Regional Vice Presidents

Debbie DuFrene
Vice President Southwestern United States
Stephen F. Austin State University
Term: 2015-2019

Debbie DuFreneDebbie DuFrene is Professor of Business Communication and Chair of the Department of General Business at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas, where she also serves as Assistant Dean for Assessment. She holds the bachelors and masters degrees from Nicholls State University, and the doctorate from University of Houston. Debbie has been a member of ABC since 1985 and has served as president, vice-president/program chair, and secretary-treasurer for the ABC Southwest U.S. region. She is a regular presenter at ABC conferences and has published several articles in BCQ, along with a host of other publications. She is coauthor of Business Communication (Cengage, 2008) and Building High Performance Teams (Cengage, 2008) and co-sponsor of the Meada Gibbs Outstanding Teaching Award for ABC.


Sandra Sepúlveda
Vice President Caribbean, Mexico, Central and South America
University of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras
Term: 2012-2020


Sandra SepulvedaDr. Sandra Sepúlveda is a specialist in Latin-American and Puertorican Literature. Professor of Business Communication and Literature for twenty four years at the University of Puerto Rico, she also teaches Writing. In the last five years, she has participated in various research conferences and congresses in the United States, Argentine, Chile, Costa Rica, Canada and Puerto Rico presenting papers on the communication processes, culture, globalization and communication, and new technologies and classroom. In October 2006 she participated in the 71st Annual International Convention of the Association for Business Communication celebrated in San Antonio, Texas, with the paper titled Intercultural and Global Business Communication in Puerto Rico. Recently besides her research and teaching responsibilities, she has worked as Vice President of Academic Affairs in National University College, Academic Dean in "Escuela de Artes Plásticas de Puerto Rico", Associate Academic Dean in "Centro de Estudios Avanzados de Puerto Rico y el Caribe", and Associate Academic Dean in the School of Business Administration of the University of Puerto Rico. She is developing an electronic journal and the first issue will be published in 2012.

Erika Darics
Vice President Europe, Africa and Middle East
Aston University
Term: 2016-2020


Darics.pngDr. Erika Darics is an Assistant Professor of Applied Linguistics at Aston University, Birmingham, UK, and a consultant for organizations on internal and external communication issues. 

She is an interdisciplinary scholar working at the intersection of applied linguistics, business communication and computer-mediated discourse analysis. Her published work has appeared in scientific journals including the Journal of Politeness Research and the IJBC, where her article on Instant Messaging in virtual work was nominated for Outstanding article in 2015. 

Erika is very passionate about business communication, specifically how linguistics intersects with business communication and professional discourse. Her recent edited volume on Digital Business Discourse (Palgrave) and her monograph Writing Online: A guide to effective digital communication at work (Business Expert Press) make an articulated effort to demonstrate the usefulness of combining applied linguistics with business communication research and education. She is currently writing a textbook for undergraduates entitled Language and Business.  

Apart from her keen interest in how linguistics can be used in the teaching and research of business communication, she is also committed to make the discipline better known and wider acknowledged in Europe. Driven by this commitment, she is leading a new interdisciplinary joint honors program BSc Business management and English Language at Aston University, contributes to the work of the editorial board of Discourse, Context and Media, and leads the project that aims to establish a European network of professional and business communication scholars. She is particularly passionate about raising greater awareness of the importance of soft skills and communication in business contexts, and believes that the Vice Presidency of Europe, Africa, and the Middle East region will allow her to achieve this noble goal, through the promotion of the association, its work, and its supportive community. 


Kristin “Kris” Pickering
Vice President Southeastern United States
Tennessee Technological University
Term: 2015-2019

Pickering.jpgKristin Pickering is professor of English at Tennessee Technological University (TTU), where she directs the Professional Communication Program. As part of this Program, she also manages a general education, oral communication course, “Communicating in the Professions,” which she designed with a focused team-presentation approach. Kristin teaches core Professional Communication courses in the Program, including courses in Business Ethics and Technical Writing, some of which are taught online. At TTU, Kristin also directs internships in Professional Communication and Web Design, fostering connections between industry and students. She also participates in the processes of regional accreditation for the University and self studies/assessment for the English Department.

Kristin’s research interests focus on disciplinary communication, genre theory, and activity theory; these focuses emerged from her dissertation research, which was based on communication in engineering. Another research interest is identity construction within workplace settings and the process of emotion management within those settings; consulting within industry has prompted this interest. She has published refereed articles in a variety of journals, including BPCQ, as well as conference proceedings, book chapters, and other scholarly/academic publications.

An active member of ABC since 1999, Kristin continues to serve on ABC’s Student Competition Committee as well as the MLA Liaison Committee.

Vice President Asia and the Pacific
University of Queensland
Term: 2014-2022

Yunxia ZhuYunxia Zhu, Ph.D., Associate Professor in strategy of University of Queensland Business School, is an award-winning researcher and educator. Her research interests focus on cross-cultural management, and communication and organizational discourse. She has published extensively in these areas and her work has appeared in books, book chapters and prestigious international journals such as the Journal of Business Ethics, Academy of Management Learning and Education, Management International Review, Journal of Management Inquiry, Discourse & Communication, Discourse Studies, Discourse & Society, Text, and Journal of Business and Technical Communication, to name a few.  In 2013, her paper was a  finalist for the best paper award in the Academy of Management Learning and Education division.  

Dr. Zhu currently serves as Chair of the Publications Board of the Association for Business Communication. At the University of Queensland Business School, she coordinates the MBA program in cross-cultural and international management. She also has extensive consulting experience with corporations, private education providers and government agencies in Australia, New Zealand, and China.

Her communication training and experience in the cross-cultural field, as well as her international research networks, have paved her way to do interdisciplinary research with international business and management. Her leadership, in both research and consulting, has pointed to a promising direction for the Association for Business Communication.

Judith Ainsworth
Vice President Eastern United States
Temple University
Term 2018-2021

Ainsworth.jpgJudith is an Assistant Professor of business communication at the Fox School of Business at Temple University. She teaches Business Communications in the BBA program for the Department of Marketing and Supply Chain Management and Professional Skills Development for the Master of Science in Accounting Program.

Previously, she taught Business Writing, Business Communication and Business Communication for Accountants for specialized master programs, as well as Business Writing for the Professional MBA program at the Warrington College of Business, University of Florida. She has also held pedagogical appointments with Canada’s McGill University, University of Montreal, and University of Quebec in Montreal. 

Judith received her PhD in Education and Applied Linguistics from the University of Montreal after receiving a Diplôme d’Études Approfondies in linguistics from France’s University of Provence, and her Master of Arts degree in linguistics and translation from Canada’s University of New Brunswick.

Her current research focuses on business pedagogy, team-based learning, and student regulation in student-managed project teams. In 2016, she received a grant from the Team-Based Learning Collaborative for a study entitled “Team-Based Learning in Communication Courses for Accounting Graduates: Investigating Student Engagement, Accountability, and Satisfaction,” and published an article in the Journal of Management Education entitled "Student-led Project Teams: significance of regulation strategies in high- and low-performing teams."

Valerie Creelman
Vice President Canada
Saint Mary's University
Term: 2019-2023

creelman.jpegDr. Creelman is an Associate Professor of Business Communications within the Marketing and Business Communications Department at Saint Mary’s Sobey School of Business in Halifax, Nova Scotia. As a long-time ABC member and former associate dean at the Sobey School, she will use her leadership experience and knowledge of ABC operations to serve and represent the multiple audiences that make up our growing membership within the Canadian region. She can be counted on to advance our Strategic Plan’s priorities and continue to strengthen ABC’s profile as an international organization of dedicated researchers, teachers, and practitioners working within our universities, colleges, and industries in the areas of rhetoric, professional writing, and business communication.

An ABC member since 2007 and a regular presenter at our annual conferences, Valerie recently served on the ABC Board of Directors as a Director at Large. In 2015, she volunteered to co-chair ABC’s 80th annual conference in Seattle, Washington. A member of the Rhetoric Special Interest Group and the ABC Research Committee, she has served on the adjudication committees for the Kitty O. Locker Outstanding Researcher Award and the Outstanding Dissertation Award. At the 2017 annual conference in Dublin, Ireland, she received ABC’s Rising Star Award in recognition of her dedicated service to ABC and her research and teaching contributions to the discipline.

In 2015, Valerie received the Full-time Professor of the Year Award for Teaching Excellence from the Sobey School of Business Commerce Society. In 2013, Saint Mary’s awarded her the Dr. Geraldine Thomas Educational Leadership Award. To date, she has taught a variety of communications courses and developed modules for executive education and management training programs, including those for Nunavut Tunngavik, Inc. (NTI) and the Government of Nunavut.

A graduate of the University of Waterloo’s PhD Program, Valerie’s academic background is in rhetoric, discourse studies, and professional writing. Her latest research projects focus on digital discourse, online customer care, crisis communication, and impression management. Her publications have appeared in Business and Professional Communication Quarterly, and she is a contributing author to the following publications: Digital Business Discourse (Ed. Erika Darics, Palgrave, 2015); Advertising, Consumer Culture & Canadian Society (Ed. Kyle Asquith, Oxford University Press, forthcoming 2018); and Rhetorical Theory and Praxis in the Business Communication Classroom (Eds. Kristen Getchell & Paula Lentz, Routledge, forthcoming 2018). Within Canada, Valerie has attended and presented her research at conferences organized by the Canadian Communications Association, the Canadian Association of Discourse and Writing, the Atlantic Schools of Business, and the Administrative Sciences Association of Canada. Her research and views on business communication have also been featured in the Globe and Mail’s Business Education section.

Committed to growing ABC’s Canadian membership, forging ABC alliances with Canadian associations, and making ABC’s conferences a destination for the innovative research of Canadian graduate students and established scholars alike, Valerie welcomes the opportunity to serve our Canadian members’ interests as their regional representative in the years ahead.


Kathryn Rybka
Vice President Midwestern United States
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
Term: 2019-2023

Rybka.jpegDr. Kathryn Rybka was the recipient of the 2016 Bernadine P. Branchaw Spirit of ABC Award. Her engagement with the ABC community includes serving as chair of the 2018 ABC Midwest/Southeast Regional Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio; chair for the 2016 ABC Midwest/Southeast Regional Conference in St. Louis, Missouri; co-chair for the 2013 ABC Midwest/Southeast Regional Conference in Louisville, Kentucky; peer proposal reviewer for ABC conferences; and she has been Book Review Editor for the International Journal of Business Communication since 2010. Kathryn has been an active presenter at many ABC Conferences including the 2018 Miami, 2017 Dublin, 2016 Albuquerque, 2015 Seattle, 2014 Philadelphia, 2013 New Orleans, 2011 Montreal, 2012 ABC Europe and 2010 ABC Europe+GABC.

Kathryn was a faculty member in the Gies College of Business at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) from 2005-2017 where she taught management communication in the College’s professional master’s programs and also taught an undergraduate class in human resource management. She then transitioned to a new role and affiliation with the College, but continues to provide leadership for communication-focused experiential learning activities for MBA and other specialized business master’s programs. Additionally, she works with the UIUC Center for Professional Responsibility in Business and Society, including an ongoing initiative supported by BP, and is co-creator of a newly designed Study Abroad course, “Professional Responsibility in Business.”

She has 20 years of extensive professional management communication experience in both corporate and higher education settings. Kathryn holds a B.A. in Advertising from Michigan State University, a Master’s in Mass Communication from the University of South Carolina, and received her Ph.D. in Educational Organization and Leadership in Higher Education Administration from UIUC. She has also taught at the University of South Carolina, South Dakota State University, University of North Dakota, and in the College of Communications (now Media) at UIUC. Her research interests include the role communication and storytelling play in strategic business planning, organizational change and leadership development.


Jolanta Aritz
Vice President Western United States
University of Southern California
Term: 2019-2023


aritz.jpegProf. Jolanta Aritz specializes in intercultural business communication, small-group decision-making, and virtual communication. She teaches business communication courses at graduate and undergraduate levels at the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California. Jolanta is a former Fulbright scholar and is passionate about engaging students in global educational experiences. She has led USC Marshall Learning about International Commerce student trips to Singapore, Tokyo, Shanghai, and most recently to Stockholm and Helsinki. She is a founding member (together with her colleagues at USC) of the Virtual Business Professional (VBP) project that each semester brings together over 600 students from over a dozen universities in different countries to work and collaborate on corporate reputation management projects.

Professor Aritz is a co-author of the book “Leadership Talk: A Discourse Approach to Leader Emergence” and co-editor of the “Discourse Perspectives on Organizational Communication” book which received the Distinguished Publication on Business Communication award. She is a recipient of the C.R. Anderson Research Foundation for Innovative Research in Business Communication Award and the Award of Merit from the Association for Business Communication for her contributions to the discipline of business communication. Her articles have been published in IJBC, BPCQ, and JICR journals.

In her role as a regional vice president, Jolanta seeks to contribute to the growth and identity development of the Western ABC region. She sees collaboration as central to professional success and hopes to build a strong network of teaching and research partnerships between faculty and schools in the Western region.