Bellisario College Alumni Society honors achievement, excellence and teaching

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Four Penn State alumni and one faculty member were honored for their accomplishments, contributions and success by the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications Alumni Society Board. The five were recognized during a special event and earned awards for their success.

Honorees were:

  • Meredith Topalanchik (class of 1999), Alumni Achievement Award (acceptance speech);
  • Audrey Snyder (class of 2012), Emerging Professional Award (acceptance speech);
  • Lauren Tilstra (class of 2007), Outstanding Alumni Award (acceptance speech);
  • Tom Hayden (class of 1977), Douglas A. Anderson Communications Contributor Award; and
  • Russ Eshleman, Excellence in Teaching Award (acceptance speech).

Topalanchik, managing director of G&S Communications, has 23 years of experience in business-to-business, corporate and consumer product communications. She brings a passion for media and client relations with a strong creative voice as she works with national clients — with partners like Coldwell Banker Real Estate, Jack Daniel’s, Virgin Mobile USA — as well as staff members, focused on matters such as recruiting and onboarding. , office operations and professional development activities.

She is a member of the Public Relations Society of America and has served on the New Leadership Council of the Make-A-Wish Metro New York Chapter. She previously worked at CooperKatz and Freeman Public Relations. She was co-founder of the Bellisario College’s Advertising/Public Relations Alumni Network and is only one of two alumni who have served on that board and the Alumni Society Board.

Snyder is a sports journalist at The Athletic where she covers Penn State football. Snyder previously worked for the Patriot-News in Harrisburg, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and DKPittsburghSports. Her work has been honored by the Football Writers Association of America and the Pennsylvania News Media Association.

Snyder has been an adjunct lecturer at Penn State since 2016 and helped start the University’s student-run chapter of the Association for Women in Sports Media. Snyder graduated from Penn State with degrees in journalism and secondary education English/communications. She was a member of the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism and a staff writer at The Daily Collegian as a student.

Tilstra, chief of staff and executive director of strategic communications for Verizon — a combined position that is the first in Verizon’s 22-year history — reports directly to CEO Hans Vestberg and has built the company’s CEO office and executive committee from the ground up. She is the youngest and most tenured female chief of staff and strategic communications leader in the Fortune 20.

She is tasked with both the strategy and execution of all CEO governance and operations, executive positioning, thought leadership, external Board commitments including the company’s work with UN Foundation, Whitaker Peace and Development Initiative and the World Economic Forum and also supports select internal and investor. messaging. Prior to being tapped to create this department, Tilstra led Executive Communications globally for the firm, a responsibility she maintains today.

Tilstra started with Verizon in 2013 focused on internal and executive communications for its wireless division. She has held several senior roles on the corporate communications team during tenure. Before joining Verizon, Lauren led communications at WarnerMedia, Martha Stewart, and McGraw Hill. She has been honroed by PRWeek as a Global 40 Under 40 recipient.

Hayden is the founder and former president of Smithsonian Networks. He has over 40 years of experience in consumer products and media, beginning with a 12-year career in sales, marketing and business development in various divisions of Kraft General Foods, followed by 32 years with ViacomCBS. Hayden retired from his role with Smithsonian Networks in July 2020. The network is a joint venture between Showtime Networks Inc. (a division of ViacomCBS) and the Smithsonian Institution.

Prior to his role as president of Smithsonian Networks, he served as executive vice president for Showtime’s direct-to-home division with the responsibility for expanding Showtime Networks’ reach and revenue in the satellite and emerging telco businesses. In that role, he was also a member of Showtime’s Operating Committee.

Before joining Showtime, Hayden spent 12 years at Kraft General Foods where held a variety of sales, marketing and business development positions for brands, including Maxwell House Coffee, Jell-O and Oscar Mayer. Along with his bachelor’s degree from Penn State, he earned an MBA from Rockhurst University in Kansas City, Missouri.

Eshleman retired as head of the Department of Journalism in June. Under his direction, the department added multimedia journalism courses, expanded its storytelling efforts and consistently offered hands-on, real-life opportunities to students complement their classroom experiences.

As a faculty member, Eshleman taught depth reporting, news media ethics, reporting methods, feature writing and the news practicum. His depth reporting students consistently placed high in the national Hearst Journalism Awards Program. A former reporter and Pennsylvania statehouse bureau chief with The Philadelphia Inquirer, Eshleman won a Distinguished Writing Award from the American Society of Newspaper Editors in 1992. Two articles honored by that award were reproduced in a 2006 book titled “America’s Best Newspaper Writing: A Collection. of ASNE Prize Winners.”

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