USAA Executive to Address UA Students

Wendi Strong, executive vice president and chief communications officer of enterprise affairs for USAA, will deliver the Koten Distinguished Lecture in Public Relations at The University of Alabama March 31.

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Strong leads USAA’s strategic communications functions and has responsibility for brand and reputation management; employee communications; community and military affairs; and enterprise events and protocol.

“We are delighted that Wendi will share her vast experiences and insights with our students and faculty,” said Dr. Karla K. Gower, UA professor of advertising and public relations and director of The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations.

“She is a highly accomplished leader in public relations and a terrific role model for our students,” Gower said. “Wendi is just the kind of leader in the field that we want to interact with our students.”

Prior to joining USAA in 2000, Strong served as vice president of strategic communications for Associates First Capital Corp. and in executive leadership roles at Kimberly-Clark Corp. and Rosewood Hotels and Resorts. In addition to her 25 years of corporate experience, she spent six years as a public relations executive at Hill+Knowlton and Dallas-based Holt & Associates.

Strong holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in journalism, both from the University of North Texas. She serves on the boards of trustees for the Arthur W. Page Society and the Institute for Public Relations.

The Koten Lecture will take place at 9:30 a.m. in Reese Phifer room 216 on the UA campus. Strong will discuss the “Corporate Character and the #PR Profession: The Power of Shared Belief.”

The Koten Lecture Series is sponsored by The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations. It is named after John “Jack” Koten, an inaugural member of the Plank Center board of advisors. The lecture provides public relations undergraduate and graduate students with the opportunity to hear diverse public relations experts discuss timely and relevant issues in the field.

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, to develop and recognize outstanding diverse public relations leaders, role models and mentors to advance ethical public relations in an evolving, global society through a variety of programs, and in concert with groups and associations.

In addition to national leaders in the practice and education, the Center 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 College of Communication and Information Sciences. UA’s public relations program, with nearly 600 students, is the largest undergraduate degree program within the College. The program is certified by the Public Relations Society of America and for six years has been ranked among the top five public relations programs in the country by PRWeekmagazine.

More information about the Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations can be found at www.plankcenter.ua.edu

CONTACT: Dr. Karla Gower, Plank Center Director, 205/348-7250, gower@apr.ua.edu

SOURCE: Jessika White, Communications Specialist, 205/348-7250, jnwhite@apr.ua.edu

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.