Public Affairs About


University of Illinois Public Affairs

The Office of Public Affairs strategically shares the stories of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with the state of Illinois, the nation and the world. We communicate through speeches, stories, news releases, images, videos, designs and technology. We help others tell the story of Illinois through tools, training, support and services to communications professionals across campus.

As the campus-level strategic communications unit, we also manage the university’s website, lead university-wide announcements, manage the university social media presence, respond to national surveys and handle Freedom of Information Act requests, in addition to a wide array of special projects.

Communications Vehicles

Public Affairs is responsible for developing strategies to make the best use of campus communications vehicles, as well as day-to-day management of these channels.

The entire list of the communications vehicles managed by Public Affairs is available online, as well as services and resources to assist campus communicators.

Public Affairs Teams

You can learn more about our Public Affairs teams by visiting their pages:

Public Affairs Staff

Jaclyn Banister
Jaclyn Banister Administrative Assistant

Jaclyn Banister is the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) coordinator for the Urbana campus. She collects and reviews documents pursuant to the Act. In addition to FOIA, she also assists the Associate Chancellor for Public Affairs. When Jaclyn isn’t working, she can be found spending time and traveling with her family.

Lance Campbell Software Architect

Lance Campbell is the Software Developer behind the many tools offered by Web Services at Public Affairs. He began writing software in sixth grade on an Apple 2e. The computer back then weighed more than he could lift. Today he writes software in the cloud. If you have a great idea on how to improve communications or marketing just let Lance know. If he likes your idea he might even build a new Webtool.

Craig Chamberlain Editor for International Programs, Media & Social Sciences

Craig Chamberlain is a writer and editor for the university’s News Bureau, covering units in the social sciences, international studies, U.S. cultural/ethnic studies and the College of Media. His focus is on research stories and Q&As with faculty experts on topics in the news. He’s a regular bike commuter, so is glad to offer tips.

Phil Ciciora
Phil Ciciora Editor for Business, Labor & Law

Phil Ciciora is the business and law editor at the News Bureau. He writes and edits news releases that spotlight the innovative research and teaching in the Gies College of Business, College of Law and other units on campus. Stories based on his releases have appeared in print, radio and television, including Stephen Colbert’s show. Outside of work, he enjoys long-distance running and coaching youth baseball.

Sharita Forrest Editor for Education & Social Work

Sharita Forrest is a writer and editor who covers education, social work, food science and other units. During her nearly two decades with the News Bureau, she’s covered the campus administration and arts beats. When not writing, rewriting or tweeting, she serves as a library trustee at her hometown public library, caters to the whims of four spoiled pets and cruises the backroads on her motorcycle.

Andrew Gleason Coordinator of Video Production

Andrew Gleason is a director, cinematographer, editor and producer, who loves creating and watching movies. He is an active member in the local film community, creating films and volunteering for Pens to Lens, the Champaign-Urbana Film Society and Champaign Movie Makers. When he isn’t making movies, he is spending time sharing his love for movies with his two children, Eva and Liam.

Chris Harris Senior Director of Strategic Communications

Chris Harris joined the university in 1994 and is currently responsible for managing speechwriting and other executive communications activities for the Office of the Chancellor and Office of the Provost as well as coordinating the Public Affairs strategic content team. His career path has included stints in arts marketing, field archaeology, environmental communications and institutional fundraising.

Tim Hartin
Tim Hartin Director of Video Production

Tim Hartin is a producer and director creating non-sports Illinois programming for the Big Ten Network. He has worked in film and video production for lots and lots and lots of years, and is most proud of the fact that he, along with some very talented co-workers, were able to find local and regional stories which resonated to a national audience. In his spare time he is still working on creating a masterful percussion rendition of the 1963 song “Wipe Out”, by the Surfaris.

Jodi Heckel
Jodi Heckel Editor for Arts & Humanities

Jodi Heckel is the arts and humanities editor for the News Bureau. She writes about the disciplines within the College of Fine and Applied Arts, as well as humanities and the University Library. When she’s not at work, she likes to spend time outdoors running, biking, swimming and sailing.

Cory Holt
Cory Holt Administrative Assistant

Cory Holt is the Office Manager, who oversees Illinois in a Box and Illinois in a Basket, which provides Illinois themed items either free, for loan or at minimal cost to help units tell their Illinois stories. Cory has amassed a vast and useless knowledge of movie, movie quotes, music and all things ’80s.

Robin Kaler Associate Chancellor for Public Affairs

Robin Kaler leads the Public Affairs group and serves on the chancellor’s senior leadership team advising on issues management and crisis communications. She is the university’s official spokesperson and leads the university’s crisis response communications team. She and her family enjoy exploring the world together.

Brian Mertz Communications Process Architect

Brian Mertz is the communications process architect at Public Affairs, working on improving organization, collaboration and efficiency. Other duties include crisis communications, policy review and content analytics. Most of his free time (and money) goes towards continually expanding his record collection of over 4,500 vinyl releases.

todd mette portrait
Todd Mette Front End Developer

Todd Mette is a front end developer involved in many web projects with Public Affairs. He also assists Web Services in building the front end for new tools or features. When not at work, Todd enjoys weekend camping trips, or (when the weather is bad) playing a wide variety of video games with friends.

lea peck portrait
Lea Peck Assistant Director of Social Media

Lea Peck is assistant director of social media, helping manage vision and content for the university-level social media accounts. Coming from a journalism background, she enjoys sharing unique stories found on the Illinois campus. At home, Lea spends her free time taking photos of food, hitting “still watching” on Netflix, and over-watering her succulents.

Emily Polk Video Production Specialist

Emily Polk is a director, cinematographer, editor and producer, who is active in the local film community. When not making or watching movies, she likes checking things off of lists, playing video games and hanging out with her pets and husband, Thomas.

Thomas Polk
Thomas Polk Video Production Specialist

August Schiess Director of Social Media

August Schiess leads social media for the university, overseeing the vision and content for the university-level social media accounts. She enjoys strategically using writing, design, photography and video to tell the Illinois story—and helping others do the same. When she’s not checking her phone for notifications, she’s reading, running or finding her next piece of chocolate.

Jodi Silotto Director of Academic Communications

Jodi Silotto provides strategic direction and consultation to academic unit communicators for communication plans related to campus level priorities. She serves as the liaison to key internal and external stakeholder groups. Additionally, Jodi works to create resources, services and training opportunities that support academic units. In her free time, she enjoys spending time outdoors and expanding her antique cookie jar collection.

Kaitlin Southworth
Kaitlin Southworth Director of Video Development

Kaitlin Southworth is an Emmy Award-winning producer, editor, and videographer for Big Ten Network Campus Programming at Illinois. She creates documentaries that air nationally on the Big Ten Network and highlight a vast array of incredible stories from our university. In her spare time, you can catch her watching movies with her husband, Kevin, and loyal dog, London.

L. Brian Stauffer
L. Brian Stauffer Director of Photography

L. Brian Stauffer is a photographer. He leads photography for Public Affairs, shooting for news releases, campus events, and social media channels. He also manages the campus image database. With his wife and kids, he lives on a farm his family has operated since 1932.

Pam Steele Executive Assistant to the Associate Chancellor for Public Affairs

Pam Steele is the executive assistant to the Associate Chancellor for Public Affairs. As part of her role, she also leads all business and human resources activities for the unit. When she’s not working, she enjoys volunteering in her hometown of Tolono and spending time with her grandkids.

Joel Steinfeldt Editor and Policy Analyst

Liz Ahlberg Touchstone Editor for Biomedical Sciences

Liz Ahlberg Touchstone covers biomedical sciences for the News Bureau. She works with faculty and researchers to make health, medicine and biomedical research news accessible to the public. When not in the office, she can be found playing with her adorable baby, frequenting bookstores and baking.

Allison Copenbarger Vance Content Strategic Director

Allison Copenbarger Vance is a writer and editor who leads content strategy and communications campaign planning for the university. Her other duties include acting as director of communications for the Office of the Provost and being part of the crisis communications team. At home she can be found tending to her ever-growing indoor plant collection.

Michael Vincent Graphic Designer

Michael Vincent is a graphic designer who loves to collaborate on the visual aspect of a wide range of projects. He leads design for Public Affairs, creating work across teams. Projects include designs for the Chancellor and Provost, the News Bureau and the university-wide social media team. He spends his free time watching bad movies, drawing and listening to way too many podcasts.

Katie Watson Digital Content Specialist

Katie Watson is a writer and content creator for campus communications channels. She loves finding new ways to tell stories while using data to analyze the impact of campus messaging. Her other duties include assisting with the management of the university-level social media accounts. Outside the office, she enjoys yoga, peanut butter and baby goats (not at the same time).

E. Todd Wilson Director of Special Projects

E. Todd Wilson oversees Video Services, as well as the producers of Big Ten Network non-athletic programming for this university. Other current duties include management of content on the campus homepage and assisting campus units with Webtools, such as the online directory, A-Z list and calendars. He is an avid motorcyclist and cook, a keeper of chickens and a wannabe blues singer.

Jim Wilson Director of Web Services

Jim Wilson oversees Web Services and Webtools. Web Services offers solutions to all three campuses and supports every faculty, staff, and student at the university.

Steve Witmer News Bureau Director

Steve Witmer is the director of the News Bureau. He works with talented editors who connect with faculty members and researchers throughout campus to create news releases relating the phenomenal work that takes place here, and he also helps campus personnel to prepare for news media interviews. Witmer coaxes his knees to trot an occasional 5K road race.

Diana Yates Editor for Agriculture, Applied Health Sciences & Life Sciences

Diana Yates writes about living organisms – their biology, evolution, habitat, history and psychological quirks. She likes to hike in the mountains and walk on the beach, and yet for some reason chose to live in Central Illinois.

Lois Yoksoulian Editor for Engineering & Physical Sciences

Lois Yoksoulian covers physical sciences, including engineering, earth science, astronomy, chemistry and mathematics. She loves to learn about new things and this is why she thinks being a News Bureau science editor is the perfect job. When not thinking about science, you will find Lois enjoying live music, cooking and spending time with her friends, family and pets.

Fred Zwicky Senior Photographer

Fred Zwicky is a photographer and visual storyteller who captures moments that matter at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. A photojournalist at heart, Fred documents the life of the university for the News Bureau, Public Affairs and social media platforms. His work might seem like play, so off-duty, Fred works at getting better at volleyball and relaxes by playing guitar.

Contact us

If you need additional assistance, you can contact Public Affairs by email ( or by phone (217-333-5010)

Email Public Affairs