Skip to content

CommuniCon 2018 Speaker Bios

Keynote Speaker

Ryan Jenkins

As a Millennial and Generation Z keynote speaker and generations expert, Jenkins has helped organizations like Coca-Cola, John Deere, Wells Fargo, Delta Air Lines, and countless other organizations in industries such as insurance, security, banking, healthcare, education, etc. to better lead, engage, and sell to the emerging generations (Millennials and Generation Z) and across generations.

 Jenkins has written over 500 articles centered around generational trends and strategies in the workplace, and he hosts a podcast, “Next Generation Catalyst Podcast” where he interviews Fortune 500 leaders, New York Times Bestselling Authors, and some of today’s top thought leaders about generations, leadership, work trends, talent acquisition, marketing, and more.

Media Relations: How to Make Your News Newsworthy

Hannah Martin, WUOT

Hannah Martin has joined the staff at WUOT 91.9 FM as the new local host and producer of All Things Considered. She arrived in Knoxville by way of her hometown of Norfolk, VA, where she produced a public affairs show on NPR affiliate WHRV. Martin is a graduate of Virginia Tech and majored in multimedia journalism.

Kristi L. Nelson, Knoxville News Sentinel

Knoxville native and Fulton High School graduate Kristi L. Nelson first began working for the Knoxville News Sentinel before completing her bachelor’s degree in communications from East Tennessee State University. After graduation, she worked for other newspapers in the region before returning to the News Sentinel in 1997 to work as a copy editor and later as a reporter. As health reporter, she earned a Kaiser Family Foundation Fellowship for reporting on AIDS/HIV in Tennessee, and a National Health Journalism Fellowship from the University of Southern California at Annenberg for a series on the role of foreign-born primary-care physicians in rural East Tennessee. Now a general assignment news reporter who covers health, social services, and other issues, she has won several awards for features and news writing. She is a member of East Tennessee Society of Professional Journalists and the Association of Healthcare Journalists.

Taz Painter, WBIR-TV

Taz Painter is the news director at WBIR-TV, the NBC affiliate in Knoxville. This is a return to Channel 10 for Painter since he previously spent seven years as 10News’ managing editor. In-between, he was news director in Grand Rapids, Michigan at a station also owned by WBIR’s parent company. Painter has worked in local television news for 18 years. He started his career as a producer at the NBC affiliate in Greenville, South Carolina before becoming executive producer at a station in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Before television, Painter spent five years in local radio in Western North Carolina. He started working during high school at a thousand-watt AM station in his hometown of Hendersonville and later worked at radio stations in Boone while he pursued his communications degree at Appalachian State University.

Amy Smotherman Burgess, Zoo Knoxville

Amy Smotherman Burgess is a 1998 graduate of Western Kentucky University’s photojournalism program. After nearly two decades in the journalism industry between the Troy Daily News in Ohio, South Bend Tribune in Indiana and the Knoxville News Sentinel in Tennessee, she ventured into the non-profit world for a position with Zoo Knoxville early in 2017.

The job title has changed from photojournalist to multimedia journalist, and now to public relations and multimedia manager. The heart remains the same, finding new and interesting ways to tell stories.

Reach Everyone! Making Your Message Accessible

Susanne Morton Susanne Morton, Office of Communications and Marketing

Susanne Morton is a senior art director in the office of communications and marketing. Prior to working at UT, Morton worked in Nashville on packaging and branding at a consumer electronics company. She received a bachelor of fine arts in 2006 and has over 12 years of experience in the design industry.

Leigh Shoemaker, Office of Communications and Marketing

Leigh Shoemaker built her first website in 1996. She is currently the assistant director of web and electronic media in the office of communications and marketing and serves on the university’s Accessibility Implementation Team. A former professional graduate student, she holds a Master of Science in Information Sciences from UT, a Master of Arts in Philosophy from the University of Kentucky, and has completed coursework toward a PhD in philosophy. Her favorite philosophers are John Dewey, Simone de Beauvoir, and Homer Simpson.

2018 Brand Research Overview

Jacob Rudolph Jacob Rudolph, Office of Communications and Marketing

Jacob Rudolph is the associate vice chancellor for communications and marketing. He led the launch of the “Big Orange. Big Ideas.” campaign in 2012 and the rollout of our new logo. A proud UT alumnus, Jacob graduated from the College of Communication and Information in 2000, received a film degree from UNC Wilmington, and earned his master’s degree from Appalachian State University.

Carol Andes, Office of Communications and Marketing

Carol Andes is a senior project manager in the Office of Communications and Marketing and has been at the university since 2015. Prior UT, she was a director in the strategic communications division of the Glover Park Group, a communications firm in Washington, D.C.

Email Marketing: Tips and Tricks for Emails that Get Results

Kate Brimer, UT Foundation

Kate Brimer is the online engagement coordinator for the UT Foundation where she helps coordinate email marketing to alumni and donors across the UT System while building a fair number of those emails, too. She graduated from UT in 2014 with a master’s degree in communication and information. Prior to returning to UT, she was a contractor for Scripps Networks Interactive and wrote thousands upon thousands of SEO-friendly photo captions for HGTV.com.

Darren Hughes, UT Foundation

Darren Hughes has had a variety of job titles since arriving at UT in 1998. For the past decade, he has led the UT System’s digital strategy for alumni and donors, first as Director of Communications for the Alumni Association and now as Director of Online Engagement for the UT Foundation.

Christie Kennedy photo Christie Kennedy, Tickle College of Engineering

Christie Kennedy is the director of communications for the Tickle College of Engineering. In this role, she heads up the college’s marketing and communications efforts, which include various annual print and digital publications, social media, strategic planning, and more. Kennedy graduated from UT with a degree in communications in 2003 and returned in 2010 to earn her master’s, also in communications. In between, she worked as a producer for television production company Jupiter Entertainment for six years.

Social Media: Engagement and Stewardship

Meghan Jagnow Megan Jagnow, University Housing

Meghan Jagnow serves as the manager for marketing & communications for University Housing. In this role, she oversees all University Housing internal and external communications, including print media, social media, electronic media, and special event coordination. She is responsible for developing and executing the strategy for all communication, branding, and marketing initiatives for the department. Jagnow has established a consistent, student-led voice through social media to connect and serve prospective, incoming, and current students.

Karen Richters, Programs Abroad

Karen Richters is a UT and study abroad alumna. After graduation, she lived and worked abroad for a couple of years before rejoining the UT family in fall 2016 as the marketing & outreach coordinator for programs abroad. She draws upon her experience as a marketing intern at KAT to manage the Programs Abroad Office’s social media accounts and design effective print and social media promotional materials. As the first person to hold this position, she has transformed the PAO’s brand and representation across campus, helping UT reach its record send of 1,300+ vols abroad.

  Sarah Zimmerman, UT Libraries

Sarah Zimmerman is a digital media specialist / communications coordinator for UT Libraries. A graduate of CCI’s PR program, Zimmerman has communications experience in agency, nonprofit, and outdoor education settings. Filling a new role within the Libraries, Zimmerman is establishing the social media voice of the organization, testing various strategies, and monitoring feedback.

Show and Tell, Powered by PechaKucha™

Karen Dunlap Karen Dunlap, Office of Communications and Marketing

Karen Dunlap is the distribution coordinator for the Media and Internal Relations team in the Office of Communications and Marketing. In this role, she oversees news release and news summary distribution, pitches story ideas and experts to media partners; and manages UT’s experts guide. Dunlap also is responsible for the UT News website and Twitter account, and manages meetings and programming for the Communicators’ Council and the Campus Communicators group. Prior to working at UT, she worked in the newspaper industry in Louisiana and Tennessee for 17 years.

Kandi Hodges Kandi Hodges, Graduate School of Medicine

Kandi Hodges is an information specialist at the UT Graduate School of Medicine on the UT Medical Center campus. She manages and collaborates on several digital and print publications including the GSM newsletter and website, a Dean’s Report, social media, and Frontiers magazine. She also manages the photography for GSM, and outside of UT, she owns and operates a wedding photography business with her husband. She graduated from UT Chattanooga in 2002 with a bachelor’s degree in mass communication with a concentration in public relations and a minor in English writing.

Margot Kline, Office of Alumni Affairs

Margot Kline joined the Alumni Affairs office in September 2013 and is assistant director of communications. She is responsible for design, editing, brand compliance, and print production management for UT Alumni Affairs publications. She began her professional career at Whittle Communications, starting as a copy editor and ultimately becoming a senior editor and manager of several national business and college magazines. She has been with UT since 1994—initially as a writer and editor, and from 2002–2013 as the lead designer for the College of Social Work’s alumni communications. She is a graduate of the UT Honors Program and received a BA in Psychology and in Speech Pathology.

Jules Morris, College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences

Jules Morris has more than 25 years of award-winning marketing, branding, and design experience. Her passions include brand strategy, human-centered design and innovation, social media, and digital marketing. In 2008, Morris studied Human Centered Design at the IDEO Headquarters in Palo Alto, California and earned the IDEO Certified Human Centered Design Facilitator credential before leading workshops across the United States for Gannett (2009–2012). Morris has created innovative solutions with some of the strongest brands across numerous industries–The Super Bowl, Samsung Electronics, Tegna/Gannett, and locally, WBIR-TV. Morris is the director of marketing in the College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences at the University of Tennessee. She also owns BombDiggity, LLC, a boutique marketing and design firm focused on bringing “awesomeness in its purest form to its clients.”

Donna Spencer, Office of Communications and Marketing

Donna Spencer is a senior editor in the Office of Communications and Marketing. She was about a year into a master’s program in English when she realized that she was at best a mediocre teacher and the world already had more than enough coming-of-age stories by white baby boomers. After finishing her degree and holding down a series of jobs based principally on her typing speed, she found a home in higher education writing and editing—where she happily remains, three universities and four editions of The Chicago Manual of Style later.

Amanda Womac, College of Arts and Sciences

Amanda Womac is the director of communications for the College of Arts and Sciences. In this role, she is responsible for all marketing and communications for the college, its 21 departments, and 12 interdisciplinary programs, which include annual print and digital publications, social media, strategic communications, and more. Before coming to UT in 2016, Womac served as development manager for the Bijou Theatre, taught public speaking at Lincoln Memorial University, and ran a nonprofit marketing consulting business. She is a freelance science writer and serves on the East Tennessee Society of Professional Journalists board of directors. Womac has a master’s degree in science journalism from UT and a bachelor’s in creative writing from the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga.

The flagship campus of the University of Tennessee System and partner in the Tennessee Transfer Pathway.

Report an accessibility barrier.Privacy.