As founder and president of Wilks Communications Group (WCG), Gardi Ipema Wilks sets the organization’s strategic vision and actively leads client work across the food, nonprofit and corporate sectors. Her primary focus is to advance consumer marketing and multi-channel initiatives that drive brand visibility and stakeholder engagement, build sales, and support client growth strategies. Gardi is former chair of Housing Forward, a nonprofit organization ending homelessness in west Cook County, IL. She has a master’s degree from Ball State University, where she served as an adjunct professor in the journalism department, and a bachelor’s degree from Calvin College.
Brad WilksManaging Director
Managing Director Brad Wilks oversees business-to-business marketing, corporate, financial and crisis communications for WCG clients. He previously headed the Chicago and Midwest offices of several major public relations agencies, including MSLGROUP, Ogilvy Public Relations and Sard Verbinnen & Company. He has a master’s degree from Ball State University and a bachelor’s degree from Indiana University.
Sarah HintzeVice President of Consumer and Food
Sarah Hintze is Vice President of Consumer and Food at WCG helping to oversee a number of consumer and food accounts. With more than 10 years of experience she has led award-winning campaigns for GoPro, Kalahari Resorts and Oscar Mayer. Prior to joining the firm, she spearheaded numerous communications marketing programs at Edelman including Super Bowl activities for Nationwide and cause marketing efforts for the Kimberly-Clark Huggies brand. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communication from the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee with a minor in political science.
Greg AvdoianVice President of Corporate and Non-profit
Greg Avdoian is Vice President of Corporate and Non-profit at WCG. He has both agency and corporate experience building brands, providing strategic counsel and demonstrating public relations value in the client marketing mix. He has developed and executed programs involving media relations, content creation, social media, employee engagement, marketing communications and franchise relations and development. Greg has worked with a broad array of CPG clients including Tyson Foodservice/Convenience, HanesBrands, Barclays, Fortune Brands, Conagra Brands, Make-A-Wish, Checkers & Rally’s Restaurants, Constellation Brands, among others. Prior to joining WCG, he held senior positions at O’Malley Hansen Communications, No Limit Agency, Accuquote, Fishman Public Relations and Jam Theatricals.
Ashley RickertDirector of Marketing Communication and Digital Solutions
Ashley Rickert is Director of Marketing Communication and Digital Solutions at WCG leading social media and influencer programs for clients across the firm. Prior to joining the team, she worked at Weber Shandwick supporting food, beverage, beauty and telecommunications brands such as Kellogg’s, Bud Light, Unilever, and TracFone. She has experience developing strategies and plans that focus on the effective use of social media, developing engaging content and building relationships with key influencers. Ashley has a bachelor’s degree in communication from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
Bozena LuczakVice President of Operations
Bozena Luczak brings years of project management experience to her role as Vice President of Operations. She is the go-to person for all operational aspects of the business. Bozena has a bachelor’s degree in computer information systems and business management from National Louis University.
Jessica PatrickAccount Supervisor
Jessica Patrick is an Account Supervisor at Wilks Communications Group, supporting media relations and social media and influencer programs across the firm. Prior to joining the team, she worked at FleishmanHillard supporting consumer product goods brands in the food, beverage and retail space such as Quaker Oats, Tropicana, Ulta Beauty, Lands’ End and Tootsie Roll. She has experience in developing media relations strategies and plans that integrate social and digital efforts to help elevate brand voice and support product launches and campaigns. Additionally, she has experience supporting crisis communications, spokesperson management and event planning. Jessica has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology with a minor in Business Administration from the University of Connecticut.
Jenny PhanSenior Account Executive
Jenny is a Senior Account Executive at Wilks Communications Group. She has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Northwestern University, where, as a student, she co-founded NU’s first culinary arts student-run organization. Prior to joining WCG, she held a number of marketing, development and communications positions in corporate food service, local restaurant and nonprofit organizations. She has experience in graphic design, event planning and systems optimization, as well as website and social media management. In her work with food businesses, she specialized in community collaborations, sustainability and strategic branding. Jenny organizes pop-up dinner events with industry friends around the city and is a proud plant & dog mom.
Parker Schwartz IISenior Account Executive
Parker is a Senior Account Executive at Wilks Communications Group. He is a 2017 graduate of East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, TN where he completed a master’s degree in Strategic Communication. At ETSU, Parker served as the Graduate Assistant for the “Buccaneer Sports Network,” the institution’s sports broadcasting wing. His prior professional work experience includes broadcast/media relations stints in professional baseball with three different teams including the Kane County Cougars located in Geneva, IL. Parker graduated from DePauw University in Greencastle, IN in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in both communications and political science.
Samantha DavisAccount Executive
Samantha is an Account Executive at Wilks Communications Group supporting food and consumer and nonprofit accounts. She is a graduate of Florida State University where she obtained bachelor degrees in English and Psychology. While at Florida State, she served as News Editor for the school’s independent newspaper and completed internships in Public Relations and Marketing.
Justin BiblerAssistant Account Executive
Justin Bibler is an Assistant Account Executive at Wilks Communications Group supporting a variety of food and non-profit clients. He is a recent graduate of the University of Chicago with a bachelor’s degree in Cinema and Media Studies. When he is not at work, you can either find him in his kitchen trying a new recipe he discovered or biking on Chicago’s Lake Shore Trail.
Kelly HillAssistant Account Executive
Kelly Hill is an Assistant Account Executive at Wilks Communications Group, working primarily on nonprofit clients. She has a bachelor’s degree from Colorado State University with a major in Communication Studies and a double minor in Political Science and International Development. Kelly has significant prior previous experience in public affairs, including interning with a U.S. Congressman, a State Representative, and a State Attorney General. She has experience writing fact sheets, social media management, speech writing, and organizing community engagement. Kelly enjoys staying active outdoors and will never pass up an opportunity to go skiing, hiking, kayaking, or backpacking.
Kathryn GlasshoffMedia Relations
Katie Glasshoff is Manager of Media Services at WCG. An Emmy award-winning television news reporter and anchor, Katie has more than a decade’s worth of experience in local broadcast markets around the country. She has extensive experience in media relations and crisis communications. Katie is a graduate of Western Kentucky University, where she has a bachelor’s degree in in Journalism and Spanish. She loves seeking out new restaurants with her husband and spending quality time with their dog, Scrambles.
McKenzie SmithAssistant Account Executive
McKenzie Smith is an Assistant Account Executive at Wilks Communication Group, focusing on nonprofit and consumer clients. She is a graduate of the University of Alabama (Roll Tide!) with a major in Public Relations and a minor in Psychology. Before joining the team, McKenzie worked as a Development and Communications Intern for Make-A-Wish Alabama. Her experience ranges from press release writing, to social media management and other various marketing efforts. When not at work, McKenzie enjoys exploring the city of Chicago and keeping up with industry trends.
Julia JosephGraphic Designer
Julia is a designer at WCG, creating compelling visuals for clients across the firm. Julia’s design philosophy is committed to the intersection of logic and aesthetic. She was trained at Parsons–the New School for Design in New York where she earned a degree in Design and Management. Prior to joining WCG, she worked as a design strategist and creative leader for consulting firms, as an in-house designer, front-end developer, and a business owner with extensive experience executing and managing soup-to-nuts digital and print initiatives. Outside of work, Julia enjoys yoga, baking, crossword puzzles, and her dog Noodle.
Alissa MuttonAdministrative Assistant
Alissa is an Administrative Assistant, primarily offering support to the VP of Operations, but also assisting the other WCG teams as necessary. Alissa earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing from Mercyhurst College, and has since gained experience in several different industries. From writing content at an invention company to managing over 1,200 programs and client accounts at an organic landscape company, her diverse career path has fortified and broadened her knowledge and skill sets. Outside of the office, Alissa can be found pirouetting in dance classes, writing in a coffee shop, or baking for her friends and family.
Daniel Skinner is an intern with WCG, and is currently a student at Trinity International University in Deerfield where he is finishing his bachelor’s degree in English/Communications. He served as editor-in-chief for the Trinity Digest, his college paper, for 2 ½ years, where he wrote hard news, community features, and movie and theater reviews. He also acted as Communications Assistant for his university for 3 years, contributing to the Trinity Magazine and university newsroom as content creator and copyeditor. Outside of the world of writing, Daniel spends most of his free time acting, singing, playing Pokémon Go and other videogames with friends and family, and creating narrative-based “roleplay” videos on YouTube.
Laura Blank provides consulting on behalf of a broad spectrum of clients at Wilks Communications Group, where she offers high level strategy counsel and implementation for programs that include fundraising, media outreach, integrated marketing communications and events. For the past 10 years she has been a senior member of the World Vision media team where she was responsible for numerous high-profile capital campaigns, year-end appeals, and other marketing activities. Laura is a strategic thinker who works collaboratively with clients to develop the most impactful program. Earlier in her career she was a television news producer at CNN and NY1 News in New York City, and has made numerous appearances on ABC, NBC, FOX, and CNN as well as local media throughout the country. She is an Accredited Public Relations (APR) professional through the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). She and her husband live in North Carolina and have two daughters.
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