Nicole Watkins was hired as Director of Athletic Communications at UChicago in June 2017.
Watkins provides leadership and execution of departmental communications to promote 20 varsity sports and all aspects of Athletics & Recreation.
Prior to her arrival on the Hyde Park campus, Watkins spent three years at Purdue University Northwest as the Assistant Athletic Director for Sports Information, Marketing and Event Management. She made key contributions during the unification of the Purdue Calumet and Purdue North Central athletic departments, which officially became Purdue Northwest in 2016. Watkins took on a major assistance and leadership role during the athletic merger, including the creation of PNWathletics.com and departmental rebranding with a new logo and mascot (Pride).
Her work online and in print has drawn recognition and awards along the way. Watkins was named the 2015-16 Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference Sports Information Director of the Year. The PNW sports information office won the 2016-17 Gary Spitler Memorial Award for Excellence in Publications (top award in NAIA-SIDA Publications Contest), which included two first-place finishes (Multi-Sport Poster and Infographic). The College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) also bestowed five honors in the 2016-17 CoSIDA Publications and Digital Design Contest, including "Best Cover" awards in the College Division Men's Basketball media guide and Special Events categories.
Watkins made a seismic impact in the social media realm at PNW. Over three years, the school saw exponential growth in followers of PNW's social media accounts: Instagram (+384%), Twitter (+226%) and Facebook (+215%). YouTube views also soared (+535%).
PNW's departmental video streaming efforts received a major upgrade during her tenure. The new multi-camera, high-definition production increased live views by 135 percent in two years. Games simultaneously streamed on Facebook Live brought in more than 20,000 views in one season.
Watkins began her journalistic career as a sports writer and photographer at The Kalamazoo Gazette in Kalamazoo, Mich. After five years in Kalamazoo, she went on to become the sports editor at The Polk County Itemizer-Observer in Dallas, Ore. for two years. In 2012-13, Watkins was picked as both the Society of Professional Journalists of Oregon and Southwest Washington Rookie of the Year, and the Oregon High School Wrestling Coaches Association Media Person of the Year. Her sports information experience included a one-year stint at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology as the Sports Information Graduate Assistant in 2013-14.
A native of Medina, Ohio, Watkins earned her bachelor's degree in fine art photography at Western Michigan University. While at WMU, she was a four-year varsity letter winner at shooting guard for the women's basketball team. Watkins later received her master's degree in recreation & sport management from Indiana State University.