Meet Our Team

StratCom staff serve as a comprehensive resource for the university’s communication strategy and brand management. Our team includes event planners, web developers, writers, photographers, designers, marketers, videographers and more.


Kalee's portrait
Kalee Ackerman Assistant Director of Marketing & Communications 217-244-5467

As the Assistant Director of Marketing & Communications, Kalee Ackerman collaborates with various campus departments to develop and execute effective marketing strategies. With over a decade of experience in higher education, she has held roles in undergraduate affairs, admissions, and advancement, providing her with a comprehensive understanding of the student experience journey. Beyond the office, Kalee dedicates her time shuttling her kids to and from sporting events. During rare moments of leisure, she indulges in the satisfaction of tackling a DIY home project.

Alyssa Aiello's portrait
Alyssa Aiello Front End Developer 217-300-2498

Alyssa Aiello is a front end developer who works on web projects for the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs. With experience in web design and development, she strives to make the user experience the best that it can be. Outside of the office, she enjoys hiking with her dog and trying new recipes on Pinterest.

Jaclyn Banister
Jaclyn Banister Administrative Assistant 217-333-5010

Jaclyn Banister is the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) coordinator for the Urbana campus. She collects and reviews documents pursuant to the Act. In addition to FOIA, she also assists the Associate Chancellor. When Jaclyn isn’t working, she can be found spending time and traveling with her family.

Stacy Billman Assistant Director of Analytics and Alignment 217-244-7584

Stacy Billman is responsible for assisting the Director of Analytics and Alignment with developing and documenting processes and systems for key office functions and success metric analysis. She also manages various team-based projects and provides support for the Chief Communications Officers community of practice. When she is not thinking about organizational efficiencies, Stacy can be found planning her next outdoor adventure, baking, scoping out live music preferably at dive bars, listening to music or podcasts, or getting some kind of movement in her day, usually all with her pug mix, Louie, by her side.

Kelly Birky's portrait
Kelly Birky Senior Associate Director 217-265-8000

Kelly assists colleges and units across campus in developing their marketing and recruitment strategies. She is passionate about driving impactful campaigns and fostering meaningful connections. Kelly is a proud two-time alumna of the University of Illinois and has special interests in online education, market research, and marketing analytics. When she's not immersed in data and strategy, you'll find her spending quality time with her family or diving into a good book.

Thomas Bruch Writer/Editor 217-265-0990

Thomas Bruch is a writer and editor. He received a journalism degree from Illinois and started his career at the Peoria Journal Star newspaper before taking on writing roles in higher education. Outside of work, Thomas enjoys running, reading nonfiction, playing volleyball and watching basketball. Number of times he has seen his favorite band, My Morning Jacket, in concert: 8 and counting.

Abrielle's portrait
Abrielle Bujack Designer

Abrielle Bujack is a graphic designer who loves learning new skills and collaborating on meaningful design projects. She supports the Office of Strategic Communications and Marketing and the Office of the Provost with any and all design needs. Outside of work, she can almost always be found reading with her cat, Osiris, by her side or at a bookstore buying more books. When she’s not reading, she also enjoys watching sports, playing video games and spending time with family.

Lance Campbell Software Architect 217-333-0382

Lance Campbell is the Software Developer behind the many tools offered by Web Services. He began writing software in sixth grade on an Apple 2e. The computer back then weighed more than he could lift. Today he writes software in the cloud. If you have a great idea on how to improve communications or marketing just let Lance know. If he likes your idea he might even build a new Webtool.

Phil Ciciora
Phil Ciciora Editor for Business, Labor and Law 217-333-2177

Phil Ciciora is the business and law editor with the Illinois News Bureau. He writes and edits news releases that spotlight the innovative research and expertise in the Gies College of Business, College of Law and other units on the Urbana campus. Stories based on his releases have appeared in The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, The New Yorker, The Washington Post, The Atlantic and the Chicago Tribune, as well as on television and radio.

Portrait of Andrea Darlas
Andrea Darlas Senior Director of Constituent Engagement

Andrea Darlas is an Emmy-nominated, award-winning radio and television news anchor/reporter and talk show host based in Chicago. She currently works with StratCom, the Office of the Chancellor and the Office of Advancement as a media liaison, promoting and advancing the U. of I. throughout the Chicago metropolitan area. Andrea has served on the U. of I. College of Media’s National Alumni Board, the university’s Alumni Association and the Campus Alumni Advisory Boards. In 2019, she was inducted in the prestigious WGN Radio Walk of Fame and in 2023 she was inducted into the Illini Media Hall of Fame.

Taylor Dent Social and Digital Strategist 217-333-4421

Taylor Dent is the social and digital strategist, assisting with the organic and paid digital campaigns for the university-level social media accounts. She enjoys telling colorful stories using multimedia. Outside of managing her small photography company, Taylor is an avid reader and loves snuggling her baby boy.

Maggie Evenson's portrait
Maggie Evenson Analytics Specialist

Maggie Evenson is part of Analytics and Alignment as an Analytics Specialist. She enjoys working with data, helping others, and being a lifelong learner. Outside of work, Maggie can be found collecting postcards, volunteering with animal rescues, and completing jigsaw puzzles.

Sydney Flowers Front End Web Developer 217-333-6022

Sydney is an adept web developer who is passionate about building visually stunning and user-friendly websites that prioritize accessibility and inclusivity. Her expertise in HTML, CSS and JavaScript, combined with her keen eye for design, allows her to create exceptional web experiences that balance aesthetics and intuitive functionality. When she's not coding, Sydney can often be found teaching her dog, Bebop, new tricks, pranking her husband or making a latte. Whether she's working on a complex web project or spending time with her friends and family, Sydney approaches everything she does with dedication, creativity and a deep sense of compassion.

Sharita Forrest Editor for Education and Social Work 217-244-1072

Sharita Forrest is a research editor in the News Bureau who enjoys telling the Illinois story through engaging narratives about the discoveries of its educators, researchers and scholars.She earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in communication and journalism, respectively, at Illinois and joined the News Bureau’s staff full-time in 2001. She has covered various campus units over the years but her beat currently includes communication; education; food science and human nutrition; recreation, sport and tourism; sociology; and social work. A lifelong bibliophile, she is a longtime trustee and officer on her local library board who also explores the roads less traveled on her motorcycle or can be found cuddling her rescue kitties and Yorkshire terrier.

Michelle Frazier's portrait
Michelle Frazier Senior Designer 217-332-5677

Michelle Frazier is a strategic design specialist who loves to collaborate with units across campus to develop the university brand. She does research, brand development and execution, and helps units across campus adhere to the university brand standards while still retaining their unique identity. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family – usually at a sporting event, cooking and spending time in nature.

Andrew Gleason Associate Director of Video Services 217-244-2978

Andrew Gleason is a director, cinematographer, editor and producer who loves making movies. He leads a team that creates, produces and directs a variety of videos for both campus level communications as well as client requests from departments all over campus. In addition, Andrew helps to develop the Campus Video Database and the Campus Videographers. When he isn’t making movies, he is spending time sharing his love for stories, movies and books with his two children, Eva and Liam.

Chris Harris's portrait
Chris Harris Deputy Associate Chancellor and Senior Director of Executive Communications 217-333-5010

Chris Harris joined the university in 1994 and is currently responsible for managing speechwriting and other executive communications activities for the Office of the Chancellor as well as providing support for issues-based communications to the campus community. His career path has included stints in arts marketing, field archaeology, environmental communications and institutional fundraising.

michelle hassel's portrait
Michelle Hassel Senior Photographer 217-333-4945

Michelle Hassel is a photographer whose camera focuses on telling the Illinois story. She delights in capturing the incredible work happening across campus and highlighting the inspiring individuals who bring it to life. Outside of work, she enjoys spending quality time with her husband, Jonathan, and their adorable Westie, Molly. Living in Monticello, they can be found strolling the beautiful gardens of Allerton Park together and greeting every Fu Dog, and real dog, they pass.

Jodi Heckel
Jodi Heckel Editor for Arts and Humanities 217-300-2751

Jodi Heckel is the arts and humanities editor for the News Bureau. She writes about the disciplines within the College of Fine and Applied Arts, as well as humanities, the University Library and the School of Information Sciences. When she’s not at work, she likes to spend time outdoors running, biking, swimming and sailing.

stephanie henry's portrait
Stephanie Henry Communications Associate 217-244-1183

Stephanie Henry is a writer and editor who provides communications support and strategy for the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Provost. She has served as a communications and marketing professional at the university since 2013. When not at work, Stephanie enjoys spending time outside with her golden retriever, Murphy, gardening, and listening to live music (preferably outdoors).

Anthony Hicks Writer/Editor 217-265-4083

Anthony Hicks is a writer and editor. In his role, he provides editorial expertise to departments across StratCom as well as across campus. In addition to professional writing, he spends his time critically reading literary novels and studying fiction writing. He enjoys exploring new vacation spots with his family and taking long nature walks.

Cory Holt
Cory Holt Strategic Resource Coordinator 217-333-1242

Cory Holt is the Strategic Resource Coordinator who oversees Illinois in a Box, which provides Illinois themed items either free, for loan or at minimal cost to help units tell their Illinois stories. Cory has amassed a vast and useless knowledge of movie, movie quotes, music and all things ’80s.

Robin Kaler Associate Chancellor for Strategic Communications and Marketing 217-333-5010

Robin Kaler leads the Office of Strategic Communications and Marketing and serves on the chancellor’s senior leadership team advising on issues management and crisis communications. She is the university’s official spokesperson and leads the university’s crisis response communications team. She and her family enjoy exploring the world together.

Jeremy's portrait
Jeremy Kim Data Analyst

As a Data Analyst, Jeremy leverages data to identify trends and provide data-driven insight to enhance marketing strategies for academic programs. When Jeremy is not working, he enjoys playing and watching sports and volunteering at his local church.

Noelle Laghmam's portrait
Noelle Laghmam Marketing and Communications Specialist

As a marketing and communication specialist, Noelle Laghmam helps strategize and execute marketing campaigns for academic programs. Before coming to the University of Illinois, she had a long career as a newspaper reporter. Outside of work, Noelle enjoys finding her way around new and far off places and getting lost in a good book.

Michelle Lewis Project Manager

Michelle is a project manager in the Strategic Project Management Office that manages major projects in the Office of Strategic Communications and Marketing. She is a proud Illinois alum. When not at work, Michelle loves dabbling in nature photography, reading a good book or writing a blog post. She also sings, and can almost always find a song (usually from the 80s) to fit just about any situation.

Bryan Lin's portrait
Bryan Lin Strategic Design Specialist 217-332-5734

Bryan Lin is a graphic designer who loves to tell stories that capture the attention of his audience through design. He works with the Strategic Communications and Marketing team to elevate the university branding and make sure it’s reflected across campus. Outside of the university, he spends his time playing video games, playing soccer or photographing his experience traveling the world.

David LoSardo portrait
David LoSardo Digital Marketing Specialist 217-244-3488

David LoSardo is an omnichannel advertising professional experienced in media planning, data analysis and research. He strives to achieve university goals and amplify the Illinois brand through efficient campaign execution and creative marketing strategies. Outside of work, he enjoys staying active (recently got into rock climbing), watching horror/sci-fi movies and TV shows and watching sporting events (die-hard college football fan in particular).

Cassidy Marcum Design Specialist 217-244-8531

Cassidy Marcum is a graphic designer and artist who loves to create visually stunning work both in and outside of work. She collaborates on a range of design projects for the Office of Strategic Communications and Marketing. She recently graduated from Illinois and is excited to support the university’s brand in this new position. When she’s not designing or crafting, you can find Cassidy collecting vinyl, testing new recipes, playing board games and pursuing antique malls.

Diana Melstrad's portrait
Diana Melstrad Media Relations Associate 2173330333

Diana is a media relations associate who works to broaden the university's compelling narratives. She is a proud Illinois alumna and is currently working towards earning her J.D. degree. Outside of work, Diana enjoys spending time with family and friends, solving crossword puzzles and reading.

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Todd Mette Front End Developer 217-244-8901

Todd Mette has always had a passion for web technology and started building websites as a hobby in high school. Working as a developer, he helps keep many websites updated and consistent with the latest standards. He also enjoys collaborating with other professionals at the university to learn more about keeping websites accessible, fast and secure.

Grace Lamb's portrait
Grace O'Malley Lamb Digital Marketing and Media Manager 217-493-8081

Grace Lamb is a digital marketing and media manager who works to develop, execute and optimize digital marketing campaigns and strategies across campus that are aligned with the university brand standards. Outside of work she enjoys spending time with family and friends, reading and catching up on Bravo TV.

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Lea Peck Associate Director of Social Media and Digital Strategy 217-300-1720

Lea Peck is the strategic mind behind the @uofillinois social media handles. Whether deciphering algorithms or crafting clever captions, Lea transforms #ILLINOIS stories into captivating narratives that resonate with both the curious and the committed. Outside of work, she enjoys reading (and napping) with her two kittens, exploring new cities in search of the best gluten free pastry and embracing new hobbies on a whim.

Charlotte Peloquin portrait
Charlotte Peloquin Designer 217-244-9328

Charlotte Peloquin is a designer, creator and problem solver who loves all things visual design. She supports the Office of Strategic Communications and Marketing and the Office of the Provost with any visual communications and design needs. After graduating from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, she made a goal to travel to all 50 U.S. states. She enjoys reading with her dog, Bingo, and cat, Socks, cuddled next to her.

Emily Polk Video Production Specialist 217-300-4327

Emily Polk is a video producer who loves how many unique parts of the university she gets to highlight while making the Illinois story look and sound good. She loves solving puzzles, so editing videos and working with motion graphics are a couple of her favorite parts of the process. Outside of the office, she enjoys playing video games, planning and occasionally executing items from her ever-growing woodworking and home improvement lists, and hanging out with her cats, husband and baby.

Thomas Polk
Thomas Polk Video Production Specialist 217-244-1857

Thomas Polk is a video producer who’s nudging the camera a little to the left, then a little to the right, then adjusting those plants in the background, then turning the light a little lower in the eternal search for the perfect shot (he’s still searching). He loves storytelling, especially at a rich place like Illinois where so many people come together in so many diverse and incredible ways to change the world. Outside of work, you can find Thomas spending time with his wife, Emily, and their daughter and cats, toying with interior design and creating intricate Lego models.

Maeve Reilly Writer/Editor 217-244-5646

Maeve Reilly is a writer and editor. She started her career at Illinois in Public Affairs but has had a few diversions along the way, mainly in various campus communications units. When not at work, Maeve enjoys gardening, reading, cooking (and eating) and hanging out with her four adult children.

Andy Savage Social Media Videographer 217-244-7507

Andy Savage works with the social media team creating short-form video content for the university-level social media accounts. He enjoys capturing campus events and meeting new people. Outside of work, Andy enjoys traveling and exploring the outdoors with his wife Megan and their two dogs Zion and Roo.

August Schiess Director of Digital Strategy and Development 217-300-4181

August Schiess leads the social media, digital marketing, web and design teams for the university. She enjoys working with colleagues to develop and execute digital content to effectively and strategically tell the Illinois story—and helping others do the same. When she’s not checking her phone for notifications, she’s reading, running or finding her next piece of chocolate.

Matt Sharkey's portrait
Matt Sharkey Front End Developer 218-300-8032

Matt Sharkey has been designing and building on the web for over 20 years. As a consultant, he worked closely with educators and non-profits to create sites that engaged audiences and empowered content creators. In his current role as front end developer, he works with units and other developers across campus to make sure that their sites are adaptive, accessible and on-brand.

Anna Simon Senior Associate Director of Special Events 217-300-1730

Anna Simon specializes in event safety, event production and audio-visual needs for events hosted by the Chancellor including Commencement, New Student Convocation and other institutional events. She focuses on learning and implementing technology that will enhance an event from the user’s experience and works to streamline processes. While away from the office, she and her husband wrangle their three children and their Coton de Tulear.

Kaitlin Southworth
Kaitlin Southworth Director of Video Development 217-244-1980

Kaitlin Southworth is an Emmy Award-winning producer, videographer, and editor with an eye for a unique Illinois story. She turns those stories into documentaries which air nationally on the Big Ten Network. The amazing experiences and people she’s met from across the country have been truly extraordinary and demonstrate the life-changing abilities of the University of Illinois. When she isn’t filming, you can find her watching films with her husband, Kevin, or chasing after her beautiful daughter, Addison, and loyal dog, London.

Pam Steele Executive Assistant to the Associate Chancellor 217-300-7230

Pam Steele is the executive assistant to the Associate Chancellor. As part of her role, she also leads all business and human resources activities for the unit. When she’s not working, she enjoys volunteering in her hometown of Tolono and spending time with her grandkids.

Rashmi Tenneti Director of Analytics and Alignment 217-300-4754

As the Director of Analytics and Alignment, Rashmi combines meaningful metrics, data-based storytelling, process documentation, and project management to enhance team efficiency and drive strategic decision-making. Beyond her role at StratCom, Rashmi finds fulfillment in teaching an advertising class and serving on the board of the local not-for-profit, Ten Thousand Villages. During her leisure time, she enjoys reading, spends time with her beloved dog, Puri, and explores local food.

Liz Ahlberg Touchstone Editor for Biomedical Sciences 217-244-1073

Liz Ahlberg Touchstone covers biomedical sciences for the News Bureau. She works with faculty and researchers to make health, medicine and biomedical research news accessible to the public. When not working, she can be found chasing after two small children and playing board games with her husband, if said children ever go to sleep.

Allison Copenbarger Vance Director of Messaging 217-300-6171

Allison Vance leads messaging for the university and assists with crisis communications. She supervises the institutional communications, media relations and News Bureau teams and manages the marketing and communications team for the Office of the Provost. She also teaches public relations courses in the department of advertising and is a proud two-time alumna (journalism and advertising) of the College of Media.

Michael Vincent Senior Designer 217-300-9938

Michael Vincent is a graphic designer who loves to collaborate on the visual aspect of a wide range of projects. He leads design for StratCom, creating work across teams. Projects include designs for the Chancellor and Provost, the News Bureau and the university-wide social media team. He spends his free time watching bad movies, drawing and listening to way too many podcasts.

Katie Watson's portrait
Katie Watson Associate Director of Institutional Communications 217-300-7230

Katie Watson leads campuswide communications in close collaboration with colleges, departments and units. She also serves as the chief communications officer for the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Administration and Operations and supports major projects for the Office of the Chancellor. Katie holds a master's degree in information science.

Laura Wilhelm-Barr portrait
Laura Wilhelm-Barr Senior Director of Special Events 217-333-8834

Laura Wilhelm-Barr directs the team that produces and manages university-wide special events, including Commencement at Memorial Stadium, New Student Convocation, groundbreakings/dedications, pregame donor events, large-scale advancement celebrations and other gatherings hosted by the Chancellor. When not at an event, she enjoys spending time with her family, traveling and reading.

E. Todd Wilson Director of Multimedia Services 217-333-4059

E. Todd Wilson oversees Multimedia Services, which includes Video Services, Photo Services and Big Ten Network non-athletic programming (documentaries) for the U of I. He also curates content on the campus homepage and in the online directory, A-Z list and calendars. Outside of work, he is an adventure motorcyclist, camper and friend of furry critters.

Jim Wilson Director of Web Services 217-333-4312

Jim Wilson oversees Web Services and helps to create and support Webtools, a suite of marketing and communications solutions available to units and departments. Jim enjoys juggling and getting out and exploring new places.

Diana Yates Editor for Agriculture, Applied Health Sciences and Life Sciences 217-333-5802

Diana Yates writes about all facets of biology, from the scale of individual atoms to biological and ecological factors affecting landscapes, people and other organisms. She also covers new findings in anthropology and psychology. She has a background in field and laboratory research, journalism and public health. She loves writing about science and is grateful for the opportunity to discover, explore and describe new findings from Illinois. faculty members, students, postdocs and other researchers. She also enjoys recruiting writers, editing and writing for Behind the Scenes, a blog that explores moments in the life of the university. She is married and has two cats.

Lois Yoksoulian Editor for Engineering and Physical Sciences 217-244-2788

Lois Yoksoulian covers physical sciences and the media. After a career as a geologist and infamous “shop talker,” she realized she was better suited for a gig discussing science’s bigger picture. She relishes talking shop with some of the world’s brightest minds and translating what she learned for the News Bureau audience. She lives for live music and recently became an official cat lady by adopting a third feline.

Fred Zwicky Senior Photographer 217-300-7709

Fred Zwicky is a photographer and visual storyteller who captures moments that matter at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. A photojournalist at heart, Fred documents the life of the university for the Illinois News Bureau, Strategic Communications, campus partners and the main university social media platforms. His work might look like play, so off-duty, Fred works at getting better at volleyball and relaxes by playing guitar.