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Communicator of the Month Award

Recognizing excellence in communications and marketing at the University of Kansas.

Communicator of the Month Award

The University of Kansas benefits from a network of communications and marketing professionals embedded in units across our campuses. These talented individuals are crucial to KU’s mission of education, service and research, and they are deserving of recognition among their peers.

The Vice Chancellor for Strategic Communications and Public Affairs will present the Communicator of the Month Award each month to a single KU communicator for excellence in communications and marketing. Anyone in a communications and marketing role at KU is eligible to be nominated.


Anyone in a communications and marketing role at KU is eligible to be nominated. This includes but is not limited to public relations practitioners, marketers, content developers, strategists, designers, photographers, videographers, social media managers, project managers and event planners.

Nominees' work can be in external communications, internal communications, communications-related operations and/or communications-related technology development.

The primary criteria is excellence as defined by a thoughtful and well-executed plan, strategy, tactic or campaign that successfully conveyed a message to, or compelled action from, relevant stakeholders.

Nominees may be nominated for a specific communications and marketing-related activity, campaign or tactic or for a broader body of work over a longer period of time.

Beyond excellence, successful nominations may demonstrate any of the following attributes:

  • Learning and sharing — a communicator who has learned lessons or techniques in the process of creating excellent communications and shared these learnings with colleagues.
  • Strategic action — a communicator who has taken action on the university’s strategic plan and can demonstrate impact through leading indicators or directly to the metrics of the plan.
  • Collaboration — a communicator who created and led an activity with and across multiple KU units.
  • Facilitation — a communicator who is essential to the success of KU and other communicators but may not be in a forward-facing role or whose work product is not highly visible.
  • Brand stewardship — a communicator who has adjusted or adopted unit/department initiatives to advance or align with broader university marketing and communications goals.
  • Innovation — a communicator who has demonstrated creative, novel marketing and communications strategies.
  • Efficiency — a communicator who has found ways to do more with less or enhance efficiency though communications and marketing.

Individuals may self-nominate or be nominated by others familiar with their work.

Nominations should include the following:

  • A written summary/justification of why the nominee should be considered for the award.
  • Any supporting documentation or work product to help showcase the nominee’s work.
  • At least one letter of recommendation from a colleague within the nominee’s unit or from another KU communications practitioner.

Nominations are due by the last day of each month. The winner will be announced during the first half of each month.

Nominations should be submitted to publicaffairs@ku.edu

Nominees will be evaluated by a panel of judges selected by the Vice Chancellor for Strategic Communications and Public Affairs. The Vice Chancellor will make the final determination.

The Communicator of the Month Award program was launched in November 2023 by Vice Chancellor for Strategic Communications and Public Affairs Karla Leeper. 

In addition to showcasing the importance of communications and marketing at KU, the Communicator of the Month Award fits into the university’s larger strategies to:



February 2024

Daniel Berk
Associate Athletics Director for Public Relations and Strategic Communications

Daniel Berk has been named the Communicator of the Month for February 2024 for outstanding communications and marketing work related to the Gateway District, the announcement of Kansas Football's plans to play its 2024 season in Kansas City, and the football team's appearance in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl.

Full Description

The Gateway District

From a communications perspective, the Gateway District has been as complicated as any project in recent KU history due to its multifaceted impact on student recruitment, economic development, conference and event hosting capabilities, and football. Additionally, the project has come with unique political sensitivities related to funding, community partnerships and campus logistics that have required great care and nuance in communication. Since the outset of the project, Daniel has expertly prioritized the various project components and tailored messaging to specific audiences, along the way ensuring that university partners have been consistent in their communications. In particular, he has partnered extensively with the Office of the Chancellor, Jayhawk Community Partners, KU Endowment, the KU Alumni Association and the Office of Facilities Planning & Development. Below are some of the key project milestones for which Daniel led or helped manage communications.

  • In October 2022, Daniel helped lead the initial announcement of the Gateway District on the eve of an ESPN College Gameday national TV broadcast live from Lawrence.
  • In February 2023, Daniel helped manage the announcement of upcoming renovations to Anderson Family Football Complex, which was crucial to demonstrate momentum to various KU stakeholders, particularly prospective football student-athletes who were making decisions about the fall 2024 season.
  • In June 2023, Daniel partnered with the university on the announcement of the RFQ process for developers interested in bidding on the Gateway District project.
  • In August 2023, Daniel helped lead a truly remarkable kickoff event for the project at the Jayhawk Welcome Center, garnering incredible regional and national attention for the Gateway District and more broadly for Kansas Football.
  • Since fall 2023 and through 2024, Daniel has announced major gifts from donors for the Gateway District and done so in a strategic way that has conveyed momentum and continuous progress. There is no question that his communication is a factor in helping future and prospective donors make the decision to support the project.

Football in Kansas City

In January 2024, Daniel was on point for the university’s announcement that Kansas Football would play its upcoming season at Children’s Mercy Park and Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, not in Memorial Stadium as previously planned. The reception to this plan has been overwhelmingly positive among most stakeholder groups – particularly gameday fans, donors, alumni, current student-athletes, and prospective student-athletes who are considering coming to KU next year – thanks in large part to Daniel’s work.

While most stakeholders have expressed excitement about the plan, the arrangement is perhaps suboptimal for some audiences, including students who have to travel to the game and Lawrence-based businesses who plan on gameday crowds in Lawrence. Daniel and his colleagues did a great job recognizing this in their initial announcements and went to great lengths to ensure those audiences that Kansas Athletics would be taking steps to address the challenges presented by the move to Kansas City. This has included collaboration with various community partners in both Lawrence and Kansas City.

Guaranteed Rate Bowl

From a football perspective, bowl appearances are important opportunities to showcase a program to prospective student-athletes who are deciding where to go to college. Beyond that, bowl games are uniquely important moments for universities to engage in-person with fans, donors and alumni while enhancing the university’s brand on a national stage.

For all these reasons, Daniel’s communications work surrounding KU’s appearance in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl in December 2023 benefited both Kansas Football and the broader university. With all eyes on a resurgent KU football program, Daniel helped drive and capitalize on extensive national media attention in a way that elevated KU’s brand. This included an extensive social media and digital campaign, as well as countless hours of in-person engagement with media in the days leading up to the game. Daniel also helped organize production meetings with the television broadcast crew, arrange media availabilities for the program while in Arizona and led a content plan that highlighted the team’s bowl trip and elevated the brand on a national stage. Daniel’s communications team also produced a Postseason Media Guide, which in 2022-23 for the AutoZone Liberty Bowl was voted the No. 1 Postseason Guide in the nation by College Sports Communicators.

“Regular” responsibilities

In addition to the abovementioned projects, Daniel has been terrific in executing his various “day-to-day” assignments, which include early mornings at Kansas football workouts, late nights at Allen Fieldhouse, and unexpected issues that arise in Kansas Athletics and get immediate public attention. In recent months, he has managed communications for the successful resolution of KU basketball’s compliance matter, developments involving high-profile student athlete, and widespread media speculation about the employment of our head football coach. Through it all, he has done a great job partnering with KU units ranging from the Office of Public Affairs, the Office of Student Affairs, KU Endowment and the KU Alumni Association, to name just a few.



March 2024

Christy Little Schock
Assistant Director of News and Media Relations

Christy Little Schock has been named the Communicator of the Month for March 2024 for outstanding work related to the development of the new KU News website.

Full Description

The truth is, for any given month during the past decade, Christy Little Schock has been deserving of this award. Since 2011, she’s served as a nexus for editing and distributing news from KU News Service and embedded communicators across KU. In 2011, she took on responsibility for the nascent KU Today newsletter and made it into the central source of news across KU. And as a result, at any given moment she’s perhaps the most informed person in terms of everything happening at KU … and she uses that knowledge to help colleagues better promote their news – and avoid missteps! – every day.

But the most recent example of her great work – and the reason she is this month's Communicator of the Month – is her work on the new KU News site. We all know how challenging it’s been to get this site launched due to staffing challenges and turnover within KUIT. It’s a process that goes back to at least 2019. But thanks predominantly to Christy, the site has finally been launched. And the timing is perfect, as this site is going to be integral to our new content management strategy and the launch of our new brand in the months ahead.


When the long, winding journey to a new KU News site first began, Christy’s experience with receiving, editing and publishing content through the CMS made her instrumental in guiding the Marketing and IT teams and shaping the process. More recently, in these past few months as we’ve finally reached the finish line, it is clear how much her knowledge with these processes made the final product more functional.

For example:

- Christy ensured we maintained thousands of images going back to 2011 when the site switched from Drupal 7 to Drupal 8.

- Christy caught countless bugs in the initial version — from dates not appearing on stories to URLs not working to images not appearing — that otherwise wouldn’t have been resolved until much farther downstream.

- Christy created a formal training process and a written users’ guide for KU News writers, the system’s first adopters.

- More than anything, Christy served as the insightful central manager to convey campus communicators’ expectations and needs to the IT team.


In sum, KU News would not have a functioning website now without Christy’s expertise and dogged perseverance in calling attention to malfunctions and complications that would have rendered the user interface and website unusable for our family of campus communicators. For that, she is deserving of thanks and praise from her colleagues.