2018 speakers are coming soon!

Speakers 2017

A.J. Arreguin

Communications Coordinator
Del Valle ISD

Adjunct Lecturer
Texas State University

A.J. Arreguin is the communications coordinator for Del Valle ISD, located in Southeast Austin and a part-time lecturer for the School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Arreguin is a Texas State University Alumni, he received his double bachelor’s degree in public relations and Spanish and his master’s in strategic communication. 

Alicia Inns

KXAN -Austin, TX

Alicia Inns joined the KXAN News team in December 2014 as a morning show multi-platform journalist. After earning her Bachelor’s degree in Broadcast Journalism for the University of Oregon, Alicia started her broadcast career at KTVZ-NewsChannel 21 in Bend Oregon. In her 4 years there, she worked as an anchor, reporter and producer while shooting, writing and editing her own stories. 

Chris Davis

Multimedia Journalist
KXAN -Austin, TX

Chris Davis joined the KXAN News team in June 2017 as a multimedia journalist covering stories across Central Texas. Chris received his bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism from Virginia Commonwealth University. He interned at WTVR-TV in Richmond then started his career in Sheridan, Wyoming in a bureau for KOTA-TV in Rapid City, South Dakota. While there, Chris won 1st place in the Great Plains AP Broadcast contest. Chris then worked in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania at WHTM-TV, covering the Pope’s visit to Philadelphia. 

When Chris arrived in Texas he worked in Waco for two years at KCEN-TV. He covered several big stories there, including the fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas, the trial of Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hasan and the biker shootout at Twin Peaks. Chris was part of a team that earned a Lone Star Emmy Award for a one-hour special that aired on the anniversary of the explosion in West. 

Cindy Royal

Professor / Director of Media Innovation Lab 
Texas State University School of Journalism Mass Communication

Cindy Royal is a professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication and the founding director of the Media Innovation Lab. She specializes in teaching the practical and theoretical concepts of digital media. Dr. Royal completed Ph.D. studies in Journalism and Mass Communication at The University of Texas at Austin in May 2005. At UT, she focused on the effects of the Internet on communication and culture. Prior to doctoral studies, Dr. Royal had a career in Marketing at Compaq Computer in Houston, TX and NCR Corporation in Dayton, OH. She has a Master of Business Administration from the University of Richmond and a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 

Dr. Royal is the 2013 Charles E. Scripps Journalism and Mass Communication Teacher of the Year, presented by the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication and the Scripps Howard Foundation. She received the 2013 Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching from Texas State. During the 2013-2014 academic year, Royal was selected for the prestigious Knight Journalism Fellowship at Stanford University, the first full-time academic to be accepted in the program in its 50-year history. She developed a platform to teach programming skills to journalists and journalism students called CodeActually. 

Dale Blasingame

Senior Lecturer
Texas State University School of Journalism Mass Communication

Dale Blasingame is a senior lecturer in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas. He received a master’s degree from Texas State in 2011 with a focus in New Media studies.  
Before transitioning to Texas State, Blasingame was a television news producer. He spent nine years at WOAI-TV in San Antonio, where he won two Lone Star Emmy awards and was nominated for a third. Before that, he was a news anchor and sports reporter for KTSA-AM in San Antonio. He is also the social media director forLeadhub, an Internet marketing company in San Antonio. Blasingame is a member of the Online News Association, Society of Professional Journalists and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. 

Blasingame writes for Texas Parks and Wildlife Magazine and recently visited all 95 state parks in one year. Blasingame was included on the Texas Highways Magazine list of Extraordinary Texans for 2016. Blasingame is a member of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation, National Park Foundation and National Parks Conservation Association where he’s been able to marry his passions of technology and our parks by creating a course called Mobile Storytelling in the Park, in conjunction with Texas Parks and Wildlife. 

Erica Hernandez


A graduate from the School of Journalism at Texas State University in San Marcos, Erica Hernandez has been working in the news business for ten years, and is an Emmy nominated producer. She started her career in Laredo, TX as a reporter/producer covering federal and district courts. She later moved to Austin to work at the Fox station as a producer, and after two years moved to San Antonio to work at KSAT 12. As a digital journalist Erica covers stories on all platforms and has several popular series on KSAT 12 including a food segment called Flavor Favs and a Haunting in South Texas.  


Gary Boyer

Freelance Videographer

Gary Boyer is a freelance videographer who shoots for a variety of clients ranging from news networks, such as NBC and CNN, to the NBA. He recently covered Hurricane Harvey for NBC News. Gary has traveled around the world covering professional basketball. He recently returned from a weeklong trip to China covering the Brooklyn Nets and Sacramento Kings as part of the NBA’s global initiative.  

Gary began his career in TV news as a photographer for KIII-TV in Corpus Christi. After a year on the Texas Coast, he returned home to San Antonio to work at KSAT-TV, the ABC affiliate. In his 17 years at KSAT, Gary held a number of positions, including chief photographer, executive producer and assistant news director. In 1979, just after returning to San Antonio, Gary was covering the Battle of Flowers Fiesta Parade with reporter Angela Vierville when a sniper began firing into the crowd, killing two and wounding more than a dozen. The two KSAT journalists, caught in the line of fire, hunkered down behind vehicles doing live reports throughout the shooting spree.  

Jason Buch

San Antonio Express News

Jason Buch is a graduate of Texas State University, where he was editor of the University StarBuch works for the San Antonio Express-News covering immigration and border affairs. He’s won awards for his coverage of child migration to the U.S., conditions that are driving immigration from Central America and money laundering in South Texas. Buch worked for two years at the Laredo Morning Times before coming to San Antonio. He first worked on the business desk at the Express-News, covering at various times real estate, the automotive industry, manufacturing, technology and telecom.  

Jeff Hahn

Hahn Public

Jeff Hahn is the owner and principal of Hahn Public. Jeff focuses on brand crafting, message development and crisis communications for the firm’s clients; he also leads the health systems practice area. He is a 26-year public relations practitioner. 

Prior to joining the firm, Hahn was communications director at Freescale Semiconductor and public affairs director at Motorola Semiconductor where he served in roles including government relations, media relations, crisis communication, analyst relations, business operations, employee communication, financial communication and executive communication. 

Hahn serves on the Board of Advisors for the School of Communication Studies at Texas State University. He serves as a volunteer for the Austin Chamber of Commerce, and was also the Austin city campaign co-chair for the United Way campaign in 2010. Hahn has served on a number of nonprofit boards in the past including the World Congress on Information Technology, and he was Board Chair for LifeWorks in 2003 and for Keep Austin Beautiful in 1998 and 1999.  

Jeff grew moved to Texas in 1984 by enlisting in the United States Air Force. He served at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio where he completed an associate degree in administration, then graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science in 1990 from The University of Texas at San Antonio.  

John A. Salazar

News Reporter
Spectrum News Austin

As an award-winning multi-platform journalist who delivers 20 years of broadcast experience to the Time Warner Cable News team, John A. Salazar began his career working in production before transitioning to the newsroom.  

Before joining TWC News Austin in 2010, John was the chief photojournalist for the CBS-affiliate in Austin. While there, he worked on special projects/investigates where his shooting, editing and producing led the Investigates team to win two Lone Star Emmy Awards, and other nominations by the statewide professional chapter. Salazar also was on the staff of the NBC-affiliate in Austin where he was recognized by Texas Associated Press Broadcasters as Photojournalist of the Year in 2002.  

Salazar covered two of President Barack Obama's visits to Texas as well as former presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford. Other career notables include local news angles following the 911 attacks, the 2003 Space Shuttle Columbia disaster and the 2008 Fundame saga. He was the first Austin journalist on-scene following the 2009 mass shooting on Fort Hood. Salazar also spent two weeks in Bastrop County reporting on the state's most destructive wildfire. 

Jon Zmikly

Texas State University School of Mass Comm and Journalism

Jon Zmikly graduated from Central Michigan University in 2006 with a bachelor’s degree in Broadcast & Cinematic Arts and a minor in Media Design, Production & Technology. After working at two television stations and one radio station in his home state of Michigan, he received his master's degree in Media Studies with a concentration in new media at Texas State University-San Marcos. He also created and produced a variety television show called Studio B, interned at SXSW Interactive and became the webmaster at San Marcos Community Church. 

Jon is currently a faculty member of the Digital Media Innovation sequence and is also the co-founder of a full-service digital agency in Austin coiski and works at his church part-time. He is also the content manager of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication website and social accounts. 

Kathryn Gisi

Hays County Bureau reporter
Spectrum News Texas

Kathryn Gisi is from the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. She stumbled into journalism at Texas State University. She quickly learned that telling stories suited her and it was something she wanted to pursue whole-heartedly.  

Following graduation, Kathryn packed up and moved to Boothbay Harbor, Maine to write for the local newspaper. From there, she landed her first television gig at the ABC affiliate in Lawton, Oklahoma. She spent another two years working as a multi-media journalist with the NBC affiliate in Southern Illinois. 

After a few years with Spectrum News North Carolina, Kathryn decided it was time to head back to the Lone Star State and took a position as the Hays County Bureau reporter with Spectrum News Texas. 


Kirsten Danis

Managing Editor
The Marshall Project

Kirsten Danis is the managing editor of The Marshall Project, a nonprofit newsroom that focuses on the U.S. criminal justice system. After launching in November 2014, The Marshall Project has won some of the most prestigious prizes in journalism, including a Pulitzer Prize in Explanatory Reporting, two George Polk awards and a National Magazine Award for General Excellence. Kirsten previously was an editor at The Wall Street Journal, where her team was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Public Service. She was managing editor at the New York Daily News and has also worked as a reporter at the New York Post and The Jersey Journal 


Laura Jesse

Public Affairs Account Supervisor 
KGRB Texas

Laura Jesse is a public affairs account supervisor with KGBTexas Communications in San Antonio, where she handles the agency’s public sector accounts and public engagement campaigns. Prior to joining the agency she served as Public Information Officer for Bexar County promoting the activities of the County Judge and Commissioners Court, County elected officials and the County Manager. 

Laura was a reporter and Watchdog columnist for the San Antonio Express-News from 2003 to 2008, where she worked her way up from a city desk editorial assistant to a city hall bureau reporter. Laura earned her Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communication – Electronic Media from Texas State University in 2003. 


Michel Haigh

Graduate Adviser
Texas State University School of Mass Comm and Journalism

Michel Haigh joined the faculty in July of 2017 and teaches graduate courses and serves at the Graduate Adviser for SJMC. 

Haigh earned her undergraduate degrees in ag journalism and speech communication at South Dakota State. She earned a master’s in agricultural education with an emphasis in agricultural communications at Texas Tech University. Haigh earned a Ph.D. in communication studies at the University of Oklahoma in 2006. 

Haigh has co-authored more than 40 conference presentations, seven of which have been recognized with the “Top Paper” award. She has published more than 35 articles in journals. She was an officer in the Communication Theory & Methodology division of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication and routinely serves as a site-team member for the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications. 

In 2014, Haigh was named to NerdScholar's "40 under 40" list of "professors who inspire," and was the recipient of the 2014 Excellence in Teaching Award from the College of Communications Alumni Society Board. In 2015, she was recognized with the Excellence in Teaching Award from The National Society of Leadership and Success.  

Olga Campos Benz

Community Relations Director

In addition to her new career as a novelist, former broadcast journalist Olga Campos Benz also holds the role of Community Relations Director for businessman and honored philanthropist, Milton Verret, and his companies. Olga continues her connection and commitment to the Austin community by serving on several nonprofit boards including The Health Alliance for Austin Musicians (HAAM), the Austin Film Festival, the Joe R and Teresa Lozano Long Center, and the Advisory Council of the University of Texas Division of Diversity and Community Engagement. In 2013, the Austin Business Journal named Olga one of the “Profiles in Power: Women of Influence”. She was inducted into the City of Austin Commission for Women Hall of Fame in 2014.  

Sandy Rao

SJMC Professor / Assistant Dean of the Graduate College
Texas State University

Sandhya (Sandy) Rao is Professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication and Assistant Dean of the Graduate College. She is also Honorary Professor of International Studies. Rao received a Ph.D. in Mass Communication from Bowling Green State University, Ohio. 

Rao worked as a journalist and public relations professional in India. Her research focus is on the diffusion and growth of new media technologies in the Asian region with particular emphasis on India. Rao has published two Books: Cyberpath to Development in Asia--Issues and Challenges, Praeger; and Critical Issues in Communication: Looking Inward for Answers, Sage. She has also published numerous book chapters and journal articles. Rao has presented research papers at International, National and Regional Conferences. 

Rao taught at Manipal University, India, during spring 2008 as a Fulbright Scholar. During her tenure there, she created and helped set up the Center for Media and Marketing Communication Research. 

She chaired the University’s Task force on Internationalization of Texas State University. She has served as the Head, International Communication Division, Association for the Education of Journalism and Mass Communication. She launched the International News Writing Contest in 1997 for the International Communication Division of the AEJMC and continued to coordinate the contest until 2016. 

Shannon Rideout

Director of Communications and Community Relations
Del Valle ISD 

Shannon Rideout currently serves as the Director of Communications and Community Relations at Del Valle Independent School District.  He has over 20 years of experience in the communications field.  Rideout holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Radio/Television/Film from Sam Houston State University and a master’s degree in Public Relations from University of Maryland-University College. 

Tara Pohlmeyer 

Engagement Coordinator 
Community Impact

Tara began her tenure at Community Impact Newspaper as a digital content producer in August 2016. In a new role as engagement coordinator, she works with editorial, digital and design teams to promote editorial content. At Texas State University, she served as station manager for KTSW-FM 89.9 during her senior year and graduated in May 2016 with a bachelor's degree in electronic media.  

Kim Castelluccio

Digital Media Supervisor
97 Degrees West

Kim is experienced in digital media planning and traditional media planning. Before joining the 97 Degrees West team as a Digital Media Supervisor, she was at LatinWorks were she was vital in planning an launching media campaigns for Texas Lottery, Visit Austin, and Jamba Juice.  

She brings on board an in-depth knowledge on the ins and outs of planning and executing digital, social out of home, print and broadcast media buys. Fascinated by the ever-changing industry, she is constantly on the lookout for innovative and efficient ways for clients to engage with their audiences.  

She graduated with honors from Texas State University in San Marcos with a BA in Mass Communications - Public Relations and a minor in English and is happy to still call Central Texas home.  

Lucas Lane 

Account Director 

Lucas is an Account Director at McGarrah Jessee, leading the YETI Coolers and Costa Sunglasses teams. Over his ten-year tenure at the agency, he’s contributed to most of the agency’s roster from fast food to dog food and campaigns to websites. Additionally, he has served as the National Chair of Ad 2 and on the National Board of the Directors for the American Advertising Federation

Kerri Qunell 

Chief Marketing Officer
Trinity Episcopal School

Adjunct Professor of Management
St. Edward’s University  

Kerri leads the marketing communications team at Trinity Episcopal School, building strategic marketing and branding campaigns to further the mission of the school.

Prior to her current position, she served as Director of Marketing Services at St. Edward's University, where she is currently an Adjunct Professor in the Management Department teaching Business Communication. Previously, Kerri practiced marketing and PR as Vice President of Communications at Capital Area Food Bank and as Community Relations Director for KEYE-TV. She also worked at Dell, SicolaMartin and Austin Chamber of Commerce, and was a freelancer for several local publications. 

Kerri is a Leadership Austin graduate and past board member, and a founding board member and past president of Young Women's Alliance (YWA). She serves on the YWA Advisory Council and is a member of Women Communicators of Austin and American Marketing Association. erri was named a 2009 “Profiles in Power Central Texas Woman of Influence” by Austin Business Journal and was a 2006 “Austin Under 40” winner. She is an alum of the Frank McBee, Jr. Fellowship Program in Civic Entrepreneurship and regular guest speaker at Texas State University, where she received her BA in Journalism. 

Kimberly Cook

Web Producer



Rebecca Larson

UX Designer
USAA in San Antonio



Ashley Hebler

Web Developer 
FANS 1st Media 


Erika Toney

Web Developer
Rainman Creative

Holly Gibson


Executive Director
Women Who Code


Thomas Hodge

Front-end Developer
Sanders/Wingo Advertising Agency


Matt Nelson


Matt Nelson is the creator of WeRateDogs™. His social media efforts since late 2015 has been documented in NY MagBuzzfeedHuffington PostDaily MailPeople MagazineStudy Breaks and many more. The Washington Post called him “the Internet’s most famous dog rater.” Nelson has accumulated over four million followers across Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat in less than a year by showcasing user-submitted dog media attached to his trademark caption style. He resides in Charleston, West Virginia.