Category Archives: SOC Alumni

CommCrew Spring Celebration Week culminates with annual reception

CommCrew annual reception

Following a week of activities and events organized to support the School of Communication and connect alumni and friends with current students and faculty, CommCrew held its eighth annual spring reception Saturday night, April 5, at the Greenville Museum of Art.

At the event, Jamie Lynn Sigler ’01 (far left in photo) was presented with the School’s 2014 Distinguished Alumni Award. (See related story below.) With Sigler are: Bill Johnson ’91, executive vice president, Sports Trust Advisors, and the keynote speaker for the evening; Linda Kean, director, School of Communication; and, C.J. Wilson, a former Pirate and client of Johnson, currently with the Oakland Raiders.

One of the highlights of the week was a “speed networking” event where communication students had the opportunity to go four 15-minute rounds in small groups with a panel of distinguished alumni. Panelists were: John Cooper ’89, NBC Universal, NBC News Channel producer, Charlotte; Jamie Lynn Sigler ’01 founding partner, J Public Relations, San Diego; Michael Aho ’02, political officer, U.S. Department of State, Washington, D.C./New York City; and, Olivia Collier ’02 ’04, ARC program manager at N.C. Department of Commerce.

Returning alumna to share experiences in public relations, health communication and research

April Paul Baer

Health communication professional and ECU School of Communication graduate, April Paul Baer, will be returning to campus as a visiting professional to the School of Communication on Feb. 17 and 18.

Baer is currently the Director of Student Wellness at Frostburg State University in Maryland. She received her bachelor’s degree in communication with an emphasis in public relations in 2006. After earning her master’s degree in the School of Communication’s health communication concentration in 2008, she began working for Frostburg State as the Coordinator for University Wellness.

“While working to obtain my master’s degree at East Carolina, I realized how much I enjoyed facilitating research within the realm of higher education,” said Baer. “Thankfully, it led me to where I am now.”

While visiting ECU, Baer will be a guest lecturer in several School of Communication graduate and undergraduate classes, focusing on public relations and health communication. She will also be sharing her recent work experiences with a nonprofit organization, The Water School, in rural Uganda.

Baer credits her graduate position with the School of Communication as a research and teaching assistant and her time with ECU’s Campus Living as a resident assistant with preparing her well for her current work.

In addition to class presentations, Baer will be speaking at the School of Communication convocation for students in the interpersonal and organizational concentration; and, to the PRSSA organization.

All ECU students are welcome to attend any of her class presentations and guest lectures. For more information and specific times and locations, please contact the School of Communication main office 252-328-4227 or email

Public Relations Professional and ECU Alumna Ashley Boarman speaks to students about her “career and passion”

Ashley Boarman

Ashley Boarman, a public relations senior account executive with MGH in Baltimore and a 2008 graduate of the ECU School of Communication, returned to campus in October to share experiences and advice with current public relations students. [Watch the video.]

As a young professional who has already built an impressive resume with both in-house and agency public relations experience, Boarman gave students a feel for the real work of public relations, while dispelling some of the myths.

“Being successful in public relations takes a lot of hard work and dedication, ” Boarman said. “It’s not usually as glamorous as it is often portrayed on television.

“Boarman talked specifically about really getting to know clients and their industries, as well as the media and their areas of interest and expertise.

“Public relations is hard to quantify,” she said. “A lot of what I do is having good story ideas regarding my clients and pitching them to the media. The payoff comes when such a story happens, but I can’t control when or if that might be.

“In the past year alone, Boarman has placed client news in publications ranging from “Self” magazine and “The New York Times,” to the front page of “The Wall Street Journal” and “The Baltimore Sun.

” She also recently finished working on a piece with Maryland Public Television for one of her clients, The Classic Catering People, caterers to the Baltimore Ravens.

Students were inspired by Boarman’s enthusiasm, openness and success.

“I thought she was wonderful,” senior public relations student Kaylee Bythell said. “She was so enthusiastic and helpful in telling us what she does and how she got from where we are to where she is right now.

Boarman’s visit was sponsored by the School of Communication in collaboration with the Department of Student Involvement and Leadership.

School of Communication alum receives Distinguished Alumni Award at CommCrew’s Seventh Annual Spring Reception

Valeria Lassite

Valeria Lassiter, who earned her Communication degree at East Carolina University in 1990, was presented the School of Communication’s Distinguished Alumni Award at a reception on April 20, hosted by the School’s alumni organization, CommCrew.

Lassiter is the founder and president of Lassiter & Associates, LLC, a company specializing in strategic partnerships, development, fundraising, communications, marketing, event management and planning. The firm is based in Chevy Chase, Md.

The Distinguished Alumni Award recognizes alumni with a minimum of four years of work history, outstanding and uncommon achievement in one’s profession, in civic affairs, and/or politics.

“It is an honor for me to receive the Distinguished Alumni Award from the School of Communication. I am deeply appreciative of my experience at ECU,” Lassiter said.

The award was presented at the School of Communication’s Seventh Annual Spring Reception organized by CommCrew, the School’s alumni and supporters’ organization.

Outstanding alum returns to classroom, addresses special interest reporting

carlton purvis

Carlton Purvis, December 2009 Outstanding School of Communication graduate, returned to ECU in September to speak to Dr. Cindy Elmore’s Feature Writing and Basic Reporting students.

After graduation, Carlton worked as a multimedia journalist for The Morning News in Florence, S.C., before making the move to Security Management Magazine, based in Alexandria, Va., where he is assistant editor and web editor.  Today, he does special interest reporting involving the regular, sustained use of data and FOIA requests, primarily focused on biosecurity, bioterrorism and health-related security topics.

“One of the reasons I wanted him to come was because I think a lot of journalism students do not realize the great journalism that can be done at specialty publications,” related Elmore.

John Cooper ’89 Presented Distinguished Alumnus Award

John Cooper

John Cooper, who earned his Communication degree at East Carolina University in 1989, was given the School of Communication’s Distinguished Alumnus Award at a reception Saturday evening, April 21.

Cooper, Deputy Manager of the Live Desk at NBC News Channel in Charlotte, has worked at the NBC news service for more than 20 years. NBC News Channel distributes national and international video news stories to NBC stations around the country. At the Live Desk, Cooper acts as a producer for field reporters.

Last fall, Cooper visited ECU to be the keynote speaker for the fourth annual High School Media Workshop, which the North Carolina Scholastic Media Association co-sponsored.

“John Cooper has been an outstanding supporter of the School of Communication for a number of years, and we are delighted to recognize his significant contributions by giving him the Distinguished Alumnus Award,” said Dr. Linda Kean, director of the School of Communication.

The 6th Annual Spring Reception is organized by CommCrew, the School of Communication’s alumni and supporters’ organization.

Pirate Alum Soaring in Germany

Joel Banjo-Johnson

Like a lot of basketball fans, Joel Banjo-Johnson was looking forward to the opening tipoff of the NCAA basketball season Nov. 9 when UCONN and Michigan State faced off at the Ramstein Air Base in Germany. She was looking forward to it more than most however, as this 2009 East Carolina University Magna Cum Laude graduate, assisted with the planning of the game.

The game aired live on ESPN and ESPN2. Banjo-Johnson, currently the acting Chief of Public Affairs at the base, said it took five months to plan but the event was a success. She is pictured here, about an hour before Sports Center was going to air live.

“I definitely had a lot of fun and all the interviews and coverage turned out well. Everyone learned a little about what we do at Ramstein Air Base,” Banjo-Johnson said. “I’m grateful for these different experiences. I’m completely exhausted afterward but excited as it’s going on. I learned a lot about production behind the scenes and programming.”

Banjo-Johnson said now that her major is deployed she has taken over the position. “I now am the Chief of Public Affairs for the largest wing in the entire Air Force. It’s certainly a challenge but I’m doing well. Hope all is well in Pirate country!”

Two [SOC] Alumnae Find Success Building Their Own Savvy PR Company

Jamie Sigler and Sarah Evans

When two Pirates and best friends packed up their bags, loaded their cars and headed to the West Coast for a warm-weather adventure shortly after graduating, they never imagined that it would lead them to where they are today.

These two alumnae, Jamie Sigler and Sarah Evans, are now the co-founding partner and managing partner, respectively, of J Public Relations, one of the top luxury hospitality and lifestyles public relations firms in the country.

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