Alumni Notes

As part of the School of Media and Journalism's monthly alumni newsletter (Jargon), we will publish short alumni notes regularly in this space. To view more extensive alumni profiles, visit our Jargon homepage or view Alumni Profiles.

Submit your Alumni Note here


Sophia Gillespie

MARCH 2024

Sophia Gillespie, '23

Sophia writes: "I was offered a full-time position with PBS Western Reserve as an Associate Producer. I am fully producing a 6-episode show and assistant producing another. I also have my own clients for our Art Underwriter spots." 



Lauren Lee, '02

Lauren Lee Headshot

Lauren writes: After spending 12 years at CNN, I transitioned to a new role with CNN International Productions in July 2023. I took on the position of lead producer for African Voices Changemakers, a 30-minute interview/documentary style show focusing on influential figures across various fields in Africa, including music, film, sports, arts, and technology. This opportunity is significant for me as it allows me to apply both my Journalism and Pan-African Studies background from Kent State to share stories with a global audience. Here is a link to my CNN profile with some of the content I have produced:



Lauren Buchanan

Lauren Buchanan, B.S. '16, M.A. '21

Lauren writes: I am overjoyed to utilize the knowledge and experiences from my education at Kent State to now serve as the Managing Editor of Dermatology Times, which is one of 60 publications under the parent company MJH Life Sciences. I get to mentor and guide 3 editors to generate and write content for board-certified dermatologists, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, residents, and medical school students with the goal of enhancing patient outcomes. Our monthly print publication, website, social media, videos, podcasts, and quizzes ensure clinicians are getting important up-to-the-minute news on dermatologic research, FDA drug approvals, and more.

Before landing my current role, I had the opportunity to serve as a television news producer in Cleveland and St. Louis, and then transitioned to public relations and marketing in the nonprofit, government, tech, and home improvement sectors. Today, I get to marry the best of all of those worlds by digging for the truth, building relationships with medical experts, crafting complex information for a niche audience, driving best business practices to ensure profitability, and challenging early career writers to publish accurate, compelling, and ethical content.

Russ Lynn, '01

Russ writes: A 20+ year career thanks to the strong foundation developed at Kent and in the Student Media program has led me to Microsoft where I cover the partnership of one the largest global agency holding companies.

MARCH 2023

John Martin, '79

John Martin retired from Ohio Attorney General's Office (30 years), U.S. Navy (24 years) as an Intelligence officer and currently teaching the Criminal Justice Program at Tolles Career and Technical Center outside of Columbus Ohio. He operates a custom wood working business.

Alum with book

Steven Begleiter, '80

Steven Begleiter's seventh book and first novel, "Leaving Cleveland" will be for sale April 12, 2023. Preorder is available on Amazon.



Heidi Baumgart

Heidi Baumgart, '06

Heidi Baumgart was named Chief Operating Officer at Skidmore Studio, a brand agency that accelerates growth for emerging CPG companies. Heidi leads all things people at Skidmore Studio. She is part coach, operations, HR and IT with a passion for building better teams. As a former business owner, agency account manager and brand-side head of marketing, Heidi brings meaningful experience and charisma to support the health and wellness of every Skidmorovian and the studio.


Tom Nader, '04

After spending the last 22 years of his journalism career at the Record-Courier, holding various positions including Sports Editor (2007-2018), Tom Nader, '04,  recently launched his own sports media and marketing company called Portage Sports. Portage Sports is primarily a digital platform designed to provide spotlight coverage for Portage County high school and youth sports: 

Lydia Pope, '22

Lydia Pope is now a Communications Specialist at the Portage Development Board. She began that role in May 2022.



Headshot of Christine Bowser

Christine Bowser, '02

Christine M. Bowser has been appointed president of Pinnacle Media, a full-service marketing communications agency serving clients in the global automotive, commercial vehicle, industrial and financial services sectors. The company is based in Stow, Ohio. Learn more by visiting



Eric Mansfield, M.A. ’12

Headshot of Eric Mansfield

 “Love in Reserve,” full-length play by Eric Mansfield, M.A. ’12, had its world premiere with a professional Equity performance run at Rubber City Theatre in Akron. A love story at heart, this story focuses on the challenges military spouses face during combat deployments and was named a national semi-finalist by Arts in the Armed Forces (AITAF) for the Bridge Award in playwriting. Straight ahead, Eric's full-length play, “Whitesville,” opens in March at the Akron Civic Theatre via the Millennial Theatre Project. This play spotlights the challenges a mixed-race family faces in the immediate aftermath of George Floyd's murder. Eric is the Assistant Vice President, Content Strategy & Communications at Kent State University.



Robert Spirko, ’65, M.B.A. ’72

Robert Spirko, ’65, M.B.A. ’72, is author of spy thrillers “Secret of Ekaterinberg” and “The Palestine Conspiracy.” The books are now in their third printing and are available on,, and


Karen (Baird) Axelrad, ‘03 (Journalism) 

Earlier this April, Axelrad started a new job as the Marketing/Graphic Design Specialist for Peerless Technologies Corporation in Fairborn, Ohio (adjacent to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base). In this role, she manages the company's website and social media, along with creating graphics and marketing materials for print and digital use. Before joining Peerless, Axelrod served as the Communication Content Specialist for the School of Education and Health Sciences at the University of Dayton (Dayton, OH). Axelrod continues to put her experience as a copy editor and page designer to good use, even though she no longer in the newsroom. 

Heidi Baumgart, ‘06 (Advertising)  

Photo of Baumgart near KSU Rock

Baumgart was promoted to Vice President of Marketing and Team Development at Arborwear in September 2021 (from Director of Marketing). In the past year, Baumgart and her staff developed an experiential internship program that hires cohorts of students together per semester. They have hired several Kent State students as interns and full-time employees. Arborwear is hiring interns for Spring, Summer and Fall 2022. 




Heidi Shaffer Bish, M.A. ‘98 

Four-term Kent City Councilwoman and Senior Grant Writer at Coleman Health Services Heidi Shaffer married Randy Bish from Pittsburgh, PA area, in a backyard ceremony in Kent. In August, they celebrated their first anniversary. While a graduate student, Heidi was managing editor of Jargon which inspired her to launch her own publication, The Wellness Connection, 1998-2000. 


Photo of alumnus Hines

Randy Hines, B.A. ‘69, M.A. ‘74 (Journalism) 

Hines recently retired from the University of North Georgia, where he taught journalism and public relations the past five years. 




Mandy Jenkins, B.S. ‘02, M.A. ‘04 (Journalism, Media Management) 

Jenkins is the Head of Product at Factal, a breaking news technology company that helps the world's largest companies, NGOs and information services protect people, avoid disruptions and expedite disaster relief. 


Photo of alumna Kudravi

Kathy Kudravi, ‘87 (Journalism) 

In May 2021, Kudravi was named Executive Director Campus Communications and Publications for the University of Arizona Health Sciences. After 32+ years in sports journalism (print, broadcast TV and digital) she now leads the internal communications team at UArizona Health Sciences. Prior to this, Kudravi had her own media consultancy and taught sports journalism at Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication for two years. Kudravi had previous stops at various startup websites, the startup broadcast network American Sports Network, CNN, ESPN and spent 13 years at newspapers including the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, The Tennessean, Plain Dealer and Myrtle Beach (S.C.) Sun News. 


Photo of alumna Wolford

Valerie Wolford, ‘96 (Public Relations) 

Wolford recently completed and achieved her Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) from the Public Relations Society of America. 





Photo of alumna Zahn

Nicole Zahn, ‘18 (Public Relations)

During the COVID-19 quarantine, Zahn worked to launch her freelance marketing and copywriting business, Center Focus Marketing. Zahn is now working her dream job as a Marketing Strategist at Highmark Health in Pittsburgh, PA, while doing her freelance gig on the side.