University of Rhode Island earns Gold Circle of Excellence Award from higher education association

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The URI web series “Why Hip-Hop Matters” was named a Gold selection in the 2019 Council for Advancement and Support of Education Circle of Excellence Awards.

KINGSTON, R.I. – June 18, 2019 – The University of Rhode Island’s entry in the 2019 Council for Advancement and Support of Education Circle of Excellence Awards, “Why Hip-Hop Matters,” is a Gold winner in the category of Writing for the Web. More than 2,850 entries were submitted from throughout the world for this year’s Circle of Excellence Awards, an international awards program that honors outstanding work in communications and marketing, alumni relations and fundraising.

CASE received 2,856 entries for consideration in 100 categories by 611 member higher education institutions, independent schools, and nonprofits from 20 countries. More than 500 judges gave out 400 awards in the following categories: bronze, silver, gold and grand gold. Winners were selected based on overall quality, innovation, use of resources and the impact on the institution or its external and internal communities, such as alumni, parents, students, and faculty and staff.

“The series ‘Why Hip-Hop Matters’ was intended as a short alumni profile on rapper Duval ‘Masta Ace’ Clear ’88 and his 30-year career in the business,” said Mary Elizabeth Reilly-McGreen, the writer of the piece and a digital content strategist in the Marketing and Communications Office. “After a little digging, though, we learned that Clear was an industry icon and that hip-hop’s influence extended far beyond music—to art, poetry, philosophy, rhetoric, professional sports, advocacy, race relations, anthropology, and fashion. Moreover, our University community was deeply and actively engaged with hip-hop.

“So, what started as a 250-word alumni profile mushroomed into a five-part web series highlighting URI’s alumni rappers, students, academics, artists, poets, philosophers, DJs, MCs, and fans,” added Reilly-McGreen.

The judges’ comments on URI’s gold-award entry: “From a grain of an idea, the Rhode Island team expanded this into a creative series that hits a sweet spot where music, culture, and academia overlap. The topic here is timely and relevant, and their choice to include the lyrics, audio, and social media content was a nice touch. The writing itself is clear and compelling in this novel approach to institutional storytelling.”

Led by John Pennypacker, web communications manager, several team members contributed to the series. In addition to writer Reilly-McGreen, Brandon Fuller, digital content strategist, created all the design elements for the web stories, and Nicki Toler served as editor.

Sue Cunningham, president and CEO of CASE, commended this year’s recipients for their bold, innovative work that epitomizes the profession’s best practices.

“These awards demonstrate our members’ success in advancing their institutions through their remarkable work,” says Cunningham. “This year’s award winners demonstrate creativity and strategy; I urge everyone to take a look—you will be inspired. Congratulations to all the Circle of Excellence Award recipients. Your work engages important communities in the life of your institutions, advancing education to transform lives and society.”

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. It is CASE’s largest and most popular awards program.