Bloggers & Vloggers

Gil Mercado*, Student and Vlogger of GilMercVlogs

Gil MercadoGil Mercado is the Vlogger of GilMercVlogs is also a junior at Illinois State studying Small Business and Entrepreneurship. Mercado never thought of himself as the type to create a vlog, but found inspiration from his two favorite YouTubers. From fun, friends and fitness, Mercado vlogs about his daily life. He finds joy in editing his videos and looking back at the old ones. He doesn’t mind that his channel is not the most popular, he is happy doing it as a hobby and it is “something to show the kids.” Though if he makes it big one day, he wouldn’t think twice about making it a career.

Ashley Workman* and Meghan Madl, Bloggers of Two Beautiful Disasters

Workman & MadlAshley Workman and Meghan Madl are two blogger moms on a mission to connect with other women who share similar interests and stories while also connecting their followers with actual experts in areas that interest them giving a balance of expert advice with a sprinkling of real-life stories. Both women are heavily motivated by their end-of-the-day wine, dressing comfortably and spending time with family so it was a no brainer to expand Workman’s blog and for Madl to free herself from Corporate America. Two friends who shared the same interests and brought different strengths and perspectives to the table, that is how ‘Two Beautiful Disasters’ was created. So, what’s in the name? Simply put…life is so beautiful, but it can be such a disaster at times.

Jerome’ Holston, Director of the LGBT Chamber of Commerce of Illinois and Former Nonprofit Blogger of Jerome’ Blogs

Jerome' HolstonJerome’ Holston is the Director of the LGBT Chamber of Commerce of Illinois. In this role, Jerome’ works to develop and support LGBT – owned small businesses by leading fundraising, program development, and member engagement. Jerome’ recently worked at a strategic fundraising consulting firm where he helped to raise nearly $500 million in support of capital campaigns, and has also spent time working with Office of Governor Pat Quinn. An avid fan of writing and blogging, Jerome’ has created two blogs in the past: “Mama’s Boy” and “Jerome’ Blogs.” The latter developed as a continuation from his graduate capstone “Nonprofit Fundraising: Cultivating the Millennial Generation.” His new blog will be dedicated to chronicling his journey as a nonprofit director, and providing advice to others navigating their own path.


Good Journalism or Fake News

Ema Sasic*, Editor-in-Chief at The Vidette

Ema SasicEma Sasic is a senior journalism major at Illinois State University and the Editor in Chief of The Vidette, ISU’s student-run newspaper. During her three years as a staff member she has served as a reporter, columnist and news editor. She also worked with TV10, Bloomington-Normal’s only television broadcast station, as a reporter for over a year. Outside of ISU, she spent her summer interning at the Daily Herald, Illinois’ third largest newspaper, in Arlington Heights as a reporter, where she covered the northwest suburbs and appeared on ABC 7 Chicago.


Lenore Sobota, Reporter at the Pantagraph

Lenore SobotaLenore Sobota has had a distinguished career as a reporter for more than 30 years at the Pantagraph in Bloomington-Normal. Her current focus for the Pantagraph is primarily on higher education, she has also held positions on the copy desk and the opinion page. She earned her degree in Journalism at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, and achieved Doctor of Law at Southern Illinois University School of Law, where she was a notes and comments editor for the SIU Law Journal.


Judy Valente, Reporter/Producer at WGLT

Judy ValenteJudith Valente is an award-winning author, journalist and poet. She began her career at the age of 21 at The Washington Post, later spent eight years at The Wall Street Journal as a correspondent in both the Chicago and London bureaus, and spent many years as a special correspondent covering religion and ethics segments for national PBS-TV. She is currently the senior correspondent for GLT Radio, the National Public Radio affiliate for Bloomington-Normal, where she has won 18 awards in the past five years, including two prestigious Edward R. Murrow Awards. She is the author of two collections of poetry and four other books, most recently, “The Art of Pausing: Meditations for the Overworked and Overwhelmed” and “How To Live: What The Rule of St. Benedict Teaches Us About Happiness, Meaning and Community.”

Les Vann*, Vice-President/General Manager at FoxCarolina Greenville, SC

Les VannLes Vann is celebrating more than 40 years in newsroom and television station management. He started at WICS-TV in Springfield (his hometown) right after his 1977 graduation, and was eventually anchor and News Director, until 1994. Since then, he’s managed stations in Champaign, Cedar Rapids, Asheville NC, Binghamton NY, Cincinnati, Savannah, Indianapolis, and is currently Vice President/General Manager for FoxCarolina in Greenville, South Carolina. He plays a key role in setting the tone for his stations as well as dealing with budget and personnel issues. Les is well-respected by journalists with whom he’s worked over these many years.


COMedy Night

Ryan Cashman*, Training And Development Coordinator at SMS Assist, L.L.C.

Ryan CashmanRyan Cashman graduated from ISU’s Masters Program in Communication in 2017 with a focus on media and humor. In his undergrad, Ryan also attended ISU and was heavily involved in Speech and Debate. As a recent graduate of the Second City conservatory Ryan enjoys both improv and sketch, especially music improv. Additionally, Ryan has performed with groups such as VAMP and the Citizens of Townsville, as well as duos like Codename BBG and Helpful Nudes. Today, he can be seen playing in Chicago at the Annoyance Theater, iO Theater, and Second City.


Mary McMahon*, Associate Director at Old Town Merchants and Residents Association

Mary McMahonMary always thought she was funny but didn’t realize that she could do something until moving to Chicago in 2013. Once in Chicago, she dove right into the Second City Training Center where she was involved in the writing program and the improv program. She also attended the Professional School of Improv and graduated with certification in Comedy Sportz. In addition, Mary also trained at iO Chicago, participating in workshops with a variety of comedy professionals. Mary is currently working on her third sketch revue with her writing group and is working on getting more involved in the theater community and forming an improv team this spring.

Andrew Bogue*, Senior Marketing Coordinator at Medix™

Andrew BogueImprov-ing since 2004, Andrew Bogue as an undergraduate at Illinois State University was a player and president of Improv Mafia. As a player, Andrew helped his team placed second and third place in the nationally competitive College Improv Tournament. After graduating Andrew moved to Chicago and formed The Moonsharks, an independent improv group, in 2012. When he’s not performing with his best friends, you can find him marketing for Medix, a workforce solutions company headquartered in Chicago.



Communicating in a Crisis

Phil Bedella*, former Vice President – General Manager of Comcast SportsNet Chicago (CSN)

Phil BedellaAs former vice president – general manager of Comcast SportsNet Chicago (CSN), Phil was instrumental in successfully launching CSN in October of 2004, which immediately delivered the most comprehensive local sports coverage for Chicago. Since its launch, CSN has provided nightly coverage for the Chicago Blackhawks, Bulls, Cubs and White Sox, plus expanded Bears pre/post-game coverage. Phil began his career in the local sports business in 1989 as a sales associate for the Chicago Cubs. Under the tutelage of current Chicago Blackhawks President & CEO John McDonough, Phil spent seven years with the Cubs, serving as Manager of Broadcasting & Special Events and Manager of Luxury Suites. A native of Chicago, Phil continues to be an active member of the Illinois State University School of Communication Alumni Advisory Board, serves on the charity board of Good Sports and remains active in the Media Advertising Club and the Chicago Latino Network.

 Jamie L. Fox*, Senior Public Affairs Manager at Caterpillar Inc.

Jamie FoxJamie is a senior public affairs manager at Caterpillar. In that role she is responsible for media relations, corporate labor communications strategy and corporate reputation management. She has been with Caterpillar for 12 years in public affairs, including seven years as the executive speechwriter and communicator. Jamie is a proud graduate of Illinois State University (ISU). While at ISU, she had a double major in Public Relations and Business Administration, and also earned her MBA.



Sarah Marotta*, Communication Strategist at State Farm

Sarah MarattaSarah currently serves as an internal communication strategist at State Farm in Bloomington, Illinois. In her role, she consults with executives to identify department goals and priorities, then develops strategies to effectively communicate that information to leaders and employees. She previously worked on the issues management team at State Farm, identifying and mitigating potential reputational risks through research and daily environmental scanning. Sarah received her undergraduate degree in public relations in 2013 and her graduate degree in communication in 2015, both from Illinois State University. During her time as a student, Sarah was an instructor for Communication as a Critical Inquiry, graduate teaching assistant for Crisis Communications and a member of the Graduate Student Association.

Nick Nottoli*, Vice President/Director at Golin

NIck NottoliNick has more than a decade of experience in strategic communications and issues management, with expertise protecting reputations in the event of cybersecurity attacks, polarizing social and political issues, controversial advertisements/partnerships, damaging fake news coverage, federal investigations, M&As and product recalls. Nick currently serves as a director in Golin’s issues and crisis practice. In this position, Nick protects corporate reputations by preparing and counseling clients to effectively prevent, manage and/or recover from issues and crises. He utilizes a simple, intuitive approach to issues planning and communications, delivering streamlined and highly applicable crisis communications plans, strategies and simulations to mitigate his clients’ most pressing business threats. Prior to Golin, Nick managed complex issues for corporate clients and advanced transformative, but controversial infrastructure projects for the city of Chicago while at Grisko, a Chicago-based public affairs agency. Nick is a graduate of Illinois State University (ISU) with a bachelor’s degree in public relations. As an undergraduate, Nick was involved in Public Relations Student Society of America and the ISU Jazz Ensemble.


Fashion in Communication: The World is Your Runway

Amy Olson*, Independent Fashion Show and Event Producer

Amy OlsonAmy Olson works with a wide range of clients including global companies in fashion, lifestyle, and the not for profit sector. Olson has over 3,000 productions under her belt from large-scale events and fashion shows, photo and video shoots, and live TV appearances. Some of her clients and past media experiences include the Oprah Winfrey Show, The Today Show, and The View. She has managed and produced large events for clients including: PepsiCo, Diageo, Lia Sophia, and Wolverine Worldwide. Her not for profit work includes Misericordia and The Woman’s Board of Rush University Medical Center assisting the Woman’s Board raising over $5M for Cancer Research through their fashion show and fundraiser event. She has produced designer fashion shows including Michael Kors, Tory Burch, Carolina Herrera, and Yves St. Laurent.

Brianna Duffer*, eCommerce Manager at Lana Jewelry

Brianna DufferBrianna Duffer is the eCommerce Manager at Lana Jewelry, her dream job. Duffer is able to combine her love of luxury jewelry and fashion with her hard work and ambition. Amidst working for Lana Jewelry, Duffer is finishing her bachelor’s degree in Integrated Marketing and Communication, with a minor in Communication Studies at Illinois State. Prior to attending ISU, Duffer attended Elgin Community College for two years. She then transferred to Illinois State University junior year and has been involved with and have held various positions within the Delta Zeta Sorority. She is currently a member of the American Marketing Association and Rho Lambda, which is the association for women’s’ leadership within the Greek community. Duffer anticipates to graduate in May 2018 and to dive into a full time career as the eCommerce Manager of Lana Jewelry.

Sarah Throne, Marketing Director for All About Eyes

Sarah ThroneSarah is a creative at heart, but a lot of other things by trade. She is the Marketing Director for All About Eyes, an optical retailer with over 20 locations across the Midwest. After a short stint on Madison Avenue working as art director with brands like Nike and Hertz, Sarah returned to her Midwest roots and is now spearheading All About Eyes’ frame manufacturing process. Along with the frame project, she oversees marketing and advertising strategy and analytics. She studied graphic design in her undergraduate work and holds a master’s degree in advertising.


Audie Lauf*, Fashion Assistant at Women’s Health Magazine

Audie LaufAudie Lauf combines his public relations and fashion merchandising education in his job as the fashion assistant at Women’s Health Magazine. During the day, he helps with requesting samples from various fashion brands, along with assisting on the set of various photoshoots including features and covers. His duties in the office range from assisting in the fashion closet, beauty closet and the art and photo department scheduling various meetings. His after-office hours are filled with press events and being introduced to other members of the fashion publication community. Prior to working at Women’s Health magazine and the summer after Lauf graduated Illinois State, he moved to New York City to work as a fashion intern at OUT Magazine, later interning at Black Frame, a PR firm focused on fashion and lifestyle brands.


Making the Pitch: Effectively Pitching Stories to the Media

Cassie Burica*, Senior Associate at Weber Shandwick

Cassie BuricaAs a senior associate, Cassie specializes in corporate communications. She manages media relations strategy and outreach for clients across multiple practice areas within Weber Shandwick, with an emphasis on financial services. She has placed key thought leadership stories and secured interviews for clients in USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Reuters and Bloomberg Businessweek for clients like Envestnet, U.S. Department of the Treasury, Bank of America and United States Postal Service. Prior to joining Weber Shandwick, Cassie started her career at COUNTRY Financial where she implemented media programs like the COUNTRY Financial Security Index and managed the COUNTRY Financial Security blog. An alum of Illinois State University, Cassie was involved as a news reporter for The Vidette, member of Phi Sigma Pi National Honor Fraternity, Public Relations Student Society of America and Alternative Breaks.

Ryan Denham, Digital Content Director at WGLT

Ryan DenhamRyan is the digital content director at WGLT, an NPR member station based at Illinois State University’s School of Communication, where he manages WGLT’s social media, digital strategy for podcasts, the NPR One application and breaking-news coverage for WGLT’s main website. Ryan started his career as a copy editor and later business and city government reporter at The Pantagraph in 2006, later working for WJBC radio in Bloomington. Following WJBC radio, Ryan was an online communications coordinator for Illinois State University (ISU), where he lead the content hub and ISU’s flagship social media channels. Ryan later became a web content manager in the Web and Interactive Communications department on campus. While an undergraduate at California State University – Northridge (CSU-N), Ryan was editor of The Sundial, CSU-N’s daily newspaper, and president of the Residence Halls Association (RHA). 

 Mark Pickering, Editor at The Pantagraph

Mark PickeringAs editor for The Pantagraph, the daily newspaper in Bloomington-Normal, Mark oversees the news department (News, Sports, Business, Lifestyle, Photo) including digital and print coverage and story development, and works with digital, advertising and circulation departments on content and initiatives to build a larger audience for the company. Prior to his role as editor, Mark served as managing editor, associate editor/content, city editor and reporter for The Pantagraph. Mark is also a board member of the Illinois Associated Press Media Editors Association and the Illinois Press Association, and a graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism.

Ryan Smart*, Account Executive at BVK

Ryan SmartRyan brings unique knowledge and expertise to clients with his past experience at Weber Shandwick and Edelman in Chicago, where he worked with Mars Chocolate and Kellogg brands. Ryan is an alum of Illinois State University, where he graduated with Cum Laude and a bachelor’s degree in public relations. Ryan’s professional experience is deeply rooted from his involvement in Illinois State’s PRSSA Chapter, serving as treasurer on the executive board during his senior year, the social media and branding coordinator for Illinois State University’s School of Communication and as a School of Communication Promotions and Development intern. At BVK, Ryan’s experience includes working with a variety of consumer, healthcare and travel companies, such as TH Foods, Carmex, Johnson Controls, Baker Tilly and The Mark Travel Corporation.


Mocktail Hour: A Networking Event

Raychel Yokem*, Learning Consultant– Human Resources at Horace Mann Educators Company

Raychel YokemRaychel Yokem completed her Bachelor of Science in Business Education at Illinois State University in December 2007. In December 2015, she received her Master of Science in Human Resource Management from Argosy University in Chicago, IL. Raychel joined Horace Mann Educators Company in May 2016 as a Field Education Specialist in Human Resources. In 2017, she completed the Horace Mann Emerging Leaders program, Lean Six Sigma training, and was named employee of the month. She previously served as Agency Recruiter at State Farm Insurance from April 2013 to May 2015, where she helped build an agent talent pool focused on performance, diversity, and the client experience. Over the past 10 years, she has remained committed to her community and the educational development of others. She has lived out that personal mission through organizations such as; Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., Pi Omega Pi Business Fraternity, Toastmasters International, Society for Human Resource Management, and Chamber of Commerce Leadership Springfield program.

Rachel Marti*, Senior Customer Success Manager – Global Accounts at LinkedIn

Rachel MartiRachel Marti says Illinois State was truly the beginning of her life journey, both professionally & personally. Marti graduated in 2008 with a degree in History but had no idea where her degree was actually leading her. She tried her hand at non-profit fundraising, sales, customer service before finding her true passions lie in Talent Acquisition.  Since 2011, Marti has made her way through the TA world in supporting roles, to leading a team of recruiters, and finally landing in tech at LinkedIn as a product evangelist & a Customer Success Champion. Marti says ISU gave her the foundation I needed to be persistent, open-minded, and ready for anything.

Kristy Wojnicki*, Manager, Customer Success at Hireology

Kristy WojnickiKristy received her Bachelor’s Degree of History in 2008. She has spent her career partnering with SMB, Enterprise, and Global companies to achieve their talent acquisition goals through consultation and education.  Kristy currently leads a team of Customer Success Managers for a high growth SAAS organization focused on empowering small business owners to hire the best team.




Stephanie Jacobsen*, Senior Customer Success Manager at LinkedIn

Stephanie JacobsenStephanie Jacobsen graduated from ISU with a Bachelor’s in Spanish Teacher Education in 2010. She currently works at LinkedIn as a Senior Customer Success Manager where she consults clients on how to achieve best results using LinkedIn’s enterprise solutions. Jacobsen  is excited to be back at ISU to share her expertise with her fellow Redbirds.




 Young Alums: “So I Graduated… Now What?”

Brian Hanik Jr.*, Seller Services Agent on the Broker Team at Vivid Seats.

Brian HanikBrian Hanik is a seller services agent for the broker team at Vivid Seats, an online ticket reseller. In this role, he is able to connect to his love for all things media. Prior to this position, he worked at the Bone Student Center and held a positions as a promotions assistant for 97.1 The Drive in Chicago. While attending Illinois State University, Hanik was an active member of WZND Fuzed Radio and achieved a bachelor’s degree in mass media.


Alyssa Ortiz*, Business Development Project Specialist for Guaranteed Rate

Alyssa OrtizAlyssa Ortiz attributes her recent promotion at Guaranteed Rate, after only six months, to the skills she acquired while at Illinois State University. While obtaining her bachelor’s degree in journalism from the School of Communication, Ortiz was actively involved in Gamma Phi Beta, a social sorority, TV-10 and served as the editor-in-chief for an online news website, Her Campus. In her senior year, she was awarded “Outstanding Senior in Journalism” by TV-10.



Allison Buehner*, Junior Account Executive for Mac Strategies

Allison BuehnerRight after graduating from Illinois State University, Buehner landed an internship with Weber Shandwick, one of the biggest public relations firms in the world. Today, she works at Mac Strategies Group, a public relations and affairs group in downtown Chicago, as a junior account executive. Buehner graduated from the School of Communication with a bachelor’s degree in organizational and leadership studies. During her time at ISU, she re-initiated the ISU chapter of Association for Women in communications and currently serves as a Director and Secretary on the national board of directors for AWC.


Tyler Krivich*, Consumer Intern for Weber Shandwick

Tyler KrivichTyler Krivich currently works for Weber Shandwick as a consumer intern. In this role, Krivich works with ALDI and influencer relations. Prior to this internship, he completed five internships, one of which was at Pampered Chef as a corporate communication intern. Krivich graduated from the School of Communication with a bachelor’s degree in public relations. During his time at Illinois State University, he served on the Public Relations Student Society of America’s executive board for two years.



International Communication

Kallie Bundy*, Business Analyst at State Farm Insurance

Kallie BundyDuring her time at ISU she stayed involved on campus in alumni relations, Student Alumni Association and as a graduate assistant. Upon graduating, Bundy worked as the Lead Business Analyst in Communication Solutions for TEKsystems for more than two years. Bundy is now the Lead Business Analyst for State Farm.. Bundy graduated from Eastern Illinois University with a B.A. in Music. She then attended graduate school at Illinois State and earned an M.S. in Communication.



Charity Mendoza*, Business Manager at The Pickle

Charity MendozaCharity Mendoza currently resides in Lafayette, Ind. where she is the Business Manager for The Pickle, a locally owned restaurant. Mendoza also works as a Quality Auditor at Caterpillar. She plans to share her experiences of diversity in the workplace as a Latina during this panel. Mendoza graduated from Illinois State where she earned her B.S. and M.S. in Communication Studies – Organizational and Leadership Communication.



Dr. Brea Banks*, Illinois State Assistant Professor Department of Psychology

Dr. Brea BanksDr. Brea Banks is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Illinois State University, where she also earned her Ph.D. specializing in school psychology. She is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist in the state of Illinois. Prior to her current position, she worked in private practice conducting psychological assessments and providing family therapy. She also previously served as the lead counseling liaison at a university counseling center, providing direct and indirect services to college students holding marginalized identities. Dr. Banks’ research interests include the cognitive consequences of microaggression and student of color experiences in higher education. She has also published material on autism spectrum disorder, neonatal follow-up, literacy in refugee children, and behavioral treatment integrity. Her teaching interests surround cognitive assessment, multicultural counseling, and diversity in psychology.

Kenneth Porter*, Elections in Action Coordinator at Mivka Challenge

Kenneth PorterKenneth Porter is a mixed communications specialist and military veteran who currently works as the Elections in Action Coordinator at Mikva Challenge where they believe that democracy is a verb. At Mikva he consults with teachers on best practices to engage students in electoral politics and direct action organizing. Porter is also a logistics specialist in the Navy Reserve and has served throughout southeast Asia with long term mobilizations to Japan, Singapore, and the Philippines. Porter earned his B.S. in Public Relations and recently completed his M.S. in Communication both at ISU. While completing his degree, he taught convergent media writing, an introduction for writing AP style for print, radio, television, advertising and film. Outside of his studies Porter was the advisor to the campus NAACP – National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, a member of Veterans at Illinois State and Vice President of the Pi Beta chapter of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity.


Event Planning

Jenna Koons*, Marketing and Hospitality Specialist for Illinois State’s Event Management, Dining and Hospitality

Jenna KoonsJenna Koons is the Marketing and Hospitality Specialist for Illinois State’s Event Management, Dining and Hospitality. She is responsible for running the department’s social media accounts (with the help of an intern), supervising the Bone Student Center’s InfoCentre, coordinating and working outreach events and planning events for the department’s team. She is also in charge of planning and executing initiatives and events to keep their department relevant to students and the public. Koons graduated from ISU in 2014 with a Bachelor of Science in Organizational and Leadership Communication. She then moved to the suburbs to work for Red Frog Events as a Warrior Dash Event Specialist where she was able to travel around the United States and Canada coordinating races. After a year with the company, she realized her true passion was working for her alma mater. Upon her return to campus, Koons worked as the Event Planner for ISU’s Bone Student Center. She was in charge of coordinating all of the weddings and student events that took place in the Bone Student Center, Braden Auditorium, and the Bowling and Billiards Center. A year and a half later, she was promoted to her current position.

Mike Pohlmann, Owner, Palace Events

Mike PohlmannMike Pohlmann is the Owner and Operator of Palace Events in Bloomington-Normal, Illinois. Pohlmann earned his Bachelor’s in Exercise Science from Eureka College. After college Pohlmann planned and coordinated events at Cook Rental. He then became a sale representative at Statewide Publishing where he sold ad space. Pohlmann developed Palace Events in January 2010 and has since coordinated over 100 weddings and created memorable events for clients across Central, Illinois. In 2016, Pohlmann founded another business, Twenty Twenty Entertainment, a DJ service.


Samantha Schultz*, Director of Operations at Palace Events

Samantha SchultzSamantha Schultz and her small army of interns are the strategic and tactical force that makes Palace Events one of Central Illinois’ industry leaders. Schultz is an Illinois State graduate from the School of Communication in 2017; she turned her 2016 internship into a job. Prior to her current position, Schultz was hired on as the Direction of Weddings and Events. Now, working at the Director of Operations at Palace Events, Schultz uses her public relations degree in her everyday tasks. She is responsible for scheduling setups and teardowns; handling the day to day operations; creating daily agendas for the labor crew, interns and employees; managing sales and supervising all interns, overseeing the coordination of all weddings and events.

Sarah Watson, Director, Center for Operational and Resource Excellence at BCD Meetings & Events

Sarah WatsonSarah believes in the value that live meetings and events can provide to a company. The connection that occurs in face to face meetings between employees, with clients and with vendors is instrumental in the success and growth of companies. Watson began her career as an Event Coordinator and eventually was promoted to a Senior Event Manager. In her time as an Event Manager, she created, planned and executed programs ranging in size from 20 to over 2,000 people. She planned incentive trips to exciting destinations ranging from Costa Rica to Spain for clients such as Alcon Laboratories, John Deere, Goodyear and Waste Management. She also led large leadership conference and meetings in conference cities like Las Vegas and Orlando. In her current role, Watson focuses on employee development. This includes the onboarding of new hires, the creation of an apprentice program, the execution of the internship program and the training of employees to ensure they have the skills and knowledge they need to be successful. Watson holds certifications as an executive coach and in Leadership Systems. She has won employee of the year at two of the three companies she’s worked for.


Outside the Box

Scott Peterson*, VP of Sales and eCommerce at Pregis

Scott PetersonScott Peterson leads the eCommerce Solutions National Account Sales team at Pregis, LLC. During the course of his career, Peterson has been involved in creating innovative solutions for customers across consumer, medical, eCommerce and industrial packaging applications. He has held positions in sales, sales management, product management, new product development, sales training and national accounts. Currently, Peterson is VP of eCommerce Solutions with a focus on exceeding customer experience through high impact consumer protective packaging solutions. He works directly with many of the largest eRetailers. These include Amazon,, Groupon, Crate&Barrel, Kohl’s, Target, Pier1, and Walmart, to name a few. Peterson has been a keynote speaker at Pregis’ annual Distributor Management Meeting for the past 6 years. Topics have included eCommerce market trends with a focus on customer experience, customer lifetime value, multi-channel fulfillment and the unboxing phenomenon. Prior to joining Pregis in 2010, Peterson worked for FP International and Box Partners in various roles. He has a B.S. Communication Degree from Illinois State University.

Nick Gulino*, Founder of Get Social Communication

Nick GulinoNick Gulino is the Founder & Operator at Get Social Communication, Inc. Upon graduating from ISU in 2013 with a B.A. in Public Relations, Gulino worked with the Chicago Blackhawks and Adler Planetarium. Gulino found that these organizations excelled at spreading their message and engaging their target audience so he decided to utilize the same communication strategies and tactics that these prestigious organizations used to create Get Social Communication, Inc. – a full-service marketing communications agency for small businesses.


Heather Young*, Owner at Ohmfit Activewear

Heather YoungHeather Young is the owner of OhmFit Activewear, a women’s boutique located in Uptown Normal. OhmFit sells fresh and fun fitness apparel and accessories that inspire women to live their best life. OhmFit opened for business in 2013 as a mobile boutique- traveling to local and regional gyms, spas, and participating in style shows and other special events. Prior to owning OhmFit, Young was the Public Affairs coordinator for the Children’s Discovery Museum where she worked for nearly 12 years. Her degree came from Illinois State University where she majored in Public Relations. Young is married and has a son, Andy, who is a senior in high school. In 2016, Young fulfilled a lifelong dream of becoming a group fitness instructor at the Workout Company where she teaches BodyPump. Heather serves on boards for Leadership Illinois, the Friends Council for WGLT, and the OSF Healthcare Foundation Board.

Jenny O’Brien*, Owner of Dreams Dance Academy

Jenny O'BrienJenny O’Brien is the owner of Dreams Dance Academy in St. Charles, Illinois. After graduating from Illinois State University with a degree in Mass Communications and a minor in Writing, she began a 10-year career in marketing and communications. O’Brien’s other passion was teaching dance, and she continued to teach during those 10 years. In 2012 she realized it was time to follow her dream and she formed “Dreams Dance Academy: The Traveling Studio” by renting space at community and fitness centers in three towns, and it skyrocketed from there. In 2013, O’Brien obtained her own studio space to accommodate her quickly growing business.  In August 2015, Dreams moved to their current 4,200 sq. ft. facility. O’Brien credits her studio’s growth and success with not only the instruction they provide, but also her background in marketing and communication. She designed and maintains her website, print and promotional material, blog, social media, press releases, and all of the other marketing and communications that make a business successful. O’Brien has also written numerous articles for Dance Studio Life magazine. In 2016, her studio was named One of the Best for local dance studios.


College 2.0: The Value of a Master’s Degree

Kathryn (Corey) Green*, Graduate Teaching Assistant for the School of Communication.

Kathryn "Corey" GreenCorey Green attended Richland Community college where she received an Associate of Science degree. She transferred to ISU and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Communication Studies with a focus in Organizational and Leadership Communication. During her time at ISU, she studied abroad through the Communication department, completed an internship with the School of Communication, and served as the president of the Communication honor society, Lambda Pi Eta. Green will be graduating this May with a Master of Science in Communication. She spent her years in the Master’s program teaching COM 110 and COM 123 as well as assisting the instruction of COM 178. Along with her teaching assignments, Green works a part-time job at a local small business and has an internship with Heartland Community College in their Success Connections office.

Mitch Combs*, Graduate Teaching Assistant for the School of Communication.

Mitch CombsMitch Combs graduated from Illinois State University in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in public relations. He has worked for excellent non-profit organizations through internship experience at the American Red Cross and YouthBuild McLean County. In graduate school, Combs’ time is split between his graduate teaching assistantship, coursework, and research. He is a graduate teaching assistant for COM 161 where he teaches students how to write for various multimedia platforms including print, radio, television, and film. In terms of research, he is involved with rhetorical research methods to examine communication through television shows, news outlets, and other forms of mass media. More specifically, Combs is interested in examining how other cultures are perceived and depicted in Western media and how meanings that emerge from it affect a society’s worldview.

Haley Palmer*, Graduate Assistant for the Graduate School.

Haley PalmerHaley Palmer graduated from ISU with a Bachelors in Communication in Spring 2016 and is currently finishing her last semester of graduate school. Palmer currently serves as president of the School of Communication Graduate Student Association. Her assistantship is with The Graduate School office over in Hovey 309. Part of her decision to attend graduate school at ISU is the ability the program gives students to curate their own degrees. During the last two years Palmer has taken classes in communication pedagogy, interpersonal communication, public relations, rhetoric, sports communication, and more! My research is heavily focused within social media and interpersonal communication. After Palmer graduates, she hopes to find a job as a strategist in advertising in the Chicago or St. Louis area!

Nate S. Brophy*, Graduate Teaching Assistant for the School of Communication.

Nate BrophyNate Brophy received his Associate of Arts degree from Heartland Community College. After community college, he entered ISU as an undergraduate transfer-student in the Communication Studies program under the Organizational and Leadership Communication sequence. He has the opportunity to be an undergraduate teaching assistant, where he quickly discovered my passion for teaching. After graduation, he followed his dream to teach Communication in higher education by enrolling in the SoC’s graduate program. Additionally, Brophy became a Graduate Teaching Assistant and has since acquired several semesters of teaching experience as the instructor of record in COM 110. In May, he will graduate with his Master of Science in Communication and will subsequently enter a Communication Ph.D. program to pursue his doctorate degree.


Tips from an Emmy Award-Winning Photographer

Kevin Doellman*, Photographer at WGN-TV

Kevin DoellmanKevin just won two Emmys for his shooting and editing at WGN-TV in Chicago. He works primarily on investigative pieces. He’s been a shooter at stations in Milwaukee, Champaign and his hometown of Quincy, and he earned a Master’s Degree at DePaul along the way. At TV-10, he spent more time in front of the camera than behind it, as part of the legendary class of 2009.



Political Communication: Civically Minded in a Modern Society

Mary Cullen*, Political Reporting Intern for NPR Illinois

Mary CullenMary Cullen is working as a statehouse political reporter for NPR Illinois in Springfield as part of the Public Affairs Reporting Program at the University of Illinois Springfield. Prior to pursuing her master’s degree, Mary worked at the Chicago Sun-Times as an intern for the Editorial Board. She graduated from Illinois State University in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in news editorial journalism. While earning her undergrad, Mary worked as News Editor and Editorial Board member at The Vidette and served two years, including one as lead intern, on the School of Communications Promotions and Development Team. While at ISU she also worked as a Study Abroad Ambassador and as a social media intern for the university.

 John Walsh*, Government and Public Affairs Manager at Mclean County Chamber of Commerce

John WalshPreviously a field representative for congressman Adam Kinzinger in Illinois’ 16th Congressional District, John Walsh currently serves as the government and public affairs manager for the McLean County Chamber of Commerce. In this role, John creates and manages policy positions for over 1,000 businesses that are members of the organization.

A recent Redbird alumnus, John graduated from Illinois State University in 2014 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English studies.


Dr. Carl Palmer, Assistant Professor at Illinois State University

Carl PalmerA researcher who examines how individual characteristics and predispositions interact with social stimuli to shape political behavior, Carl Palmer is a graduate of the University of California, Davis. He achieved his bachelor’s degree with honors in Political Science and Communication and his master’s degree in American Politics and Political Methodology. Currently, Carl is an Assistant Professor of Politics and Government at ISU, where he brings his passion for, and knowledge of, politics to the classroom. Before coming to ISU, he was a Rooney Center Postdoctoral Research Associate at the University of Notre Dame.


Social Media Management 101

Allison Kramer*, Creative and Digital Account Lead at All Points Public Relations

Allison KramerAllison graduated from ISU in 2015 with a degree in public relations. During her time as a student, Allison was involved in Pi Beta Phi, Panhellenic Council, the Public Relations Student Society of America, Spanish Club and Rho Lambda. She also served as a former School of Communication Promotion and Development (SoC PD) intern, serving as the lead intern in coordinating the School of Communication’s Family Day event and the 2015 IHSA Journalism sectionals. Today, Allison is a creative and digital account lead at All Points Public Relations (ALPR), where she provides digital strategy, integrated campaigns, social media initiatives and digital and print marketing resources for ALPR clients.

Dillon Maher*, Communications Specialist at Illinois State University

Dillon MaherDillon graduated from Illinois State University (ISU) in 2017 with a degree in public relations. During his time as a student, Dillon gained experience with social media working with registered student organizations, Student Health Services, and the Office of Admissions. Dillon’s accomplishments as an undergraduate also led to him being awarded the School of Communication’s 2017 Outstanding Senior in Public Relations award. Today, Dillon is a communications specialist at the Office of Admissions at ISU. In this position, Dillon makes data-driven decisions about content strategies for the Admissions social media accounts, and also manages and mentors a team of interns to create social media content to attract prospective students.

Blake Zitko, Public Affairs Manager at State Farm

Blake ZitkoBlake’s primary goal and passion is that of storytelling; engaging others in a compelling, interesting, entertaining way. Blake has been with State Farm for 10 years, serving in several public relations (PR) and leadership positions. Blake incorporates both his goal and passion in his current role as a public affairs manager for State Farm. As a manger, Blake oversees State Farm’s Issues Management and Brand Reputation function. Prior to his current role, Blake managed the State Farm social media and strategic distribution team. His team focused on brand storytelling and oversight for State Farm social media strategy, customer care and PR content.


Inside the TV Newsroom

Bailey Deitz*, Anchor/Multimedia Journalist at KWQC-TV

Bailey DeitzBailey has spent her entire broadcast career at KWQC-TV in the Quad Cities, which is the station she grew up watching. She interned there, was hired after graduation as an MMJ, and has been promoted to weekend anchor and more recently to anchor of a new 9pm newscast. TV-10 students still watch some of the great work she did as part of the legendary class of 2009, including Election Night Coverage and the Alan Beaman live shot.



Jaymee Toler*, Assistant News Director at WMBD/WYZZ-TV

Jaymee TolerJaymee is second-in-command in the WMBD/WYZZ Newsroom in Peoria, as Assistant News Director. She plays a big role in hiring and training new talent, and guides the producers of the various shows. She worked her way up as a producer at stations in Rhinelander, Wisconsin; Peoria and St. Louis. She is a 2012 graduate of ISU, where she worked with TV-10 and the Documentary Project.



Coventry Adrian*, Executive Producer at WJDT-TV

Coventry AdrianCoventry started producing Daybreak at WHOI-TV soon after her 2005 graduation from ISU, and then did what many producers do, hopping around from market to market. She’s worked in Columbia, South Carolina; New Orleans, Orlando and now Milwaukee, where she is the Executive Producer of the CBS affiliate, and working alongside at least 3 other TV-10 alums.




Maggie Hradecky*, News Director at WIFR-TV

Maggie HradeckyMaggie has worked at all three television stations in Rockford, as well as the newspaper. She was News Director at Rockford’s WREX-TV for 14 years. Now she’s a News Director again, recently returning to her first station, WIFR-TV, in that role. She’s also been a producer and writer at stations in Champaign, Charlotte and Chicago, earlier in her career. She graduated from ISU in 1990.




Graphic Design: Tips and Tricks in a Digital World

Cristy Gillespie*, Senior Writer & Content Strategist at Surface 51

Cristy GillespieShe can boil her career down to one element: Words. Coming up with them, rearranging them, slashing them, replacing them, fitting them together. After earning a bachelor’s degree from Illinois Wesleyan University, Cristy started her writing career at Country Financial headquarters. This opened doors to writing and editing positions at Illinois State, Roundtable Media, the UIUC College of Business, and SURFACE 51. There, she’s crafted language and strategy for clients like Beer Nuts, UIUC College of Engineering, Busey Bank, Terminix, and Roger Ebert’s Film Festival. In her spare time Cristy roller derbies, produces a feminist-punk radio show, and plays clumsy bass in a band.

Bobby Bobbitt*, Marketing Communications Coordinator at Illinois State University

Bobby BobbittBobby Bobbitt is a motivated individual with a passion for design. He is an outspoken and engaging with years of training in public speaking, design, and copywriting. Bobby is a recent graduate of Illinois State University, where he received a B.S. in Visual Communications – Design and a minor in Political Science. He is currently working for Illinois State University Conference Services as a Marketing Communications Coordinator where he Designs custom graphics, logos, websites, and other branding elements for clients of ISU Conference Services. Bobby has also created and managed websites using HTML and CSS, and edited photo and videos. On the side, Bobby also takes time to do some freelance work.

Dylan Simonds*, Design & Motion Designer at Surface 51

Dylan SimondsSince graduating ISU in 2008, with a concentration in graphic design and video art, Dylan briefly owned a freelance design and screen printing company, doing merchandise design for clients such as Warner Music Group, Hot Topic, Fueled By Ramen and Rock the Vote. After his design stint in the music industry he started working for an advertising agency in Champaign, Illinois called McKenzie Wagner Inc. where he honed his skills in video and motion design eventually moving down the street to, Surface 51. Outside of work, Dylan and wife Mallory have worked on major video and animation projects, such as doing the titles and credit sequence for the documentary film about Sriracha. They also helped create a mobile game called Hack Ex, which has reached over 4 million users since it’s release.

 Mallory Simonds*, Associate Art Director at Surface 51

Mallory SImondsMallory’s do-it-yourself attitude has led to a career in design, animation, hand lettering, video, art direction, web development, and designing for mobile apps. In her undergrad at Illinois State, Mallory was a SoC PD intern and served as the ad production manager at the Daily Vidette. Graduating in 2012 with a focus in graphic design and video art she turned her senior year internship at SURFACE 51 into a full-time design position. Outside of work, Mallory works closely with husband Dylan Simonds on video and animation projects, such the titles and credit sequences. She recently started Wick & Mortar, a modern home decor Etsy shop.

Sean Thornton*, Graphic Designer at University Alumni Association

Sean ThorntonSean started his artistic career at an early age, drawing dinosaurs in the front of all of his older brother’s books, quickly moving on to superheroes (and his own paper). Sean earned his undergraduate degree in graphic design from Illinois State University in 2000. Afterward, winding through the private business world, eventually venturing back to the world of academia and finally returning to Illinois State University in early 2012. Sean still dreams of high-flying Superheroes, retro-stylized rocket ships, and the perfectly brewed coffee. Today you can see his work in the anthology comic Josh Howard Presents: Sasquatch from Viper Comics, gaming books such as; Traveller: Merchant Prince, Rune Quest and most recently Once Upon a Time Machine, from Darkhorse Comics.


The Language of Leadership

Joe Malisia*, Bank Supervisor at State Farm Bank

Joe MalisiaBeginning his career at State Farm in 2007, Joe Malisia is an experienced bank representative with experience in risk management, customer service, and leadership. Today, he focuses on the insurance industry. Joe graduated from Illinois State University with a bachelor’s degree in general communication. After graduating, he started his career at State Farm serving as a collections representative, in the Bank Collection Center (BCC). Later, he worked as a phone representative, joining the BCC’s training department as a bank training analyst in 2010. In 2012, he transitioned to a supervisory role. Since then he has guided various teams at State Farm Bank.

Natilie Williams*, Business Analyst Apprentice at COUNTRY Financial

Natilie Williams

Natilie is a southside Chicagoan who values student leadership. She is the founder of “Nat Will, Speak!,” professional speaker, college instructor, and Ph.D student.

At the age of 20, Natilie received her Bachelor of Applied Arts in integrative public relations from Central Michigan University, a master’s degree in communication at 22 from ISU, and was recently accepted to a fully-funded doctoral program in communication: identity and diversity at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

Today, Natilie travels the nation as a professional speaker inspiring current students to push through their circumstances and achieve their wildest dreams.

Dr. James Applegate, Visiting Professor, Center of Education Policy Illinois State University

Dr. James ApplegateSpending his career in higher education and philanthropy developing policies and practices to dramatically increase college success, especially for underserved groups, Dr. Applegate is currently a visiting professor in the Center for Education Policy at Illinois State University.

Dr. Applegate achieved a bachelor’s degree in American Studies/Communication from Georgetown College with honors. While at Georgetown, Dr. Applegate was involved in Lambda Chi Alpha, the debate team, and served as the Student Government President. Later, he achieved his Ph.D. in Speech Communication from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Thomas Sheridan*, COO at Incentivefox Marketing Solutions

Thomas SheridanAn ISU School of Communication alumnus and former member of the Redbird baseball team under the legendary coach Duffy Bass, Tom Sheridan is a member of the SoC Alumni Advisory Board. Additionally, Tom is a member of the College of Arts and Science Hall of Fame at ISU.
Tom began his sports career as a summer sales intern with the Chicago Bulls in 1991, later working for the White Sox. In 2017, Tom left the White Sox after 23 seasons to become the COO at Incentivefox Marketing Solutions in suburban Chicago. Always wanting to give back to the industry that has given his so much, Tom has been on the Board of the Association of Luxury Suite Directors for 12 years and the Steering Committee of the National Sports Forum for 10 years.


PR Practice: Agency, Corporate and Institutional

Michelle Nagy*, Marketing Project Coordinator at Joliet Junior College

Michelle NagyMichelle Nagy is the project coordinator for the Marketing and Creative Services department at Joliet Junior College, where she oversees and delegates more than 300 projects each year. In addition to project management, Michelle leads social media strategy discussions for the college and supports the department’s digital and direct marketing initiatives. Prior to JJC, Michelle worked at Weber Shandwick, the world’s second largest communications firm. Michelle graduated cum laude from Illinois State in 2011, with a major in public relations and minor in psychology. At ISU, she was a member of the COM Week team for three years, served as treasurer of the ISU PRSSA chapter, and completed internships with The American Red Cross, Country Financial and the ISU College of Business.

Melissa Libert*, Development Direct at WGLT at Illinois State University

Melissa LibertMelissa Libert leads WGLT’s marketing, public relations, and development efforts. Melissa previously served as Public Affairs Project Manager at COUNTRY Financial where she led community relations programming and corporate social responsibility efforts. Prior to that, Melissa provided public relations expertise to clients at Ruder Finn Chicago and Ruder Finn Los Angeles. Throughout her career, Melissa has earned several industry awards including International Association of Business Communicators/Chicago Bronze Quill and Publicity Club of Chicago Silver Trumpet. Libert is a graduate of Leadership McLean County Class of 2015.

Kaitlin Nickrent Saldanha*, Marketing Manager at Medix

Kaitlin Nickrent SaldanhaKaitlin Nickrent Saldanha is Marketing Manager at Medix, a national workforce solutions company specialized in recruiting skilled talent in healthcare, IT and science. She has been with Medix for nearly six years and works within strategic sales marketing, content marketing, public relations, branding, executive communication and corporate social responsibility. Kaitlin graduated from Illinois State University in 2011 with a Bachelor of Arts in Public Relations. During her time at ISU, she was a member of Alpha Gamma Delta sorority, COM Week intern and Public Relations Student Society of America.

Jillian Collins*, Vice President at Edelman

Jillian CollinsJillian Collins is a Vice President at Edelman, the world’s largest communications marketing firm. Jillian joined Edelman in 2011 as an intern in the Consumer and Digital practices, after graduating from Illinois State University with a Bachelor’s degree in public relations and a minor in business administration. Jillian works with all Edelman practices to partner the best and most appropriate talent and resources with prospective clients’ needs. She has managed hundreds of new business projects contributing to the office’s growth over the past seven years. During her time at ISU, she served as Vice President and Historian of the ISU PRSSA chapter, was a member of the Lambda Pi Eta Honor Society and interned at COUNTRY Financial, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, ISU College of Business and SoC COM Week.


An asterisk (*) indicates ISU alumni