My Top 10 Blog Posts of 2023

Another Don’t Blink tradition celebrates its 10th rendition and it just so happens to be the biggest tradition of all. Today I present “The Big Blog Post”—my annual evaluation of the top 10 blog posts from the past 12 months. This end-of-year entry aims to recognize my most memorable and best work from the calendar year in an organized and fun fashion.

But it never is easy.

In 2023 I wrote 185 entries, a figure that bests the quantity of posts I wrote the previous four years (2019: 165 posts, 2020: 172 posts, 2021: 173 posts, 2022: 180 posts). Needless to say, signaling out 5% of the posts and then ranking them is no simple task.

However, as difficult as it may be, I do try my best. And when I say “my best,” I mean that I don’t pick and rank my top blog posts on total views and other vanity metrics. Instead, I make my picks solely based on what I feel is my best and/or most impactful writings. So let’s get to it…

10. Streaks (February 27) – This post cracks my top 10 because I feel it does a great job of explaining me. As a Type A personality who craves routine and wants to make sure everything is organized/planned, I depend on streaks to keep me on-task and challenged. I find motivation in simply doing something one day because I did it the previous day (and the day before that etc.). In this post I coined my obsession as streakism and shed light on some of the current streaks I was engaged with at the time. I also was frank that streakism can be good but also harmful if you let streaks rule your life and define whether you have a good day or not.

My Timehop streak is over 2,340 days.

9. Donut or Doughnut? (September 19) – A big question deserves a spot on the big countdown. Perhaps investigating whether America’s favorite pastry is spelled “donut” or “doughnut” might not be a big deal to you, but it kept me up at night. In this particular blog post I diplomatically laid out the merits for both spellings. If nothing else came of this post it might not have seen the light of day on this countdown but here is where things got really interesting: an actual donut business owner responded! Did I give away which spelling he sided with? Jon Fine, owner of Retro Donuts in Spokane, said that most of these pastries in question should be spelled “donut” because most of them aren’t made with actual “dough.” You can check out the post for the detailed explanation but Jon’s expertise made this blog post one of the best of the year.

Raise your hands if you know how to spell “donut.”

8. Third Year at WSU (March 16) – I will forever be grateful to WSU for the incredible employment opportunity I was given so whenever I write about my job it has special meaning to me. In this blog post I recapped my third year as a Coug and summarized it with one word: progress. I described how I “wasn’t new anymore” and that my third year was also an emergence of sorts as I “crept from behind the anonymity of the screen to the front of conference rooms” thanks to the lifting of COVID restrictions.

I had numerous speaking engagements in my third year at WSU, but none more important than my presentation with colleagues at the American Marketing Association’s Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Ed.

7. Vanity Tipping (April 18) – If you are looking for a post where my mild-mannered self became a little unhinged, you found it. In mid-April a shameless solicitation for a tip at a Papa Murphy’s restaurant put me so over the edge that I had to sound off. I blasted the current day gratuity culture that guilts you into tipping for everything, whether it be preparing your own froyo cup or paying for bowling. The passion that I injected into this blog post and my still-firm belief that tipping has catapulted out of control lands it a spot on this countdown.

I was given the opportunity to tip at the bowling alley earlier this month. It is out of control.

6. Happy 12th Ordination Anniversary, Fr. Jeff (May 26) – A very special man had become a regular in many of my blog posts over the past few years that it made sense to finally devote an entire entry to him. When Fr. Jeff Lewis’ ordination anniversary approached in May, I jumped at the chance to do just that. I commemorated the occasion by describing the amazing impact he has had on our family. Not only has “Papa J” brought the four of us closer to Christ but he has become one of our best friends. What a blessing it is to have him in our lives!

On Friday, May 26, 2023, Fr. Jeff Lewis celebrated his 12th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood.

5. The Ice Cream Fruit Roll Up Hack (April 17) – One of the many TikTok hacks we attempted this year, the ice cream Fruit Roll Up hack actually exceeded my expectation. The Fruit Roll Up molded into a hard shell around the ice cream that produced a satisfying crunch and delicious taste when bit into. But the successful experiment itself is just a portion of why this blog post made the countdown, let alone found itself in a very respectable mid-spot. The reason why this post stood out is because the photography complements the writing. I wanted to make sure the photos I took chronicled the steps to pull off the hack and were also visually appealing. I think I accomplished that as this post was by far the one that used imagery most effectively in 2023.

The use of imagery played a big role in landing this blog post in the countdown.

4. Blessed By The Sacraments (June 11) – Our wedding anniversary will never be the same. This year we did more than just celebrate the date we tied the knot as we marked it by attending a baptism. And we didn’t just “witness” it as spectators—we participated in it as godparents! Ryan and Allyson Andrade made our year by asking us to be the godparents of their baby boy, Noble Josiah Andrade. This blog post underscored the even greater importance that June 11 now holds in our hearts. Whenever this date rolls around in the future, Sid and I will reflect on it as a day truly blessed in the sacraments for us with both the graces of holy matrimony and holy baptism.

Sidney and I became godparents to Noble Andrade. Fr. Jeff Lewis of St. Mary Catholic Church in the Spokane Valley performed the baptism. Noble is the son of Ryan and Allyson Andrade (photo courtesy of Rachael and Josh Photography).

3. Mary Reser: A Mead High School Legend (June 16)* – At the conclusion of the 2022-23 school year, my mom retired after 21 years at Mead High School. She spent those 2+ decades in the Developmental Learning Center (DLC) helping students with disabilities. I wrote this blog post to illustrate the talent, patience, and kindness that she displayed every single day in that classroom. I also described some of the typical situations my mom mastered with absolute grace and I took the reader through her last few minutes on the job when my dad, sister, brother, and I walked her off the campus for the final time. Mead High School is not the same without her.

My mom stands with her co-workers right before she walked off the Mead High School campus as an employee for the last time.

2. Tom Reser: A Devoted and Patriotic Career (January 8)* – My dad hung it up at the very end of 2022 but this blog post in his honor was published at the beginning of January. It was a tribute for the 37 years he devoted to the federal government as he helped thousands and thousands of our country’s veterans. Whether it was making sure they received benefits, housing, medical care, and so much more, my dad was (and still is) a fierce advocate of the men and women who served the United States of America. This post traced my dad’s career, chronicled the rapport he had with his team, detailed his tireless work on behalf of veterans, and examined his impressive legacy. My dad had a great first year of retirement with many more to come which is good—because he deserves it!

Besides helping thousands and thousands of other people, this guy taught me what it means to be a professional

1. Hoopfest 2023: More Than A T-Shirt (June 26) – An unforgettable weekend transpired at the end of June with a Hoopfest experience for the ages. Even though our St. Mary team had success on the court as we made the championship, our run to the title game was but a footnote. In my #1 blog post of 2023, I wrote about how we played for more than just wins. Four of us—JJ Nazzaro, Ryan Andrade, Amy Martin, and myself—were out on the hot downtown Spokane streets to give thanks to God, pay special devotion to our Blessed Mother, and promote the Catholic faith. In addition to the four of us, Fr. Jeff Lewis and our families also played key roles in our successful tourney run by being present for every game. From the basketball action to the bonding to the testimonies of our faith to the special mass after the tournament, this blog post captured the entirety of an incredible couple of days and is by far my favorite blog post of 2023.

There was no doubt that my 2023 Hoopfest blog post would be #1.

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This annual countdown is usually a challenge to put together but I must say the “top 3” was pretty straight forward for me this year. Thanks to everyone who takes time to read Don’t Blink. Your support is a main reason why I have invested more than 10 years into this project. I plan to continue to write in 2024 but I can never guarantee the frequency or quality 😂. I hope you will return here tomorrow for my final blog post of the year as I reflect on 2023. Don’t Blink.

* It was a tie between these two blog posts. Because one post had to come first, I flipped a coin to determine the order.

Past Annual Top Blog Post Entries
My Top 10 Blog Posts of 2022
My Top 10 Blog Posts of 2021
My Top 10 Blog Posts of 2020
My Top 10 Blog Posts of 2019
My Top 10 Blog Posts of 2018
My Top 10 Blog Posts of 2017
My Top 10 Blog Posts of 2016
My Top 10 Blog Posts of 2015
My Top 10 Blog Posts of 2014

In Chicago For AMA Speaking Opportunity

As I write this, I am about to depart on the first leg of a flight itinerary that will take me to a familiar conference in a new place where I will do something that never gets old.

I am on my way to Chicago where I will present at the American Marketing Association’s Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education. This will be my second consecutive speaking opportunity at AMA as I presented at the 2022 conference in National Harbor and my third overall as I also presented at the 2019 conference in Las Vegas.

I am thrilled and honored to speak at the 2023 AMA Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Ed.

However, this won’t be a rinse and repeat exercise. After presenting with colleagues from two other Pac-12 schools and TikTok in 2022, I will share the stage on Monday with my very own co-worker and friend, Cara Hoag. The two of us will present about how our WSU University Marketing and Communications team transformed our YouTube channel from a communications platform into a Gen Z-first marketing tool. It has been a lot of fun working with Cara the past few months on this presentation and we are looking forward to delivering it to the brightest minds in our industry.

Can’t wait to present with Cara Hoag on Monday.

The conference is taking place at the Sheraton Grand Chicago Riverwalk as I am psyched to visit one of our country’s largest and most famous cities. It is in this heart of downtown Chicago where I will have the opportunity to learn about the latest trends in higher ed marketing, catch up with friends in the industry, meet new university marketing professionals, and of course leave it all on the stage when Cara and I present on Monday afternoon. I also plan to at least get a peek of what Chicago looks like outside the walls of the Sheraton Grand.

Looking forward to learning and presenting at the Chicago Sheraton.

If you are attending this conference, make sure to check out “Not Your Parents’ YouTube” by Cara Hoag and Brent Reser at 3:45 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 13. If you are a regular Don’t Blink reader and couldn’t care less about higher ed marketing, you can still send good vibes our way 😉. Thanks to Washington State University for this opportunity! Don’t Blink.

March 28 Birthdays

(cue “Birthday” by The Beatles)…

For those that don’t have a calendar or an iPhone, today is March 28. On this particular date there are some noteworthy birthdays so I thought I would devote tonight’s blog post to recognizing a loved one, an institution, and a celebrity on their special day.

Miranda Koutecky – First and foremost, I want to wish my sister a very merry birthday. The milestone birthday comes next year as she turns 39 today. Her birthday was the first one I got to celebrate in-person after moving back to Washington state three years ago which means this is her fourth consecutive birthday that I have been in town for. Miranda is a great older sister and member of our family…may she eat cake.

Happy birthday to my sister!

Washington State University – On this date in 1890, House Bill No. 90 was signed into law, creating the State Agricultural College and School of Science located in Pullman. The rest, as they say, is history. That AG school would eventually blossom into Washington State University, a major Power-5 research institution with campuses across the state and an extension presence in every Washington county. To commemorate WSU’s birthday, I helped work on this video that we shared on some of our social media channels today.

Happy 133rd birthday to WSU!

Vince Vaughn – Last week, I watched a movie called “Dragged Across Concrete” on Netflix. It starred Mel Gibson and Vince Vaughn as a cop duo that get suspended and then embark on a dangerous Robin Hood-esque quest. It was one of those films that I thought was recently released exclusively on Netflix only to find out after the fact that it was made in 2018. But I digress. I have never been a big Vince Vaughn fan but I didn’t mind him in “Dragged Across Concrete” and since today is his special day I feel obliged to give him a shout out. Happy 53rd birthday, Vince!

Happy 53rd birthday to Vince Vaughn!

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Let me extend a pleasant happy birthday wish to everyone else born on March 28. May today bring you happiness and blessings. Don’t Blink.

My Third Year at WSU: Progress

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.

Today I celebrate three years as a Coug. My dad drew this to commemorate the anniversary.

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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.

I started work at WSU on March 16, 2020, so I naturally had to wear the same thing on my 3rd anniversary of employment.

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.

I had numerous speaking engagements during my third year with WSU, but none more important than my presentation with colleagues at the American Marketing Association’s Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Ed.

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.

A shot of me speaking during the WSU Communicators Conference.

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.

We weathered some storms during my third year at WSU, but overall it was a positive year for me.

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.

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.

Snowy Thursday Rundown

Are you starting to feel that holiday spirit yet? It is the best time of the year and I am thrilled that you are taking a moment for my latest Thursday Rundown. Here are tonight’s five topics…

First Snow – It took until December for it to happen, but Spokane finally got its first real accumulation of snow this week. Our kids are still completely enamored with snow, even to the point of being overly enthusiastic about shoveling—or raking—it. I walked outside after a meeting during the work day to see Sloan and Beau using rakes to help Sid shovel the driveway.

Sloan and Beau helped Sid shovel the driveway on Monday.

Inflatables – Tis the season for lawn decorations! Several years ago, I wrote about inflatable holiday decorations and debated whether they are festive or tacky. There is no such debate with Beau. He absolutely loves them. We walk a few blocks to get our mail and I always take the kids with me. Whenever we pass a house with a large Santa, Grinch, or Snoopy in the yard we must stop so he can ooh and aah. This photo is of one such instance from last Saturday.

Beau (and Sloan) both like holiday lawn inflatables. This was on our mail walk last weekend.

New Football Coach – A week ago, I had the opportunity to attend the Jake Dickert press conference that introduced him as the new head coach of the Washington State University football team. It was pretty cool to see him ace his audition as he served as interim head coach for the final five games of the regular season and then receive his rightful reward. The Cougs will play Miami in the Sun Bowl on Dec. 31. GO COUGS!

I snapped this photo at last Thursday’s Jake Dickert introductory presser.

Pass Me a Pastry – If there is high fat food I have a particular weakness for, it is the pastry. There is nothing I enjoy more than stuffing my face on a weekend morning with something sweet from a bakery. Donuts, scones, and croissants all call my name from behind the glass. I even like factory produced, low maintenance pastries like Pop-Tarts. It was my intention to celebrate National Pastry Day, which is today, with one of my all-time favorite breakfast foods, a Costco muffin, but apparently a muffin is not a pastry. That really put a damper on this “national day” for me.

Without a doubt, Confetti Cake Pop-Tarts are my favorite!

Best Santa Investment – On this date six years ago, I wrote about one of the best Christmas investments ever…the Santa suit! By throwing on a Santa suit not only do you bring instant joy to others but the inner happiness you create within yourself is really special. I bought a cheap Santa suit roughly a decade ago from Walmart. I have worn it probably 50 times over the years making countless memories and generating a sentimental value that far exceeds the $30 I spent for it. Remember, everybody always loves a Santa.

Busting out the Santa suit is fun.

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That’s all I have for tonight. The last item I wrote about tonight had to do with Santa. Don’t get me wrong, Kris Kringle is great, but let us continue to focus on the true reason for the Christmas season. Don’t Blink.

Back to Martin Stadium

It was November 20, 2004. My dad, brother, and I hopped in the car and drove to Pullman for the Apple Cup game between Washington State and the University of Washington. We sat in the end zone of Martin Stadium on a snowy and bitter cold evening. On that evening the Cougars would end a 7-year drought to the Huskies and win a thrilling double overtime contest, 28-25.

I didn’t take this photo but this is the scene that I still remember in my head from attending the 2004 Apple Cup.

As someone who grew up going to Washington State Cougar football games with my dad, little did I know that would be my final one for a long time. When I watched that Apple Cup game I was a senior in high school and my life was about to change. I went off to college, started my professional career, and lived far away from the state of Washington. Sure, I could stay up until 2 a.m. watching some of the infamous “Pac-12 After Dark” games that involved the Cougs and took place in Martin Stadium but it hardly replaced being there. As I would lay in bed watching those games, I would tell myself that one day I wanted to watch a game there again.

After 17 years, I finally had that opportunity this past weekend. Not only did I watch the Cougars pull off a thrilling victory over the Stanford Cardinal, but I got to do it with the same crew that I watched my last WSU football game with—my dad and brother.

This past Saturday, my brother, dad, and I watched our first game inside Martin Stadium together since the 2004 Apple Cup.

The three of us knew the significance. When we piled into the car on Saturday, my dad asked us if we knew the last time the three of us went to a Coug game together. There was no hesitation. My brother and I both replied with the Apple Cup and we recounted some of the memories and smells (yes, smells) from that night that will always stay with us. We reminisced about our Cougar football history together and then prepared to make new memories.

We could not have asked for a better day. Just like the previous week in Missoula, it was sunny and unseasonably warm. The three of us walked around campus, soaked up the sun, hung out in the fieldhouse like old times, and then entered the hallowed gates of Martin Stadium.

My dad and I pose for a photo inside the fieldhouse prior to the WSU vs. Stanford game on October 15, 2021.

After loading up on concession stand items, we found our seats and literally basked under the glow of, first, the sunshine, and once night fell, the stadium lights. I geeked out the whole time. From the team entrance to the flyover to Butch to the “Welcome Home” tradition to the fight song to the “And that’s another…(Cougar First Down)” cheer it was so incredibly awesome. Mind you, over the past 17 years I have watched numerous college football games in different settings, including the SEC and ACC variety, but nothing is ever like your first love…and for me that is WSU. To finally watch a game in the stadium that played host to some of the very best Saturdays of my childhood after so long was a little emotional.

The view from our seats during the second half of Washington State’s victory over Stanford on Oct. 15, 2021.

And to watch it with my dad and brother made it even that more special. Man, we had fun. That game was so good and we were so invested in every down. For the Cougs to pick up the win in the fashion they did just seemed like it was meant to be.

After Washington State’s thrilling 34-31 victory over Stanford, my brother and I posed for a photo.

I didn’t take this past Saturday for granted. I know for a fact it won’t be 17 more years until I watch my next football game in Martin Stadium and I can’t wait to continue to build more memories in the town and place that will always hold a special place in my heart. 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.

Back on Campus

GO COUGS! We are now officially in-person.

For the first time since March 2020, classes at Washington State University took place in physical classrooms with an instructor up front teaching material and students in desks absorbing the content.

Classes were in-person at our five physical campuses today, including at WSU Tri-Cities.

How long has it really been? I wasn’t even working for WSU the last time in-person classes were held. But the 18 months of remote learning is now all in the past and it is full steam ahead. Well, kind of—I am not that naïve. I know the Delta variant has the potential to cause disruptions so I am keeping those ramifications in the back of my mind. To be honest, though, I am staying positive and hoping for an entire academic year of faculty engaging students on our beautiful campuses across the state.

The absence of students on campus was an especially tough pill to swallow at WSU Pullman. To see a full campus was awesome.

Alright, let me slow down a bit. There really isn’t a reason tonight to look too far down the road, or, for that matter, rewind through the past year and a half. Instead, I think it is important to just savor today. Seniors and juniors got to return to their beloved campuses, second year students finally got a taste of the college experience after their freshman year was virtual, and new students got to enjoy something they might have questioned would even be possible a year ago at this time. Today was big.

Our future healthcare professionals returned to WSU Spokane today.

I would like to wish all WSU students a fantastic semester. They deserve this. I feel fortunate to be part of the Cougar family and feel the excitement that is clearly evident. Let’s take this one day at a time and hope for the best. Don’t Blink.

One Year A Coug

Could a work anniversary be anymore unique? Today I celebrate one year at Washington State University. On second thought, I think semantics are important in this case. Let me rephrase it this way: Today I celebrate one year with Washington State University.

I make this distinction in jest because I only spent a single day in the office during my debut year as a Coug. After that first day on campus in Pullman, due to the pandemic, I have worked entirely from home in Spokane. Although I joke about the strange circumstances and still use it as an icebreaker on Zoom when I meet someone new (believe it or not, I was just on campus for one day…), working remotely would not sour my first year working for WSU.

At my 1-year mark of employment at WSU, I give my experience two big thumbs up!

Except for a little thing called the Coronavirus, my social media strategist position has been exactly as advertised—which is a good thing because that is why I took the job. Paid social advertising, campaigns, analytics, and social media management for the WSU System channels were all focal points of the job description and turned out to be responsibilities I perform every day.

COVID-19 added some necessities to my plate such as virtual town hall organization, testing communication, and safe behavior outreach. Truth be told, there was never a time during my first year when the pandemic did not have a daily impact on what I did. Although the virus could be disruptive and scary, I always considered myself lucky that my position allowed me to stay as informed as possible. Working at a place with world-class scientists and excellent science writers will keep you abreast during a pandemic.

I was all smiles my first (and only) day on campus.

This first year at WSU I had the opportunity to give numerous presentations, devise/execute many plans, make recommendations, introduce new platforms, and provide trainings. This allowed me to not only contribute but more importantly it opened the “virtual” door to meet new people. Although some might believe that working remotely can hinder professional relationships, I never felt that way throughout the past 12 months.

It has been such a pleasure working with colleagues from different departments and campuses. I have also enjoyed the opportunity to work with non-WSU professionals in the Palouse community and social media managers at other institutions. But I can’t say enough about the people I have the joy of working with on a daily basis within the department that I am part of—University Marketing and Communications. From our news unit that I am housed under to our graphics team to our enrollment management marketing director to our web wizzes to our video crew to our dedicated magazine folks, I just feel fortunate to work with these folks who are so good at what they do.

My dad commemorated today’s workversary by making this.

I also feel extremely lucky to work for effective and humble leadership. We have a superb vice president leading our department who trusts the expertise of each individual in University Marketing and Communications. I also have incredible direct bosses who are supportive and empowering. When I was interviewing for this position I thought I want to work for these people and when I became part of the team my motivation to work for them strengthened even more.

Looking back on the first year, I have a few favorite things I worked on. The #PalouseUnity campaign, the 2020 WSU holiday video, our Coronavirus research awareness push, and the debut of our TikTok channel were all fun projects that also seemed to make a difference. Another bright spot from the first year was just the social media outreach I got to do with colleagues within the WSU System. Whether it was talking strategy, building paid social plans, or identifying key metrics to focus on when reporting analytics, my job was very rewarding because I got to help others at WSU reach their social media goals.

I have worked from home since my second day on the job.

When I arrived at WSU I had to adjust to working at a university that was much bigger and had much more tradition than my previous institution. Thankfully, the person I work closest with was there to help me navigate the waters. Matt Haugen, our social media manager, has an immense amount of institutional knowledge and he has never withheld sharing it with me. His willingness to help me with the complexities and nuances of a system the size of WSU has made my job a lot easier and his own social media expertise has made me better at what I do.

I am proud to be part of the Coug family. When I started the job I wrote that first and foremost I just wanted to contribute. As I enter my second year I want to focus on doing the same. it seems like once you are able to add something of value to your team, everything else just falls into place. Go Cougs! Don’t Blink.