Plank Center Adds Members, Re-Elects Leaders

The board of advisers for The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations has re-elected seven members and added two new advisers, bringing the group to 25.

Advisers re-elected to three-year terms are:

  • Ron DeFeo, VP, Global Communications, American Airlines.
  • Mark Harris, VP, Communications, IBM Global Business Services.
  • Julia Hood, EVP, Chief Content Officer, Haymarket Media Group.
  • Rick Looser, COO, The Cirlot Agency, Inc., Mississippi.
  • Dr. Diana Martinelli, associate dean of the Reed College of Media, West Virginia University.
  • Dr. Bryan Reber, assistant department head and professor, Grady College of Journalism & Mass Communication, University of Georgia.
  • Maria Russell, department chair and professor, S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Syracuse University.

“It is a testament to these outstanding public relations experts and leaders that they continue to support the Center, working to develop leadership values and skills among others in the profession,” said Dr. Karla Gower, director of the Plank Center.

The newly elected advisers are:

  • Joanne Bischmann, VP, Communications, Harley-Davidson Motor Company.
  • Pat Ford, Worldwide Vice Chair, Chief Client Officer, Burson-Marsteller.

“We are delighted that Joanne and Pat have agreed to join the board,” said Gower. “Both have impressive leadership abilities that complement those of the leading academics and professionals in public relations serving on the board.”

About the Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations

In 2005, the University of Alabama Board of Trustees established The Plank Center. Named for public relations leader and UA alumna, the late Betsy Plank, the Center develops and recognizes outstanding diverse public relations leaders, role models and mentors to advance ethical public relations in an evolving, global society through a variety of initiatives.

In addition to national leaders in the practice and education, the Center’s Board includes an ex officio position for the president of the Public Relations Student Society of America that represents more than 11,000 members in 300-plus colleges and universities.

The Center is housed in UA’s department of advertising and public relations, a division of the College of Communication and Information Sciences. UA’s public relations program, with nearly 1,400 students, is the largest undergraduate degree program within the College. The program is certified by the Public Relations Society of America.

More information about the Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations can be found at



Our Mission

The Plank Center’s mission is to help develop and recognize outstanding diverse public relations leaders, role models and mentors to advance ethical public relations in an evolving, global society. The Center works to achieve its mission by:

Advancing knowledge of leadership values and skills in the profession;

Supporting research, teaching, service, and professional educational efforts that help develop diverse, responsible and trustworthy leaders;

Bridging the interests and vision of the practice and education; and

Collaborating with other groups and associations to nurture the ethical and effective practice of public relations.