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
Principal, BGR Public Relations, Washington, D.C.
Frank Ahrens joined BGR Public Relations in January 2014. He believes in forming relationships with clients to help them tell their stories to Washington and top-tier U.S. media and online audiences. He works with individuals, corporations and governments to improve their online profiles by creating print, digital and video content and deploying the latest SEO tactics. He helps clients land high-profile op-ed placement, score coveted TV news show bookings and win Page 1 of Google search – an indispensable skill when crisis hits.
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.
His writing has appeared in PR News, Forbes, 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 May 2020, Byers was part of a team of Courier Journal journalists who won the Pulitzer Prize in Breaking News for coverage of Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin's flurry of last-minute pardons in late 2019.
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 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.
KAREN SNYDER DUKE
Voices Editor, POPSUGAR
WVU, BSJ 2009
Bio coming soon.
Deputy Communications Director, Blackbird
A native of Ashtabula, Ohio, Chelsea Fuller is a media and communications strategist currently working at Blackbird. As Blackbird's Deputy Communications Director, Chelsea supervises the accounts of various clients, including Twitter, Tarana Burke and The ‘me too.’ Movement, Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Movement for Black Lives (M4BL), a coalition of more than 150 organizations committed to fighting for equality and justice for Black people. Aside from these responsibilities, she provides high-level rapid response and crisis communications support to organizations and communities across the country in moments of unrest, particularly those centering the state-sanctioned killings of Black people. Chelsea has successfully provided communications support to organizations including Black Lives Matter, the Working Families Party, Black Visions Collective, Dream Defenders, the Organization for Black Struggle, Workers Center for Racial Justice, Baltimore BLOC and BYP100 in the aftermath of the deaths of Michael Brown Jr., Tamir Rice, Alton Sterling, Freddie Gray, Keith Scott and others.
Prior to joining Blackbird, Chelsea worked at the Advancement Project, one of the nation’s leading civil rights and racial justice organizations. As the Senior Communications Associate for Youth Criminalization, Chelsea led the Youth Criminalization initiative focused on monitoring and shifting harmful narratives pertaining to our nation’s youth of color through grassroots campaigns and national interventions. She also led the organization's groundbreaking research on the way youth of color are criminalized through biased newsroom and editorial policies. During her time at Advancement Project, Chelsea was a field producer for the EPIX docu-series "America Divided,” working with actor and activist Jesse Williams to highlight the vast educational inequities in Pinellas County, Fla.
Before her time at Advancement Project, Chelsea was an Alfred Fleishman Diversity Fellow at FleishmanHillard International Communications in Washington, D.C., where she was a member of the Public Affairs team servicing clients like the Clinton Global Initiative, the United Nations Foundation and GM. Chelsea holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in News Editorial Journalism and Africana studies from West Virginia University, and a Masters of Arts in Strategic Communications and Social Justice Advocacy from American University.
Chelsea previously worked as a reporter, columnist and copy editor at The Dominion Post in Morgantown, WV, and was editor-in-chief of The Urban Outlook, an online publication focused on news and issues affecting the nation’s underrepresented populations. She is a regular contributor on issues of race, culture and justice for Essence, Blavity, The Root and the Huffington Post, and is the outgoing Co-chair of the National Association of Black Journalists' Young Journalist Task Force.
CYNDI W. GREENGLASS
WVU, M.Sc, 2013
Senior Vice President Strategic Solutions,
Diamond Communication Solutions, an OSG Company
As a founding partner of Diamond Communications Solutions, Cyndi is a strategic architect, helping clients design opti-channel performance marketing programs with an eye on results. Her razor-sharp strategic skills are matched by impeccable on-the-ground savvy and tactical abilities. These qualities have enabled her to build a successful company and reputation in performance-based marketing across a broad range of industries including education, nonprofit, and B2B sectors.
Cyndi is frequently quoted in publications and is a consistent contributor to books, white papers and articles by leading thought leaders in B2B lead generation and marketing.
Over the past twenty years, Cyndi has taught, trained and presented at over 50 conferences throughout the world. She has presented to every regional and National marketing group in the US, as well as running private label training for the MetLife, Stanford University, the European DMA, and China Post.
Cyndi is on the Board of Directors of Honor Flight Chicago and is an Advisory Board Member for BRAND United. She has also been recognized as:
- 2019 Recipient of the Commitment to Service Award, WVU Reed College of Media
- 2018 Alexis Vanedis Teaching Award Winner, WVU Reed College of Media DMC Master of Science program
- One of the 2018 Women to Watch in B2B Lead Generation
- One of the 2017 Most Fascinating Women in B2B Marketing
Cyndi holds a Bachelor’s degree from University of Toronto and a Master’s in Integrated Marketing Communications through the Reed College of Media at WVU. She helped to develop the Data Marketing Communications program at WVU Reed College of Media where she is now an Adjunct Instructor.
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.
Over the past decade, J ohn Ketchum has worked in every corner of the media industry as a prod ucer, reporter, and editor. He started his career in public radio, helping launch Marketplace’s Wealth and Poverty Desk and then went on to join the staff of Morning Edition, where he was an assistant producer. Since then he’s held staff and leadership roles at CNN, The Center for Public Integrity, and Vox Media. He is currently on the startups team at the American Journalism Project, where he helps launch media organizations across the U.S. Before coming to the AJP, he helped launch a site covering Black business and technology. He currently lives in Atlanta with his wife and dog.
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.
WVU, MSJ, 2004
Corporate Communications, Capital One
When Mathew Lehosit was a teenager attending Notre Dame High School, his biggest passion lied in the fantasy worlds of the novels, comic books, and cartoons that he consumed, where superheroes would battle injustices of the world, vampires and mutants could be seen as more than the sum of their circumstance, and wizards would cast spells in his imagination. Little did he know at the time that this passion would lead him to work as a key stakeholder in the global entertainment industry, helping to usher a new era of cartoon heroes into the lives of children and fans.
Matthew studied integrated marketing communications at the Perley Isaac Reed School of Journalism at West Virginia University where he graduated top of his class in the Advertising curriculum. Unsure of how his post-college life would unfold, Matthew decided to search the job listings at Turner Entertainment while watching Cartoon Network (his favorite channel) one evening, where he sought out an internship opportunity that would bring him to Atlanta in 2005 to work for the famed brand. 15 years later, Matthew still works at Cartoon Network as Director of Marketing where he leads strategic planning across a wide array of emerging and beloved brands including The Powerpuff Girls, Steven Universe, Ben 10, and Adventure Time.
Together with his team, they work across all areas of business as the arrow to ensure everyone is working toward the same strategic bull's-eye. In his tenure, Lehosit has worked on global campaigns, executed events such as Comic Cons, The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, SXSW, Pop-Up shops and more, been published as a writer for DC Comics, and been honored as a Rising Brand Star by AdWeek.
GoPro’s Vice President of Global Marketing and Communications
Rick Loughery currently serves as GoPro’s Vice President of Global Marketing and Communications overseeing GoPro’s brand and product marketing initiatives, communications as well as international marketing. He started working with GoPro at the end of 2009 and joined full time as the 13th employee in early 2010. During his time at GoPro, he has worked closely with teams to build and execute marketing programs that helped GoPro become one of the top brands in the outdoors sports and consumer technology industries.
He has been at the forefront of the emergence of key shifts in marketing communications from UGC and social media to the evolution of earned media from traditional public relations to influencer marketing.
Prior to joining GoPro, Rick spent 13 years in Silicon Valley working with various technology companies both in-house and at agencies. He co-founded Three-Forty Communications, based in San Francisco, where he worked with early-stage technology companies, such as Yelp, and also helped launch Fitbit. The success of Three-Forty led to an acquisition by Dig Communications (now Olson Engage). Rick now works out of GoPro’s San Diego office and is raising three awesome kids in Carlsbad.
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 Council on Strategic Communications. 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, have three children: Grace, who is a freshman studying graphic design at WVU, and Spencer and Carter who are seniors in high school.
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
Chief Revenue Officer, Primoprint
Lauren O’Connor is currently the Chief Revenue Officer for Primoprint a national brand that prides itself in providing best-in-class printed products, customer service and superior products at 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 sales and 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.
Director of Original Programming, HBO
JP Olsen is a Director of Original Programming at HBO. Since 2015, he has overseen HBO programming including “Wyatt Cenac’s Problem Areas,” “We’re Here,” “Pod Save America,” multiple HBO documentaries, as well as VICE on HBO documentaries and all VICE News Tonight programming, including the landmark coverage of the Charlottesville protests of 2017.
Prior to HBO, Olsen wrote and produced documentaries for “Retro Report,” a documentary news organization whose work is featured in The New York Times and on PBS. Olsen’s work as an independent director includes multiple short films shown at festivals and museums around the world, including the Barbican, Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, London’s Science Museum, Marfa Film Festival, and Anthology Film Archives.
He is the recipient of grants from ITVS, New York State Council on the Arts, the Fund for Investigative Journalism, Jerome Foundation, and Experimental Television Center. He is also a 2019 MacDowell Fellow for filmmaking and a 2017 Kiplinger Fellow in Public Affairs Journalism at Ohio State University.
In 2021, the University of Kentucky Press will re-publish “The Narcotic Farm,” a book on the history of the U.S. Public Health Service Hospital at Lexington that he co-wrote and which is based on the PBS documentary that he wrote, produced and co-directed.
Olsen began his career as a newspaper reporter, covering crime, justice, and the state prison system for The Times-Herald Record in Newburgh, New York. Olsen is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, where he has taught broadcast news as an adjunct. He works and lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Ashton Pellom is the Communications Specialist for the National Head Start Association (NHSA), a nonprofit located in Alexandria, Virginia that is the voice for more than 1 million children, 245,000 staff and 1,600 Head Start grantees in the United States. In his role at NHSA, Ashton produces, shoots, edits, and publishes internal and external marketing and communications videos. He also handles press and media outreach for the organization.
Prior to working for NHSA, Ashton worked for The Georgia Institute of Technology as a Communications Officer. Before joining Georgia Tech, Ashton was a Multimedia Journalist for WBTV, the CBS-affiliate in Charlotte, North Carolina. While reporting in the Tar Heel State, he was nominated for two Emmy awards for his live breaking news coverage of the deadly Charleston, South Carolina church shooting in 2015.
Previous to WBTV, Ashton was a Multimedia Journalist at WALB-TV in Albany, Georgia. While in Albany, Ashton won two Georgia Associated Press Awards. The first was for Best Spot News Reporting and the other was for Best Use of Sound.
Ashton earned a degree in Broadcast News from West Virginia University in 2011, with a minor in Child Development and Family Studies.
WVU, BA, Political Science, 1996
Executive Director, Cheddar News
Adam Prather is Executive Director of Cheddar joining the news outlet from Vox Media. Prather has also 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. Prior to McClatchy, Prather served as Publisher of The Hill and worked for YAHOO! and 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, 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.
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.
Chief Global Strategist, Steranka Sports + Strategy
Now in his 42nd year in professional sports, Joe Steranka provides strategic counsel to a number of sports industry brands and organizations. He describes his work as "coaching and consulting smart leaders in the business of golf, sports and sustainability." The 60-year-old also continues to give back through a number of philanthropic organizations including the WVU College of Media, Honda Classic Cares, Midnight Golf and the South Florida PGA.
Steranka made his mark on the game and industry of golf during a 25-year career with the PGA of America including seven as CEO. He directed efforts to grow the PGA brand and the global reach of the PGA Championship and Ryder Cup. In addition to his role as PGA chief, he served and led the World Golf Foundation, the World PGA Alliance and the International Golf Federation’s work to return golf to the Olympic Games. He also steered an industry government relations program We Are Golf, designed to achieve legislative and public affairs goals on behalf of the $84 billion a year golf industry.
A 1979 graduate of West Virginia University with a B.S. in Journalism, Steranka left Morgantown to work for the NBA’s Washington Bullets and Cleveland Cavaliers before he joined the renowned sports agency ProServ where he directed marketing campaigns for sports stars including Jimmy Connors, Michael Jordan and Florence Griffith Joyner. He was named a WVU Distinguished Alumnus in 2014.
Joe and his wife, Joann, live in Jupiter, Fla.
WVU, BSJ, 1981
Corporation Communications team, IBM
Jacelyn Swenson leads strategic partnerships and events on the IBM Corporate Communications team and works most senior leaders across the business to drive IBM thought leadership. Previously she was on the IBM Corporate Marketing team where she led 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
Vice President & NY General Manager, PAN Communications
Brandon Thomas is a seasoned communications professional with more than a decade of public relations experience. In this time, he has led strategy and execution for a diverse group of clients across industries including corporate, healthcare, technology, education and nonprofit.
In his newly appointed role as Vice President & NY General Manager for Boston-based integrated marketing and PR agency PAN Communications, Brandon will oversee client relations, office management and new business development for the NY market. Prior to PAN, Brandon served as Associate Vice President at Red Havas where he managed client relations and oversaw account teams both large and small. He also helped lead the U.S. agency’s National Culture Committee where he implemented initiatives that promoted cross-office engagement, fellowship and continued learning.
Brandon began his career at Widmeyer Communications; spending more than four years focused on driving earned strategy and media relations within the education and policy spaces. This experience prepared him for larger roles as Senior Director at Southard Communications and Associate Vice President at Red Havas.
He is a graduate of West Virginia University’s Reed College of Media (CoM), a Ronald E. McNair Scholar and serves as a CoM guest speaker and professional mentor. Brandon is also a member of Men of Color in Communications, PRSA-NY and the PR Council.
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.
MELISSA MORAES WILSON
MSJ in Integrated Marketing Communications, 2014 and BSJ in Public Relations,
Digital Marketing Strategy Manager, AdventHealth
Mel is a marketing expert with 10 years of professional experience in digital and traditional marketing, branding, and strategic communications. While finishing her master’s degree in IMC, she started her career as a communications assistant for WVU University Relations by day, writing for WVUToday and collaborating on several communications and multimedia projects -- and worked evenings as the art director for the Daily Athenaeum, managing a staff of eight photographers.
Her marketing industry experience thereafter includes higher education, software sales, and currently, healthcare. She focused on social media and trade show marketing in her early career, and moved into focusing fully on digital marketing once making the jump to healthcare marketing for UPMC in Pittsburgh. As a manager of digital marketing at UPMC, Mel oversaw marketing strategies for her service line clients, partnering with the internal clinical marketing departments to manage more than 15 digital marketing campaigns at any given time, with six- or seven-figure budgets for digital campaigns utilizing social media, programmatic display, paid search, native advertising, digital content, email marketing, SMS messaging, and more. Before departing UPMC in the summer of 2020, she served as the lead for the organization’s COVID-19 digital marketing efforts.
Mel now manages digital marketing at AdventHealth for the West Florida division. She and her husband live in Tampa, FL and are expecting their first child in spring 2021.
ERIC M. WINKFIELD
Vice president at M Booth
Eric M. Winkfield is a vice president at M Booth in its corporate practice adding depth in the areas of reputation management, public affairs, and issues and crisis management. He also is the agency lead for the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) 360 initiatives. As M Booth’s first officer-level role with a focus on accelerating progress in representation, benchmarking and tracking inclusion efforts as well as holding the firm accountable to evolve into a more inclusive environment for all.
Prior to joining M Booth, Winkfield worked for Pepco, a Washington, D.C.-based public utility company owned by Exelon. There he served as key member of the governmental and external affairs team, charged with advancing community outreach strategies, strategic stakeholder engagement plans and leading cross-functional teams on regulatory and public policy initiatives. He holds a master’s degree in integrated marketing communications from West Virginia University, and a bachelor’s degree in public relations from Florida A&M University.
He is passionate about advocating and helping others grow to become their best and authentic selves and has an unwavering commitment to mentoring. In 2018, Winkfield was named The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations’ Emerging Leader. He is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. and serves on the board of advisors for After-School All Stars DC; and is also a graduate of Leadership Montgomery County, a nonprofit dedicated to developing future leaders to building work cultures that celebrates different ideas, perspectives and backgrounds.