Insight Summit Series


The sixth annual Corporate Communication Summit (formerly Corporate Communication Commons) features some of the most influential voices in corporate communication.

The emphasis this year: ways in which businesses can keep employees informed, engaged, and motivated, as part of an overall effort to meet individual needs and achieve business goals as responsible members of society.

Here’s the lineup of speakers:

  • Carole Casto
    • Carole Casto – Vice President of Marketing and Communications

    • from Cummins
    • Carole Casto serves as the Vice President of Marketing & Corporate Communications at Cummins where she oversees communication planning, executive speech writing, crisis communications, digital and marketing communications, media relations, internal communications, and visual communications.

      Prior to her communications role, which began in 2012, Carole was the Director of Community Engagement for Cummins, leading the Company’s community engagement efforts around the world. Under Carole’s direction, Cummins increased its commitment to investing in communities worldwide from $10 million annually to approximately $40 million. Carole also served as the Director of Corporate Quality for Cummins for three years, and is a six sigma black belt.

      Before joining Cummins, Carole worked for the State of Indiana, serving as the Chief Operating Officer for the Family and Social Services Administration and Chief Operating Officer of the Department of Environmental Management.

      She is a recipient of the Indianapolis Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 designation and was selected  as one of the top 100 women alumnae from Marquette University as part of their Centennial Celebration of Women in 2009. In 2011, she was a recipient of the Boston College Corporate Citizenship Film Festival Award for her work on a video depicting innovative power generation in India. Carole is a graduate of Marquette University and is a Past President of the Marquette University National Alumni Board.

      Carole is a member of the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce Executive Committee as well as a member of the board of governors for the Indiana Economic Club.

      Carole and her husband, Bill Barnhorst, reside in Indianapolis, Indiana with their son, Leo.

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  • Dr. Rebecca Meisenbach
    • Dr. Rebecca Meisenbach  – Associate Professor

    • from University of Missouri
    • Dr. Rebecca Meisenbach is an associate professor at the University of Missouri. Her research and teaching focuses on organizational communication, organizational advocacy, and organizational identity.  Dr. Meisenbach’s research incorporates a rhetorical approach to analyze the identity management and ethics involved in practices of organizations such as Toyota, the American Red Cross, universities, and those represented in the television show Undercover Boss.  She has published work that looks at organizational ethidcs and corporate social responsibility. Her research has been published in a variety of disciplinary journals including: Communication Monographs, International Journal of Strategic Communication, Human Relations, Journal of Applied Communication Research, Management Communication Quarterly, and Sex Roles. She currently serves on five editorial boards and is the associate editor of the journal Culture and Organization.

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  • Mary Lynn Carver
    • Mary Lynn Carver – Chief Communications Officer

    • from General Mills
    • Mary Lynn Carver has served in a variety of executive communications and public affairs positions for global companies and non-profit organizations, and spent her early career taking a tech start-up public.

      Since 2015, Ms. Carver has served as the Chief Communications Officer and Global Vice President of Corporate Communications at General Mills where she is responsible for global communications strategy, corporate brand, employee and executive communications, as well as product brand PR and crisis communications.

      Just prior to joining General Mills, Mary Lynn spent 6 years in non-profit health care and medical research organizations including serving as Senior Vice President of Communications and Public Affairs for the

      University of Maryland Medical System, a $3+ billion hospital system with unique public-private partnerships, and serving as Senior Vice President of Communications and Public Relations at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, where she led communications strategy work to more effectively link scientific and research communications with fundraising activities and strategic plans. Her work also included launching the global Pediatric Genome Project with St. Jude and Washington University –the largest privately funded pediatric cancer research project in the world.

      Prior to her non-profit work, Mary Lynn held a variety of public affairs and global corporate communications roles in the U.S. and in London with AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals, including serving as the Group Head of Global Internal and Executive Communications, and Executive Director Communications and Corporate Affairs of the Global Oncology Division, where she led communications for the launch of multiple new cancer drugs and indications.

      Ms. Carver earned dual Bachelor Degrees in Communications and Sociology from Southern Methodist University.

      Mary Lynn currently serves on the board of directors for Twin Cities Public Television (PBS) and the American International Health Alliance.

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  • Michael J. Palenchar
    • Michael J. Palenchar – Associate Dean for Academic Affairs

    • from University of Tennessee
    • Michael J. Palenchar (PhD, University of Florida), associate dean for academic affairs, director of graduate studies and associate professor, has three decades of professional and academic public relations experience. Research interests include risk communication, issues management and crisis communication, with specific contextual and industry focus related to chemical and other manufacturing, national security, and community right-to-know issues. 

      His research has been published in numerous journals, including the Journal of Public Relations Research, Public Relations Review, Public Relations Journal, Management Communication Quarterly, and Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management, among others, along with his book co-authored with Robert L. Heath, Strategic Issues Management: Organizations and Public Policy Challenges (2nd edition, Sage). In addition, he has won the National Communication Association Public Relations Division’s Pride Award for top published article in the field of public relations in 2000 and 2007, 18 national/international conferences’ top research paper awards, and the University of Tennessee, College of Communication and Information’s Faculty Research Award in 2008 and Service/Outreach Award in 2009, 2011, and 2014. 

      His professional experience includes working in corporate, nongovernment and agency public relations environments, and he is also a risk communication and issues management research consultant for clients ranging from Fortune 500 companies, to international business associations, to local government and nongovernment agencies. He has also received risk and crisis communication research grants from and worked with the U. S. Department of Homeland Security, National Center for Food Protection and Defense, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Institute for the Study of Issues Management, East Harris County Manufacturers Association, Turkish Food Association, TFC Risk Management Group, and numerous U.S. local emergency planning committees, among others clients. 

      He has presented his research, as well as conducted risk/crisis communication and issues management workshops, throughout the United States as well as China, France, Ecuador, Germany, Turkey, Norway, Spain, Portugal, Belize, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Canada, and Denmark.

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  • Leslie J O'Connell
    • Leslie J O'Connell – Director - Strategic Communications/Corporate

    • from Northwestern Mutual
    • Building belief. Engendering trust. Inspiring advocacy. That’s the heart of what Leslie and her team of communications strategists do to support  and advance Northwestern Mutual’s business goals. Parlaying an ecosystem of communications channels and experiences – from traditional to digital, in-person and event-based, informal and environmental – they cultivate connections with and among stakeholders who matter to the company. The team’s work has been recognized with a variety of awards.

      Since joining Northwestern Mutual in 2002, Leslie has enjoyed the kinetic energy of a company in the midst of accelerating change. She has advanced in corporate communications leadership roles, heading up investments/financial communications; organizational communications; communications strategy and decision support; and creative solutions.  Previously, Leslie served as vice president with the business and technology practice of Edelman Worldwide, a leading global communications firm, directing account teams to design communications strategies for companies in a variety of industries. Leslie has also held corporate communications leadership roles at Quad/Graphics, one of the nation’s largest printers of magazines and catalogues, and she was part of the Integrated Marketing/Creative Strategy team of Pleasant Company, creators of the American Girls Collection.

      In her ongoing professional development, Leslie completed the Arthur W. Page Society’s prestigious Future Leaders experience for rising communications professionals and Northwestern Mutual’s Senior Leader Development Program. A founding member of the Page Society’s Page Up organization, she continues to serve on the Nominating and Operating committees. Leslie is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of The Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C., earning degrees in politics and English.  She also pursued graduate work at Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wis. On a personal note, Leslie and her husband Greg keep on the go with their two teenage daughters. She has practiced Iyengar Yoga for more than 20 years to stay centered and grounded.  She is actively involved with her church as a worship assistant and in volunteer opportunities, with a special interest in food ministry.

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  • Sarah Bonewits Feldner
    • Sarah Bonewits Feldner – Associate Professor and Associate Dean for Graduate Studies and Research

    • from Marquette University
    • Sarah Bonewits Feldner (PhD, Purdue University, 2002) is an Associate Professor and Associate Dean for Graduate Studies and Research in the Diederich College of Communication at Marquette Communication. She teaches in the Corporate Communication and Communication Studies programs. Her research focuses on rhetorical approaches to organizations with a particular emphasis on organizational identity, legitimacy, and corporate social responsibility. Recent publications appear in the International Journal of Strategic Communication and Management Communication Quarterly.

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  • Michael Polzin
    • Michael Polzin – Divisional Vice President – Corporate Communications

    • from Walgreen Co.
    • Michael Polzin is divisional vice president of corporate communications for Walgreen Co., the nation’s largest drugstore chain, headquartered in Deerfield, Illinois. He is responsible for the company’s external communications, including all media relations and public relations activities.

      Polzin joined Walgreens in 1992 as a communications specialist, was promoted to manager of media relations in 1996, director of external communications in 2005 and to director of corporate communications in 2009. He was promoted to his current position in 2010.

      Prior to joining Walgreens, he was the managing editor of The Chicago Bear Report and sports editor at The Lake Geneva (Wis.) Regional News.

      He earned a B.A. in journalism from Marquette University, Milwaukee, in 1985.

      Polzin and his wife, Gail, live in Buffalo Grove, Illinois.

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  • Tom Branigan
    • Tom Branigan – CEO

    • from Branigan Communications
    • As CEO of Branigan Communications, Tom Branigan believes in the transformative power of insight-driven communications. He’s guided companies from nonprofits to Fortune 500s to outstanding business results through insight-based communications.

      Tom has extensive experience in corporate positioning and reputation management. His expertise includes corporate and crisis communications, and employee, investor and labor relations.

      Prior to founding Branigan Communications in 2004, Tom managed global public relations for Fortune 500 Airborne Express and led the corporate public relations practice at Cramer-Krasselt, one of the top independent advertising agencies in the United States.

      He has been a part-time member of Marquette University’s College of Communications faculty since 2005, preparing the next generation of public relations professionals for the real world.

      Tom’s a family guy, first and foremost, and secondly, a music guy. One of Tom’s eternal truths: The Who is the best rock band of this (or any) generation.

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  • Angela Hersil
    • Angela Hersil – Director, Corporate Communications

    • from Rexnord Corporation
    • Angela Hersil serves as Director Corporate Communications at Rexnord where she oversees the corporate communications and community affairs functions, including communications strategy, corporate reputation, philanthropy and volunteerism, issues management media relations, social media and associate communications.

      Angela joined Rexnord in 2015 from SC Johnson.  As Director, Global Public Affairs for SC Johnson, Angela led public relations efforts to enhance corporate reputation among key stakeholders.  Angela also served as Director, Reputation Management for SC Johnson with responsibility for reputation and crisis management.

      Prior to joining SC Johnson, Angela served as Director, Investor Relations and Financial Communications for Whirlpool Corporation. During her tenure with Whirlpool, Angela’s work also included corporate branding, crisis communication and financial media relations. Angela has also held communications positions with Snap-on Incorporated and Omnicare, Inc. (now part of CVS).

      Angela holds a bachelor’s degree in public relations and a master’s degree in business administration from Marquette University. She is a member of the Rexnord Foundation board of directors.

      Angela lives with her husband and three children in Brookfield, Wisconsin.

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  • Rebecca “Becky” Fitzgerald
    • Rebecca “Becky” Fitzgerald – Vice President, Communications

    • from Johnson Controls
    • Becky Fitzgerald is vice president, communications, for Johnson Controls. She oversees internal communications, public relations, thought leadership and executive communications for one of the world’s leading multi-industrial manufacturers of building technologies, energy storage and power solutions.

      Prior to her current role, Becky was vice president, communications, government relations and environmental affairs for the company’s Power Solutions business, where she was responsible for the global communications and environmental affairs strategies for the company’s $6 billion Power Solutions business promoting its market leadership in the production of lead acid automotive batteries and advanced solutions for hybrid and electric vehicles.  She has been a member of the enterprise Communications Leadership Team since 2013, which promotes collaboration across the business units globally to drive strategic media coverage, elevate executive visibility and recognition as global leaders in our industries and markets, and promote the Johnson Controls story through priority external channels.

      Becky started with Johnson Controls in 1999 in corporate communications before moving on to develop and launch Blue Sky, the company’s global public affairs and community involvement program. Prior to joining the company she was media relations manager at Alliance for Children and Families, and before that she was the morning news producer for the NBC station in Madison, Wisconsin.

      Becky earned an EMBA from Marquette University and bachelor’s degrees in Journalism and Spanish from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, with foreign studies in Oaxaca, Mexico. She serves on the Board of Directors for the American Red Cross of Southeast Wisconsin, where she chairs the Philanthropy Committee and is president elect for the 2019-2020 term, as well as on the board for the Milwaukee LGBT Community Center. She is a past board member for the Hispanic Professionals of Greater Milwaukee, past president and senior delegate of the Southeast Wisconsin chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC), and past member of the United Way Emerging Leader Council. She has been a big sister through Big Brothers, Big Sisters, and has been a past member of the Milwaukee Metro United Way communication committee.

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