FRANKFORT, Ky. – President Raymond M. Burse is continuing his drive toward excellence. Burse announced the hiring of Diane M. Hawkins as the Director of Communications, and Dedra McDowell as Communications Specialist for Kentucky State University.

“I think you will find that Ms. Hawkins and Ms. McDowell will be great assets to our PR and communications department. They have both demonstrated that they have the skills necessary to continue to move KSU forward,” President Raymond M. Burse said. Hawkins will begin her responsibilities with the University on August 10, and McDowell began her duties on July 20.

Hawkins was most recently employed as a Digital Producer at The Courier-Journal. In her role, she wrote headlines, created photo galleries and collaborated with reporters and content coaches for She also helped to build audience engagement through social media and optimized online content.

Some of her additional experience includes a position as an Online Writing Consultant for Jefferson Community and Technical College, as well as an Adjunct Instructor for the college. Prior to her position as Digital Producer at The Courier-Journal, Hawkins served as Copy Editor for the newspaper, where she wrote headlines and edited stories for Features, Business, Arts & Entertainment and other sections. She has held the position of Copy Editor for several additional newspapers including the Chicago Sun-Times, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, the Rockford Register Star and The Tennessean.

“President Burse is truly an inspirational leader. He is passionate about the future of KSU, and I’m excited to be a part of the team,” Hawkins said. When asked about how she felt about working with President Burse, “I’m eager to learn from him. President Burse doesn’t just talk about blazing trails, he is literally leading the way.”

Hawkins has served as a judge for the Salute to Excellence Awards, a recognition program presented by the National Association of Black Journalists. She was a Professional-in-Residence at the University of Iowa in 2008 where she lectured and mentored students and has led and organized seminars hosted by the NABJ and the Freedom Forum in Nashville, Tenn.

Hawkins earned her B.A. in journalism from The University of Iowa and is pursuing a Masters of Interdisciplinary Studies degree with a focus on Journalism and English from Indiana University Southeast. She is a member of NABJ and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.


Prior to joining the External Relations department at KSU, McDowell worked as a journalist. She started her career as a Lifestyles Reporter for The Daily News Journal in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, where she covered health, kids and families, and general assignments. While at The Daily News Journal, McDowell launched and wrote for a weekly women’s interest publication,  Living Well.

McDowell later joined the staff of The Courier-Journal where she helped to launch the online component of Her Scene Magazine. In her role as an Online Writer, she was instrumental in producing both written and visual content for the website as well as maintaining the publication’s blog and social media. Most recently, McDowell worked as a copywriter for the Boston-based e-commerce site, Rue La La.

“Great things are happening at KSU right now,” McDowell said. “My goal is to show these great things through our social media channels as well as through traditional media. I am thrilled to join Kentucky State and I’m glad to be a part of the vision to move this university forward.”

McDowell is a graduate of Western Kentucky University’s School of Journalism and Broadcasting and recently earned an MFA in Writing from Spalding University.