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WRTC Alumni Council Advisory Board

Members of the inaugural WRTC AC board were selected by the faculty of WRTC. Alumni interested in serving on the board or being part of alumni activities should contact

Elizabeth Sonnenberg, Chair

B.S., Technical and Scientific Communication (Publications Management), Nutrition minor, James Madison University, 2007

M.S., Technical and Scientific Communication (Outstanding Graduate Student), James Madison University, 2009

As a TSC graduate student, Elizabeth (Holena) Sonnenberg served as the Vice President and Social Chair for the JMU Chapter of the Society for Technical Communication and as the student representative to the School of Writing, Rhetoric and Technical Communication Steering Committee. Elizabeth is serving as the first chairperson of the WRTC Alumni Council.

Elizabeth is a Senior Change Management Analyst at Engility in Arlington, Virginia. Elizabeth is a member of the Business Analysis and Management Support Services (BAMSS) II Team supporting the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) Division of Information Technology (DIT) as it implements new software and business processes across the Corporation. She supports all change management efforts with the Information Management and Compliance (IMAC) Program, which seeks to ensure that the FDIC is fully organized to store, track and retrieve all information necessary to fulfill its mission and efficiently meet its obligations to respond to e-discovery and other demands for paper and electronically stored information. Elizabeth has supported the IMAC Outreach and Change Management Project by facilitating Records and Information Management (RIM)-related behavior change throughout the FDIC.

Elizabeth resides with her husband and son in Falls Church, Virginia.

Melissa Boyer, Vice Chair

B.A., Technical and Scientific Communication (Public Sector), Creative Writing minor, James Madison University, 2008

M.S., Writing, Rhetoric and Technical Communication, James Madison University, 2010

Melissa (Pfau) Boyer is a Double Duke who earned the Outstanding Student Award at the completion of both degrees. She was a member of the JMU Student Chapter of the Society for Technical Communication for five years and served as the Public Relations Manager during her first year in graduate school.

Melissa currently works as a technical writer and editor for the KEYW Corporation, a company that delivers cybersecurity and geospatial intelligence solutions to U.S. government and commercial customers. She has leveraged her training in publications management, document design and editing to pursue her new career path of project and program management, where she enjoys being able to develop and set the tone for a team's communication strategy and overall brand while leading a team. She lives near Baltimore, MD with her husband, daughter and Maltese-Poodle.

Lindsay Cannaday, Publications Manager

B.A., Technical and Scientific Communication (Online Publications), James Madison University, 2009

M.A., Writing, Rhetoric and Technical Communication, James Madison University, 2011

Lindsay has been with Magellan Health Services in the Richmond area for a little over two years as a Senior Technical Writer, leading a team of four technical writers. Her team specializes in reviewing all documentation (for internal as well as client-facing purposes) to ensure compliance and branding standards have been met. The types of documentation include newsletters, training manuals, drug lists, clinical criteria, and provider and member materials.

Lindsay enjoys her job because every day is a new challenge in meeting the customer’s needs. Through her experiences and education in WRTC, Lindsay is able to apply industry-standard techniques to ensure effective communication.

Kristi Shackelford, Parliamentarian

M.A., Technical and Scientific Communication, James Madison University, 2000

Kristi worked for a publishing company for several years after completing her undergraduate degree. She returned to graduate school at JMU in 1999 and never left. After serving as an editor at JMU for several years, Kristi was named director of Academic Policy and Curriculum Development. In this role she oversees the curriculum and instruction process as well as developing and editing university policies. Her office publishes the undergraduate and graduate catalogs and maintains websites for areas within the Division of Academic Affairs.

She is a graduate adjunct faculty member in the School of Writing, Rhetoric and Technical Communication, where she teaches courses including Publication Management, User Documentation and Professional Editing. She lives in Harrisonburg, VA with her husband.

David Ahearn

B.A., Technical and Scientific Communication, James Madison University, 1998

B.A., English, James Madison University, 1998

M.E., Systems Engineering, University of Virginia

David was the first undergraduate student to complete the Technical and Scientific Communication major. The founder of BluestoneLogic, a systems engineering and design firm in Washington, D.C., David engages directly with civil and military situational awareness and intelligence, as well as planning and execution principals, program stakeholders and acquisition officials, to assure effective technology market analysis, product integration and solutions deployment. The firm applies systems engineering, quantitative modeling and design experience within the Department of Defense and civil agencies to facilitate an environment of strategic innovation within each BluestoneLogic partnership. The firm's ethos is grounded in the pursuit of innovation and systems optimization, mission-focused design, and objective-realization for federal agencies.

David is active in the AFCEA-DC and the International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE).  Additionally, he serves on the James Madison University President’s Council, supports the Corcoran College of Art and Design, the Washington Ballet, and the Duke Club.

Prior to founding BluestoneLogic, David worked as a program manager, chief engineer, systems engineer, and systems support engineer for Northrop Grumman and Inter-National Research Institute (INRI) over the span of a 13-year career. 

Melody Behnam

B.B.A., Economics, WRTC Minor (Prelaw), James Madison University, 2005

J.D., Financial Services concentration, New York Law School, 2011

Melody is a part the first class of Writing and Rhetoric minors. After graduating from JMU, she worked as a consultant for BearingPoint's Finance, Risk and Compliance department in New York City. Servicing industry leaders such as JP Morgan and Lehman Brothers, she spent three years gaining practical insight into the field of finance. However, it wasn't until the 2008 credit crisis, combined with her work at FINRA, the regulator of the New York Stock Exchange and the NASDAQ, that she found her calling to work in financial regulations. She went to New York Law School to develop her legal and writing skills as well as build her experience through internships including the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Association and NYLS's Securities Arbitration Clinic and working in-house at a dual mutual fund broker-dealer.

Melody now reviews broker-dealers for securities violations in FINRA's Sales Practice Cycle Examination Program. Having the encouragement of the WRTC program has helped shape her career in legal writing.

Cindy Grove Chiarello 

M.A., Writing, Rhetoric and Technical Communication, James Madison University, 2012

Cindy works as a Coordinator in University Planning to support various departments, committees and individuals involved with the university planning process, including a recent successful SACSCOC Reaffirmation Visit. Her office is now focused on supporting JMU’s new strategic plan for 2014-2020.

Outside of JMU, Cindy accepts clients as an independent editor and writing consultant. She has editing experience in a broad range of genres including professional projects, academic documents and articles for trade publications, and enjoys working with non-native English writers and editing for non-native English audiences.

Carrie Combs 

B.S., Technical and Scientific Communication (Writing and Rhetoric minor), James Madison University, 2007

M.S., Technical and Scientific Communication, James Madison University, 2009

Carrie (Teichert) Combs works in the Advancement Division of James Madison University as the Director of College Engagement. 

Christy Chilton

Christy Chilton

B.A., Technical and Scientific Communication (Web Publications), Writing and Rhetoric minor, James Madison University, 2010

M.A., Writing, Rhetoric and Technical Communication, James Madison University, 2012

Christy is currently working for as an Online Taxonomy Analyst, She lives in Charlotte, NC.

Tiffany Griffin

B.S., Technical and Scientific Communication, James Madison University, 2006

B.S., Media Arts and Design, James Madison University, 2006

M.A., Technical and Scientific Communication, James Madison University, 2008

Tiffany Griffin is a Double Duke who earned the Outstanding Graduate Student Award. At JMU, Tiffany was an active participant in the Society for Technical Communication, serving as public relations manager during her first year in graduate school, and president during her second.

Tiffany currently works as a portfolio manager for the Department of the Navy in Washington, DC, and resides in Alexandria, VA. In her position, she is responsible for managing the organization’s portfolio management process, which includes the budget, acquisition and communication strategies that support corporate governance practices.

Brandi Harrigan

B.A., International Affairs, Focus in Middle Eastern/African Studies James Madison University, 2009

M.S., Writing, Rhetoric and Technical Communication, James Madison University, 2011

Brandi (Mooring) Harrigan is a "Double Duke" who graduated from James Madison University (JMU) in 2009 with a minor in Writing and Rhetoric. As a graduate student, she pursued a concentration in health studies. During her graduate program, she was a mentor for Big Brothers Big Sisters, served as the Graduate Student Coordinator for WRTC Communication Symposium and was on the Advertising Planning Committee for the Harrisonburg Autism 5k Race. She also served as the graduate assistant supporting public affairs for JMU's College of Business.

Since receiving her master's degree, Brandi works as a senior business development specialist and proposal manager for Manufacturing Techniques, a woman-owned small business.  MTEQ is a government contractor providing full spectrum support with technical services and rapid prototyping solutions to U.S. Government and commercial customers.

Garrett Hooe

B.A., Political Science, Writing and Rhetoric minor, James Madison University, 2006

J.D. (magna cum laude), University of Richmond, School of Law, 2012

Garrett knew that he wanted to be a lawyer, and he knew that writing was important for lawyers, so the program was a natural fit. While at the University of Richmond, he was Editor-in-Chief of the Richmond Journal of Global Law and Business. He clerked for Justice Donald W. Lemons of the Supreme Court of Virginia after graduation.

Garrett lives and works in Richmond.

Julie Kunkel

B.A., Political Science, Writing and Rhetoric minor, James Madison University, 2006

J.D., New England School of Law, 2011, Admitted to the Massachusetts Bar November, 2011

Julie focused her efforts during law school on criminal law (specifically criminal prosecution), interning at the Massachusetts Attorney General's Office (Boston, MA), Suffolk County District Attorney's Office (Boston, MA) and the Berks County District Attorney's Office (Reading, PA).  After law school she worked in two temporary investigative positions both at the Massachusetts Attorney Generals Office and at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission before starting as an Assistant District Attorney for the Middlesex District Attorney's Office in July 2012.

Julie currently prosecutes criminal cases in both District Court and Juvenile Court in Middlesex County.

Nicole Lee

B.S., Communication Studies, James Madison University, 2009

M.S., Writing, Rhetoric and Technical Communication, James Madison University, 2011

Nicole works at the Association of American Medical Colleges as the Web & MSAR Content Specialist. In this role, Nicole develops and edits new content for the Official Guide to Medical School Admissions guidebook and ebook, and collaborates with medical school admissions deans and AAMC staff to publish school-specific data on the Medical School Admission Requirements site. Nicole also works with the Aspiring Docs team where she creates content for K-16 aspiring doctors including Fact Sheets, blog posts, and Inspiring Stories.

Although her office is in D.C., Nicole teleworks from Tallahassee, FL, where she lives with her husband and two cats.

Nicole Martorana

B.A., Media Arts and Design (Digital Video), Writing and Rhetoric minor, James Madison University, 2007

Nicole Martorana is a writer, photographer, and filmmaker living in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Since graduation, Nicole has consulted and worked for organizations in the arts, education, government, non-profit, technology, and tourism and enjoys working with people invested in their communities. She has produced, curated, and participated in photography and mixed media exhibits, created short films for the local Super Gr8 Film Festival, founded the Harrisonburg chapter of the global Ignite initiative, developed and led writing and photography workshops for the Virginia Residential Governor's School for the Humanities, and directed and co-created the LOVEworks Harrisonburg public art sculpture. She has also partnered with and guest-lectured in a number of JMU WRTC classes and managed many interns from the program.

Nicole currently serves as the Promotions Manager for Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance and the Editor of its Do Downtown blog. 

Raphael Perrino

B.S., Technical and Scientific Communication, James Madison University, 2007

M.S., Technical and Scientific Communication, James Madison University, 2009

Raphael currently works as an Aerospace Analyst for The Tauri Group in support of the Strategic Investments Division of the Office of the Chief Financial Officer (OCFO) at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in Washington, D.C. In 2010, he co-founded a science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)-centered non-profit organization, Friends of Arlington's David M. Brown Planetarium. Raphael led online operations for the non-profit and helped raise over $430,000 to save the planetarium from closure. He currently serves on the Board of Directors, coordinating speaking engagements, NASA star parties and monthly public programs. In response to the proposed cancellation of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) in 2011, he founded saveJWST, leading a successful, international grassroots effort to mobilize support and restore funding to the telescope. In August 2014, Perrino was published in the conference proceedings of the AIAA Space and Astronautics Forum and Exposition (SPACE 2014) and presented “Is JFK-Style Leadership the Catalyst?” at the conference in San Diego, California.

Raphael is currently pursuing an M.A. in International Science and Technology Policy with a focus in Space Policy at The George Washington University.

Keitha Truong

B.A., Technical and Scientific Communication, James Madison University, 2007

M.A., Writing, Rhetoric and Technical Communication, James Madison University, 2009

While at JMU, Keitha (Harmon) Truong was a member of the JMU Student Chapter of the Society for Technical Communication from 2004-2009, and over the years she served as secretary, vice president and president. She is currently working at Jenzabar, a higher education software company, as a Technical Documentation Specialist in the Learning and Development department. She is responsible for content management, document design, technical writing/editing and organizing training facets for clients.

In addition to working at Jenzabar, she continues her love of teaching by working with the School of Writing, Rhetoric and Technical Communication where she is an adjunct faculty member teaching first-year writing. She lives in Harrisonburg, VA, with her husband.

Bret Zawilski

M.A., Writing, Rhetoric and Technical Communication, James Madison University, 2011

Bret Zawilski is a third-year Ph.D. student in Rhetoric and Composition at Florida State University, where he has worked as a tutor in the FSU Digital Studio and as an instructor of upper-level courses in the Editing, Writing, and Media program. Currently, he serves as the Editorial Assistant for College Composition and Communication. While at James Madison University, he taught courses in First-Year Composition and Technical Communication. His research interests revolve around new media composition, multimodality, and the role of material awareness in knowledge transfer and rhetorical praxis.

Outside of the academy, he dabbles in writing science fiction, photography and the saxophone. He lives in Tallahassee, FL, with his wife.


Executive Board 

The Executive Board of the WRTC AC consists of the following officer positions:

  • Chair
  • Vice Chair
  • Secretary
  • Publications Manager
  • Parliamentarian

To be an eligible candidate for an Executive Board position, a WRTC alumnus or alumna must be a member of the WRTC AC and must have attended at least half of the WRTC AC meetings and events for the previous academic year, according to the records of the Secretary. The candidate must be an active member who contributes to the purpose and goals of the organization.

Original Executive Board Terms of Office


Term Length

Term Start

Term End



Fall 2013

Spring 2016

Vice Chair


Fall 2013

Spring 2015



Fall 2013

Spring 2014

Publications Manager


Fall 2013

Spring 2014



Fall 2013

Spring 2014

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