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2024 Distinguished Alumni Awarded to Kevin Knight


Kevin Knight and his family of 5 stand in a forest with large pine trees.

Kevin Knight with family.

Kevin Knight, veteran chief marketing officer, has been selected for the University of Utah’s College of Humanities Distinguished Alumni Award. Knight, who received a Bachelor of Arts degree in international and area studies in 2006, cut his teeth as an early employee of Facebook, Pinterest, and Compass. Having navigated the worlds of consumer and enterprise marketing over his entire career, Kevin now consults with companies looking to nail their positioning, flesh out their go-to-market strategy, and build a brand that will set them apart from the competition. His consulting clients include Flo Health, Ancestry, the Utah Jazz, Walrus Health, Ternary, Palta, ExpertVoice, and many others.

Kevin is a frequent public speaker at forums ranging from AdWeek to SXSW and has been featured in Fast Company, Forbes, and on CNBC. His work has won some of the most prestigious awards in advertising and marketing. Kevin has lectured at Columbia University, MIT, BYU, and, of course, the University of Utah. He holds degrees from MIT, the University of Utah, and Utah Valley University.

As the 2024 Distinguished Alumni recipient, Kevin will be honored at the college’s convocation ceremony, Friday, May 3, 2 p.m. at the Huntsman Center, where he will provide the keynote address. He will also be the guest of honor at the college’s annual Distinguished Alumni event, on Thursday, May 2, where exceptional graduating humanities students will also be recognized.

Below, Knight answers questions about his experience as a humanities student and offers some advice to new graduates.

Q: Why did you choose the U?

A: I’m a sixth generation Utahn and the son and grandson of U students. From wearing Utah sweatshirts to football as a kid, I always imagined myself attending the U…and I’m glad I did!

Q: Why did you choose to major in International Studies?

A: I grew up overseas (in Germany, Mexico, Guatemala, and Sweden) and have always been fascinated by other cultures. Studying and experiencing other people and places inspires new ideas and insights for me. Learning that I could get a degree in international studies was the epitome of the feeling so many of us get as new middle schoolers when we first get to choose what we want to study — and discover there are subjects we already love.

Q: What did you enjoy most about being a humanities student?

A: I loved the faculty in the College of Humanities. From every class and interaction, I could tell they cared deeply about their subject matter and their students. It was an incredible experience to have such qualified guides lead me through the discovery of other cultures through such wide-ranging lenses as history, economics, anthropology, and film.

Q: What are some key memories you have as a humanities student?

A: While living in Sweden, I’d become very close with a family originally from Peru. I knew something of their history, but during my time at the U, Dr. James Lehning (who then led the international studies program) encouraged me to explore their history as the topic for a paper. It was a powerful experience to connect what I’d been learning about geopolitics and Andean cultures with the very real and very dramatic experiences that shaped the lives of my close friends. It was then, that I think I really saw the connection between humanities as an academic subject and the experience of the world around me.  

Q: Was there a specific class that you found especially impactful/inspiring?

A: As much as my studies centered on geopolitics, economics, and business, I think the class that I reflect on most — even nearly 20 years later — is International Film. Diving into the ways film can portray a people and a culture in such a powerful way was an important lesson for me. When I watch an indie or foreign film today, I tend to think back to that class and how it would push me to look beyond the story of the film into the deeper understories of the culture, politics, social factors, etc. of the people whose story is being told.

Q: What skills did you learn as a humanities student that most prepared you for a career? Which of these skills do you still utilize?

A: People are at the heart of everything. Whether it’s a business idea, an ad campaign, a strategic partnership, or just about anything else, what really makes the world go round is people. And humanities is essentially the study of people. Learning how to look far beneath the surface of people and cultures has helped me as a marketer to see the opportunity to connect at a deeper, emotional level with the audiences I’ve worked with.

Q: Why did you choose marketing as a career field?

A: I love marketing because it’s all about connecting with people. On the surface, marketing is just sharing a message with people. But done well, marketing goes further. It delivers a message deep into the emotional core of a person or group of people and can even affect the way they feel. That’s why I think humanities is the perfect preparation for anyone interested in marketing. Studying the humanities is really studying people — and you can’t be a successful marketer without understanding people and what motivates them.

Q: What advice do you have for graduating students as they start to explore a career and life after college?

A: Think broad. Humanities is the perfect preparation for literally any career because it sets graduates up to look more deeply at the world and people around them. I encourage graduating students to not stop at humanities but to view it as humanities plus. Now that you have a solid foundation, what do you want to do next? Business? Writing? Law? It doesn’t matter what it is, it’ll be better because of your foundation in humanities.

Kevin Knight sitting in front of stock exchange screens
Kevin Knight speaking at Influencer Marketing Days


Last Updated: 4/30/24