on March 16, 2020.

After that first day of work in March of 2020, I was told to work from home for a couple weeks as we tried to flatten the curve. However, those two weeks turned into nearly 16 months before I would return to the office on a hybrid schedule. During those nearly 500 days out of the physical office I did question whether I would ever be on campus again. So, the fact that I did celebrate my second anniversary with WSU in the same spot I started it is a point of pride for me.

On my second anniversary of working for WSU (March 16, 2022) I found myself in the exact same spot (wearing the exact same shirt) in my office.

Speaking of points of pride, just having the opportunity to work at Washington State University is one. To work on the campus where my dad earned his degree and where I spent many childhood Saturdays cheering on the Cougs were motivating factors when I applied.

In fact, two years later those motivating factors still inspire me. But to be honest, my main inspiration is no longer associated with the past but rather the present. I have an incredible team I get to collaborate with and no shortage of meaningful work I get to perform. It makes getting up in the morning quite easy.

During my second year as a WSU employee, I finally got to attend a university event. Attending a WSU football game with my brother and dad was a blast!

My first year I was thrown right into the fire and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I wanted to contribute immediately. The pandemic was ramping up and it took us on an insane ride as we navigated and communicated throughout the numerous twists and turns of an unhinged virus. It was filled with constant statements, twice-per-month town halls, COVID-focused campaigns, academic schedule changes, and other pandemic-induced communications. Although I still got to do plenty of the duties listed on my social media strategist job description (paid social ads, analytics reporting, campaign generation, etc.) it was definitely more of a reactive year.

Things changed during this second year. It was less about working on the fly and more about embracing proactivity. I had the opportunity to craft strategy and experiment. I spent more time on content generation and social media platform building. More time planning videos and overseeing the growth of new social channels (looking at you, TikTok). More time diving into analytics and educating campus partners on the benefits of paid social.

Another difference between my second year and first year was that I actually got to work on campus. That’s me the right covering our Drive-Through Graduation Celebration in May 2021 (photo courtesy of WSU Photo Services).

Yes, I spent a lot of time during this sophomore year focusing on the core responsibilities of my job without as heavy of an emphasis on COVID stuff. But what I will really remember this second year for was the opportunity to branch out beyond social media-specific duties. I took on a leading role working with our enrollment management marketing agency. I was appointed to our strategic communications leadership team. I served on a committee with three other co-workers to foster community within our department. I chaired a search committee and served on a couple others. I volunteered to take the charge of submitting some of our department’s best work for national award recognition.

My dad makes has always made me sketches to commemorate birthdays and anniversaries. He sent me a photo of this drawing earlier today.

This growth was made possible by an amazing boss who has confidence in my abilities and my best interests at heart. I am so grateful to work under Holly Sitzmann, our University Marketing and Communications assistant vice president. Her leadership has made me a better professional while putting in perspective that work shouldn’t be all-consuming.

When it comes to my second year at WSU, I will look back on a few highlights. They include educating the WSU community on how to apply our modernized brand on social media, thinking outside the box with my team to implement creative marketing strategies when our football program played in the Sun Bowl, and presenting to the President’s Cabinet just last month. Again, these things wouldn’t happen without the support of my WSU mentors who include Holly, Dave Wasson (my previous supervisor), and more.

Working at WSU is pretty rad. I am so grateful for my hybrid work arrangement, chances to grow, and the talented individuals I get to work with on a daily basis. I am proud to be a Coug and I look forward to the opportunities and challenges that await in Year #3. Don’t Blink.

Rolling Out the Modernized WSU Brand

I recently had the honor of being part of something for the first time in my higher education career. Last week, our University Marketing and Communications team rolled out a modernized brand for Washington State University.

On the morning of Wednesday, September 15, we started the soft roll out of our modernized brand at Washington State University.

In my 12 years working for universities, I have assisted with rollouts centered on websites, endowment campaigns, news shows, and more but never a brand. To have a small hand in such a major undertaking at a place with such a proud history is pretty cool.

But let me stress again my small hand in this effort. For nearly two years, a rather small team of my colleagues have worked extremely hard to bring this brand to fruition. Yes, I said my colleagues. Except for some web design help for the new brand website, everything was done in-house. Ladies and gentlemen, that’s quite the feat.

A screenshot of the vertical lockup of our modernized logo. The classic Cougar head is featured prominently.

Credit these hardworking people I get to call my co-workers and bosses for going about this major endeavor in such a smart way. They knew that our incredibly popular and recognizable graphic, the Cougar head, had to be a focal point of the brand. Thus, it is featured prominently in the visual identity of the rollout. The Cougar head is now paired with a more modernized typeface and it looks really good. But my team didn’t rely solely on traditional marks…they introduced a brand new secondary logo too. You can see it here.

A screenshot of our brand new Washington State University secondary logo.

Of course a brand just isn’t about logos—you need to have a narrative that ties everything together. Our brand narrative is centered on possibilities and how they embody our “Go Cougs” rallying cry. The attitude with which we communicate these possibilities can be expressed through five key tone words—spirited, resilient, original, welcoming, and down to earth.

This is the home page of our new internal brand website. The page features the signature Cougar head logo and scratches the surface of our brand narrative.

Additionally, we rolled out important brand assets such as video lower thirds, background patterns, a web developer style guide, icons, typefaces…and…a social media tool kit.

The social media asset folder includes profile badges for the professional Washington State University community to use based on what part of the system hierarchy their social media profile represents.

Ah yes, that is where my small part comes into play. I consulted with Eric Limburg, our creative director, in the creation of new profile badges, headers, and patterns for the WSU community to use. It is my responsibility to make sure everyone is using these assets appropriately and one way I do that is by serving on the brand training team. The group is comprised of the major players who created the new brand so I am very honored to be included on it. Throughout the month of September we have given presentations to WSU faculty and staff. These sessions will continue into October.

The social media asset folder/tool kit also comes with pre-made headers/cover photos that the WSU community can use on their social channels. If you look closely you can see that the “WSU” pattern is applied to the images. I love this use of another brand element! It is slick and adds legitimacy to the social asset because when our external audiences see the pattern overlay on the header they will know it is a true official social channel of WSU.

Whenever I talk to the WSU community members about our modernization, I proudly say that many of them will work with the new brand for the first time on social media and that in turn our external audiences will most likely see the new brand in action for the first time on social media. Because of this, it is important that we are on the same page and get it right. I am happy to lead this charge.

With our modernized brand, I really think our team did the rich tradition behind this timeless logo proud.

I can’t extend enough admiration and gratitude to the following people for their tireless work over the past couple years to make the brand modernization a reality: Holly Sitzmann, Eric Limburg, Larry Clark, Danial Bleile, and John Sutherland. I work with an amazing team. Don’t Blink.