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Board of Directors

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Elizabeth Walden

President, Effective January 2023

Elizabeth Walden is the Regional Director of Public Relations for Comcast. She is responsible for helping shape the company’s image with external audiences in Connecticut, Vermont, Western Massachusetts, Western New Hampshire and Carmel, N.Y.

 

Prior to joining Comcast, Walden was Vice President at Quinn, a lifestyle public relations firm with offices in LA, Miami and New York City, where she oversaw a team of public relations executives who carried out day-to-day media and operations for a portfolio of 20 business, real estate and technology clients, in addition to being responsible for building the firm’s client base and developing strategic public relations campaigns.

 

She graduated from Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts and currently resides in Hamden, Connecticut.

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Katie R. Place, Ph.D., APR

President Elect, Effective January 2024

Katie R. Place, Ph.D., APR is a Professor of Strategic Communication at Quinnipiac University. Her research explores the intersections of ethics, diversity, and power in public relations contexts. She is a senior research fellow at the Arthur W. Page Center, a Page Society member, and past head of Association for Education in Journalism and Public Relation’s Public Relations Division. Her work has been published in such journals as Journal of Public Relations Research, Journal of Media Ethics, Journal of Communication Management, Public Relations Review, and Social Media +Society. Prior to returning to academia, she was a public affairs account manager and a nonprofit communications manager in the Washington, D.C. area. She resides in the Hartford area with her family.

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Alison Skratt

Immediate Past President, Effective January 2023

Alison Skratt is Head of Corporate Communications at Berkshire Bank, a regional bank with branches in New England and New York. Prior to her current role, she served as Vice President, Strategic Communications and Vice President, Corporate Communications at Connecticut-based Webster Bank. 

 

A former award-winning journalist, Alison began her career in the newspaper industry in New York, California, and Connecticut. As Business Editor, she led her staff at the Republican-American newspaper in Waterbury, Connecticut, to earn national recognition with the prestigious Society of American Business Editors and Writers' Best in Business Award. She also spent several years as an independent public relations consultant, specializing in financial services, higher education, and health care. 

 

A native Californian, Alison earned her Bachelor's of Science degree in journalism from California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo.

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Catherine Sullivan-DeCarlo

Secretary, Two-year Term ends December 2025

Catherine Sullivan-DeCarlo is vice president of admissions and marketing at Chapel Haven Schleifer Center, an award-winning nonprofit devoted to helping adults with disabilities live independent and self-determined lives. Catherine oversees the admissions process for Chapel Haven’s core programs and coordinates Chapel Haven’s communications and marketing.

 

Previously, Catherine served for 10 years as director of communications for New Haven Public Schools and previously as press secretary to New Haven Mayor John DeStefano, Jr.

 

She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Southern Connecticut State University and a Master of Science in communications management from the S.I. Newhouse School of Communications at Syracuse University. Catherine is an adjunct professor of journalism at Southern Connecticut State University.

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Joan Huwiler

Treasurer, Two-year Term ends December 2025

Joan Huwiler has over 15 years of experience in communication and outreach roles with high profile, public-facing organizations. She has worked for state government, utilities and nonprofits, including a national legal advocacy organization in New York. She has served as a spokesperson for organizations; explained policies and legal issues as well as worked with coalitions on legislative and grassroots matters. She joined Post University in 2108 as the Director of Communications.

 

Philanthropy and nonprofits are her passion projects. She loves to tell well-crafted stories that bring life to issues. Joan earned her MBA from University of New Haven, a Master’s in Journalism from Boston University and Bachelor’s degree in Communications from Southern Connecticut State University. She has served on several nonprofit boards, including the Lelia Day Nursery, Central Connecticut Coast YMCA, the New Haven Road Race and the United Way of Greater New Haven.

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Mercy Quaye

Board Member at Large, Two-year Term ends December 2025

Mercy has built a storied career in journalism, communications, and public relations in New Haven and statewide for more than a decade. After working in the public and non-profit sectors, spearheading communications strategies in a variety of industries, she launched The Narrative Project to offer high-quality communications for organizations who seek to do good in the world. 

At the core of everything she does is a deeply seeded desire to effect positive social change through collaboration and highlighting lesser-discussed aspects of the Black and American experiences.

She’s a professor of digital journalism at Southern Connecticut State University, a member of the Connecticut Society of Professional Journalists, a former columnist with both Hearst Connecticut Media and the Connecticut Mirror. 

She obtained a Bachelors in Journalism and a Masters in Public Relations from Quinnipiac University.

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Sarah Miner

Board Member at Large, Two-year Term ends December 2025

Sarah Miner is an Applied Assistant Professor of Communication in the College of Arts & Sciences and also serves as the Faculty Director of the student-run communications firm, Crested Communications, at the University of Hartford. In this role, she oversees client-student projects and campaigns and helps foster professional relationships for both the students and the agency within Connecticut and beyond.

In addition to working at the University, Sarah consults with McDowell Communications Group on various client projects and campaigns.

Prior to becoming faculty at UHART, Sarah worked with All Points Digital developing social strategy for clients to support online sales and engagement. Previously she worked with the founders of the Connecticut-based Independent Media Network and managed digital sales, advertising, and social communications for local online publishers. She possesses a background in journalism after working for both corporate news media at NBC Universal and Connecticut-based WNPR Radio.

 

She lives in Connecticut with her two children and husband.

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Derek Beere

Board Member at Large, Two-year Term ends December 2024

Derek Beere is the Vice President, Director of Public Relations at Mason, an integrated communications firm located in Bethany, Connecticut. He has more than 20 years of public relations experience that includes media relations, crisis communications, message development, product launches and brand strategy. Combining the right balance of strategy and creativity, Beere’s approach to integrated-marketing communications helps organizations make a positive impact and achieve their goals.

 

Beere’s experience includes a mix of consumer and B2B, including Resorts Casino Hotel, Bruegger’s Bagels, Krispy Kreme, Dunkin’ Donuts, Yale New Haven Health, Black & Decker, Odyssey Logistics & Technology, Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, AVANGRID, The United Illuminating Company and more. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Communications from Central Connecticut State University.

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Andrea Kovacs

Board Member at Large, Two-year Term ends December 2025

As the Vice President for Marketing and Community Relations at Albertus Magnus College, Andrea Kovacs is charged with developing and implementing a comprehensive communications and marketing strategy that enhances the College's public image, strengthens the Albertus brand, and supports strategic initiatives.

 

Andrea brings a diverse creative background in communications, brand management, marketing, and fundraising to her work. In addition to her role as VP for Marketing, Andrea led the College's Enrollment Management Division throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, bringing in the College's two largest undergraduate classes and emerging as a Hispanic-serving institution, an institutional strategic goal. Prior to Albertus, Andrea directed the Annual Fund at Fairfield University; she was Sr. Vice President for Marketing and Community Relations for United Way of Eastern Fairfield County and was also responsible for individual gift fundraising. She lived a previous life in the fashion industry.

 

Andrea earned her B.S. in Marketing from the Fashion Institute of Technology (SUNY) and her M.A. in Leadership from Albertus Magnus College. She and her family reside in Bridgeport, CT.

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Paddi LeShane

Board Member at Large, Two-year Term ends December 2025

As CEO of Sullivan & LeShane Public Relations, Inc., Paddi LeShane has expertise in local and state

government relations, strategic media relations, reputation management, crisis communications,

market entry strategies, and finding solutions to client problems and needs. Paddi cofounder and CEO of

Sullivan & LeShane, Inc., a widely recognized government and lobbing firm in Connecticut. A member

and, Secretary of the Board of Trustees at University of Saint Joseph, she serves on the Executive

Committee, and as past chair of the Women’s Leadership Center.
 

Paddi is active in the Greater Harford area serving in a number of leadership positions in organizations

that focus on women and leadership, as well as serving as former chair of the Hartford Parking Authority

and currently serves as a Commissioner of the Hartford Housing Authority.
 

She is a former Vice Chair and an Executive Committee member of the Washington-based Public Affairs

Council, a professional association of corporate and national organizations. Paddi was honored as PRSA

CT Practitioner of the Year by the Greater CT Chapter in 2017.
 

Paddi holds a Master’s in Healthcare Finance from The Rensselaer Lally School of Business in Troy, NY

and a BS in Community Leadership and Development from Springfield College in Springfield, Mass. She

has also been selected for programs at Stanford University and McGill University, focusing on strategic

planning, disruptive innovation and the value of big data in public relations.

Leadership Members

Leadership Members are pivotal contributors to PRSA CT Committees 

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Bernard Kavaler

Communications Committee Co-Chair

Bringing three decades of senior level executive experience in communications strategy, policy development and program management with state government organizations focusing on finance, law, business, civic involvement and higher education, Bernard Kavaler is Managing Principal of Express Strategies, a strategic communications and public policy consulting business he founded in 2012.

A well-respected and accomplished communications and policy professional, his responsibilities have included communications policy development and implementation, strategic and crisis planning, public and media relations, marketing, speech writing, publication and web content development and outreach to strategic partners and major constituencies.

 

Prior to founding Express Strategies, he served as a key member of the executive staff of four of Connecticut’s constitutional officers and the state’s university system, developing expertise in high profile project management in a public context.  His leadership positions included service with the Offices of Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of the State and State Treasurer. He was also the Assistant Vice Chancellor for Public Affairs for the Connecticut State University System.

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Doug Fenichel, APR

APR Committee Co-Chair

Doug Fenichel, APR, is a semi-retired accredited public relations practitioner. A resident of Orange, he volunteers as public information officer for the local volunteer fire department and other causes. 

He retired in 2018 as the executive officer of the Metropolitan Builders Association in Northern New Jersey and moved to Connecticut. Before that, he created In-House Public Relations in 2010. He was the region director of public relations for K. Hovnanian, one of the nation’s largest builders. He entered public relations in 1983, part of the team that shepherded AT&T through its historic breakup. He has worked for agencies and corporations, winning numerous awards along the way. For several years, he taught communications classes as an adjunct professor at Fairleigh Dickenson University. Before entering PR, Fenichel was a reporter and editor.

Before joining the Connecticut chapter of PRSA, he was a member of the New Jersey Professional Chapter, where he served as president and ethics officer. He was also region chair. A graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia, Fenichel did graduate work at Webster University in Kansas City.

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