Board of Directors Bios

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Jean Peat, APR
President

Jean Peat, APR, has more than 30 years’ experience in public relations and communications, including management positions at Saint Luke's Hospital, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City, Embarq and The University of Kansas Cancer Center.  She is currently Director of Donor Communications for the University of Missouri-Kansas City Foundation where she is responsible for strategic development and implementation of stewardship and communications to promote inspired giving to the university. Jean is a recipient of more than 28 PRISM awards and has served on the boards of the Missouri Association for Healthcare Marketing and Public Relations, the Kansas City Healthcare Communicators Society, the Kansas Association for Healthcare Communicators, and the Greater Kansas City chapter of PRSA.

Jean is a third-degree black belt in Taekwondo and teaches at K-Force Taekwondo Academy in Shawnee, Kansas.  She enjoys singing, speaking French, reading fiction and having fun wherever she goes.


Norita Taylor, APR
President-Elect

 

Norita has been in public relations for more than 20 years on both the agency and corporate sides. She has been with the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) for nearly ten years as Director of Public Relations. She serves as facilitator for the online study course for Accreditation in Public Relations which also includes mentoring APR candidates. She is the public relations and marketing chairperson for City Theatre of Independence. Her hobbies include amateur photography, both digital and film, and playing piano and singing in classic rock bands. 

 


Ciara O'Brien Murray
SVP - People

Ciara is a Thinker, Connector and Doer!  Evident through her 'social butterfly' style, she enjoys integrating a brand's multiple program offerings & communications to provide consumers with a comprehensive and consistent brand experience.

Always packed with surprises and ready to impacts millions, she currently uses her talents as an Integrated Marketing Communications Manager marketing lifesaving patient programs for the American Heart Association & American Stroke Association (AHA & ASA).  In her role with the Patient Engagement and Risk Factors team, National Center, she strategizes comprehensive marketing/communications plans focusing on key health modalities and educating patients on how to manage and improve their health.

For eight years' prior, Ciara served in local/affiliate roles within the AHA/ASA.  She was first to lead the 11-state Midwest affiliate back in 2014 as a Digital Strategist/Social Media Director.  In this role, she led in strategizing, managing and shaping the affiliate's social media presence, external and internal websites. Ciara also served as the Kansas City Communications Director for AHA starting in 2008 where she communicated the association's lifesaving mission through media, volunteer stories and events.  In 2014, she was the recipient of the Rome Betts Award for Communications - the highest award & honor given internally by the non-profit.

All told, Ciara brings with her 15 years of public relations/media relations/marketing experience including a strong history in the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) both locally and nationally.


Jake Potter, APR 
VP - Professional Standards

Jake returns to the Kansas City PRSA Board of Directors in the leadership role of Vice-President of Professional Standards/Accreditation. He is more than happy to answer whatever questions you may have about the “APR” acronym, and provides direct support to those eligible and interested in attaining professional accreditation in public relations.

Jake is a Kansas City native and UMKC graduate with nearly two decades of public relations, communications and strategic planning experience, with emphasis in the areas of education, health, transportation and community infrastructure. Jake’s most indecisive moments are when he has unwatched new episodes of Game of Thrones, Mad Men, and New Girl in the queue; he rarely has a playlist that does not include at least one Foo Fighters or Fitz and the Tantrums entry; his favorite word is hashtag; and his favorite color is plaid.


Sydnie Burton 
VP - Member Connections

Sydnie Burton is an Account Manager at DMH, a full-service advertising agency located in the heart of KC Stockyards District. She has worked with clients big and small to help them tell their stories through mixed media. Her previous experiences include FanThreeSixty, Willoughby Design, and Fleishman-Hillard. Prior to taking the role of VP of Member Connections, Sydnie served as the VP of Finance and on committees for the PRISM Awards and #PRSSAKC Summit. Sydnie is a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Go Big Red!

 


Celeste Burks, APR
VP - Communications

Celeste is on the Corporate Communications team at Kansas City Life Insurance Company. She has more than 10 years of experience in communications, media relations and corporate giving.

She has spent most of her career at Ameristar where she helped build a comprehensive and strategic corporate giving program. She also has experience working in the non-profit sector. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Communications and Public Relations from University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg, Missouri. 


Jessica Bjorgaard
VP - Professional Development

At InQuest Marketing, Jessica began as a media planner & buyer, but quickly transitioned into a public relations roll. She currently works with a variety of clients ranging from retail to entertainment to healthcare. She graduated in 2012 from the University of Kansas with a degree in journalism, where she was actively involve with the J-school's chapter of PRSSA, and looks forward to contributing to the Greater Kansas City Chapter of PRSA. At the 2013 PRISM Awards we learned that she has a thing for the superhero, Thor. Outside of work, Jessica enjoys attending live music concerts (would give anything to have seen Queen perform live), and going to sporting events. She grew up in the KC metro and will root for her hometown teams through thick and thin. "And as always, Rock Chalk, Jayhawk!"


Austin Falley
VP - Finance

Austin Falley is the senior communicator and public information officer for Johnson County, Kansas Government. He manages media relations on the public affairs team and works closely with senior county management and elected commissioners. For nearly four years, he served as director of communications at the University of Kansas School of Business, where he shaped the school’s message and lead marketing communications efforts to build the school’s brand. For five years, he served Dean Neeli Bendapudi’s administration during the business school’s rapid growth and $70.5 million new building campaign. Austin holds a master’s degree in public administration and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Kansas. 


Sarah Biles, APR
VP - Job Opportunities 
 

Sarah Biles is director of communications at Harvesters—The Community Food Network, this region’s food bank which provides food to a network of 620 nonprofit agencies in 26-counties.

Prior to Harvesters, Sarah worked as director of community relations at another non-profit in Kansas City—Union Station. Her background also includes work as a reporter and producer in radio and television news. 


Agi Schafer-Kreiser

VP - Business Opportunities

Agnes (Agi Shafer-Kreiser, principal of ASK-Comm Strategies and co-founder of the Digital SpeakEasy, is a public relations/marketing professional with more than 30 years of experience. She has provided a wide range of clients' - from food and agricultural sustainability to fuel and manufacturing -- with public relations and marketing communications counsel. She is a past vice president for Fleishman Hillard; Group Director of PR for The Integer Group; Vice President of Public and Corporation Relations for Dairy Farmers of America; and others.


Alex Miller
New Pros Chair

Alex Miller, Communications Coordinator for Parson+Associates, brings creative and professional strategies into any project he is involved in. From planning and executing a special event, building relationships with community leaders and business owners, or talking directly with media members, Alex has the proven experience to bring clear and cohesive messages to the public.

Alex has built several key relationships with Kansas City officials, community leaders, and business owners working on the KC Streetcar Construction, as the Assistant Campaign Manager for City Councilman Dan Fowler and City Councilman Scott Wagner, ADA Compliance, LISC NeighborhoodsNow, RideKC:Bridj and 20th Street Streetscape.


Brian Schneweis

VP - Mentorship 

Brian Schneweis is the manager of student communications for the University of Kansas Edwards Campus in Kansas City. He leads student recruitment and retention communication strategies and manages CRM systems for the more than 40 academic programs hosted at KU’s campus for working professionals. Brian also has communications and public relations experience from previous roles at the KU Office of Admissions and nonprofit organizations in the Kansas City metro area. He likes to travel, discover new things in Kansas City and attend as many KU basketball games as he can.

Brian also serves on the Steering Committee for genKC, the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce’s young professionals networking group, and holds a bachelor’s in journalism with an emphasis in strategic communication from KU. He is excited to earn his MBA in 2017 from KU as well.


Bridget Koan

VP - Recruitment

Bridget Koan is a Public Relations Specialist at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. She writes about the Conservatory of Music and Dance, the School of Computing and Engineering, Theatre, the Department of Economics, the Department of Art and Art History and facilities. Bridget also monitors the University's social media accounts and coordinates social media initiatives.

She's a self-proclaimed news junkie addicted to talk radio, reading and all things social. You can find her on Twitter at @bridgetlhk. 


Katie Garcia
VP – Professional Development

Katie serves on the public relations team at Sturges Word helping clients with branding and strategic planning, community and media relations, content creation and social media. Shehasworkedon both the client and agency sides of the business and has particular expertise within the entrepreneurial set as internal and external communications counsel. Her experience includes clients in the financial, retail, telecommunications and technology sectors.

Katie currentlyserveson the marketing committee for EPEC – The Grooming Project and previously served on the board for the Young Professionals Supporting the Love Fund and the Money Smart Kansas City steering committee.

Katie is a Kansas City native and earned herbachelor’sdegree in journalism and Spanish fromtheUniversity of Kansas-Lawrence. 


Amy Thomas
PRISM's Chair

Amy Thomas is currently a program and events development specialist with Grantham University where she’s responsible for developing the institution’s national events platform. She is a certified national catering and events professional with more than 20 years in the field. As director of events at the University of Kansas School of Business, she played a key role in the development efforts to build a $70 million new business school facility and KU’s Far Above $1.6 billion capital campaign. Amy sits on the executive board for the Honor Flight Network of Kansas City and she’s a member of the Meeting Planners Association of America. Amy hold a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Kansas. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with family, riding horses and cheering on the Kansas Jayhawks.