The Visiting Committee is a group of high-level professionals, alumni and friends who serve in an advisory capacity to the College of Media. Committee members share their expertise, insights and connections with administration, faculty and students to help the College achieve academic excellence and national prominence. Committee members are appointed by the WVU Provost in consultation with the College of Media Dean and typically serve three-year appointments.
WVU, BSME, 1987
Vice President, BGR Public Relations, Washington, D.C.
Frank Ahrens joined BGR Public Relations in January 2014. He uses his experience
in Washington and overseas to guide clients through the challenges they face
online and in dealing with major media outlets.
Before coming to BGR, Ahrens led Hyundai Motor’s global public relations efforts from company headquarters in Seoul. He became a director at Hyundai Motor in 2010 and was promoted to Vice President of Global Corporate Communications two years later.
Ahrens previously worked for 18 years as an editor and reporter at the Washington Post. He covered the global financial crisis of 2008-2010 as well as the media and entertainment industries. Ahrens appeared frequently as a media industry expert on CNBC, MSNBC, PBS and other networks.
He is the author of “Seoul Man: A Memoir of Cars, Culture, Crisis, and Unexpected Hilarity Inside a Korean Corporate Titan,” selected as a New York Post Best Book of 2016.
He writes a regular column for Forbes, and his writing has also appeared in Foreign Policy, the Washington Post and the Diplomat.
Ahrens attended West Virginia University where he received a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. He lives in the Washington, D.C., area with his wife, Rebekah; daughters Annabelle and Penelope; and Labrador, Chairman.
WVU, BSJ, 1981
Anchor, WTOP, Washington, D.C.
Shawn Anderson co-anchors the afternoon drive-time show for top-rated all-news radio station WTOP in Washington, D.C. WTOP is America’s No. 1 revenue-earning radio station, and is on the cutting-edge of digital news gathering.
Since 1998, Anderson’s show has been one of the highest Arbitron-rated afternoon radio programs in the country. Anderson has contributed to hundreds of national and regional awards earned by WTOP, including several RDTNA National Edward R. Murrow Awards for Overall Excellence.
Anderson co-anchored WTOP’s coverage of the 9/11 terror attacks and the 2002 Beltway sniper murders, among other major national news stories.
Anderson has anchored WTOP’s breaking news coverage on numerous local and national stories ranging from the 9/11 terror attacks, to natural disasters, to the recent Capital Gazette shootings.
Prior to joining WTOP, Anderson twice covered the Olympic Winter Games as a news and sports anchor for the Associated Press Radio Network. As sports director for the Tennessee Radio Network, he was a member of Vanderbilt University’s football and basketball broadcast crew.
Anderson is a native of Mt. Pleasant, Pa., and a WVU graduate. As a student, he worked as a disc jockey and sportscaster at WCLG-FM in Morgantown and as a sports writer for the Preston County Journal in Kingwood. After graduation, he sandwiched a stint in politics between on-air stops in suburban Pittsburgh, Annapolis, Md., and the West Virginia Radio Network. Anderson lives in College Park, Md., with his wife, Sharon O’Malley, an author, freelance journalist and professor of journalism at Anne Arundel Community College.
WVU, BSJ, 1971; Auburn University, MA Public Administration, 1981
Colonel, USAF Retired
Colonel Tom Boyd retired from the Air Force in 2003 with 30 years of active duty service, nearly all in the public affairs field (corporate communications).
He served as director of public affairs for several major commands – Air Force Education and Training Command which directs all Air Force recruiting, training and education; U.S. Forces Japan, a multi-service command for all U.S. military activities in Japan; U.S. Pacific Command, the multi-service command overseeing the Pacific and Asia theater.
Throughout his career, he has had extensive experience dealing with U.S. and international news media and directing crisis communications, strategic communication planning, media training, employee communication, community relations, and organizational management, planning, and budgeting. He’s served as communication counsel to senior military and civilian leaders, including four-star commanders, the Air Force vice chief of staff and chief of staff, and two secretaries of the Air Force.
After retiring from the Air Force, he was asked by the Navy’s Chief of Information to serve as an assistant for professional development and education for the Navy’s public affairs community, which he did for three years, establishing a concentrated master’s degree program in mass communication at San Diego State University.
He was recognized as the top military public affairs officer in 1986 when he received The Aviation Space Writers Association’s “Public Affairs Officer Award” for crisis communication and overall communication management at Clark Air Base, the Philippines.
WVU, BSJ, 1991
Senior Local News Editor , Courier Journal, Louisville, Ky.
Rob Byers is a native of Amity, Pa., and a 1991 graduate of West Virginia University’s Perley Isaac Reed School of Journalism, now the Reed College of Media. Byers began as a reporter with the Charleston Gazette in Charleston, W.Va., two days after his graduation. In the 27 years to follow, he advanced from reporter to assistant city editor, Sunday editor, city editor, and, in August 2011, executive editor. As executive editor, he oversaw all news-gathering functions for West Virginia’s largest newspaper. In 2015, Byers helped oversee the combination of Charleston’s two longstanding newspapers – the Gazette and the Daily Mail - and became executive editor of the combined Charleston Gazette-Mail.
Byers has been the editor on more than a dozen national award-winning Gazette projects. In April 2017, the Gazette-Mail received the Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting following a project on the role of drug wholesalers in the state’s opioid crisis.
In October 2018, Byers joined the Courier Journal in Louisville, Ky., as its Senior Local News Editor. There, he manages a team of reporters who cover politics, local and state government, education and business.
In early 2014, Byers was chosen by the International Center for Journalists as one of 10 journalists from across the nation to spend two weeks reporting from Pakistan. He has mentored two Pakistani journalists visiting the U.S. for the first time, in 2013 and 2014, and also mentored three Russian journalists over three consecutive years, working with each of them to get their first U.S. bylines. In July 2016, Byers was chosen by the East-West Center in Honolulu to be part of an exchange program with South Korean journalists, and in September 2017, Byers was invited to spend of week reporting on education and health in Tanzania with four other editors from across the U.S.
WVU, BSJ, 2001
Director of Philanthropic Strategies, Scripps Howard Foundation
Meredith Delaney is the Director of Philanthropic Strategies for the Scripps Howard Foundation. At the crossroads of the classroom and newsroom, the Scripps Howard Foundation is a leader in supporting experiential learning in journalism education and childhood literacy initiatives. She oversees charitable giving for the Scripps and Howard family members, E.W. Scripps employees, retirees and others.
Delaney brings with her a decade of experience in fundraising and non-profit industries, previously serving as Senior Director of Development for the regional colleges at the University of Cincinnati and Senior Community Impact Associate at United Way of Greater Cincinnati.
Delaney received her bachelor’s degree in Journalism from the Reed College of Media at West Virginia University in 2001 and a master’s degree in Communication from the University of Cincinnati in 2004. She serves on the Board of Directors for the Alzheimer’s Association of Greater Cincinnati and is a former Vice President, Board of Directors for The Literacy Council of Clermont & Brown Counties. She is a graduate of the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber’s program WE Lead and the YWCA of Greater Cincinnati’s Rising Star Leadership Development Program.
WVU, BSJ, 1975
Member, Jackson Kelly, PLLC
Samme L. Gee is a member of the Firm’s Health Care, Financial Services, and Public Finance industry groups. Gee’s practice is focused on tax exempt and taxable municipal bonds and related governmental financings as well as corporate trust, legislative services and governmental agency representation. In that capacity, she routinely serves as bond counsel, underwriter’s counsel, trustee’s counsel or issuer’s or borrower’s counsel. Gee has extensive experience in the financing and development of infrastructure projects with an emphasis on water, wastewater, highways and public facilities and economic development projects. She is a member of the National Association of Bond Lawyers (NABL) and is listed in Woodward/White’s The Best Lawyers in America®. She has been named in the spring 2017 Best Lawyers® Business Edition “Women in Law,” West Virginia Super Lawyers®, and Chambers USA America’s Leading Lawyers. She was also recognized as 2019 “Lawyer of the Year” in the practice area of Public Financial Law in Charleston, WV by the Best Lawyers in America®.
Gee graduated from the West Virginia University College of Law in 1983, where she was a member of the West Virginia Law Review. She also holds a master’s degree in public administration.
WVU, BSJ, 1971
Former president of DDB Chicago
Upon Graduation Ray spent two years as a Second Lieutenant in the US Army and four
years as an account executive at McDonald and Little Advertising in Atlanta.
In 1978 Ray Gillette joined DDB Chicago as an account supervisor and over the
next 25 years he worked on many of DDB’s largest accounts, ranging from Anheuser-Busch,
State Farm, Discover Card, Dell, General Mills, Dial and The Home Depot. In addition,
Gillette was a visionary in integrated marketing, bringing its benefits to DDB
clients long before it became standard industry practice. For his efforts, in
1996, he was named president of Beyond DDB, North America, DDB’s integrated marketing
company and given the responsibility to grow the agency’s non traditional resources.
In 2000, he was appointed president of DDB Chicago, DDB’s largest office.
In 2004, Gillette, with the support of DDB and its parent Omnicom, started Downtown Partners Chicago, an integrated marketing communications agency. Under his leadership, Downtown Partners, became the agency of record for a number of leading, brands: Walgreens, Northern Trust, Northwestern Mutual, Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau and the Kellogg School of Management.
On January 1, 2008, Gillette retired from Downtown Partners so that he could spend more time working with nonprofit organizations that benefit the underserved.
Gillette serves on the Board of StreetWise – a Chicago newspaper for the homeless, where he serves as vice-chair and chairman of the publication committee. Salvation Army’s Metropolitan Chicago Advisory Board where he chairs the communication committee, Salvation Army Harbor Light Advisory Board, drug rehab facility and he is a member of the Advisory Board of West Virginia University’s Reed College of Media.
He has lectured on integrated marketing at Northwestern University, Thunderbird, the School of International Management, University of Michigan and West Virginia University. Ray has also worked as an adjunct professor of integrated marketing at WVU’s IMC program.
In 2001, he was inducted into the West Virginia University Academy of Distinguished Alumni.
Ray and his wife Susan, a former advertising executive, have been married for 40 years. They have two daughters, Maggie and Lindsay and two grandchildren, Wynnie and Archie, with whom they love spending time.
WVU, BSJ, 2001
Executive Vice President, MCS Healthcare
For 20 years Chad has built industry-first communications programs for some of
the world’s most respected healthcare organizations. Today, he drives new capabilities
and new ways of thinking for MCS Healthcare and its clients. He has a deep appreciation
for the psychology of communications and a passion for developing original ideas
that approach communications differently.
Before MCS, Chad held senior positions at some of the world’s top public relations firms including Porter Novelli and Fleishman-Hillard. Chad works out of Basking Ridge, NJ and is honored to be a 2001 WVU Reed College of Media graduate.
WVU, BSJ, 1975
Former Editorial Page Editor, The San Diego Union-Tribune
An award-winning journalist with extensive experience in national, state, and local affairs, Kittle served for nearly two decades as editorial page editor of The San Diego Union-Tribune. Later in his career he stepped in as director of news content for KUSI-TV in San Diego. As a much sought-after commentator, he provided regular political analysis on PBS’s “NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.” He also appeared frequently on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered” and “Weekend Edition,” along with numerous interviews on network and cable television news programs. In San Diego Kittle was a regular guest on KUSI-TV and KPBS radio and television, and hosted his own weekly public affairs program on SignOn Radio.
Kittle has nurtured a lifelong interest in American history. His first book, “Franciscan Frontiersmen: How Three Adventurers Charted the West,” relates the little-known story of pioneering friars who accompanied Junípero Serra to California in the middle of the eighteenth century. It was published in May 2017 by The University of Oklahoma Press. He currently is researching a book on the Cupeño “trail of tears” in San Diego County at the start of the 20th century.
Kittle joined The San Diego Union in 1986. During his tenure he traveled the world widely under the auspices of The National Conference of Editorial Writers, including extended tours to the Soviet Union and eastern bloc countries in 1990, as communist regimes were collapsing, and to the Islamic world in 2002 in the aftermath of the September 11 terror attacks. He speaks Spanish, German, and Italian.
From 1979 to 1986, Kittle was an associate editor of U.S. News & World Report in Washington. He served the magazine as White House correspondent, congressional correspondent, and Pentagon correspondent. After covering Ronald Reagan’s successful 1980 presidential campaign, Kittle was assigned to the White House on a full-time basis, ultimately conducting multiple presidential interviews in the Oval Office. Prior to joining U.S. News & World Report, Kittle was the Washington bureau chief for The Charleston (W.Va.) Daily Mail. He is a graduate of West Virginia University, where he served as editor-in-chief of the Daily Athenaeum.
His writing accolades include the George Washington Honor Medal awarded by the Freedom’s Foundation of Valley Forge, the Scripps Howard National Newspaper Award, the William Randolph Hearst Award, the California Newspaper Publishers Association Award, and numerous citations from the Los Angeles Press Club and the San Diego Press Club. Kittle and his wife have two grown children and live in Cayucos, Calif., and Carefree, Ariz.
WVU, BSJ, 2011
Senior Editor, HuffPost
Paige Lavender is a native of Charleston, W.Va. She graduated from West Virginia University in 2011 and took a job with The Huffington Post shortly after. As one of the website’s politics editors, Lavender helped coordinate coverage of the 2012 and 2016 elections. She currently runs HuffPost’s breaking news team.
Lavender earned her bachelor’s degree in News-Editorial Journalism with a minor in English. She completed her master’s degree in Interactive Journalism at American University in 2016. Find her on Twitter @paigelav.
Vice President of University Relations & Enrollment Management, West Virginia University
Arriving at West Virginia University in the fall of 2013, Sharon serves as the chief marketing and communications officer for the university. She led the branding effort in 2015 that launched the “Mountaineers Go First” campaign and repositioned the university as an academic and research leader. In 2017, WVU’s University Relations team was selected as one the top 3 teams in the country by the American Marketing Association.
In the fall of 2017, Enrollment Management was added to her portfolio. She now leads a team that has integrated the roles of marketing and communications, recruitment and admissions, and financial aid. The merger allows the teams to create a strategic yet personal student experience to improve recruitment and admissions rates at the University.
Prior to her arrival at WVU, Sharon served as the assistant vice president of marketing at Purdue University leading the areas of brand, creative and marketing strategy. She also owned a boutique marketing and communication agency, and founded a local, bi-monthly women’s magazine, which focused on relevant women’s issues and local community programming. She worked for the Purdue Alumni Association for 13 years, ultimately serving as director of communications and editor of the bi-monthly magazine.
Sharon currently serves on the board of the WVU Alumni Association and is a member of the executive committee of the Association of Public Land Grant’s Strategic Communications Council. She has served on the boards of National Mortar Board, Association of Women in Communications, American Marketing Association, the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society.
She and her husband, David Howell, who teaches in the Reed College of Media, spend most of their free time shuttling their daughter, Grace, and twin boys, Spencer and Carter.
WVU, BSJ, 1975
Jane M. McNeer is currently working as a fundraising consultant. Late in 2010, McNeer stepped down as Vice President of the Medical Foundation of North Carolina, Inc. and former Assistant Dean for Advancement of the University of North Carolina’s School of Medicine. McNeer has more than 25 years experience in higher education public relations and fundraising, including service at Duke University Medical Center, Roanoke College and Virginia Tech.
McNeer earned her bachelor’s degree from the WVU P.I. Reed School of Journalism in 1975 and is the third generation in her family to matriculate to WVU. McNeer currently volunteers with: Triangle Dress for Success; Compass Center for Women and Families; and the North Carolina Coastal Land Trust.
WVU, BSJ, 1999
Christina Myer is executive editor of The Parkersburg News and Sentinel, in Parkersburg, WV, and the Marietta Times, In Marietta, OH. Previously, she was an Associate News Editor on the Americas Copy Desk for Dow Jones Newswires, in New York, N.Y. She worked for Dow Jones and Co.’s real-time financial newswire from 2005 to 2013. She is a 1999 graduate of WVU, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism (news-editorial).
Myer began her career in journalism at 17, as an obituary writer and typist for The Intelligencer, in Wheeling, WV. She spent her college years working at The Daily Athenaeum, finishing up as managing editor in 1997-98. Myer has been a reporter, copy editor, paginator and a news editor at The Tribune Chronicle, in Warren, Ohio, The Intelligencer and The Wheeling News-Register. Before moving to the New York area, she was editor of The Times Leader, in Martins Ferry, Ohio, for two years.
She is a member of the Parkersburg Rotary Club, and a board member for Artsbridge in the Mid-Ohio Valley, an organization that aims to educate, entertain and enrich by bringing ‘the best arts to the most people.’
WVU, BSJ, 2008, MS, 2016
Head of Marketing, Primoprint
Lauren O’Connor is currently the Head of Marketing for Primoprint a national brand
that prides itself in providing best-in-class printed products, customer service
and superior products an incredible prices. At Primoprint, Lauren drives the
company’s brand and go-to-market strategy where she is responsible for strategic
planning, operational scalability, digital marketing, global brand management,
market analysis, customer experience, training and PR & communications.
Lauren is also a co-founder of Coneckt, a tech start-up focusing on children connecting through technology. Using machine learning, children are able to utilize voice activation to connect to their parents and guardians, increase life skills, optimize education and assessment through edutainment.
Prior to founding Coneckt and joining Primoprint, Lauren spearheaded marketing efforts for small and large organizations including; Hewlett-Packard (HP), GU Energy Labs, Trigger Point Performance, various digital brand agencies, PR firms and larger organizations. During her time with HP, Lauren led integrated global marketing programs and influenced the organizations use of social media platforms and analysis. She was awarded the coveted HP Winner’s Circle award, an award 50 selected employees receive.
Upon entering West Virginia University (WVU), Lauren was named co-captain of the rowing team prior to joining the women’s rugby team. She went on to play for women’s premier teams in the United States; the Austin Valkyries and the Berkeley All Blues. Lauren also spent time serving on the board of the Marin Highlanders and was the first female coach of the boys’ high school varsity team as well as establishing the first girls program.
In 2015, Lauren received the Young Alumna Achievement award from the Reed College of Media. Lauren also joined the Reed College of Media as Innovator-in-Residence for the Spring of 2019. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in public relations from West Virginia University and a Master’s in Integrated Marketing Communications through the Reed College of Media at WVU.
WVU, BSJ, 1998
Co-President, Leftfield Pictures
Gretchen Palek is Co-President of Leftfield Pictures, part of the ITV America group, responsible for all development, programming, and production across broadcast, cable and digital platforms.
Among Leftfield Pictures’ hit series are History Channel’s long running Pawn Stars and Counting Cars, as well as new series and specials including Book of John (OWN), Wolves and Warriors (Animal Planet), Ghost Web (Netflix), The Adventures of Dr Buckeye Bottoms (Nat Geo Wild), Alone (History), 30 for 30: Year of the Scab (ESPN) and Brain Surgery Live (Nat Geo).
Previously, Palek was the SVP of Casting and Talent for the company where she headed up one of the largest casting departments in the industry. She spearheaded casting efforts for a number of series and projects for the ITV America group, including the reboot of Queer Eye (Netflix),The Job Interview (CNBC), Four Weddings (TLC), Forged in Fire (History), Tiny House Nation (FYI), American Grit (FOX) among many others.
Prior to joining ITV/Leftfield, Palek was at Discovery Channel. There she helped grow and develop the company’s Talent Business Affairs, Talent Development & Casting, and Talent Strategy departments. During her tenure at Discovery Channel she not only led talent negotiations and renegotiations but also oversaw the network’s talent discovery and strategy objectives. Palek played a role in developing character-driven programming including shows such as Dual Survival, BBQ Pitmasters, and Alaska: The Last Frontier. In addition, she also successfully enhanced already existing series with fresh characters and experts on shows like Mythbusters, American Chopper, and Man vs. Wild, while routinely working with casts on some of the network’s biggest hit series such as Deadliest Catch, Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe, and Fast n’ Loud. Furthermore, Palek fostered the network’s relationships with the celebrity community by bringing numerous high-profile personalities, such as Will Ferrell, Robin Williams, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Will.i.am, and Natalie Portman to Discovery’s airwaves during her time with the company.
Gretchen hails from the great state of West Virginia and has a bachelor’s degree in Broadcast Journalism from WVU.
WVU, BA, Political Science, 1996
Director of Corporate and Policy Partnerships, Vox Media
Adam Prather is the Director of Corporate and Policy Partnerships for Vox Media, Inc. in Washington D.C. Prior to joining Vox Media, Prather served as Head of McClatchy Brand Studio, building out and overseeing the branded content studio for McClatchy’s 30 newspapers including Miami Herald, KC Star, Charlotte Observer, Sac Bee, Ft. Worth Telegraph and McClatchy DC. Prather served as Chief Revenue Officer of The Hill and worked in YAHOO! and subsequently POLITICO’s advertising departments. Prather started his career as a Junior Legislative Assistant for the former West Virginia Senator John D. Rockefeller IV. He is a graduate of West Virginia University where he majored in Political Science.
ALEXIS COSTANZO PUGH
WVU, BSJ, 1973
She is very active in community service and serves on a number of boards, including the West Virginia University Foundation Board. She is also currently a member of the board of directors of The Cornell Fine Arts Museum at Rollins College, Harbor House of Central Florida (domestic violence shelter), and Bok Tower Gardens (National Historical Site). She is also a life member of the University of Florida Foundation Board.
A founding member of the University of Florida’s UF Women initiative, she is working with the WVU Foundation to implement Women of WVU and serves on the steering committee.
She and her husband, Jim, live in Winter Park, Florida.
WVU, BSJ, 1988
Global Head of Tech and Telco Strategy, Facebook
Jane Schachtel is currently the Global Head of Tech and Telco Strategy for Facebook and is a tech industry veteran with a keen eye for the evolution of marketing in a world shaped by the technology she has spent her life bringing to market. Jane believes that consumer technology has dramatically changed the ways people communicate and purchase, and technology marketers must adapt their methods of creating influence.
This is an incredible opportunity to use the very people that use the platforms and devices that are changing the world to change the future of marketing. In her speaking engagements, Jane outlines the core trends tech marketers should keep in mind, the most effective ways to think about social marketing, and a vision for achieving the enormous potential technology itself has brought to technology marketing.
Jane joined Facebook most recently from Microsoft where she was Director of Social Media for Bing and MSN and prior to Microsoft Jane was a Director of Marketing at Intuit. In addition, she started her own consulting firm where she helped start-up and enterprise clients with product positioning, corporate branding, digital marketing and social media strategies. When Jane’s not immersed in all things technology and Facebook, she can be found hiking up or skiing down mountains, running, or eating and drinking good food and wine (hopefully in that order). Jane is a Member of the Board for Legs for Lauren, a non-profit benefiting pediatric cancer at Seattle Children’s Hospital and volunteers at women’s homeless shelters.
West Liberty University, BS, 1986
Executive Director, West Virginia Press Association
Don Smith assumed the duties of executive director of the West Virginia Press Association in June, 2012, after serving as president and board member of the WVPA during more than a decade of involvement with the press association.
The WVPA represents the state’s 81 newspapers, serving as the coordinating body for staff educational development and professional recognition. The WVPA also serves as the industry’s legislative representative, monitoring public access and free press issues, along with all business legislation. Through its “Press Services” advertising agency, the WVPA places all forms of advertising in newspapers across the state and nation. As a service to the state’s college and university students, the WVPA Foundation each year arranges paid professional internships at West Virginia newspapers and awards scholarships to West Virginia students.
Prior to joining the WVPA in 2012, Smith had worked in the West Virginia newspaper industry for 25 years, all with Ogden Newspapers Inc. During his career, Smith worked at both The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register in Wheeling, The Wetzel Chronicle in New Martinsville, The Inter-Mountain in Elkins and The Journal in Martinsburg. Starting as a part-time sports reporter while still in college, Smith went on to serve as bureau chief, editor, advertising director and general manager.
A native of Moundsville, Smith and his wife, Samantha, who is the advertising director for the WVPA, have three children and live in Charleston.
WVU, BSJ, 1981
Corporation Communications team, IBM
Jacelyn Swenson leads strategic partnerships and events on the IBM Corporate Communications team and works with senior leaders, marketing, communications, and media teams to drive IBM thought leadership. Previously she was on the IBM Corporate Marketing team where she leveraged social, digital, and creative experiences to make the IBM brand more relevant and engaging with strategic constituents.
Prior to her current role, she created community-based marketing and communications initiatives that served as a showcase for social business in action and led global teams that generated award-winning market presence, delivered sales pipeline, and exceeded revenue targets for the IBM Software Group.
Ms. Swenson held several marketing management and leadership positions at GE to help strengthen its brand prior to joining IBM. She started her career at a worldwide public relations and advertising agency.
She has delivered speeches at industry conferences, client events, and academic institutions around the world. Recent topics: Corporate Branding at the 2016 UBX Conference in Munich, Artificial Intelligence and Advertising at the 2017 4As Transformation Conference in Los Angeles, Creativity in Technology at the 2017 IAA Global Conference in Bucharest, and Making the Marketer to IBM teams in Buenos Aires, Amsterdam, Milan, and Bucharest in 2018.
She has completed senior management and leadership courses at IBM’s executive campus and is a graduate of GE's management and leadership program at Templeton College in Oxford, as well as GE's corporate communications leadership conferences in Antwerp, Paris, and London.
Ms. Swenson is a member of the ANA Brand Management Committee, former Advisory Board member of the Shambaugh Women’s Leadership Program, and served on the Executive Board of the United States Optimist Dinghy Association. She received a B.S. Degree in Broadcast Journalism and a minor in Marketing from West Virginia University.
WVU, BSJ, 2010
Associate Vice President, Red Havas
Brandon is a seasoned communications professional with more than nine years of public relations experience. He has led and supported strategy, traditional and social media relations as well as events for a diverse group of clients in a wide range of industries, including healthcare, education, corporate communications, nonprofit and consumer.
In addition to traditional PR, Brandon is an expert in social media, using it to help clients reach their target audiences and accomplish their goals. Before coming to Havas PR, Brandon was the senior director of consumer and B2B public relations at Southard Freeman Communications. Brandon is a 2010 graduate of West Virginia University’s Reed College of Media. He is also a Ronald E. McNair Scholar and Scott D. Widmeyer African-American and First Generation Scholarship recipient.
WVU, BSJ, 1978
Vice President, Public Affairs, CTIA – The Wireless Association
John Walls hosts coverage for the PGA Tour on its broadcast app, PGA Tour Live, is an on-site host for Silicon Angle TV’s flagship digital broadcast, ‘The Cube’, and is an adjunct professor in Sports Industry Management in the School of Continuing Studies at Georgetown University. Prior to that, he served as Vice-President, Public Affairs, for Washington, DC-based CTIA-The Wireless Association®, for 11 years.
Before his joining CTIA, Walls was a television news and sports anchor for nearly 25 years, most recently anchoring the evening newscasts for NBC-affiliate KJRH-TV in Tulsa, Oklahoma from 2000 to 2004. Walls was a member of the original anchor team for Fox Sports Net and was based in Los Angeles from 1996 to 2000. He has also served as Sports Director for three television stations, including from 1984 to 1996 for KTUL-TV and KOTV in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He began his broadcasting career in 1978 at WWVU-TV, a PBS affiliate, in Morgantown, West Virginia before serving as host of the syndicated television program, “PM Magazine” in Texas. Walls has received numerous awards for his work in broadcasting, notably Regional News Emmys for his reporting on methamphetamine in Oklahoma and his on-location anchoring of the Timothy McVeigh execution.
Walls graduated from West Virginia University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Broadcast Journalism, and holds a master’s degree in Sports Industry Management from Georgetown University.
WVU, BSJ, 1975
Founding Managing Partner and Chief Strategy Officer/Washington, Finn Partners
Scott Widmeyer was the founder of Widmeyer Communications, a full-service firm he started in 1988. Over the course of 25 years, he grew the firm to become one of the largest midsize firms in the US. In July 2013, Widmeyer Communications was acquired by Finn Partners, one of the fastest growing PR firms in the US.
Scott’s career over the decades has been distinguished in providing strategic counsel to scores of decision-makers, from presidents to governors to chief executive officers to union leaders. From working as a newspaper reporter in the 1970s to running major media operations for national campaigns, Widmeyer knows how to get results for his clients. His track record of successes in education, health care, politics, campaign finance, technology, trade and other public policy matters illustrate his impact as a “change agent” in things that matter most to America. Clients regularly turn to Widmeyer for advice on economic development issues, marketing strategies, coalition building and crisis management. Prior to launching Widmeyer Communications, Scott’s career spanned newspaper reporting and serving in major communications positions for five highly respected leaders — former President Jimmy Carter, former Vice President Walter Mondale, U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller, the late Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro and the late American Federation of Teachers president Albert Shanker.
Widmeyer is active in a number of civic and philanthropic causes from his base in New York and Washington. He currently serves on the Boards of the New York City Leadership Academy, The Education Writers Association, The Contemporary American Theater Festival, and chairs the George Washington University National Council for Media and Public Affairs. In 2007, he was named a David Rockefeller Fellow, a highly coveted one-year program of the New York City Partnership. Scott chaired the recently completed WVU College of Media capital campaign. Scott also hosts a weekly public affairs radio show produced by Nantucket NPR and streamed on iHeart Radio. His guests range from governors, members of Congress, top media, authors and union leaders. And, in 2016, he was the co-publisher of A Walk Around Nantucket, the first island resort-centric adult coloring book of its kind.
Widmeyer is a graduate of West Virginia University (WVU) where he has established two scholarship funds to benefit African-American and first-generation West Virginians seeking a degree in journalism. To date, more than 35 students have benefited from these scholarships, and in 2005, Widmeyer and his firm established the Widmeyer Communications Professorship in Public Relations, the first of its kind in the nation. Widmeyer has served as a Visiting Professor at the P. I. Reed School of Journalism and has been a guest lecturer at Brown University, the University of Maryland, and Johns Hopkins University. He also served as chair of the Journalism School’s Visiting Committee until 2011. In 2003, he received West Virginia University’s most prestigious award in journalism – The P. I. Reed Achievement Award. In 2010, Widmeyer reflected on his commitment to the institution and his career path in journalism, politics and public relations in a video interview with the WVU School of Journalism. Widmeyer was inducted into the WVU Academy of Distinguished Alumni in 2009. His firm received the 2012 Diversity Distinction in PR Awards from the Council of PR Firms.
In 2005, then West Virginia Governor Bob Wise bestowed upon Widmeyer the “Distinguished West Virginian Award,” the highest honor provided by the chief executive of the state, and in 2010 he was named to the PR News Hall of Fame.
WVU, MSJ, 2004
Corporate Communications, Capital One
An accomplished marketing and communications strategist, Sukhi Sahni’s career spans public, private and nonprofit sectors.
Sukhi is passionate about reframing relationships between brands and their customers / consumers, prizing purpose, authenticity, poignancy, and connected conversation above all things. She believes that powerful storytelling is at the heart of good communication and draws on her training as a broadcast journalist to extract truths, push boundaries and challenge the status quo. Sukhi deeply values the relationships she’s built and cultivated over the years with journalists, bloggers and influencers - relationships that are core to the storytelling process.
Sukhi brings the energy of new practitioner with the finesse and fearlessness of a veteran to her daily practice. She currently holds the position of Senior Director of Communications at Capital One and was recently recognized by The Holmes Report a global communications leader through the “Global Innovator 25 Award” and a top woman in PR through the “Top Women in PR Award”.
Born and raised in India, Sukhi always brings a global perspective to her approach and thinking. She currently resides in metro Washington D.C. with her family.