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UT Social Media Week 2019 – Meet the Speakers

Candice Dawkins

Candice Dawkins currently serves as the Communications Director for the Tennessee Republican Party. Candice is a graduate of the University of Tennessee (2015) with a Bachelor of Science degree in Public Administration.  She has served in a variety of positions in the Republican Party including Deputy Communications Director (2016-2017) and state office intern for U.S. Senator Bob Corker (2015).


Emily Harenza

Emily Harenza is the Digital Marketing Manager at AC Entertainment. She leads Emily Harenzadigital strategy for several of North America’s top music festivals and events including Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival, Forecastle Festival, Big Ears Festival, High Water Festival, Moon River Music Festival, and more.


Heather Harrington

Heather Harrington was a standout volleyball player for the University of Tennessee Heather Harringtonbefore making her way over to WNML in 2006. The VFL was a football beat reporter for the station for five seasons and has been a morning show personality the past decade.



Jack Lail

Jack D. Lail is digital manager for Knoxville television station WATE and was a Jack Laillongtime digital director for the Knoxville News Sentinel where he developed digital strategies and lead digital news efforts for 25 years. He serves on the boards of the East Tennessee Society of Professional Journalists and the Tennessee Associated Press Broadcasters and Media Editors. He served eight years on the board of the Associated Press Media Editors.


Jenna Cook

Jenna Cook is a true ATLien having been in the city for nearly 10 years and graduating from Georgia Tech’s Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts. She currently serves as Senior Digital Strategist at MELT Sports/Culinary/Entertainment building digital and social media plans holistically for clients as well as developing strategic pitches for MELT’s new business team. Jenna loves writing, advertising in the digital space and is a real consumer at heart (#notsponsored)


Jenny Woodbery

Jenny Woodbery is a digital media specialist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. SheJenny Woodbery manages the lab’s social media channels and produces short videos to accompany press releases and feature stories. Prior to joining the lab, she managed communications for the Knoxville Chamber and Min H. Kao Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Jenny graduated from UT in 2009 with a double major in journalism and political science.


Joseph Pecor

Joseph Pecor is a Digital Advertising and Marketing Specialist for the UniversityJoe Pecor of Tennessee School of Information Sciences. With more than a decade of experience in various digital advertising roles, including agency work with clients like Microsoft, Toyota, Subway, and Smoothie King, he has a varied background in web development, graphic design, and advertising with a specialty in integrated marketing strategy and execution.


Katie Lee

Katie Lee is the blogger and social media influencer behind Pearls & Twirls, a personal style blog that combines a classic southern style with a quirky, twirl around attitude.



Kristen Combs

Visit Knoxville’s Kristen Combs is the Director of Communications & Social Strategies. Kristen brings 14+ years of experience in the hospitality industry, a strong familiarity with Knoxville and a love for both story-telling and travel.


Spotlight Speaker: Leo Morejon

Leo Morejon is an award-winning marketer (CLIO, Cannes Lions, as well as others),Leo Morejon sales leader, speaker, and content creator, and he attributes his success to always valuing people, relationships and focusing on being a trusted advisor above all else.

His career began in the Emerging Media department at JWT’s New York offices, before joining the Brand Strategy and Emerging Media department at 360i. There he pioneered real-time social media marketing with his work on Oreo, securing the first social media Guinness World Record and the famous Oreo Super Bowl Blackout Tweet, among other notable campaigns. Leo’s professional focus is on how the intersection of different technologies can be leveraged to support both businesses and people. The passion for this space led him to a position at global professional services company Accenture and leadership positions at Expion/Sysomos (enterprise SaaS social media management and research platform). He worked across marketing, change management, and sales. Using his own unique sales methodology focused on storytelling, active listening and being a trusted adviser, Leo secured millions of dollars in business from industry leaders such as Mondelez, Subway, and The Estee Lauder Companies and trained over 200 salespeople. He also spent time in sales and marketing leadership positions for artificial intelligence and blockchain startups.

Today Leo combines his marketing and sales knowledge to help people in both fields reach their full potential by speaking around the world, mentoring, consulting, blogging, and podcasting. Leo also teaches at West Virginia University and Iowa State University.


Twitter: @moreleo  Instagram: @buildandinspire 



Luna Brewer

Luna Brewer is a Social Media Intern at AC Entertainment and a graduating senior Luna Brewerstudying Journalism and Japanese at the University of Tennessee. She helps write social copy for venues like the Bijou, The Signal and the Mill and Mine, but also lends a hand for anyone on the marketing and communications team.



Maria Antoinette

Maria Antoinette launched her digital brand in 2013, after being a stylist. As a hair and lifestyle industry leader, she has worked with such as, Fabletics, P&G, and HGTV Handmade. Maria has a reach of over 350,000 and is the host of two digital series.


Marianne Canada

Marianne Canada serves as an Executive Producer for Discovery, Inc’s Digital Team,Marianne Canada with a focus on their Home and Travel brands. In this role, Canada oversees the production of hundreds of social videos, spearheads talent acquisition and development, and develops talent-driven series across multiple platforms. Marianne also oversees HGTV Handmade, the award-winning YouTube channel. The work Canada’s team produces has led to multiple awards, including Best Use of an Influencer from the Cynopsis Model D Awards. Her work with HGTV and Travel Channel Digital has helped Discovery’s Lifestyle Studios surpass 1 billion videos views each month. In addition to her work behind the camera, she is an on camera host and creator for HGTV Handmade.

Prior to joining Discovery, Inc, Canada was an events director for Red Bull International. She is based in Knoxville, TN.


Mark Harmon

Dr. Mark D. Harmon teaches courses in news writing, news reporting, introduction toMark Harmon journalism and electronic media, communication theory, and public opinion. Dr. Harmon has worked as a TV news producer, radio reporter, and host of a radio news interview program. He is a former congressional candidate and former Knox County Commissioner.


Mary Pom Claiborne

As the Assistant Director for Communications, Development, and Marketing for Mary Pom ClaiborneKnox County Public Library, Ms. Claiborne established the Children’s Festival of Reading to kick off the Summer Library Club. Other projects under Ms. Claiborne’s direction include Movies on Market Square and the Big Read. Ms. Claiborne received her BA in English from Hollins University. She is also an active board member of the Center for Children’s and Young Adult Literature based in Knoxville, TN. She has spent her career in marketing, special events coordination, and public relations.


Michael Sullivan

Michael Sullivan currently serves as the Executive Director of the Tennessee Republican Party. Michael is a graduate of Hanover College (2007) with a Bachelor of Science degree in Political Science.  He has served in a variety of positions in the Republican Party including State Director, Republican National Committee (2015-2016), Deputy Executive Director, Tennessee Republican Party (2012-2015), and Political Director, Tennessee Republican Party (2011-2012).


Rhett Talbert

Rhett Talbert is the Digital Communications Manager at AC Entertainment. She Rhett Talberthandles both digital interactions and organic marketing strategy for multiple accounts, including the Tennessee Theatre, The Mill & Mine, the Bijou Theatre, and beyond. She has also contributed to the execution of on-site festival socials for Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival, Forecastle Festival, Big Ears Festival and more.


Sarah Hollingshead

Sarah Hollingshead, the girl behind Our Vintage Farmhouse! I’m a designer & artist in East Tennessee who loves the sweet South. Painting, decorating & inspiring others are my passions. Harper Grace is my everything & being her mother is the greatest thing ever! My work has been featured on Crate & Barrel, Schoolhouse Electric, Pottery Barn, Country Living Magazine, Anthropologie, Cosmopolitan, Pottery Barn Kids and the Endless Yardsale on GAC Network to name a few. I am truly blessed to have worked with so many amazing companies and people. Sarah is a CCI graduate, with a Communication Studies degree from UTK.


Sarah Zimmerman

Sarah Zimmerman is the communications coordinator / digital media specialist forSarah Zimmerman the UT Libraries. She works as a project manager for its small, in-house communications and marketing team, manages content for digital platforms, and helps coordinate traditional media to tell the story of the Libraries. Sarah brings experience in agency, outdoor education, and non-profit work to the table. A graduate of our very own School of Advertising and Public Relations, Sarah is a proud Vol and is excited to be a part of Social Media Week 2019. You can follow the accounts she manages on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook @UTKLibraries.


Snigdha Dhar

Snigdha Dhar (UTK ’11) currently serves as the Senior Account Executive, Culinary Marketing at MELT, the Atlanta-based, award-winning sports and entertainment marketing agency. Snigdha works on MELT’s digital and social content platforms for clients such as The Coca-Cola Company, Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen, Gildan Apparel and many others. Before joining MELT, she was a Digital Marketing Assistant at the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl where she worked to grow the organization’s digital footprint through daily content generation and engagement during the inaugural year of the College Football Playoff. Prior to making the move to the Peach State, Snigdha served two internships while in grad school, one with the Nashville Sports Council/ Music City Bowl and the other with the NHL Nashville Predators. She received her M.S. in Sport Management from Middle Tennessee State and is a proud VFL with her BS in Communications from The University of Tennessee.


Tristan Watson

Tristan Watson from Montgomery, AL, is a graduate of

Auburn University with a degree in public relations- He is currently serving as a digital and social media coordinator at MELT sports, culinary and entertainment agency in Atlanta where he works with cross-functional teams on projects involving influencer, branded & content marketing. Watson, a former MELT U intern coordinator, has a passion for graphic design, social media and working with inspiring new people in his industry. 


Wes Rucker

Wes Rucker is the Senior Writer at GoVols247, covering Vols for 247Sports/Knoxville News Sentinel. Contributor at WBIR-TV. Paddy rock expert.



Zack Plaster

Zack Plaster currently serves as the Marketing + Communications Specialist at Zack PlasterMcClung Museum of Natural History & Culture. In this role, he is responsible for all digital communications, securing sponsors for programming, coordinating print pieces, & establishing a consistent voice across all channels of communication. Before starting at the museum Zack worked at AC Entertainment as a Digital Interactions Manager on the Festivals Team for events like Bonnaroo, Big Ears, Moon River, Forecastle, High Water, & Homecoming.

In his free-time Zack serves on the Knox Pride Board as the Marketing Chairperson, handles marketing efforts for the Voices Out Loud project, plans pop-up events at the Pilot Light, makes posters at Striped Light, & sings karaoke at Marie’s Old Towne Tavern (which he firmly believes is also a marketing effort).