Communicator of Achievement - 2021

Sherri Burr named NFPW’s National Communicator of Achievement 

June 14, 2021 – Sherri Burr of Albuquerque, N.M., has received the 2021 Communicator of Achievement Award from the National Federation of Press Women (NFPW). This prestigious award has been given for 64 years.

Burr received the award during a virtual celebration held in lieu of events at the organization’s annual conference, which was hosted June 10-12, 2021, by Arkansas Press Women. Now in its 84th year, NFPW is a nationwide organization of professional women and men pursuing careers across the spectrum of journalism and communications.

The Communicator of Achievement award is the highest honor bestowed by NFPW upon those members who have distinguished themselves within and beyond their field. The recipient, chosen from nominees selected by state affiliates from around the country, is recognized for exceptional achievement in the communications field, as well as service to NFPW, the affiliate organization and the community.

Burr, a member of New Mexico Press Women, a writer and retired professor, is Dickason Chair and Regents Professor Emerita, University of New Mexico School of Law. After graduating from Mount Holyoke College with a degree in politics, she enrolled in a joint degree program to earn her Masters of Public Affairs from Princeton University and her Juris Doctorate from Yale Law School. Her professional career has led to accomplishments  as an educator, writer, broadcaster and lecturer. 

Burr taught for three decades at the University of New Mexico Law School, penning over a dozen law journal articles and authoring over two dozen law books. She created, produced and hosted Arts Talk, a TV program designed to familiarize students with entertainment law. The award-winning show ran from 1998 to 2015 in New Mexico and Hawaii. She authored a weekly column for the Albuquerque Tribune for three years and published travel articles in the Albuquerque Journal, and continues to write columns for the Southwest Sage. Her first history book, Complicated Lives: Free Blacks in Virginia, 1691-1865, was published in 2019 and nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in history.

Burr is serving her second term as president of New Mexico Press Women. She has also served as vice president and First Amendment Chair and has won numerous communications awards from NMPW and NFPW. She has spoken not only at her affiliate, but at NFPW conferences on “Protecting Media Content in the Internet Era” and “Fair Use for Journalists.”

In addition, Burr has served on the Albuquerque Arts Board and the Albuquerque Public Arts Board. She is currently a mayor-appointed member of the Albuquerque Museum Board of Trustees, the Authors Guild Foundation Board of Directors and the Aaron Burr Association, and is a member of the New Mexico Black Lawyers’ Association and SouthWest Writers.  

Runner-up in the Communicator of Achievement competition was Mary Jane Skala of Kearney, Neb., an active member of Nebraska Press Women and an award-winning newspaper editor and reporter. A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Skala worked for 20 years as a senior editor at the Sun News, the suburban arm of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, where she was named one of Ohio’s Top Ten Journalists. She worked at the Kearney Hub from 2012 to 2015, then served as a volunteer coordinator at Ghost Ranch Education and Retreat Center in New Mexico for two years, returning to the Hub as a reporter and columnist in 2017.

Other nominees for the 2021 NFPW Communicator Achievement, each put forward by their NFPW affiliate organization, were: Jane Falany, Alabama Media Professionals; Marie Fasano, Arizona Professional Writers; Tammy Keith, Arkansas Press Women; Karen Petersen, Colorado Press Women; Roxane Ferguson, Delaware Press Association; Beth Bower, Kansas Professional Communicators; Tammy Fogle, North Dakota Professional Communicators; and Patty Kruszewski, Virginia Professional Communicators.

What is the Communicator of Achievement Award?

This award, the highest honor bestowed by NFPW, is given to members who have distinguished themselves within and beyond their profession. Nominees presented by state affiliates are recognized for exceptional achievement in the communications field, service to NFPW and impact in the community.

Each year, the COA and runner-up are announced at the Communicator of Achievement Award Banquet during NFPW’s annual conference (we held a virtual event in 2020). Nominees are recognized and honored at the banquet, as well as in NFPW’s publications.

Click here to see a list of the past winners.  


Karen Stensrud of Fargo, N.D., our 2021 COA director, was named NFPW’s COA in 2010.

Karen is vice president of brand and executive communications at Bell Bank, one of the nation’s largest privately held banks. Karen started her career as a newspaper reporter, then established her own marketing  communications business before joining Bell in 2003. Co-founder of the Fargo Women’s Business Exchange and a board member of the historic Fargo Theatre, Karen is known as a mentor among her colleagues. 

Karen is serving her fifth NFPW president as an advisor and was a three-term president of the North Dakota affiliate. She is a two-time NFPW contest Sweepstakes winner and has twice been honored as North Dakota’s Communicator of Achievement.