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Alumna returns to UW-Eau Claire as interim director of university relations

Paula Gilbeck, an award-winning public relations professional with extensive experience in strategic communications and media relations, has been named interim director for university relations at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

Gilbeck, who is currently the vice president of PRW Communications, a full-service public relations firm in Madison, will join the UW-Eau Claire executive leadership team on June 29, reporting to Chancellor Schmidt.

A 1991 graduate of UW-Eau Claire, Gilbeck will oversee media and external relations for the university, duties which retiring assistant chancellor Mike Rindo managed in the past.

Paula Gilbeck

Paula Gilbeck

“I am excited to welcome Paula to UW-Eau Claire,” Chancellor James Schmidt said. “Not only is she a Blugold, but she also brings extensive experience in strategic communication, a deep understanding and love for our community and state, and a passion for helping us tell the world what sets our university apart. Her award-winning track record, public relations and crisis communication background, and media experience across the state will be great assets to UW-Eau Claire.”

Gilbeck earned a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism at UW-Eau Claire before beginning her career at WBIZ radio in Eau Claire. She worked as both a news anchor and news director at radio stations in Wausau, Oshkosh and Fond du Lac before becoming news assignment editor at two television stations (WMTV, WISC) in Madison. Gilbeck, who owns her own company, Paula Gilbeck Public Relations, has more than 20 years of experience working as a public relations professional.

“I am absolutely honored to be working with Chancellor Schmidt, his leadership team and the amazing faculty, staff and students at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire,” Gilbeck said. “To be back at my alma mater and to work for the university where my career started is really special. I am looking forward to reconnecting with the school and the Eau Claire community as a whole.”

Gilbeck has a wealth of experience that includes client relations, media outreach, campaign development, social media strategy and crisis communication.

During her career in public relations, Gilbeck won numerous prestigious awards for creative campaigns from the Public Relations Society of America and the Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals. Gilbeck’s work was honored with a Hermes Creative Award in 2008, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014. Her work on the Wisconsin Transportation Funding Crisis campaign earned the Hermes Platinum award in 2018 and a MarCom Platinum award in 2017.

Gilbeck developed and managed campaigns for several state entities including the Milwaukee Bucks, the American Heart Association of Wisconsin and the Association of Wisconsin Anesthesiologists.

Reporting structure realigned

Gilbeck will oversee the university relations team, which includes Jake Wrasse, who was named legislative and community relations liaison earlier this month, and Mike Knuth, associate director of Integrated Marketing and Communications. 

Wrasse, a 2016 communication studies graduate of UW-Eau Claire, earned his master’s degree in communication and advocacy at James Madison University before returning to UW-Eau Claire in 2018 to complete a two-year project appointment as government and community relations specialist. When a permanent version of that project position was created, Wrasse applied and was selected by a search and screen committee whose membership included community representation. A former UW-Eau Claire student body president, Wrasse now advises the university’s executive staff on strategic communication issues and represents the university to officials at all levels of government. His projects have included securing the first phase of funding for a new science and health sciences building, coordinating communication planning for the Sonnentag Centre project, and serving on the Wintermission Eau Claire steering team.

Mike Knuth, who has worked in the university’s Integrated Marketing and Communications department since 2015, will serve as UW-Eau Claire’s public information officer under Gilbeck. Knuth earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from UW-Eau Claire in 1986 and worked as a journalist in Wisconsin for 25 years before joining the marketing and communications team. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Knuth has liaised with area governments and health officials to share information and coordinate messaging campaigns. Knuth has served as a spokesperson for the university on numerous occasions, and he oversees news writing, video production and internal communication through the IMC.