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Moments and milestones

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Renea Morris

Renea Morris

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Life is full of moments and milestones. What I find interesting is that while there may be milestones that some of us wait for and expect, sometimes we can miss the moments if we just look for the milestones. For example, my family celebrates birthdays every year, even when it’s not a “milestone” year. My sister passed away at 43, and for her birthday the previous year, she and our brother took a trip that fulfilled a lifetime of dreams. It was a wonderful series of moments that became a milestone in more ways than any of us could have imagined. For several years, my daughter has tried without success to keep plants alive. Countless times her efforts led to leaves, foliage, and roots that dried up, withered, or were waterlogged. A few weeks ago, she shared with me that she had purchased a new plant. She was intrigued by the shape of the leaves and told me she was determined to make it work this time. She placed the plant in a sunny spot and researched the species to ensure she understood its watering needs. Last week she told me that she noticed the plant looked different than it had when she brought it home. I asked her where she noticed it and she told me that new leaves were sprouting at the top, in the middle and near the bottom of the plant. Taking a new photo of the plant confirmed this milestone she had reached: she officially had a green thumb!

This year, MarComm led in the accomplishment of two major milestones for the university, which are the result of many amazing moments—the completion of the web overhaul project and the announcement of a refreshed brand, which included moving from three logos to one and a robust messaging platform and set of editorial and visual guidelines.

Like most mighty feats, realizing the outcomes came after a lot of communication and collaboration as well as feedback and fine-tuning. Some of the highlights include the migration of 200 sites (more than 11,000 pages) to Drupal; the launch of 135 sites between January 2021 and June 2022, which represented 68% of all sites launched during the four-year project; functional upgrades to performance and from Drupal 8 to Drupal 9 to ensure better performance.

Without a doubt, this work would not have been accomplished without our tiny yet mighty dedicated and committed team, amazing agency partners, and a host of communicators and colleagues across campus.

In addition to the completion of the web overhaul project, we completed the work to refresh the university brand, which will launch this fall. As part of this effort, the team produced the university’s first brand commercial and accompanying content marketing pieces as well as consolidated three long-standing university logos to create a single brand mark for the university. We have a Brand Book which includes robust visual identity and editorial style guides. All this work was initiated with a consensus-based approach involving more than 1,600 university stakeholders and collaboration with advancement, admission, athletics, and many members of the MarComm team—new, longstanding, and no longer here—as well as our campus and agency partners. From strategic work groups to lay the foundation to a training series that has begun called MarComm Camp, the university is getting ready to launch a new look this fall.

In addition to those major milestone achievements, the MarComm team has also been busy reshaping and retooling themselves, the university, and the community. I mentioned last year how this time of year—the summer—is such a great season for celebrating. In addition to all the commencement exercises and weddings, I took a few moments to acknowledge the hard and sometimes fun work members of MarComm do. In the past year, for our division, we’ve revamped our onboarding program, engaged in several hours of DEI-focused training, and formed a committee dedicated to fun.

Additionally, five staff members and three students have either recently completed or are in the process of earning degrees in communication management, marketing, mathematics and biochemistry, international security, corporate and organizational communication, media and public communication, nonprofit leadership, creative nonfiction writing, international and intercultural communications, and communication and journalism studies.

MarComm has 13 of its team members serving on a variety of search committees and groups within the division including the team’s DEI Committee and FUNtastics, which is comprised of different members each quarter and helps plan events and celebrations for our group. Fifteen staff members are serving on a host of campus-wide committees including the Staff Advisory Council and working groups that are helping to shape university policy, visual identity, ad campaigns, enterprise software solutions, content marketing, the campus toolkit, strategic messaging, COVID response, reputation strategy, accessibility, privacy, parent engagement and communication, as well as student success.

In addition to all the support MarComm provides to strengthen the team and advance the university, several staff members volunteer outside of work, supporting organizations in Denver and around the region. For example, Carri Wilbanks is a volunteer at a martial arts studio that serves low-income youth, Gretchen Pressley is a kitten foster volunteer with the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region and PR and Social Media Lead for the Pikes Peak Pride 2022 Committee, Jan Ballard volunteers at her church and at The Right Step horse-riding therapy program, Juan Niño volunteers at Saint Vrain Youth Soccer Association/Real Colorado, and Jon Stone is a coach for youth lacrosse.

I continue to be amazed and proud of every single person that is making a difference—for each other, for DU, and for the public good.