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Board of Directors



Marsha Pitts-Phillips, APR


Marsha R. Pitts-Phillips, APR, president and founder of MRPP & Associates Communications, is an award-winning, experienced public relations leader. She is also a Distinguished Diversity and Inclusion Fellow at the University of Minnesota Hubbard School of Journalism and Mass Communication. 

Marsha is the 2022 recipient of the chapter’s Donald G. Padilla Community Service Excellence Award and was among the 2022 Minneapolis–St. Paul Business Journal’s Women in Business Honorees. She is the 2020 Public Relations Society of America’s D. Parke Gibson Pioneer Award recipient and serves as co-vice chair of the national PRSA Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee. 

In addition to PRSA, Marsha is a member of the National Black Public Relations Society; the National Association of Black Journalists Media-Related Members Task Force; and its local affiliate, the Twin Cities Black Journalists, and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.-Delta Phi Omega Chapter. She serves on the board of directors for Prepare + Prosper; the Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies Leadership Advisory Council; and as an Associate Minister at the Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church in Minneapolis.


Betsy Anderson, PhD, APR


Betsy Anderson, PhD, APR, is an associate professor in the Communication Studies department at Bethel University, where she began her own education as a Media Communication major. Anderson also has been a faculty member at the University of Minnesota and University of St. Thomas. Prior to a career in academia and attending graduate school, Anderson worked at Fleishman Hillard and Weber Shandwick.
She has been a member of Minnesota PRSA for more than 25 years, serving as a committee member and co-chair of the Classics and APR Accreditation committees, and as a Minnesota PRSA Board Member working with the Programming (Events) committee. Anderson has been a PRSSA faculty advisor since 2006 and is a member of the PRSA Educators Academy.


Grete Lavrenz, APR


As general manager, Grete runs day-to-day operations of the New York and Minneapolis offices of Carmichael Lynch Relate ensuring staff has the resources needed and each team is producing the very best work for each client. She has a history of success reinvigorating brands and getting existing audiences to reappraise them while acquiring new audiences, changing perceptions and leading to strong business results and engagement. Grete’s portfolio of work has been recognized by the PR industry’s PRWeek, PRSA, PR News and SABRE awards. Grete currently serves on the Board of Directors for Minnesota PRSA.

Immediate Past President

Ben Saukko, APR


Ben has provided communications and public relations counsel and leadership to Fortune 500 companies, nonprofits, educational institutions and government agencies for more than 22 years. He’s been an active member of Minnesota PRSA since 1997, achieved his APR designation, served on the Board of Directors, chaired several committees and won three Classics Awards. He currently serves on the Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Committee.
He is a creative, results-driven business leader with proven success building positive, mutually beneficial relationships and meaningful connections with key stakeholders. As an agency executive, Ben led the planning and implementation of PR campaigns for many high-profile organizations, including MasterCard, Microsoft, H&R Block, Deluxe and Merrill Corp. He’s also worked at several national and international enterprise organizations where he directed internal teams and outside agencies to ensure the successful completion of communications projects and programs.
Ben has a bachelors’ degree in Communications from the University of Minnesota and an MBA from the University of St. Thomas. He volunteers and serves on the boards of several local nonprofits and has taught communications classes at the University of Minnesota. He's married with three young children and enjoys golf, curling, skiing and running.

Ethics Officer

Joel Swanson, APR

Joel Swanson, APR, MACT, leads marketing and corporate communications for Affinity Plus, including overseeing the Affinity Plus Foundation. A proud member of PRSA since 1991, Joel was talked into joining as a student by Kelly Groehler among others, and helped Kelly put together the student chapter newsletter, under the leadership of Dr. R. John DeSanto who passed away in February and for whom the St. Cloud State University chapter is named. Joel credits PRSA with helping him grab his first internship, earn his first job and step up his career ladder into strategic and leadership roles. “The great practitioners, strategists and leaders in the Minnesota Chapter have made all the difference for my career,” he says.

Entering his sixth year at Affinity Plus, Joel has built an integrated function of a dozen mighty practitioners who continue to drive record new member and financial growth through fresh branding, data-driven automated marketing, market-dominating digital marketing execution and a modern community engagement strategy. Previously, Joel held strategic leadership roles at UnitedHealth Group, Risdall Marketing Group and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota. He’s a member of PRSA’s Banking and Finance Section, the Minnesota Credit Union Network and Callahan & Associates Marketing Roundtable. Joel’s career spans more than 30 years of guiding communications and marketing strategy in highly regulated, fast-changing industries. In his personal time, Joel fights for space in the back yard to play catch with his four sons while fending off affection from the family’s 260 pounds of dog (a Saint Bernard and a Newfoundland).

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer

Leah Kondes


Leah Kondes is a director in Padilla’s corporate advisory group with a focus on social impact. She is a long-time Minnesota PRSA member who currently serves the chapter as chair of the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion committee. In previous years she has served on the Classics, membership and communications committees. Previous roles with the chapter include volunteer coordinator and webmaster. In the past, she has served on the boards of Resources for Child Caring (now Think Small), the Bloomington Theater and Art Center (now Artistry) and Volunteers of America Minnesota and Wisconsin. 


Ryan Baird


As lead of Weber Shandwick’s Minneapolis Healthcare practice, Ryan brings extensive knowledge and experience in regulated medical industries. 

His work encompasses product and issues-related communications support for publicly traded biotechnology and medical device clients, as well as hospitals and health systems. This includes strategic support for FDA approvals and product launches in U.S. and international markets, as well as disease awareness education and community stakeholder engagement. Ryan has led comprehensive earned, owned and social communications for pivotal clinical trial readouts as well as coordinated data presentations and publications around major medical congresses. His work has spanned disease areas including hematology oncology, Alzheimer’s and rare disorders.

Ryan previously served as the Director of Communications for The Medical Alley Association, the nation’s largest state-based industry association for medical device, biopharmaceutical, diagnostic and digital health organizations. For 10 years he led communications, media relations and marketing for the association. 

Ryan’s areas of expertise range from traditional public relations to federal and state public affairs. His work has covered research publicity, issues management, campaign marketing, disease awareness, crisis communications and more. 

He holds dual bachelor’s degrees from the University of Notre Dame.


Laura Hennen


Laura Hennen is a communications leader with extensive experience in healthcare communications. As a communications strategist, Laura works to protect and maintain business reputation, build goodwill and generate publicity across multiple communications channels. Her experience includes brand journalism/storytelling, media relations, crisis communications, reputation management, content marketing and brand management. 

As a senior communication manager at Medtronic, Laura leads public relations strategy for the Peripheral Vascular Health (PVH) business. She leads media relations, crisis communications and external executive thought leadership for PVH. Laura previously worked in public relations for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, where she focused on media relations, crisis communications and content marketing.

Laura holds a master’s in business administration (MBA) from the University of St. Thomas and a bachelor’s in public relations from Drake University. She has been an active member of Minnesota PRSA since 2004 and was a PRSSA member from 2000-2004.


Dan Jasper

With great respect for the history of Mall of America and the impact it has had on our region, Dan leads the MOA teams whose responsibility and focus is to share those stories in an authentic and responsible manner. These areas include public and media relations, social media, community relations, international and domestic tourism, as well as the Mall’s communication hub ESP (Enhanced Service Portal), His other responsibilities include the overall communications strategy for the Mall, crisis communications management, public affairs, building strong national, regional, and local media connections, and serving as primary spokesperson.

Dan serves as senior executive leading communications and related areas within the marketing group. He also advises sister properties American Dream NJ and West Edmonton Mall on strategic communication issues.


Kerstin March, APR


Kerstin March, APR, is the vice president of Communications at Northmarq, where she leads corporate communications and public relations. Throughout her career, she has had the privilege of working in diverse public relations roles, ranging from agency to in-house positions at both public and privately held companies, as well as building her own consulting business. After joining PRSA at the start of her career, Kerstin went on to earn accreditation and then receive recognition as a Minnesota Classics and national Silver Anvil Award recipient.
Kerstin studied literature at Oxford University and holds a bachelor’s degree in English from St. Olaf College. Additionally, she is an internationally published author of two contemporary novels.


Meredith Moore

As president of Leverette Weekes leadership development and communications agency, Meredith works with entrepreneurs and business executives to create effective corporate social responsibility strategies, coach high performers, and build meaningful relationships with media. For more than a decade, Moore has dedicated her career to helping executives inside and outside of corporate America have a positive and lasting impact on their organizations and the world. 
During her time in Fortune 500 companies, Meredith led award-winning global CSR initiatives and external brand engagement resulting in recognition as a diversity leader and talent developer. Meredith's writing explained McDonald's corporate commitment to advancing women globally, resulting in the corporation receiving the prestigious Catalyst award in 2011. Meredith's book, Getting Unstuck: A Guide to Moving Your Career Forward, shares her lessons from helping women navigate past the glass ceiling in 119 countries, resulting in the most diverse senior leadership team in the history of McDonald's.
Meredith has a B.A. in journalism from Howard University, a Master of Science in Managerial Communications from Northwestern University, and is a 2021 Black Venture Institute fellow.


Darryl Sellers


Darryl Sellers is the Public, Media Relations & Communications Consultant/Strategist for Hennepin Healthcare’s Research Institute. Darryl’s role includes public and media relations, interviewing doctors and other leaders and storytelling. He’s also creating strategies to amplify doctors’ voices about the organization’s commitment to diversity in research.

He is a Minneapolis native who has more than 20 years of experience, which includes public and media relations, communications, and seven years in TV news with stints in the Rochester-Austin and Saginaw-Flint markets. Darryl is noted for his experience shining a light on organizations making positive societal changes, helping them share with more people how they positively impact the world. He previously partnered with the Biden-Harris Administration’s “We Can Do This” Covid-19 Public Education Campaign which had the mission to bring more vaccine equity to 80+ Black communities, amplifying the voices of doctors with the W. Montague Cobb Institute/National Medical Association, the oldest largest national network of Black doctors in the U.S.


Emily Tackaberry, APR


Emily Tackaberry, APR, is the senior director of corporate communications at AllianceRx Walgreens Pharmacy. She has more than 15 years of experience in communications, marketing and advertising, and has been a member of PRSA since 2010. She became Accredited in Public Relations in September 2020, deepening her skills and abilities in crisis communications, strategic planning, evaluation and beyond. Emily is also certified in change management from Prosci, helping her lead communication efforts in several large- and small-scale changes. She lives in Shoreview, Minn. with her husband, three kids and work associate/French bulldog, Walter.


Carolyn Will, APR


Carolyn Will, APR, is the principal/owner of CW Marketing & Communications, a boutique public relations agency specializing in strategic communications, media relations and events. Our strength lies in defining the issues, identifying the target publics and connecting the dots between the two with creativity and strategy. Speaking of two, we are a two-member team that can expand like an accordion to a full roster with a reliable support network of contractors to call upon as needed. Our full list of clients and project highlights are listed on our website.

Carolyn Will is a former award-winning health and medical broadcast journalist for a national show on PBS and Discovery Health. She also produced locally for KSTP-TV and as a Midwest stringer for FOX 24 hours news. She has remained strongly interested in community health, civic engagement, global citizenship, travel and tourism. Before advancing to health reporting, Carolyn traveled around the world with two teachers setting up an international curriculum and classroom-sharing program in 15 countries to promote a global-citizen mindset for students in northern Minnesota.

Carolyn Will is a Rotarian and has traveled to villages in Honduras with Rotarians to help residents install clean water irrigation systems and upgrade medical technology in local hospitals. Carolyn also supports a school in Red Lake, Minnesota, serving on the St. Mary’s Mission board and helping bring resources to this northern Minnesota Ojibwe reservation.

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