Grehan: there and back again

By Lauren Allen

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Starting as a journalism student at UK, assistant professor Kakie Urch used hard work and networking to apply her communications skills to everything from teaching to editing six different publications in the course of her career and marketing for five different movies in a single year.

“Kakie just doesn’t live on the cutting edge of what’s new — she makes it happen,” said Rob Theakston, a friend and colleague of Urch.

While earning her bachelor’s degree, Urch worked as a production assistant for touring rock bands like Van Halen and Aerosmith during 1985-89. She used her passion for the music industry to pay for her college education.

When Urch was not living the rockstar life, she collaborated with four other board members to create a non-profit Low Power FM radio station, lL, that serves the downtown area.

She participates in a radio talk show on WRFL, “Trivial Thursdays,” at 7-9 a.m. Until recently, she also did “Phantom Power Double Hour” on Friday nights from 6-8 p.m.

This project ended an era for Urch at the Kentucky Kernel and her popular Wednesday column, typically covering events in the news that week; one of which was an article detailing how the university needed its own radio station.

Being an advocate for the station meant that she had to choose radio or print. Soon after, the radio station became a reality and the Kernel column was just a memory of past bylines.

After finishing her masters degree at UK, Urch continued her education at Pennsylvania State University studying for her Ph. D., focusing on her dissertation project, “Big Gun: The Canon of Delivery.”

She received another job as the bureau chief and editor of The Kentucky Enquirer, which did bring a distinct focus to the way the rest of her career would unfold.

During her time at the newspaper, Urch covered the Cincinnati riots, Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and even broke the OxyContin epidemic nationwide.

As an editor, Urch gave her writers constructive feedback to always help make them better reporters, Stephenie Hoelscher, a former employee of Urch, said.

Unfortunately, Sept. 11 threw a punch at Americans, and specifically, newspapers.

“The first thing that people cut in economic fear is advertising and marketing,” Urch said.

In 2007, she received another job offer that landed her right into Palm Springs, Calif. There, her newspaper decided to start moving its focus to online news.

Urch’s focus in “the canon of delivery” made her an expert on the current turn of news delivery away from print and onto the web.

This did not seem to be enough to turn the newspaper around, though.

“It was clear to me that newspapers, even Gannett (where Urch worked), was moving too slowly for what was in the real world,” Urch said.

Another connection told Urch about a job opening. The new job was away from news and heading towards the movie industry.

Urch did the strategic marketing product placement for the movies “Seven Pounds,” “Miracle at St. Anna,” “Soul Men,” “The Longshots,” and “Terminator Salvation,” all in 2008.

In this job role, she again had to use old connections and make new ones to get everything from medical equipment and food to Formula One racing and stores.

Having the job took her around the world, and after the year was over, she was ready to head back to her college roots.

“Every career, and mine is no different, is ‘And then I met a guy who said he had a thing,’” Urch said.

Her next “thing” was a tenure track at UK teaching multimedia.

Doing a full circle back to where she started, Urch went from being a student to a teacher, now working with her previous professors like Scoobie Ryan.

“Kakie hasn’t changed much. She was fierce then and she’s fierce now,” Ryan said. “She never settled for anything less than excellence from herself.”

Urch compared the job of teaching to managing newsrooms.

“There is complex, problem-solving in real time without a net,” Urch said.

Theakston said that Urch is not just a teacher, but an advocate for her students and her profession. He believes that when she is passionate about something, she will work tirelessly to make it successful whether that thing is her students, the Lexington arts community or WRFL.

Once Urch finds out about a person’s passion or talent, she will create a bridge for people to connect and use what they each have to make something even better, Theakston added.

“She’s a catalyst to so many great things in this city, and even though she feels lucky to be from here, I think we’re even more lucky to have someone like her in town,” Theakston said.