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Member Profile: Christine Barnhart, APR

Submitted by Nancy Sherman, Communications Chair

Past PRSA Maryland Chapter President Christine Barnhart, APR, oversees the marketing program for public and emerging markets in business at Magellan Health. One might say that Christine comes by her interest in marketing and public relations naturally – her father was also a marketing professional. Even so, Christine readily admits that her involvement in PRSA “has been invaluable” and the benefits of her membership more far-ranging than one might imagine. Find out why.

Christine’s hometown:

Even though I’m not from a military family – my father was in marketing – I grew up in several different states – Connecticut, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Texas. My family and I live in Mt. Airy, Maryland now.


Bachelor of Arts in communications, La Salle University
Master of Science in communications management, Towson University

How has your PRSA membership benefitted you?

My involvement in PRSA, especially early in my career, was invaluable. I joined PRSA right after graduating from college when I took my first marketing position. I immediately began volunteering on various committees, including what was then called the Chesapeake Conference Planning Committee. A few years later, I served as the conference chair, and following that I was invited to serve on the board of PRSA Maryland. In 2007, I was elected president of the Maryland chapter; and, in the same year, I earned my accreditation in public relations (APR). While all of this early experience continues to be a major benefit to my professional career and an asset in resume building, I also have developed many personal and professional relationships with my fellow PRSA Maryland colleagues that I treasure.

Do you have any personal/professional role models?

Yes. I can think of a few. First, my mom. She is a strong, educated, successful woman, who is not afraid to speak up for what’s important. Additionally, there is Gene Bracken. Gene was my first manager when I was a new public relations associate right out of college. He taught me so many important lessons about public relations, communications, and the working world, in general – and, so supportive. We have stayed in touch over the years and, even today, he continues to encourage me to challenge myself and to strive to meet my full potential as a professional. Lastly, I have to give a shout-out to all of the amazing professionals I have the pleasure of working with through PRSA. You are great advocates and supporters!

Tell us about some of your interests and passions.

I think spending time with my husband, our young sons (ages 9 and 5), our family and friends tops the list of my favorite things to do. We really enjoy spending time exploring new places and being outdoors.

You can connect with Christine Barnhart, APR, on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/christinepbarnhart and on Twitter @BarnhartC1

Member Focus: Lisa Coster, Coster Communications, Ltd.

WebNotes turns the spotlight on member Lisa Coster, president of Coster Communications, Ltd.

As president of a communications firm she founded, which serves a wide range of businesses, nonprofits, and governmental agencies in the Baltimore-Washington, DC, metropolitan area, Lisa recently shared with PRSA Maryland why her role models are strong women and how a simple piece of advice from a graduate school professor has been a guiding principle throughout her professional practice. Lisa is the recipient of numerous PRSA awards and honors, and she is a certified member of the Equal Opportunity Business Program in Howard County.

Day-to-Day: As president of Coster Communications, I serve as a consultant, providing strategic communications plans and implementing proposed strategies and tactics for governmental agencies and NGO’s along the Baltimore-Washington, D.C., corridor. Our primary focus is on overall communications management, event planning, media relations, and documents and publications writing, ranging from grants to articles, annual reports, and training materials.

Where’s Home: Baltimore is my home. Currently, I live in Marriottsville, Maryland.

My Education: I graduated from the University of Maryland with a B.S. in Journalism; and I have an M.A. in Public Communication from American University.

Do You Have Any Role Models: Well, no one person, specifically. And, no one truly famous. I think I would say that my role models are strong and organized women of age who have become successful in all facets of their lives and who have achieved their success on their own merit. I admire educated women who have meaningful careers that they enjoy; families that they love and care for; a deep faith that inspires and guides them; and, volunteer work that keeps them grounded.

What Inspired You to Choose PR as a Profession: Well, I was a good writer who loved to read, and I was graced with the gift of gab. I thought these qualities, combined with my longtime interest in history and politics, would make me a good reporter. After several layoffs in radio broadcasting, however, I decided to “jump the fence” into PR.

Tell Us About Your Interests & Passions: I love to exercise – everything from weight lifting to cycling, skiing, power-walking, and dancing. I also enjoy entertaining family and friends at home; volunteering at my church, for local political clubs, and with PRSA. When I have time, I also like to travel with my husband and son – in the U.S. and abroad.

What Do You Value Most About PRSA: I value PRSA’s networking and informational and educational events. As a sole proprietor, PRSA has kept me up-to-date with public relations trends and industry news. PRSA also has given me many opportunities to meet professionals with whom I have formed rewarding personal and professional relationships.

Best Advice: One of my professors in graduate school summed up the art and science of communication in these two words – “persuade ethically.” This advice has been a guidepost in my professional career.

Where to Reach Me: Twitter, LinkedIn, and Email


Member Focus: Amanda Karfakis, Vitamin

Post by Nicole Cieslak

WebNotes turns the spotlight on member Amanda Karfakis, president and CEO of Vitamin, the boutique web and public relations agency located in Baltimore. Amanda discusses leading her own agency, why she chose PR as a career, and how being a PRSA member has benefited her over the years.

Brief job description: I’m mostly responsible for steering Vitamin’s long-term strategic vision and overseeing our agency’s PR team, which encompasses much more than traditional PR, including social media, media buying, advertising, project management and more.

I’m also heavily focused on recruiting new PR and project management professionals, as well as continuously strengthening our collaborative agency culture.

Hometown: Ithaca, NY
Currently reside: Catonsville, Md. area

Education: Aside from earning an honorary degree in “trial by fire” public relations when I was a young professional, I earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a marketing concentration (and minor in Spanish) from Towson University.

Why did you choose a career in Communications/PR? My career really chose me. I always thought I’d be in business management or international business. But when I was a student I discovered the agency world and landed an internship in the PR department of a top 100 interactive agency after being courted by them for a couple of years. I fell in love with the agency world – it was so much fun, the work was dynamic and the people were smart. I spent months reading about PR and teaching myself everything I needed to know about the profession. It wasn’t long before I had worked my way up the ranks and became Director of Public relations at the age of 23.

How has being a member of PRSA benefited you? Early on in my career PRSA gave me a great education. I’ll never forget the media training session I attended at the Chesapeake Conference in the early 2000s. It helped me set the foundation for how I run media trainings today. Now that I’m much further along in my career PRSA has given me the opportunity to make many valuable connections. Whether it’s connecting with other PR professionals or prospective partners, I’m able to interact with a good and diverse group of people.

Passions/interests/hobbies? My family is my passion. I love learning about different cultures, refining my Greek language skills and cooking. I also really enjoy fitness and exploring the outdoors.

Best piece of advice received: I’ve received a lot of good advice over the years, but there is one piece of advice that really stands out because as PR professionals we are often pulled in multiple directions. Acting on this advice is not always possible and it can’t be taken literally in all instances, but it’s a mantra I’ve repeated to myself in the past to help me manage my day with more ease, fluidity and happiness:

“Control your day – don’t let others control it for you.”

Anything else you’d like to share with readers:  Vitamin is growing. As part of our growth we’re building out our PR team. We’re looking for rock star account executives who are strong writers with energetic personalities and 3-7 years of experience in PR. Highly motivated, quick learners and good collaborators are encouraged to apply! More details here.

You can find Vitamin online at www.vitaminisgood.com (it’s new!) and on Instagram

You can connect with Amanda on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and by email. Connect with the Vitamin team at on Instagram.





Veronica (Ronnie) Gunnerson named Educator of the Year

Honored for her excellence as a public relations professional and instructor as well as her commitment to higher education.

Devoted and highly acclaimed professor … dependable and exuberant colleague … standout public relations practitioner … a confident and caring leader … a remarkable mentor.

These are just a few of the phrases used to describe Veronica (Ronnie) Gunnerson, M.A., affiliate assistant professor, Communication Department, at Loyola University Maryland; and why she has been named PRSA Maryland Chapter’s 2016 Educator of the Year.

“Professor Gunnerson exemplifies all elements of the PRSA as well as the IABC Codes of Ethics,” says Tania Cantrell Rosas-Moreno, Ph.D., associate professor, Loyola University Maryland. “She is phenomenal in her PR walk and talk, whether as a practicing professional or professor.”

Elliot King, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Communication at Loyola, also cites her devotion to her students as her greatest contribution. “Her faculty evaluations are very strong and the student work produced in her class is of the highest caliber,” said Dr. King. “She is very generous with her time and is always willing to offer guidance and advice to the students about their studies, their careers and life in general. She epitomizes the strengths that an experienced professional can bring to PR education.”

Gunnerson brings more than 30 years of experience in journalism and public relations to her position at Loyola University Maryland, where she began teaching in 2006. In addition to her teaching, she served as PRSSA faculty advisor from 2009-2010 and is credited with building the vibrant chapter that exists today. From 2013 to 2015, she served as director of operations for the communication department’s first master of arts program, the online M.A. in Emerging Media Program. In 2015, she returned to her first passion – teaching – at Loyola.

Outside of academia, Gunnerson served as executive director of ALS Association (DC/MD/VA Chapter) from 2010-2013 where she successfully established a social media presence and raised $1.2 million annually in ALS walk programs.

Before joining Loyola in 2006, Gunnerson worked for the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) from 2003-2006 where, as the founding executive director of the PBS Foundation, she secured four grants totaling $13 million for the foundation within the first two years. From 1993-1997, Gunnerson was senior vice president of the home entertainment division Turner Broadcasting System, Inc., overseeing public relations for multiple departments such as licensing, home video, new media, education, international distribution, and publishing. In 1997, she was promoted to vice president of corporate affairs and became senior vice president two years later. In that role, she oversaw the company’s corporate media relations, local and state government relations, employee communications, community relations and corporate contributions.  She served on several community boards, received a Women Making a Mark Award from Atlanta Magazine and was named one of 10 Women of Achievement by the Atlanta YWCA.

Prior to her career in public relations, Gunnerson was a journalist and editor in the early years of the personal computer industry and then in the home video industry, where she managed one of the first virtual editorial organizations in the country. As a freelance journalist, her articles have appeared in Newsweek, Parade, Billboard, Working Woman and PC World.

Gunnerson holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from California State University, Long Beach, and a master’s degree in public relations from the University of Southern California.

About the Award:

Each year, PRSA Maryland honors a public relations/communications professor who has proven to be an excellent instructor and education leader in their schools and communities, and who has demonstrated a commitment to the advancement of students within public relations and communications.

Please join us on December 8 at the 2016 Best in Maryland Gala as we honor Ronnie Gunnerson. The evening will also honor the Lifetime Achievement recipient Louise Lake Hayman, APR, Fellow PRSA, recognize a PRSSA chapter, reveal the PR Team of the Year and present awards for excellence in public relations in 24 categories. The featured keynote will be Susan Goldberg, editor in chief of National Geographic.



PRSA Maryland Member Focus: Kelly Stoll

Post written by Blaine Dunford

WebNotes turns the spotlight on member Kelly Stoll, a Senior Strategic Communications Specialist for AECOM. Kelly discusses her role at AECOM (www.aecom.com) and why she decided to work in public relations.

Learn more about Kelly through this Member Focus.

Your job title and brief job description: Senior Strategic Communications Specialist at AECOM. AECOM is an engineering firm that designs, builds, finances, operates and manages projects around the world. A group of communicators, most with agency backgrounds, functions as a boutique PR firm within the larger corporation making highly technical information easily understandable to communities and stakeholders.

Hometown: Timonium, MD

Currently reside: Manchester, PA

Education: West Virginia University with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in journalism. My concentrations were news editorial and public relations.

Why did you choose a career in communications/PR? I started as a business major in college and after my first accounting class, I was certain I was not going to do well working on spreadsheets for a living. I was fortunate enough to have talked to family friends and work associates of my parents. That is when I discovered public relations.

How has being a member of PRSA benefited you? Because of career and geography, my participation in the chapter has fluctuated. However, I’m always able to get back the relationships I’ve built through the chapter. I learn from others and am always able to take something away from one of the education opportunities we offer.

Who is your role model and why? That’s a tough one. I admire so many qualities about a variety of different people. My parents are the ones who instilled my work ethic and commitment to honoring my word. I also look at many everyday people and see perseverance. I also look to the creative people, like Walt Disney, who dare us to dream big.

Passions/interests/hobbies? I am involved with bulldog rescue. I also volunteer in the fall/winter for the local Toys for Tots campaign. In addition, I let my creative side out by doing craft projects and photography.

Best piece of advice received: Don’t be afraid to ask for help.


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