From newspapers to bank communications, Stensrud excels in all she sets out to accomplish


She excels in everything she does. She was the sweepstakes winner in the 2013 NFPW Communications Contest. In 2010 she was named Communicator of Achievement, the top honor given to a NFPW member. Give her a task and it is done on time and with style and class. She is always looking for ways to do things better and willing to help in any way she can. Meet an outstanding writer and communicator who shares her talents with the state and national organization. Meet my good friend Karen Stensrud.

 Name: Karen Stensrud

Karen  Stensrud

Karen Stensrud

City and state: Fargo, North Dakota

Affiliate and any leadership positions:

In my state affiliate, North Dakota Professional Communicators (NDPC), I have directed our college communications contest; served as district chair, scholarship chair and nominations chair; and served three consecutive terms as president.

At the national level, I co-chaired NFPW’s high school communications contest for several years, served as an NFPW Education Fund board member, chaired the nominating committee and have been honored to serve on the President’s Advisory Council for both Lori Potter and Teri Ehresman.

Years a member of NFPW: 21

In a couple of paragraphs, tell us a little about you:

I’m a South Dakota native and grew up in a wonderful small town, Madison. I enjoyed the benefits of being the only daughter and middle child, with two brothers. My younger brother died in a car accident when he was 16 (I was 18), and my nephew, Andrew, is named after him. My brother’s death meant that I understood from a young age that life is too short to become caught up in petty things or be negative and unhappy. (End of sermon.)

Karen with her parents Helen and Homer Stensrud of Effie, Minn. The  attended the conference in Chicago when Karen was named NFPW Communicator of Achievement.

Karen with her parents Helen and Homer Stensrud of Effie, Minn. They attended the conference in Chicago when Karen was named NFPW Communicator of Achievement.

I graduated from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn., and have a master’s degree in creative writing from Minnesota State University– Moorhead. (It means I could write a sonnet about the bank where I work, although I have to say, there has not been a great call for that.) I have worked in journalism, marketing and communications – first as a newspaper reporter, then as a healthcare marketing writer and designer. After that, I owned my own marketing communications business for eight years before joining Bell State Bank & Trust 10 years ago as marketing manager. I’ve had an interesting career with a variety of work! We are undergoing some exciting changes at Bell this year, and I am now transitioning to management of the communications and content side of the company. It’s really fun, because it channels my strategic and writing strengths into helping plan and “give voice” to executives and experts in our company. It makes my work interesting, with lots of new ideas and new things to learn.

I have a little black cat, Minette, who entertains me and has a place of prominence (as she should) at the top of my Facebook page. My parents are retired on a lake in northern Minnesota, and I plan trips and travel with them as often possible; last year, we went to San Clemente and Santa Catalina, in Southern California, and had so much fun we might repeat the trip next spring! My

Karen and her nephew, Andrew Stensrud, on a family sightseeing trip.

Karen and her nephew, Andrew Stensrud, on a family sightseeing trip.

brother and his family live near Rochester, Minn., and I enjoy taking my 16-year-old nephew and 14-year-old niece on trips every few years. We’ve been to Washington, D.C. and New York City, and I have a wild idea about taking them to Paris after their graduations. I like to spend my free time visiting family, hanging out with friends, traveling, cooking and reading.

Any career advice you would give?

I have always told college students to do what they love, not what will necessarily please others. If you want to write well, read lots. Keep learning. Become masterful at what you’re good at. If you need to, motivate yourself one of my favorite Eleanor Roosevelt quotes: “You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” It’s the only way I learned public speaking!

Which talent would you most like to have?

I wish I had a really lovely singing voice – I do not, although I can sing in tune.

If you could live anywhere, where would it be?

I’d love to have a flat in Paris – who wouldn’t?

What book are you reading?

I’m always trying to read two or three books at once, so my list gets long. The summer read I’ve been recommending is Sue Monk Kidd’s “The Invention of Wings.” I’m going to look for NFPW friend Julie Campbell’s recommendation, Hampton Sides’ “In the Kingdom of Ice,” about a 19th-century attempt to sail to the North Pole. (I love biography and history.) I also have a really odd list of old favorites I reread almost every year, including “David Copperfield,” “The Wind in the Willows,” “1984,” “The Lord of the Rings” and all the “Little House on the Prairie” books.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

I am one of the few people most people know who has actually been to Madagascar. My mom grew up there as the daughter of missionaries, and I made a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Madagascar in 1992 with my mom and her oldest sister, visiting all the places they had lived. It was amazing to see the landscape of my mother’s childhood, when I’d previously had to imagine from her stories and photos!

Why are your affiliate and NFPW important to you?

I have benefited not only from the conferences and professional development presented by both NDPC and NFPW, but also from outstanding professional recognition, thanks to contest and Sweepstakes awards and being named national COA in 2010 – a career highlight for me. Just as importantly, I have made lifelong friendships in both organizations. Because of going to conferences and getting involved at the national level, I have made friends with people from all over the country, and I treasure those relationships.

Way to follow you on a website, twitter, Facebook, etc.

You can friend me on Facebook or connect with me on LinkedIn. I haven’t become a great Tweeter yet!

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