Keys to Success

About University Communications

We advance the mission of the university, as well as its reputation and identity as a leading academic and research institution.

Through strategic communications planning, media relations, branding, marketing, executive communications, and a wide range of digital media, we tell the stories of the university and its people.

Marie Williams

Marie Williams

Vice Chancellor for Marketing and Communications
Office: 303-315-2157
marie.williams@ucdenver.edu

Marie Williams, a marketing communications professional with more than 20 years of experience in the field, is Vice Chancellor for University Communications. Marie leads the team responsible for external and internal communications, media relations, marketing, brand strategy, social media, and web development.

Marie joined CU Denver from Saint Joseph’s University, where she served as Vice President for Marketing and Communications and led the university’s brand image, marketing and advertising initiatives, public relations, and internal communications. Earlier in her career, Marie served as a Senior Vice President at Edelman, a communications and marketing firm headquartered in New York City, and as a Senior Managing Director at RF|Binder.

She holds a BA in Communication from the University of Pennsylvania and has participated in several leading professional communications organizations.

 

vivek arora - sr. director web & digital strategy

Vivek Arora

Assistant Vice Chancellor, Marketing & Digital Strategy
vivek.arora@ucdenver.edu

Vivek is a creative and innovative leader with over 12 years of experience in the ever-changing web technology and marketing domain. With a proven track record in managing complex projects and maintaining high team morale, Vivek brings critical thinking, problem-solving, and technical expertise to guide web and marketing projects successfully.

At CU Denver, Vivek oversees the areas of web design, digital strategy, marketing, advertising, and paid promotions and serves as a key advisor in enrollment-generating creative campaigns.

Beyond professional expertise, Vivek has also been involved in academics, teaching web design fundamentals, web content and SEO strategy, application development, and database design at two renowned higher education institutions.

KennaAukamp

Kenna Aukamp

Graphic Designer & Studio Specialist
kenna.aukamp@ucdenver.edu

Kenna supports the CU Denver brand through graphic design and visual communication. As a new addition to the team, she is excited to dive in and help to strengthen the identity of UCD’s brand in order to establish a stronger sense of community among students, faculty, and staff. She loves working in higher education environments and is constantly striving to learn new skills and build on her existing knowledge.

Kenna is born and raised just south of Denver in Highlands Ranch, CO. From there to Fort Collins, Boulder, and Denver, she has called the Front Range home her whole life. She earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design from Colorado State University in 2018 and brings 6 years of design experience from freelance, agency, and in-house settings.

Outside of work, Kenna can be found spending time with friends and family, tending to her houseplant collection, birdwatching, enjoying live music, and practicing her photography skills. She and her partner, Hunter, share a tabby cat named Louie whom they take on walks to Cheesman Park, spoil endlessly, and love dearly.
 

Headshot of Emilia Covault

Emilia Covault

Administrative Support Specialist
emilia.covault@ucdenver.edu

Emilia Covault, a skilled administrative professional and organized individual, serves the University Communications team as the Administrative Support Specialist. She coordinates the Vice Chancellor’s schedule while also creating employee engagement events, streamlining workflow processes, and managing procurement operations for the unit.  

Emilia has several years of experience in administrative assistance, management, and schedule coordination which she has acquired through several years of experience as a music administrator and professional stage manager in theatres and opera houses across the country.  

Emilia holds a Master of Fine Arts in Stage Management from the University of Missouri, Kansas City. She is originally from Ventura, California, but most recently lived in Houston, Texas. After work, she enjoys going to barre class, going on walks with her dog and fiancé, crafting, and tending to her houseplants.  

 

 

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Alex DeWind

Assistant Director of Internal Communications
alex.dewind@ucdenver.edu

Alex is responsible for finding and telling the stories of CU Denver’s people, programs, and research. She primarily oversees CU Denver News, the university’s e-newsletter and website. When she’s not pitching stories or writing on deadline, she’s tracking audience engagement and collaborating with her team members in University Communications.

Alex brings nearly four years of experience as a reporter at a community newspaper in south metro Denver, where she covered suburbia, mental health, and public education. She received her bachelor’s degree in journalism from CU Boulder and spent a stint of time in New York City before settling in Denver.

Alex was born in Boynton Beach, Florida and raised in Basalt. In her spare time, she enjoys catching up with friends over a good meal, jogging around Washington Park, and planning her next outdoor adventure.

Olivia Earle

Olivia Earle

Web Designer
olivia.earle@ucdenver.edu

Olivia Earle is a skilled UI/UX designer with over seven years of experience in the fields of web design and digital marketing. Originally from Rome, Georgia, Olivia relocated to Colorado in 2021. Throughout her career, she has consistently demonstrated her proficiency in overseeing a variety of projects and fostering team morale. Olivia possesses a unique combination of creativity, problem-solving abilities, and technical expertise, which plays a pivotal role in ensuring the successful execution of web design initiatives for the University Communications team. 

In her spare time, she enjoys gardening, baking, and going on outdoor adventures with her family.

Natasha Gardner

Natasha Gardner

Editorial and Content Director
natasha.gardner@ucdenver.edu

Natasha Gardner is an award-winning writer, editor, and content producer. She has more than 15 years of experience with telling stories that matter in Colorado. A longtime editor at 5280, Denver’s magazine, she was also the managing editor at History Colorado before joining CU Denver’s University Communications team. Here, she helps develop stories and content that resonates with our students, faculty, staff, alums, and community.

Natasha has a master’s degree in news gathering from the University of Colorado Boulder and a B.A. in sociology from Smith College. When she’s not typing away on a laptop, she might be hiking in the Rocky Mountains, skate skiing, reading, or trying new recipes.

Laurel Harman

Laurel Harman

Director of Chancellor Events and Engagements
laurel.harman@ucdenver.edu
303-315-0480

Prior to joining CU Denver, Laurel served as the assistant director of advancement event experiences at the Leeds School of Business at CU Boulder. She has also owned an event planning company, Page Turning Events. She holds a bachelor’s of science in business administration with an emphasis in Operations Management and a minor in Religious Studies from the Leeds School of Business at The University of Colorado Boulder. In her free time, Laurel loves to be outdoors, travel, and foster dogs.

James Hough

James Hough

Senior Web Developer
james.hough@ucdenver.edu

As UComm's Sr. Web Developer, James is responsible for ensuring that CU Denver's web properties are optimized for great user experience. He brings technical and design expertise to the web portion of the Marketing and Digital Strategy team. His goal is for all visitors to easily do whatever they need to do on CU Denver's websites, particularly requesting information to become a Lynx.

James has managed CMS templates, written web standards, and he enjoys finding solutions to his teammates’ problems to make their work lives a little easier. Previously, James worked as Web Services Manager for the business school at the University of Texas at Dallas, an artist in a custom glass studio in Las Vegas, a K-12 art teacher at a Dallas-area charter school and a graphic designer.

He earned a BFA in Drawing and Painting and a BA in English Literature from the University of North Texas, and an MFA from the University of Nevada Las Vegas. When he’s not working on the web, he enjoys drawing comics, painting, watching the Dallas Mavericks (and, now, the Denver Nuggets!) and hanging out with his three favorite people – his wife and their two children. He also has two art practices - James Hough Studio and Hough Slattery - which have websites where you can see some of his artwork.

Mitchell Howes headshot

Mitch Howes

Graphic Designer & Brand Manager
mitchell.howes@ucdenver.edu

A talented designer, art director, and brand manager, Mitch brings experience in graphic design, video editing, and motion graphics to the University Communications team as well as an eye for detail and organizational skills. Prior to working at CU Denver, Mitch has worked as a motion and graphic designer to elevate and define brand stories through both digital and print media. 

 Mitch is originally from Louisville, Kentucky and received his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Communication Art & Design from the University of Louisville. Outside of work, Mitch can be found skateboarding or mountain biking, unless he’s fallen recently then he’s probably making art instead.

Zenaida Gonzalez Kotala

Zenaida Gonzalez Kotala

Assistant Vice Chancellor for Strategic Communications
Zenaida.gonzalezkotala@ucdenver.edu

Zenaida Gonzalez Kotala joined CU Denver from the University of Central Florida where she served as Associate Vice President for Communications. At CU Denver she leads a team responsible for media relations, internal communications, crisis communications and strategic communications.

Zenaida’s 20 plus year career includes working with media, faculty, students, and executives. At UCF, she also built and led the research communications ecosystem, which earned several local and national awards. Before her career in higher education, Zenaida was an award-winning journalist working for Gannett newspapers in California and Florida.

The daughter of two immigrants, she is bilingual in Spanish and has a special place in her heart for first-generation students because she was one. The California native holds a BA in Journalism and another in International Relations from San Francisco State University. She was a Knight Fellow and has been recognized for her communication work by CASE and MARCOM.

When she is not working, she enjoys spending time with her family, exploring national and state parks and geeking out to anything space related.

Melinda Lammert

Melinda Lammert

Social Media Manager
melinda.lammert@ucdenver.edu

Melinda is responsible for managing our institutional social media channels. She works closely with groups across campus to ensure we are supporting and celebrating our students, alumni, faculty, and staff. Melinda is passionate about social media and its significance in building a strong community while acting as a tool to share important university information with our followers.

She comes to us from the University of Pittsburgh, with five years of experience in higher education. She is originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and earned her undergraduate degree from Pitt. Currently, she is earning her Master’s in Business Administration from CU Denver. In her free time, Melinda enjoys hiking, working out, live music, spending time with friends, traveling, and cheering on her Pittsburgh sports teams from Colorado.

Bryan Less

Bryan Less

CU Productions Program Manager
bryan.less@ucdenver.edu

Bryan has been with CU for 16 years and has been the manager of CU Productions for the last 11. He produces an array of projects across multiple departments including educational, promotional, and training videos and will help us elevate our video capabilities.

Prior to joining the University of Colorado, Bryan spent 15 years as producer, director of photography, and editor. He’s produced several award-winning pieces, namely a regional Emmy Award for a series of educational videos on Health and Wellness. His work has been featured on ESPN, NBC, CNN, and PBS. Bryan received his bachelor's degree from the University of Iowa in Communications with an emphasis in film and video production. During his undergraduate years, he worked as a videographer for the University of Iowa Football Program where he gained extensive, hands-on experience in his field.

Leigh Pinner

Leigh Pinner

Director of Brand and Digital Marketing
leigh.pinner@ucdenver.edu

Joining in 2022, Leigh Pinner serves as Director of Brand and Digital Marketing within the University Communications team. In this role, Leigh is responsible for CU Denver brand leadership as well as digital marketing campaign development and oversight. With over a decade of marketing experience, Leigh formerly served CU within the Office of Digital Education as Senior Brand Marketing Manager, and prior to that, worked as the Digital Marketing and CRM Manager at The Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs. Earlier in her career, she served in marketing roles at notable Virginia-based organizations. As a marketer in higher ed, Leigh is motivated by the opportunity to serve students and make a positive impact through education.

Leigh holds a B.S. in Communication from Old Dominion University and is currently working towards a Master’s in Marketing and Brand Communication at CU Denver. She currently resides in Richmond, Virginia and is an avid volunteer with the Richmond Symphony and Sofar Sounds.

John Rogers

John Rogers

Executive Director of Engagement & Events
john.t.rogers@ucdenver.edu

John leads the University Events team whose focus is Chancellor-level events, University ceremonies, and campus-wide initiatives and celebrations. With 15+ years of professional experience performing event management, marketing, and public relations functions, John loves any work environment that is fast-paced, ever-changing, emotionally rewarding, and driven by strategy.

Prior to joining CU Denver, John served as the senior director of advancement and presidential events at Ohio University. He has also held event management roles at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colo. and Johnson & Wales University. He holds a bachelor of science in Marketing from Johnson & Wales, and a master of science in Project Management and Organization Leadership from Regis University.

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Dan Ruzich

Web Content Writer/SEO Strategist
daniel.ruzich@ucdenver.edu

Dan Ruzich, a web optimization professional and skilled content marketer, is the SEO Specialist and Content Writer on the University Communications Web Team. He utilizes SEO strategies to improve CU Denver's organic search results/rankings and improve website performance, manages existing university content, and writes for the CU Denver News publication.

He comes to CU Denver with years of experience optimizing for web and creating content for tech consulting, advertising, and IT/cybersecurity organizations. Most recently, Dan worked as an SEO Strategist at a growth marketing agency.

Dan holds a BS in Marketing with a concentration in data analytics from the University of Illinois Chicago. He is originally from Chicago but has been in Denver for five years. Outside of work, he enjoys rock climbing, snowboarding, travelling, playing soccer and is an avid sci-fi nerd.

Ian Scott

Ian Scott

Senior Creative Director
ian.scott@ucdenver.edu

Ian leads the creative team for University Communications and collaborates with teams across campus to develop a strategic creative vision for the institution and to help CU Denver’s brand story grow and evolve. A visual storyteller and a hands-on Creative Director, he produces compelling multimedia experiences, creative campaigns, videos, built environments, print and digital content across multiple channels.

Outside of CU Denver, Ian owns Root House Studio, a mission-driven company focused on designing experiences and telling stories about science, conservation, climate change, and environmental equity. He has worked with clients including National Geographic, The Nature Conservancy, The Smithsonian Channel, and The Trust for Public Land, and has worked on a diverse range of projects from feature films, to marketing and fundraising campaigns, to museum exhibitions.

With an MLA from the University of Georgia College of Environment & Design and bachelor’s degrees in anthropology and studio art from Sewanee: The University of the South, along with 18 years of experience as a multidisciplinary designer, Ian brings a unique perspective to the UComm team.

jeremy-simon

Jeremy Simon

Director of Communications
jeremy.m.simon@ucdenver.edu

As director of communications, Jeremy contributes centrally to CU Denver’s executive messaging, storytelling, and strategic communications mix. 

Jeremy’s work builds on 25+ years of experience as a professional communicator, starting as a reporter at the Colorado Springs Gazette in the late 1990s, and continuing in diverse education and nonprofit roles in each of Colorado’s four corners. 

His higher education work has included eight years in advancement communications (including as executive director) for the University of Colorado System, and communications director roles with Western Colorado University and the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education. 

He earned a BS in journalism from Northwestern University and an MFA in creative nonfiction writing from Columbia University. Outside the office, he will be found competing in pinball tournaments and searching for the world’s finest buffalo wing, unless he is doting on his children, Hank and Nora.

Beki Strauser | Web Developer | A white skinned feminine person with long blue hair, glasses, a nose ring, and multiple necklaces. They're wearing a black shirt, and they are smiling.

Beki Strauser

Web Developer
beki.strauser@ucdenver.edu

Beki Strauser is an experienced Front End Developer, with close to 10 years of experience, specializing in UI/UX, and accessibility. Beki was raised in Maine, where they taught themselves to code in high school, and moved to Illinois in 2011 to pursue a degree and career in web development. Beki has a wide variety of skills that has helped them to become a well rounded developer, and passionate advocate for web accessibility. 

Outside of work, they enjoy creating digital art, gardening in their backyard, lifting weights, playing D&D, and spending time with their two partners, and cats.

Matt Watson

Matt Watson

Director of Executive Communications
matt.watson@ucdenver.edu

Matt provides communications counsel and support to CU Denver leadership to advance institutional priorities among diverse and numerous audiences. He comes to CU Denver with 15 years of experience in journalism, marketing, and communications, including 10 years in higher education between Purdue University and MSU Denver. His work has been recognized with awards from the Public Relations Society of America, Council for Advancement and Support of Education, American Advertising Federation, and others.

Matt earned a master of science in communication from Purdue and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Arkansas. He grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas, and enjoys baseball, hiking, and trying to keep up with two children and his wife’s dog.

Headshot of Paul Wedlake

Paul Wedlake​

Senior Photographer and Videographer
paul.wedlake@ucdenver.edu

Paul was born and raised outside of Detroit, Michigan and was introduced to the craft of photography at an early age by his father who was also a photographer. It wasn’t until high school that he started to fall in love with photography. While working on the yearbook in high school, Paul discovered two things: the first being that photographing people was fun and he loved telling their stories with images and the second is that when he had a camera in his hands he was able to have adventures around school and see what the other students were up to.  

Paul now lives in Denver, Colorado and freelanced for 20 years photographing people at work and at play, in the city and in the mountains, and on commercial and editorial assignments before he began working at CU Denver where he still gets a lot of variety in his daily tasks. When his assignments are done, Paul can be found with his family skiing, snowboarding, hiking, camping, rafting, paddle boarding, mountain biking or chilling.  

 

 

Jennifer Woodruff

Jennifer Woodruff

Director of Public Relations & Integrated Media
Jennifer.Woodruff@ucdenver.edu

Jennifer is the Director of Public Relations and Integrated Media for University Communications. She leads CU Denver’s earned media coverage efforts and focuses on increasing brand visibility by building a strong relationship between the university and the public, media, and target audiences.

Jennifer came to CU Denver after working in local broadcast news as a Director of Marketing at 9NEWS, NEWS CENTER Maine, and KGW, where she oversaw the marketing, brand, and promotional efforts in addition to client commercial production, PR, community relations, philanthropic efforts, and programming. Prior to working in local news, she worked for the financial company Transamerica Capital, Inc. as a Senior Graphic Designer.

She attended Colorado State University and received a BFA in Graphic Design with a minor in Media Studies. She has six Regional Broadcaster Emmys, 11 Local Broadcasters Awards, and three National Promax awards.

Jennifer has had the distinct pleasure of living in both Portlands back-to-back and loves traveling to new places, trying new foods, and meeting new people. She also plays Scottish/Celtic fiddle and bakes French Patisserie in her spare time.

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