Lisé Freking Named NCMPR 2024 National Rising Star of the Year

Strategic marketing and communications director receives prestigious national award

Lisé G. Freking, JD, strategic marketing and communications director and public information officer at  Inver Hills Community College and Dakota County Technical College was recently named the National Council for Marketing & Public Relations (NCMPR) 2024 National Rising Star of the Year. Lisé accepted the national award at the 2024 NCMPR National Conference: NCMPR into the Future at The Westin Seattle in Seattle, Washington, March 14–16, 2024.

“I am humbled and honored to receive the NCMPR 2024 National Rising Star Award,” Lisé said. “As a relative newcomer to marketing in the higher education space, I appreciate the way our own college marketing team and many others at NCMPR national and district conferences have taught me the marketing nuances in the world of academia.”

Lisé also thanked the NCMPR National Judging Committee as well as the people who wrote letters of support on her behalf.

“Most importantly, I would like to thank my stellar Inver Hills and DCTC marketing team—Chris Hayes, Maranda Steinmetz-Robey, Marlo Teal, Annie Nguyen, Scott Glime, Rachel Marzahn, and Megan Vave—for their continued support, creativity, and work ethic,” she said. “They are the true unsung heroes. Together as a team, we all shine a little bit brighter.”

When she applied for and eventually accepted the marcom position at Inver Hills and DCTC, Lisé Freking noticed the job description included handling marketing and PR responsibilities for two higher education institutions.

“I didn’t realize right away working for two colleges was unusual,” Lisé reported. “You could say I’m actually doing two jobs for the price of one.”

The job was her first in higher ed, but after nearly five years, Lisé has developed a range of innovative ways for her department to work smarter—which is one of the reasons she has been named NCMPR’s 2024 Rising Star of the Year.

2024 NCMPR National Conference gallery

More about Lisé and the NCMPR Rising Star of the Year Award

The NCMPR Rising Star of the Year Award recognizes newcomers who have demonstrated special creativity or ability in marketing and PR while showing evidence of a promising future in the field. Rising Star awards are given annually in NCMPR’s seven districts; district recipients then compete for the national award.

Before entering the world of two-year college marcom and PR, Lisé earned a Juris Doctor (J.D.) from John Marshall Law School in Chicago. She went on to work for nearly 30 years at West Publishing, now Thomson Reuters, which provides industry expertise and technology solutions to professionals in the legal community.

After enduring two layoffs, a company restructuring, and getting rehired in different positions, Lisé opted to her modify her career trajectory when challenged by a third layoff.

She soon discovered her position at DCTC and Inver Hills entailed managing employees who handled the same tasks she herself handled or oversaw during her years at Thomson Reuters. Her prior product marketing and leadership roles were typically focused on graphic design, project management, photography, video, and brand strategy—all functions integral to college marketing success.

“I’m a project manager at heart,” Lisé said. “It’s about knowing where roadblocks will be and how to best meet and beat deadlines. I’m driven by milestones and to-do lists.”

Lisé oversees marcom and PR duties for sister colleges about 10 minutes apart—one technical and one community—that have a shared president and other shared services such as facilities, IT, marketing, and HR.

“I work to create efficiencies across both organizations,” Lisé explained. “My team lives by the mantra: ‘Create it once, and deploy it twice.’ Because we are a shared department, we really understand the meaning of sharing.”

Lisé’s penchant for sharing also benefits NCMPR members. She recently led efforts to ensure that college campus monitors were supported by a solid content strategy. She created campus digital-signage posting guidelines and best-practice documents for staff and faculty. When she saw that other campuses across the country lacked similar guidelines, Lisé shared the documents with NCMPR’s listserv.

Lisé directly supports the Office of the President at DCTC and Inver Hills and contributes strategic insights, leadership skills, and communications know-how to a variety of departments. She developed marketing strategies to promote the colleges’ strategic and enrollment plans, DEI website updates, and guided-learning pathway proposals.

She also manages crisis and weather communication strategies, creating templates for efficient, effective, and timely campus communications. Her marketing budget cheat sheets reflect free and paid tactics available to program faculty and staff when they request marketing support.

“The skills I brought to my role in higher education are easily transferrable,” Lisé said. “I would encourage any community or technical college to think about hiring beyond academia. We can bring different perspectives to the collegiate experience—how we think, how we do things—for the betterment of our students and our colleges.”

Learn more about Lisé and her marketing team by reading the following Inver Hills News stories:

“Lisé Freking Receives 2023 NCMPR District 5 Rising Star of the Year Award”

“Introducing Bo the Bee: Our New Inver Hills Community College Mascot”

Rachel Marzahn and Maranda Steinmetz-Robey awarded $400 NCMPR General Scholarships

Rachel Marzahn, interactive media coordinator, and Maranda Steinmetz-Robey, graphic arts specialist, in the Strategic Marketing and Communications department at Inver Hills and DCTC, accompanied Lisé to the 2024 NCMPR National Conference.

Both Maranda and Rachel received $400 NCMPR General Scholarships for professional development, which offset the cost of attending the conference.

“NCMPR named Lisé Freking the council’s 2024 National Rising Star of the Year—and it was great to be there in person to take photos and hear her acceptance speech,” Rachel said. “Lisé is a great leader, not just at our colleges, but on a national level!”

Rachel reported that she loved attending the conference and was thankful for receiving a scholarship that helped make her trip to Seattle possible.

“I am also so thankful for this opportunity to learn and network,” she said. “Because I am a creator at heart, here’s a quick recap video of the #NCMPR24 Conference from my perspective.”

Maranda also welcomed the chance to connect with two-year college marketing and PR professionals from across the country.

“I express my sincere gratitude to NCMPR for awarding me a scholarship, enabling me to participate in this year’s conference in Seattle,” Maranda said. “The knowledge and connections gained during this event are truly invaluable.”

Maranda added that she felt honored to witness Lisé win the NCMPR National Rising Star of the Year Award for 2024.

“Lisé walked across that giant stage and gave an epic speech, filling the entire room with laughter,” she said. “She left us all feeling inspired. I’m so grateful for such a wonderful leader to look up to every day.”

Rachel Marzahn

Rachel Marzahn
Interactive Media Coordinator
Strategic Marketing and Communications
Inver Hills Community College
Dakota County Technical College

Hometown: Lakeville, Minnesota
High school and year graduated: Farmington High School
Degree, institution, and year graduated: B.A. in Communication Studies with Minors in Spanish, Conflict Studies, TEFL, and Nonprofit Management, Hamline University, graduated summa cum laude
Other degrees, diplomas, and/or certificates: Currently working toward a M.A. in Strategic Communication (MCOM) at Winona State University; certified officiant, prepare/enrich counselor, and death doula
Family: Two parents, two siblings, one partner, two chickens
Pastimes and hobbies: Dance, music, fire-breathing, travel, photography, games, hikes, being with family
Date started working at DCTC and Inver Hills: January 2015

One word that best describes your experience working in higher education:


¹ No matter how much I think I know, there is always more to learn.

Rachel Marzahn Q & A

What are your primary duties as an interactive media coordinator?

My role as the interactive media coordinator is to develop a social media strategy and plans in alignment with the strategic marketing plans that enhance recruiting and retention efforts for both campuses. I serve as lead author in developing online content that establishes a clear tone of voice for both campuses.

I also provide photography and videography production services to ensure high-quality visual images for both campuses. Overall, I look at my job as a creative visual communicator who uses various forms of media to promote our two fine institutions of higher learning.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

The people. Inver Hills Community College and Dakota County Technical College are full of passionate faculty and staff who are dedicated to student success.

In my own area, we have a first-rate marketing team. I’m grateful to work with this impressive group of creators and communicators. It’s not hard to put in the work when you believe in the cause.

I am passionate about lifelong learning, so working in education aligns with my values. I have seen the impact higher education has made in my own life and in the lives of countless students on our campuses.

I feel honored that I get to tell their stories. Seriously, we have so many phenomenal faculty, students, and alumni doing cool things in the world! I feel inspired by their lives.

Three words that describe you as an interactive media coordinator:

What is your favorite social media platform and why?

TikTok—it’s a social space exhibiting human ingenuity at its finest (and weirdest).

What advice would you give someone thinking about a career in the marketing field with a focus on social media and videography?

I can’t answer that with a blanket statement. It depends on who is asking for the advice. This field has general best practices and technical skills, but it’s mostly what you make of it.

It’s fast-paced. It’s active and creative. It’s relational. You need the hard skills to utilize technology, and you also need soft skills to work with people. Yes, you need to know how to use your camera gear, set up lighting, adjust audio, create a storyboard, use editing software, set up strategic social media management, jump on trending sounds, watch for viral movements, monitor mentions, analyze data, etc.

You need to know all this just as much as you need to relate to people, create safe spaces for storytelling, remain ethically-minded in your approach, remember to keep your fault lines in-check, ask the “why” behind the what, and constantly look for ways to push creativity forward.

If I had to sum it up for an “advice soundbite,” I would say to find balance. Find balance between the creative and the technical, the hard and soft skills. You need both, and too much of one is a deficit to the other.

What’s your favorite memory from the 2024 NCMPR National Conference in Seattle?

One of my favorite sessions at this year’s National Council for Marketing & Public Relations Conference was a pre-conference lab entitled, “Photo and Video: Making the Most of What You’ve Got.”

The conference session began in a conference room. We heard from Carpenter Glenn, Matthew Grotto, and Mollie Burkiewicz, the Moraine Valley Community College photographer, videographer, and social media marketer, respectively. Those three duties make up my job!

It was fascinating hearing how they work together to cover events and learn creative solutions to capture stories effectively. It was also intimidating because each of them has their own roles, and I have to perform all three for two colleges.

What I loved most is that it wasn’t all theory. They immediately took us to Chihuly Garden and Glass [see gallery below] to put what we learned into practice. There were many gorgeous elements to this exhibit. We had very little time, but were given creative freedom.

Amidst taking photos on my DSLR, snapping Polaroids, and grabbing reels for social, I decided to use my phone to produce a quick video that focused on the intricate detail work of the glass blowing. I wanted to highlight texture, color, and artistry.

In a room full of people, lights, various sculptures, and paintings, I wanted to control the viewers’ attention. Tune out the chaos, any extra audio or visual stimulation, and bring in a calm, ethereal, and cosmic vibe.

Overall, I think this stands out as the best memory because it left me with a feeling of awe. It reinvigorated interactive media work with new feelings of joy—a feeling I took home with me. I hope to continue to infuse it into my work.

Learn more about Rachel by reading the following Inver Hills News story:

“Staff Spotlight: Rachel Marzahn”

Rachel Marzahn before and after

Maranda Steinmetz-Robey

Maranda Steinmetz-Robey
Graphics Arts Specialist
Strategic Marketing and Communications
Inver Hills Community College
Dakota County Technical College

Age: 33
Hometown: Bloomer, Wisconsin
Current residence: South St. Paul, Minnesota
High school and year graduated: Bloomer High School, Class of 2009
Degree, institution, and year graduated: B.A. in Graphic Design, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, 2015
Family: Husband, Jacob, and dog, Mato, aka Tater Tot
Pastimes and hobbies: Loves to travel, camp, hike, read, attend live music, and hang out with her little family 😊
Date started working at Inver Hills and DCTC: March 2022

One word that best describes your experience working in higher education:


¹ Because I know that my daily contributions are bigger than myself.

Maranda Steinmetz-Robey Q & A

What are your primary duties as a graphic arts specialist?
1) Create and maintain college marketing material through graphic design skills that align with the college’s strategic plan and mission values. 2) Collaborate with the Marketing and Communications team to develop marketing campaigns targeting prospective and current students. 3) Build general college brand awareness through consistent and creative marketing using and developing innovative designs while staying within the brand.

What do you enjoy most about your job?
This one is easy, MY TEAM. I might be a bit biased, but I truly believe I have the best teammates in the world. Each of them possesses an incredible level of creativity and talent in their respective roles. I admire them greatly and enjoy collaborating with them and exchanging ideas and perspectives. While we are all strong on our own, together as a team, we are truly unstoppable.

Three words that describe you as a graphic arts specialist:

What is your favorite Adobe Creative Cloud app and why?
I would have to say InDesign since that is where I live most while designing. But Photoshop and Illustrator are tied for second. My new favorite app though has been Adobe Express where I’ve been exploring creating animations and social content.

What advice would you give someone thinking about a career in the graphic design field?
My advice would be to embrace adaptability. The field is continuously evolving with technological advancements and shifting trends, so being adaptable to change is crucial.

Additionally, explore the multitude of directions available within graphic design. From branding and advertising to web design and illustration, there are countless avenues to explore. Take the time to experiment with different areas to discover where your passion lies and continue to refine your skills in that area. Lastly, never stop learning.

What’s your favorite memory from the 2024 NCMPR National Conference in Seattle?
It’s so hard to choose just one. The whole conference was incredible. I always return feeling recharged and motivated with so many ideas to implement into our own world of marketing.

But if I had to pick, I would say Lisé giving her speech for winning this year’s NCMPR Rising Star Award was definitely a highlight and something to celebrate.

Chihuly Garden and Glass gallery

Rachel took a field trip to Chihuly Garden and Glass as part of one of her professional development courses at the NCMPR National Conference.

Learn more about Strategic Marketing and Communications at Inver Hills and DCTC by contacting:

Lisé Freking, JD
Strategic Marketing and Communications Director
Inver Hills Community College and Dakota County Technical College

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