Communicators win top awards in world competition

By Robert Strenge, WSU News

case-80PULLMAN, Wash. – Washington State University communicators earned two Gold Awards in the international 2014 Circle of Excellence communications competition sponsored by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE).

The awards recognize WSU’s entries as among the top communications work produced by colleges, universities and independent schools from across the globe. Out of 2,700 entries worldwide, CASE honored 300 projects with gold, silver or bronze awards.

In winning the two Gold Awards – one in the category of general news writing and another in the category of professional and staff development – WSU became one of 17 institutions to bring home multiple Gold Awards in the 2014 competition. Other schools winning multiple golds this year included Columbia University, Johns Hopkins University, Harvard, Stanford and the University of Washington.

logo1_new_372WSU’s receipt of the 2014 Gold Award for general news writing also marked the third time in the past four years that the university has won at least a Gold Award in that category. A 2012 WSU news writing entry took Grand Gold, the highest accolade awarded by CASE.

The winning entry in the general news category was written by Eric Sorensen, research news coordinator for the news service, who submitted five science news releases intended to demonstrate how the university’s scientific research can be presented in a way to achieve broad public interest.

Sorensen’s stories detailed Chuck Benbrook’s study on the nutritional advantages of organic milk, Michael Skinner’s work on epigenetics, Jadrian Wooten and Ben Smith’s demonstration that it pays more for pundits to be confident than accurate, and Dirk Schulze-Makuch’s critique of efforts to sterilize Mars-bound spacecraft.

The stories caught the eye of reporters and producers at The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Today Show, Smithsonian magazine, the Huffington Post, National Public Radio and a host of news Web sites including Yahoo! News, the world’s largest news website.

The judges said this about the entry:

“Concise and impressive placement. The pieces were very well written. Eric knows how to write for reporters. He was strategic in his story pitching. He could tell a compelling story within a couple of paragraphs. This entry really got the judges attention.”

The stories and samples of subsequent coverage are available at

WSU’s other 2014 CASE Gold Award was for a program entitled FIRST DRAFT: Share your science, an effort to train and inspire science researchers, educators and clinicians to communicate with wider audiences “on the page, in the media and face to face,” using an approach that’s “spirited and ‘untweedy.’”

The entry was submitted by WSU News communicators Linda Weiford, Cynthia King and Chelsea Pickett, who wrote that WSU seeks to build on its research reputation “not by bell ringing, but by enabling our scientists to communicate to the public, policymakers and media about the significance and impact of the work they do.”

The CASE judges were unanimous in selecting WSU’s entry in the professional and staff development category, writing “while all of the entries were relevant, worthy programs, WSU’s entry stood out above all the others.”

“It stood out as an uncomplicated, low-cost approach to assisting very diverse types of researchers and faculty with ways to better communicate their work and how it addresses real-world issues,” the judges wrote. “This program has aligned with the mission of the institution (and all research institutions) and enhances fundraising and funding for ongoing research efforts. Many universities have culturally diverse faculty, students and scholars, and this approach to communicating research in a developmentally supported but customized style for faculty is transformative in nature.”

A description of the program is available at

The Council for Advancement and Support of Education is one of the largest international associations of education institutions, serving more than 3,650 universities, colleges, schools and related organizations in more than 80 countries. CASE is the leading resource for professional development, information and standards in the fields of education fundraising, communications, marketing and alumni relations.

Made up of several of CASE’s long-time recognition programs, the Circle of Excellence awards program, in its present configuration, was introduced in 1994. Each year, it has grown in prestige and is now one of CASE’s most popular and respected awards programs.



Robert Strenge, WSU News, 509-335-3583,