Karen Stensrud, VP/brand and executive communications on Bell’s marketing team, has won the 2021 YWCA Cass-Clay Women of the Year award for communications.
Building her career over the last 3½ decades around her passion for the written word, Karen has mentored other writers, editors and marketers, co-founded and served organizations that lift up women in business, and helped guide Bell Bank’s marketing and messaging since joining the company in 2004.
Women of the Year communications nominees are described as “Women who color outside the lines and weave masterful stories through marketing, advertising, and/or public relations, who inspire others through innovation while representing women as a powerful force in the field of communications.”
In introducing Karen, Kerstin Kealy, WDAY TV anchor and Women of the Year emcee, said, “Karen doesn’t just color outside the lines – she paints all over them, using words to create a colorful canvas of expression. Not only is Karen an accomplished communicator, but she has also taught, encouraged and inspired many others throughout her career.”
Additionally, Karen has been an active community volunteer. She serves on the Fargo Theatre board, co-founded the Women’s Business Exchange of Fargo-Moorhead, co-chaired the Women’s Fund of the Fargo-Moorhead Area Foundation, and has served as North Dakota Professional Communicators (NDPC) president, National Federation of Press Women (NFPW) Education Fund board member and NFPW high school contest co-chair.
In her acceptance speech, Karen said she is deeply honored simply to be part of the group of nominees.
“I have many mentors who have helped me build a career on knowing not just where to put the commas (and there are rules on that) but also on the importance of the words we choose,” Karen remarked. “We know it’s true now more than ever how important our words are. And I’m still learning, it’s not just my words – it’s the thoughts and intentions behind what I choose to say, and it’s also what I choose not to say. I’m learning that silence can be gentle and forgiving, but it can also be acquiescence. Choosing to say nothing can be choosing not to act – and that’s passive acceptance instead of giving my voice to help bring change.”
Karen went on to say the Women of the Year nominees have inspired her to ask what else she can do and how else she can use her voice for good.
Karen has also been regionally and nationally recognized for her accomplishments, having been named NDPC Communicator of Achievement in 2010 and 2018, and the NFPW Communicator of Achievement in 2010.