Scott Ketelsen, Marketing and Media Production

Scott Ketelsen at the Hawkeye Tennis and Recreation Complex. Photo by Tim Schoon.

At one point, Scott Ketelsen’s career goals involved fairways, not the airwaves.

“As a kid and through high school, I was certain I would be a professional athlete,” says Ketelsen, director of University of Iowa Marketing and Media Production. “Since I wasn’t fast enough for certain sports, I focused on golf. I even had a private business owner in Cedar Rapids ready to sponsor me for a couple of years if I wanted to try and get my Tour card.”

But during Ketelsen’s sophomore year of college, a communications degree was created by the university he was attending. He looked at the classes and thought that would be a good fit for his interests. “That’s what I’ve been doing ever since,” Ketelsen says.

Ketelsen’s department produces a wide range of graphics, audio, photo, and video projects, including non-athletic programming for Big Ten Network. (Some of the department’s work can be seen at

fyi caught up with Ketelsen about the changes he’s seen in the communications field, what he loves about working in higher education, and the time he got to perform at the famed Red Rocks Amphitheatre.

You’ve worked at Kirkwood Community College and the University of Iowa. What drew you toward working in higher education?

Prior to Kirkwood, I worked for CRST International, a commodities transportation company in Cedar Rapids. I spent my last three years at CRST in the driver development department, working closely with community colleges throughout the nation on training programs for people who wanted to get into the industry. When I left trucking I got the opportunity to manage the driver training program at Kirkwood. After 15 years in the transportation industry higher education was a whole new world. The energy, students, new ideas, and environment had me hooked from the first day.

What have you enjoyed most in your UI job?

Two things. First, the work we do is impactful. People become complacent when they don’t truly believe what they do makes any difference. But people pay close attention to what happens at the University of Iowa, and it’s a real thrill to be part of the communication team.

A few of my favorite things…

Diet Pepsi

Lunch at Sports Column (love their wraps!)

The book Nuts! Southwest Airlines Crazy Recipe for Business and Personnel Success

Jazz/fusion, classic rock, the Dave Matthews Band

Blade Runner

The show Dexter

Second, interacting with the students. The students on this campus are absolutely amazing in so many ways. They have energy, talent, and potential, which makes me feel young—or younger, anyway—and optimistic about the future. I always catch myself smiling when I witness them moving between buildings and classes. For me, that is what is special about working in higher education.

How has technology changed the way we communicate with our audiences?

I clearly remember my first day on the job at CRST in 1984. There was not a single computer in the building.

Technology advances are very exciting and extremely challenging. It doesn’t seem possible to keep pace with the rate of change. We are always trying to figure out what is next. Another benefit of the higher education setting: we are surrounded by extremely intelligent students who provide valuable insight on this subject. We watch and listen to them while trying to allocate resources in order to stay relevant.

It is also exciting when tackling communication issues for multiple audiences. While students are clearly a primary audience, we can never forget about parents, faculty/staff, alumni, residents of Iowa, etc. As communicators we have to develop different delivery methodologies for the different audiences, and that is exciting.

What’s the most unexpected thing that’s happened to you at work?

Having a “We want you to relocate” conversation. In 1996 I was asked to move to Oklahoma City and manage the CRST office. I still remember that odd feeling in my stomach as I was grasping what was being asked and everyone that it would impact. I’m quite certain I looked like the proverbial deer in the headlights. At the time my wife and I had two young children and life seemed relatively stable. After the initial shock wore off I had to figure out how I was going to skillfully break the news to my wife, siblings, grandparents, and our kids without inducing trauma. It was a real shock.

What would your colleagues be surprised to learn about you?

I sang baritone in the UNI Men’s Varsity Glee Club for three years. When I was in the group we had approximately 50 guys and it was more of a social event than serious singing. However, we successfully hosted many annual Christmas concerts that were always sellouts, sang at Red Rocks in Colorado, and toured Europe over a spring break. It was a fantastic experience and one that I will never forget. Now the group is filled with vocal majors and even has an endowment for future funding. It’s rewarding to know I was there in the early years.

What do you like to do in your free time? Do you still play golf?

Scott KetelsenWhen I’m not working I am doing one of two things: watching our three kids participate in sports, or participating myself. As our children got older, my wife Suzy and I had two cars going in different directions so at least one parent was at every game, match, or tournament. We love watching them play.

I’ve played golf since I was 8 years old. My dad was influential in getting me involved. I discovered tennis my junior year of college. There is nothing like having a roommate on the tennis team to stimulate your interest in a sport! I still play racquetball and basketball whenever I can sneak in a game or match.

You work at Iowa, and you’re an alumnus of the University of Northern Iowa. Do you root openly for one or the other? The men’s hoops teams play each other tomorrow, you know.

An unexpected question! My wife and I met while enrolled at UNI. I was in the crowd in Oklahoma City for UNI’s victory over top-seeded Kansas two seasons ago in the NCAA men’s tournament. It was the most incredible sporting event I have ever witnessed. I love the Hawks but when it comes time for tip-off my heart is with the Panthers.