Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the communicator’s role has evolved, and digital communication has increased tenfold.

This virtual event will leave attendees with a better understanding of the current communication challenges practitioners face and better equip them to begin their careers as the next generation of communicators.

Questions about the panel discussion can be directed to Nina Knauf at nross@wsuprssa.org.

Speakers

Peter Van Dyke

Jeff Adkins

Chrystal Wilson

Tracey Lynn Pearson

Alexander Sebastian


About the Speakers

Peter Van Dyke

CEO, Van Dyke•Horn

Moderator

Peter Van Dyke is CEO of Van Dyke•Horn, Michigan’s largest minority-owned public relations firm. He heads a 14-person team in Detroit and Lansing to provide leading communications services to the company’s 50-plus clients annually, which range from global corporations to local charitable organizations. Formerly named Berg Muirhead, Van Dyke•Horn has a 22-year history serving clients globally from its Detroit headquarters. 

After 10 years serving Berg Muirhead’s growth, Peter acquired the company and formed Van Dyke Horn Public Relations with his partner Marilyn Horn, the company’s president and CFO.  Since acquiring the company in 2016, under Peter’s leadership, Van Dyke Horn’s team and revenue have tripled.

Peter is a Detroit resident and deeply involved in serving his local community. He serves on the board of visitors for Wayne State University’s College of Fine, Performing and Communication Arts, and on the boards the Detroit Public Theatre, Michigan Humane, serving on their executive committees, and the Marche du Nain Rouge, as its treasurer.  He is also on the honorary board for the Detroit Artists Market, where he served as chair.

He graduated with honors with a bachelor’s degree in public relations from Wayne State University, where he started the school’s Public Relations Student Society of America chapter and received the college’s Jeanine Gregory Award for Public Relations Leadership. 

Tracey Lynn Pearson

Deputy Media Relations Director, City of Detroit

Panelist

Tracey currently serves as the Deputy Media Relations Director for the City of Detroit within the Duggan administration.

Tracey has worked in the public relations and marketing industry since 2008. The early part of her career was spent cutting her teeth at GlobalHue, working on the 2010 Census media, Talmer Bank & Trust/Free Press Race PR, and Wal-Mart. She has also worked very closely with community and economic development organizations, including Flint and Genesee Chamber of Commerce, Flint Community Schools, Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC)/PlanetM, Ann Arbor Spark and the American Center for Mobility (ACM).

Her client portfolio has required her to collaborate work with almost every level of political office. This includes organizing visits on behalf of my clients from dignitaries such as U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr., U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao, and running media relations point supporting President Donald J. Trump’s visit to ACM and many senators and congress representatives.

Chrystal Wilson

Assistant Superintendent of Communications, Detroit Public Schools Community District

Panelist

Chrystal Wilson serves as the Assistant Superintendent of Communications for Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD), Michigan’s largest public education system. With more than 15 years of experience in her field, Ms. Wilson has led DPSCD through a successful leadership transition and re-brand while executing strategic communications for high-level crisis situations, community engagement, media relations and political advocacy.

In her previous work, she served in the role of press secretary for DPS and the Education Achievement Authority of Michigan, managing crisis communications and media relations. While working at Michigan’s most prominent public relations agencies, Ms. Wilson’s public relations experience spans through education, automotive, entertainment, and consumer goods industries. In 2013, The Michigan Chronicle highlighted her as one of 40 under 40 making a difference in Detroit. She was also inducted into the 2019 Michigan Chronicle’s Women of Excellence cohort.

Born and raised in Detroit, she is a proud graduate of Osborn High School and Wayne State University, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism. When not helping students to rise, Ms. Wilson enjoys traveling with her husband and spending time in the city she calls home.

Alexander Sebastian

Director of Communications & Philanthropy, The Guidance Center

Panelist

Al Sebastian is the Director of Communications & Philanthropy for The Guidance Center, a $43-million budget human services agency serving all of Wayne County with the mission: Nurture development. Foster resilience. Cultivate well-being. He joined the non-profit organization in 2006. Prior to that, Sebastian was the Development and Communications Officer at Starfish Family Services for two years.

While he has spent the last 16 years in leadership positions in the non-profit industry, Sebastian spent the 20 years prior to that in corporate America, working 16 of those years for the Ilitch organization in Detroit. He spent eight years as the Director of Community Affairs & Public Relations for Ilitch Holdings, Inc. For the eight years prior to that was the Director of Media Relations & Publications for Little Caesar Enterprises, Inc.

He began his public relations career in 1985 at PR Associates, Inc. in Detroit, at the time one of the two largest public relations firms in the city. Sebastian earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism, with a concentration in Public Relations, from Wayne State University in Detroit in 1985.

He is a cantor, volunteer and member of the Finance Council at Mother of Divine Mercy Parish (Sweetest Heart of Mary Church and St. Josaphat) in Detroit. Sebastian has been married to Sandra (also a WSU alumna) for 33 years and is the father of four sons and the grandfather of three.

Jeff Adkins

Senior Public Relations Specialist, Henry Ford Health System

Panelist

Jeff Adkins is a senior public relations specialist at Henry Ford Health System. He provides strategic communications planning and execution as the lead PR representative for ten departments throughout the organization.

Jeff is a member of the Board of Directors for PRSA Detroit and serves as chair of PRSA Detroit’s programming committee. In this role, he leads a committee responsible for coordinating professional development, networking and other events for PRSA Detroit’s 300 members.

In addition, Jeff provides professional development guidance for PR students at Wayne State University and enjoys coming back to campus to guest lecture. He graduated from Wayne State University in 2014 with a Bachelor of Arts in Public Relations.

Register for this Free Panel Discussion!

Questions about the panel discussion can be directed to Nina Knauf at nross@wsuprssa.org.