Patrick has worked on three AARP early state primary campaigns and has met just about anyone running for President. Over the years, he has worked on numerous state level campaigns including home and community based services, passage of the cigarette tax for Medicaid, consumer issues including predatory lending, consumer fraud and served as the interim state director for AARP Virginia during the summer of 2017. Patrick was honored with AARP’s Community State & Nation Award for Excellence in Communications in 2016.
Patrick earned a BS in Communications/Public Relations at Appalachian State University (Go Apps!) and completed a Mini MBA from Clemson University (Go Tigers! He likes schools with national championships.) Patrick served as the 2015 President of the IABC South Carolina chapter and has been active as a board member serving in numerous leadership roles. He is also a 2016 graduate of Leadership South Carolina.
Mark is a longtime member of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) and serves as an appointed member of the IABC Academy Committee, which oversees all education and certification programs for the international association. He is a past president of the Austin chapter and co-chaired the IABC Southern Region Conference that was held in Austin in October 2014.
Mary Ellen Gitachu (IABC Austin), is an award-winning, results-driven communications leader. Mary Ellen has more than 20 years of expertise in developing sound strategies to align internal employee communications venues, including innovative brand identity, social media and blogs, to support organizational goals and desired cultural change. Her media relations, corporate and internal communications achievements come from a diverse career with global companies like Dell, Motorola and Freescale Semiconductor.
Mary Ellen is currently President of IABC’s Austin Chapter. She served as VP Communications for IABC Southern Region and VP of Communications on the Chapter Executive Board for National Black MBA Association, Austin Chapter. She currently serves as Communications & Engagement Manager at Visa. A Boston native, Mary Ellen earned both a master’s degree in Journalism and bachelor’s degree in Communications from Northeastern University.
Jordan earned her bachelor’s degree and Master of Business Administration from the University of North Texas, which allows her to bring a unique perspective to communication and coaching for the executives she supports. She is passionate about partnering with leadership teams to help them achieve their strategic goals through communication and employee engagement.
Jordan served as the President, President Elect and VP Finance for the IABC Houston chapter and has received Bronze, Silver and a Gold Quill awards for her work with BP.
During Lynda’s tenure as President, the Barbados Chapter received a Chapter Management Award of Excellence. A member of IABC since 2008, Lynda has worked with other chapter members to engage communications students and ensure high standards for the future of the profession locally. She has also volunteered services to various small businesses and NGOs who do not have communicators on staff and are unable to afford this service.
A native of Barbados, Lynda holds a Masters in Business Administration, a Diploma in Management from the University of the West Indies and certificates in Public Relations and Information and Communication Technology.
Prior to Pioneer, Laura worked for Thousand Trails, a membership campground company, the Richardson Independent School District and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. Her areas of specialty include writing, editing, strategic planning, problem solving and leading a team. Laura has an undergraduate degree from Northwestern University, a master’s degree from The Florida State University and has completed coursework on a master’s degree in Journalism at Indiana University. In May 2014, she completed the Strategic Communications Management certificate program (CSC) at Ithaca College.
A Massachusetts native, David earned his bachelor’s degree in English at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, and his master’s degree in Journalism/Public Relations at UNC Chapel Hill’s School of Journalism and Mass Communications. A member of the NC Triangle IABC chapter since 2009, David’s leadership roles have included VP of Finance, Chapter President, Past President and Southern Region Chapter Services Director.
VP, Region Growth and Development
John Harris is a communication strategist and business writer. He is a past president of IABC Houston and IABC Austin. He has worked in public relations since 1991 and earlier spent 15 years as a newspaper reporter and editor. In PR, he has worked in the public and private sectors, and in both the agency and corporate sides of the business.
In his last full-time role, he was a senior VP at Houston First Corporation, working for 10 years in corporate communications and public affairs. Houston First operates the city’s convention and entertainment facilities and promotes Houston as a tourism destination.
John has counseled or written for the City of Houston, Austin Energy, the Houston Firefighters’ Relief & Retirement Fund, the Lower Colorado River Authority, Dell Inc., Compaq, the University of Texas at Austin, the University of St. Thomas, Novo Nordisk and Centura Health, among others.
For Houston’s Joint Hurricane Housing Task Force, he served on a team that helped move several thousand families evacuating from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita into transitional housing in three months. The work won Silver Quill and Bronze Quill awards from IABC and an Excalibur Award from the Public Relations Society of America.
John holds a bachelor of journalism degree from the University of Texas. He and his wife Jane have two grown children.
Mary was a partner at Eventions, an event-planning company, and Director of Media Relations for the Houston Public Library System prior to founding Hardin-Francis. She also taught in the Visual Communications Department at Lone Star College and provides marketing communications services to charitable organizations in Houston.
Mary has been involved with the Southern Region since she created the website for Align ’09, the region conference held in Houston. In addition, Mary chaired one of the 2013 mini-conferences, and has served as Southern Region Portfolio Conference Director. She is an IABC Houston past president and remains active in the local chapter. A native Houstonian (one of the few left still living there), Mary is a graduate of Texas A&M University with a Journalism degree and Marketing specialization.