Student Development Conference

The Student Development Workshop is an annual, day-long conference that is planned and implemented by members of the EMU PRSSA Chapter. We aim to help students in and around southeastern Michigan prepare for careers in public relations, journalism, marketing and other communications fields.

The theme of this year’s conference is diversity, with EMU’s very own TaQuinda Johnson (University Social Media Strategist) as the keynote speaker.

This is a FREE event and registration includes breakfast and lunch catered by EMU Dining Services.

The Student Development Conference is December 1st. Registration will begin at 9 a.m., and our Key Note Address will begin at 9:30 a.m.  A LGBTQIA in the Media panel will run from 11 a.m. to noon. Lunch will follow from noon to 1 p.m. Our Diversity in the Workplace and Community panel will follow lunch, and will conclude the conference at 2:30 p.m. Click here to register now!

SDC Program

Friday, Dec. 1

9 a.m.                        Registration and Continental Breakfast

9:30-11 a.m.             Key Note Address with TaQuinda Johnson, EMU

11 a.m. – Noon        LGBTQIA in the Media Panel

                            Moderator: Mary Larkin, LGBT Resource Center, EMU

         Panelist: Tyler Lehner, Weber Shandwick and HuffPost Queer  

                                   Panelist: Ruth Lednicer, Planned Parenthood

                                   Panelist: Mark Chung Kwan Fan, Spectrum Center – U of M

12-1 p.m.                  Lunch

1:15-2:30 p.m.         Diversity in the Workplace and Community Panel

                                   Moderator: TaQuinda Johnson, EMU

                                   Panelist: Michelle Gilbert, Comcast

                                   Panelist: Al McWilliams, Q & M Agency

                                   Panelist: Delisha Upshaw, Ford

Panelist: Ayana King, American House

Meet our Speakers:

TaQuinda Johnson

Taquinda Headshot“PR is more than just a career, it’s a calling” is the statement that TaQuinda Johnson, CEO of T.Marie Media Group, lives by. TaQuinda Marie began her calling in the world of public relations in 2002 while finishing her degree as a public relations student at Eastern Michigan University. Her journey began through the implementation of grassroots marketing and public relations for a local Christian production company, which resulted in catching the eye of local and national artists within the industry.

Professionally known as “T.Marie,” she has developed, implemented and maintained public relations and social media strategies and campaigns within the automotive, educational, healthcare, Christian Entertainment, Non-Profit, Faith-based and Lifestyle sectors.

With more than 12 years of experience, T.Marie has had the pleasure of working with various brands such as the Stellar Gospel Music Awards, GM Minority Dealers Association, The Girl Scouts of Southeastern Michigan, Detroit Youth Boxing, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Inaxxs Music Business Conference (IMBC), Word of Faith International Christian Center, Impact Church (Jacksonville, FL) and MB Jefferson Ministries to name a few.

In 2011, TaQuinda established T.Marie Media Group out of a passion for assisting brands, ministries and organizations in letting their voices be heard by telling their stories, sharing the greatest story of all – The Gospel of Jesus Christ and transforming external and internal communications structures. The firm’s motto “Excellence Driven. Results Motivated. Client Focused.” showcases the value and drive of the company to go above and beyond to take a personal investment in their clients’ visions and brands.

TaQuinda is currently serving as the Social Media Specialist for University Marketing in the Division of Communications at Eastern Michigan University, where she manages the online presence of the university and creates social media strategies and tactics focusing on new student enrollment and current student, alumni, faculty and staff engagement.

The sought out speaker is a member of the National Public Relations Society of America – Detroit Chapter, where she serves as a board member and the Diversity and Inclusion liaison. She is a former board member of the Black Public Relations Society – Detroit Chapter.

In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with family and friends, serving at her local church, mentoring young women, working out and Detroit Ballroom dancing.

Mary Larkin

unnamedMary Larkin is the Program Coordinator for the LGBT Resource Center at Eastern Michigan University, as well as an adjunct lecturer in the College of Health and Human Services and Educational Leadership. She previously served as the Director of Residential Education Theater at The University of Michigan in Housing, a peer led theater troupe that raised awareness for mental health and social issues affecting college students. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Communication, Media and Theatre Arts (2000), and a master’s degree in Health Education (2011), both from EMU.




Tyler Lehner


Tyler is a PR account executive specializing in multicultural and influencer communications at Weber Shandwick, a global public relations agency with offices in over 80 cities worldwide. Tyler leads Asian-Arab American, LGBTQ and African American integrated communications efforts for General Motors, creating multicultural brand stories for all four GM brands: Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick and GMC. He is a Huffington Post contributor for the LGBT vertical, HuffPostQueer, writing content on the LGBT experience and corporate culture.

He earned a B.A. in Advertising and Public Relations from Grand Valley State University, where he also studied Arabic, Spanish and marketing. Tyler has worked in the consumer, food & beverage, public affairs, and health care spheres at several PR/marketing firms in the Grand Rapids and Detroit areas including Lambert Edwards & Associates, Truscott Rossman and 834 Integrated Communications. He speaks conversational Spanish and Arabic. Tyler is a proud member of the LGBT community and an advocate for global social equality, justice and change.

Ruth Lednicer

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARuth Lednicer serves as the statewide communications director for both Planned Parenthood of Michigan and Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan, coordinating the media and both internal and external communications for the nonprofit provider of reproductive health care. She was previously the senior director of marketing & programs at the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor, and prior to that served as the Chicago Public Library’s 80 branch system’s director of marketing & communications for 11 years. Ms. Lednicer spent much of her career in government, having worked for Mayor Richard M. Daley in various roles, including as Scheduler and as Policy Assistant, and as Press Advance for President and Mrs. Clinton on several domestic trips. She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from Indiana University.

Mark Chung Kwan Fan

DSCF6228Mark currently serves as the Assistant Director for Engagement at the Spectrum Center at University of Michigan. His main responsibilities focus on Events and Partnerships, Community Relations, and the Center’s Communications work. Mark’s portfolio revolves around working with queer/trans students of color as well as queer/trans international students. With a student-centered approach, he approaches his work with a racial and gender justice foci. He obtained his bachelor’s of Arts in Spanish and French from Adrian College followed by a master’s degree from Michigan State University in Student Affairs Administration.




Michelle Gilbert

michelle gilbert

As vice president of public relations, Michelle Gilbert is responsible for developing and managing all proactive and reactive external communications initiatives for Comcast Cable’s Heartland Region. She leads a team that’s focused on humanizing the Comcast brand, reinforcing the company’s position as a technology leader and sharing its customer experience transformation through media relations, social media and other digital communications strategies.

A 27-year PR veteran, she believes her key to success has been building and nurturing relationships in every aspect of her profession. As she leads her team to help the company transform its image, relationships play a key role in her strategy.

Prior to joining Comcast in 2014, she led the PR department at Verizon Wireless for Michigan, Indiana and Kentucky, where she managed the three-state region’s media relations, social media, community relations and employee communications. Michelle also served as a vice president at one of Michigan’s most prominent marketing and public relations firms.

Over the years, her work in PR has earned Michelle various awards from prestigious organizations, including IABC, PRSA, PR News and The American Business Awards. She is a guest blogger on “all things PR” for Crain’s Detroit Business and a proud board member of PRSA’s Detroit chapter as well as HAVEN, Oakland County’s only comprehensive program for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Michelle earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism with an emphasis in Sociology from Michigan State University.

Al McWilliams

al-mcwilliams-02-580President at Q+M
Really into breakfast.

Delisha Upshaw

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAnsAAAAJDYwNTk5MzBiLTk3NzMtNGE4MC1hM2QwLWIyZWQyODA0MDI0MwDelisha Upshaw earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Public Relations (Go Eagles!) and worked in automotive communications before pursuing a Master of Public Administration in Non-Profit Management and launching a small philanthropic consulting firm in 2006.  She used her communications experience and management education to help NFL athletes establish, manage, and fundraise for charitable initiatives to positively impact the causes closest to their hearts.

In 2011, she returned to the corporate world upon accepting an excellent opportunity to join Ford Motor Company’s Global Public Affairs & Product Communications team.  She is currently VP, Communications Manager at Ford’s advertising agency, GTB – where she manages the agency’s internal communications, media relations, and social media. She champions diversity at GTB as a co-leader of the African-Ancestry Cultural Experience and active participant in the Women’s Initiative employee resource group. She is also a mentor to the Internship program, as well as, the Returnship program – which provides an onramp to women looking to restart a career in advertising.

Between managing her career and wrangling two young children and one furbaby, Delisha nurtures her entrepreneurial spirit and passion for volunteerism by supporting her daughters’ school PTA and Girl Scout Troops, providing non- profit strategic and social media consulting, and as an occasional guest lecturer for Eastern Michigan University’s Public Relations program.  She is also a Certified Facilitator of the iShine Discover Your Inner Star empowerment workshop for tweens.

A native of Detroit, her favorite place to be is “home” – enjoying a random playlist, laughing and learning the latest dance craze from her little ones, or alone with a freshly roasted and pressed coffee – conjuring up the magic of “what’s next”.

Ayana King

AyanaAyana is a University of Michigan graduate and communications manager for American House Senior Living Communities, a top 20 nation-wide provider. In addition to public relations and reputation management, she also oversees social media and serves as copywriter and proofreader for the marketing department.

Specializing in storytelling and content strategy, Ayana writes for company blog, supports external communications, and was instrumental in the successful partnership between American House and Artis-Naples, providing Florida communities with exclusive access to world-class performances by the musicians of the Naples Philharmonic.

She volunteers for several organizations and is a member of the PRSA-Detroit Diversity Committee.