ccDaily > College PR leaders recognized for their prowess

College PR leaders recognized for their prowess


(From top) Sandra
Kurtinitis, Norma
Kent and Erin Edlund.

​The National Council for Marketing and Public Relations (NCMPR) this week recognized three national leaders for their efforts in promoting community colleges, with Sandra Kurtinitis, president of the Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC) in Maryland, receiving the 2012 National Pacesetter of the Year award.

Norma Kent, senior vice president of communications and advancement at the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), was recognized for her career accomplishments in serving public two-year colleges with the D. Richard Petrizzo Award for Career Achievement, and Erin Edlund, director of institutional advancement at Dakota County Technical College (DCTC) in Minnesota, was honored as the 2012 National Communicator of the Year.

The awards were presented March 12 at the annual NCMPR conference in San Francisco.

Setting the pace

Since her arrival at CCBC in fall 2005, Kurtinitis has achieved many notable milestones, thanks to what her supporters refer to as her “vision, planning and executive leadership.”

With an emphasis on building strategic partnerships, Kurtinitis strengthened the CCBC’s ties with Baltimore County Public Schools. Most recently, she collaborated with the system’s superintendent to launch a “Diploma-to-Degree” program that allows students to graduate from high school and simultaneously earn an associate degree.

Kurtinitis emphasized that “community” comes first, which is why she encourages community involvement, particularly when it comes to giving. This past year, Kurtinitis led a record-setting employee giving campaign, which raised more than $96,000 to support student scholarships and programs. Last year’s annual fundraising gala for the college brought in more than $200,000 for student scholarships.

Kurtinitis has gained a reputation as a “doer” both regionally and nationally. She was among a select group of community college leaders who participated in the 2010 White House Summit on Community Colleges, and she was asked to co-chair a panel on developmental education because of groundbreaking work at CCBC. Recently, she worked with the lieutenant governor of Maryland to form the Veteran’s Compact to help veterans transition from combat to college.

Getting the message out

AACC’s Kent has chalked up more than 25 years in marketing and public relations, but it’s her work at the association that has put her in the forefront of the community college movement. Kent is astute at bringing the limelight to community colleges, while serving a supporting role in the background.

As AACC’s chief communications officer for the past 16 years, Kent is responsible for the association’s news media relations, publications, marketing, corporate program, meetings and advancement/development programs. Although her scope of responsibility at AACC is broad, it’s her mastery of media relations that stands out. She has become the go-to spokesperson for local, regional and national media on issues affecting community colleges. She has established working relationships with  CNN, PBS, New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, Associated Press, Chronicle of Higher Education, Inside Higher Ed and other major news organizations.

Kent’s other accomplishments also center on promoting the power of community colleges. For example, she was instrumental in teaming AACC with Phi Theta Kappa, the Coca-Cola Foundation and the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation to establish the New Century Scholars. In 2006, Kent helped AACC forge a partnership with W.W. Grainger to develop Tools for Tomorrow, providing scholarships and customized toolkits to outstanding students in technical education programs.

Kent has been involved in several other major AACC initiatives, includingPlus 50, which showcases innovative community college programs for the 50-plus learner, and Achieving the Dream, a national program focused on increasing academic success among community college students.

A new look

At DCTC, Edlund has focused on increasing public awareness, building the college’s image, embracing social media as a new communications tool, and improving internal support for marketing and public relations.

To increase public awareness, Edlund and her team breathed new life into two annual college events and created other special events that have helped to raise funds for the DCTC Foundation and enhanced alumni relations.

To build DCTC’s image, Edlund implemented a brand update that included a refreshed logo, a brighter color palette and new message points. She established a video library with more than 50 videos highlighting the college’s academic programs and services. She spearheaded a campus-wide aesthetics campaign with professional wall photography, new interior directional signage and exterior banners. Edlund also directed a top-to-bottom overhaul of the college’s website.

At the state level, Edlund has been active with the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Two-Year College Marketing Association, serving as co-president for the last two years and previously as secretary/treasurer and as chair of the association’s annual conference. She also played a key role in the research for the state system’s Single Search project, which involved a web-based search tool that allows students and parents to easily locate course information at the system’s 31 colleges and universities.