Kristen Pepper is an Athens, AL, native who grew up “on the outside looking in” at all of the hustle and bustle of the Rocket City. As marketing director for the Huntsville/Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB), Kristen works to promote Huntsville/Madison County as a premier destination for meetings and leisure travel. She previously served as President and Vice President of Programs for the North Alabama chapter of the Public Relations Council of Alabama, and is also a member of the Huntsville-Madison County Hospitality Association and Hospitality Sales & Marketing Executives (HSME). Kristen is an Auburn University graduate and member of the Leadership Huntsville/Madison County Connect Class 20.Company: Huntsville Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau Email Address: email@example.com
Jessica is the Digital Media Specialist for the City of Huntsville. Her work includes all things ‘communication’ that involve a screen including social media strategy, website and blog content development and e-mail campaigns. Previously, Jessica was part of the marketing team responsible for the communication efforts of the Huntsville/Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau. Recognized as a Rising Star of the Industry by the Alabama Tourism Department in 2013 and a “30 under 30” tourism marketing professional by Destination Management International Association, Jessica was also selected by PR News as a Rising Star in 2015. Jessica serves as the Development Chair on the Board of Directors for Thrive Alabama and as the President of the North Alabama Chapter of the Public Relations Council of Alabama. A fan girl of NASA, she loves reading about space exploration in her free time. At home, she is dog mom to two rescue dogs – Grantham and Lilly.Company: City of Huntsville Email Address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Red Sage Communications, Inc. is headquartered in Huntsville and Decatur, Alabama, and is one of the region’s most trusted full-service marketing and website development companies. As marketing director, Michelle Stark manages and trains the agency’s specialists and coordinators. She also routinely provides strategy, creative direction and oversight for both business-to-business and consumer-focused client projects. Her favorite part of the job is diving in to learn each client’s unique story, then figuring out how to share it.
Before joining Red Sage, Michelle worked as a television broadcast journalist for more than a decade, including as an intern-researcher for ABC News’ World News Tonight with Peter Jennings. She most recently worked as a morning anchor and technology reporter for Huntsville, Alabama’s CBS News affiliate WHNT News 19. Having spent 10 years as a technology reporter, Michelle has special expertise in both industry and consumer tech, as well as digital communications and new media. She is also highly skilled in crisis communications, public relations and multi-platform campaign development.
Michelle loves making new friends and making big things happen. While at WHNT News 19, Michelle co-founded and co-directed “The Great Diaper Drive” service project in partnership with Rocket City Mom. This annual project now provides 100,000+ diapers and wipes to local children. She has also served on the Board of Directors for The Catalyst Center for Business & Entrepreneurship since 2015, and helped launch “The Mompreneur Event” for aspiring moms and business owners. She currently serves on The Catalyst & NAPRCA’s planning committee for The BIG Marketing & PR Event. Additionally, Michelle serves as a mentor for HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology’s Navigate program, which is modeled after MIT’s trailblazing initiative. As a mentor, Michelle works with a select group of regional subject matter experts to coach biosciences and biotechnology entrepreneurs through startup, business development and expansion.Company: Red Sage Communications, Inc. Email Address: email@example.com
Kristen Gehman Vaughn is a native of Atmore, Ala. and a First Generation Descendant of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in public relations from The University of Alabama College of Communication and Information Sciences.
Kristen is a senior technical writer and proposal manager for Hexagon Safety & Infrastructure’s Business Proposals Center serving U.S. Public Safety clients in the Americas.
Kristen’s expertise centers on digital communications and strategic messaging. She has led and contributed to digital content creation, copywriting and editing, internal communications and engagement, media relations, corporate philanthropy and brand storytelling for international corporations, including Wind Creek Casinos & Hotels.
In May 2018, Kristen married her college sweetheart, David Vaughn of Athens, Ala. The Vaughns happily call Athens home and spend their free time cooking, exploring, playing music together and ballroom dancing.Company: Hexagon Safety & Infrastructure Email Address: firstname.lastname@example.org
An Indiana native, Laura moved to Madison, Ala. in 2017 and decided it was the ideal time to start her own business; nothing is sweeter in the south than sweet tea, hence, Sweet Tea Communications, LLC.
Laura brings more than 15 years of integrated communications knowledge to the table, with experience in public relations, media relations (both business-to-business and business-to-consumer), newsletter production, email marketing, writing, graphic design, political campaigns, strategic planning and nonprofit management. Her background includes working with Fortune 500 companies, all sizes of nonprofit organizations (501c3 and 501c6), and small and medium-sized businesses.
In addition to years of valuable work experiences, Laura earned her bachelor’s in journalism and master’s in public relations from Indiana University, and maintains her membership and accreditation in public relations (APR) with the Public Relations Council of America (PRCA).Company: Sweet Tea Communications Email Address: email@example.com
Macy Magnusson is the Marketing Manager at Crestwood Medical Center. She received her BS in Marketing from the University of Alabama and her MS in Strategic Communication from Troy University. She currently serves on the NAPRCA Board as Treasurer.Company: Crestwood Medical Center Email Address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ashley Polesak is the Public Relations Officer for the City of Huntsville Parks & Recreation Department and also runs Mayor Tommy Battle’s Healthy Huntsville initiative. These positions include managing multiple social media accounts, interacting with the media on-screen and off, marketing, programming, grant writing, event planning and more! Ashley loves being the Rocket City’s real-life Leslie Knope and working hard to make Huntsville’s recreation centers and green spaces awesome places to be.
Ashley has received numerous awards during her previous life as Director of Sales and Marketing with Hilton and more recently as a public relations professional. In 2017 she received an Award of Merit for her Parks & Recreation Month campaign with the Public Relations Council of Alabama and in 2018 won the Bill Moore Professional of the Year for outstanding service to recreation with the Alabama Recreation & Parks Association.
Ashley graduated Cum Laude from the University of Florida with a B.S. in Recreation, Parks and Tourism and a minor in Business Administration. Go Gators!Company: City of Huntsville Parks & Recreation Department Email Address: email@example.com
At WHNT News 19, Lori oversees research functions and helps news, promotions and management better understand viewers and grow ratings and revenue. She also helps sales people with brand messaging, market analysis and competitive positioning. As a member of the leadership team, Lori is often a key participant in developing station strategy and community outreach.
Lori is a longtime PRCA member and remains active in a variety of committees. Starting as a student member at UAHuntsville in the 1980s, she’s held many leadership positions including chapter president (2009), state president (2015), and a handful of Southern Public Relations Federation board roles. In 2020, she is returning to serve a third consecutive term as VP Membership for NAPRCA.
She’s a SPRF Senior Practitioner (2011) and a Philip R. Forrest Jr. Professional Achievement Award recipient (2013).Company: WHNT News 19 Email Address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Rylee is the Marketing and Community Relations Coordinator for Morell Engineering, Inc. in Athens, AL. She is responsible for digital content creation, website development, social media management, and community relations. Rylee was a member of NAPRCA as a student and now serves on the Executive Board as the VP of Students. She also serves as an Ambassador for the Greater Limestone County Chamber of Commerce. Rylee graduated from the University of North Alabama in May 2019 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications concentrating in Public Relations.Company: Morell Engineering Email Address: email@example.com
Dawnette Chambers is an assistant professor of communication at her alma mater, Oakwood University. As the program coordinator of the public relations program, she is responsible for preparing students in the program to receive every opportunity to learn and develop the necessary skills to be excellent communication professionals. Dawnette is also a graduate of Roosevelt University in Chicago with a Master of Science degree in integrated marketing communications.
She has excelled as a freelance writer and coordinator for the Collegiate Quarterly, a world-wide inspirational publication for youth and other publications. She has coordinated special events as an intern for the American Red Cross and Northern Illinois and established a communication career conference within the Department of Communication at Oakwood. She also managed responsibilities as a Group Center Facilitator at the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago.
Despite her busy academic schedule, Dawnette continues to dedicate her life to all things communication as an avid planner and hard worker. Dawnette fulfills her commitment to community and non-profit organizations through volunteer services at her church as a musician and young adult ministry leader.Company: Oakwood University Email Address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Lara Kohl Burhenn is the Director of Communications for the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology, overseeing web, social media, news media, internal and external communications. She has 20 years of strategic communications experience stemming from industries such as oil and gas, infrastructure, local government and education. Burhenn earned her BA in communications/print journalism from Wichita State University and is a graduate of the Governor’s Executive Development Program from The LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin.Company: HudsonAlpha Email Address: email@example.com