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Listening and Leading for Health and Wellbeing

The pandemic has forced communicators to think about wellness in a whole new way.

Individual health decisions have become a collective concern. Impactful communication about COVID safety is a matter of life and death. And companies are newly responsible for protecting their employees and customers, while balancing work and wellness. Who will lead us toward this balance?

The answer is YOU!

Even as we return to the office, we’ll never go back from thinking about the whole of our community members’ lives and experiences. Our individual and shared goals can only be realized in an environment of mutual care.

Connects 2022 is a space for communicators and leaders to explore how they’ll further health and wellbeing at work — and beyond.

Events & Agenda:

Learning Session 1:

Emerging wellbeing practices and technologies

Featuring speakers from: UW Communication Leadership, Breakthru, Qualtrics, and The BIPOC Executive Directors Coalition of WA

  • How and why should we lead with wellbeing in mind?
  • Why is workplace wellbeing important, and how can companies and individuals ensure it?
  • What’s the history of our ideas about wellness and how are they changing?
  • How can you advocate for systemic change to advance wellness?
  • How can you share power in a diverse workplace in a trauma-informed way?
  • How can we prevent burnout in our organizations?
  • What emerging tools are there to address workplace wellbeing?

Learning Session 2:

Communication & leadership in a health crisis

Featuring speakers from: PATH, Public Health Seattle King County, UW Center for an Informed Public, Resource Media

  • What power does communication have to encourage wellness and healthy behaviors?
  • How has the pandemic impacted the ways we communicate and the stories we tell?
  • What are best practices for organizational leadership during a health crisis?
  • Why does misinformation thrive around vaccines and other health decisions, and how do we counter it effectively?
  • How can we ethically approach marketing and communication during a crisis?

Keynote Event: Ximena Vengoechea in Conversation with Austin Jenkins

How to Listen Like you Mean It

With Work from Home as the “new normal” and minimal physical interactions, how, as employees, do we stay connected and efficient? Author of the acclaimed book “Listen Like You Mean It: Reclaiming the Lost Art of Conversation” Ximena Vengoechea will throw light on such vital matters and outline effective listening techniques for in-person, virtual, and hybrid settings in our keynote session. She will also address the crucial role of the moderator in a group setting and how he/she can decode group dynamics and run inclusive meetings.


What is Communication Leadership Connects?
Connects is the UW Communication Leadership graduate program’s premier public event. For the last six years, professionals, advocates, and graduate students have gathered to engage around a pressing issue of global consequence.


Connects 2022 is designed for current and future professionals in communications, advocacy and leadership roles across industries, including storytelling, design, marketing and human resources. The format for the sessions varies, but includes short presentations from invited speakers, breakout activities, and networking opportunities for all.

Participants will be able to attend all three sessions in the series or individual sessions that speak to their learning needs.


UW Badge:
Participants who attend both events, Session 1 and Session 2, and submit a reflection, qualify for a UW-branded badge in “Health and Wellness Communication” to add to their LinkedIn and resume.

About Our Master’s Program

Communication Leadership is the degree for industry leaders seeking to create positive change.

Advance your communication career, build experience in leadership, and join a professional network in a city full of opportunities at influential global organizations.

The Communication Leadership master’s program in Seattle offers a cutting-edge curriculum taught by working professional faculty at a top-10 global university. Students benefit from engaged mentorship and opportunities to apply their learning through transformative experiences working with our partners.

Communication Leadership graduates are impactful storytellers, inclusive community-builders, and effective, ethical advocates who are prepared for an ever-changing industry.

Applications now open for 2022 Autumn admission. 


Carla Costa Sandine
Chief of External Affairs at PATH
A public health communications executive and global team leader, Carla is an expert strategic communicator and policy adviser. She is deeply knowledgeable in modern marketing, public health, and emergency risk communications best practices.  Fundamentally driven by belief that health is a human right, she has worked across breadth of health issues and disparities.


Gabriel Spitzer 
Communications Specialist at Public Health – Seattle & King County
A Seattle-based journalist, science writer, and communicator, Gabriel founded the podcast “Transmission,” at local public radio station KNKX, about life at the heart of the COVID-19 pandemic. He has been honored with awards from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Association of Healthcare Journalists, and others, and spent a year at Stanford University as a John S. Knight Journalism Fellow.

Kolina Koltai, Ph.D
Postdoctoral Fellow at UW Center for an Informed Public
Dr. Kolina Koltai’s research focuses on the anti-vaccine’s community use of sociotechnical systems to find, share, and assess vaccine misinformation. She primarily studies vaccine misinformation on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram, taking a critical approach in understanding how the affordances of the platform contribute to vaccine misinformation spread, including how the community is built around vaccine hesitancy.

Lara Bradshaw, Ph.D
Faculty at UW Communication Leadership
Lara has worked as a storyteller throughout her career across the nonprofit and private sectors. She’s particularly interested in the implications of emerging technology as communities navigate massive changes in industries like media, technology, & higher education. Also, she developed executive communications and programming for Stephen Spielberg’s USC Shoah Foundation with a focus on augmented and virtual reality to tell powerful stories of individuals impacted by genocide.

Melissa Painter
Founder – Breakthru, MAP Design Lab, & Founding Member
Melissa is a leader who uses emergent technologies like A.I. to create immersive wellbeing experiences. She has 25 years of experience in narrative design, content strategy, interaction design, cinematic & live storytelling, & in leading large & small teams around creative collaboration. She is a pioneer in the mixed reality space, and an award-winning filmmaker and author. She holds a BA in Ancient Greek – Columbia University, and an MFA in film – NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.


Sian Wu
Managing Director at Resource Media
With over18 years of experience in public relations and communications, specifically focused on social change, sustainability, community development and public policy advocacy, Sian demonstrates great leadership skills to conceive, direct and execute communications strategies contributing to major environmental and public health accomplishments.


Victoria Santos

Victoria is guided by the principle of restoring balance. This driving force has led her to work as a facilitator, trainer, community organizer, leadership coach, and certified counselor. Drawing on her lived experience, education, and training, she works toward racial healing and social justice in communities, organizations, institutions, and schools in the United States and internationally.


Grant Gurewitz
Senior Marketing Manager at Qualtrics & Burnout Writer
Grant is on a mission to eliminate burnout at work. He’s a digital marketing leader based in the Seattle area having worked for Zillow, Port of Seattle/SEA Airport, and now Qualtrics. In 2016, he burned out from work and hardly had the energy to send an email most days. Since Grant never found an effective playbook for overcoming burnout, he’s writing it himself through his website focused on what individuals can do to work without burnout and how organizations can create an anti-burnout culture.

Ximena Vengoechea
User Researcher and Author  
She is a user researcher, writer, and illustrator. An experienced manager, she previously worked at Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Her book Listen Like You Mean It: Reclaiming the Lost Art of True Connection tackles the timeless challenge of effective listening with veracity and offers practical concepts for work and real life. The book has been named an Editor’s Choice from Porchlight Books and a Next Big Ideas Club Spring Nominee.


Austin Jenkins
News Reporter
at Public Radio Northwest News Network
A veteran, award-winning reporter, communicator and storyteller, Austin is a communication leader who has a passion for building equity, diversity and inclusiveness in journalism specifically and the communications field generally.


Ekin Yasin, Ph.D.


Alex Stonehill
Head of Creative Strategy


How can I contact the organizer with any questions?

Please contact Liyao Zhao, head of outreach, at with questions.

Is there certification or accreditation tied to this event?

If you attend both daytime events and submit your reflections, you qualify for a UW-branded badge that you can add to your LinkedIn and resume.

Throwback to Connects 2021

At Comm Lead Connects 2021, industry experts, students, and community members [re]connected in the virtual world to discuss how a year of disruption, isolation, and turmoil led to a change in our priorities and perspectives. Because now we understand, not everything needs to be done in person!

With this series of interactive workshops, under the expertise of leading communication thinkers and practitioners, we learned how to prepare ourselves for a new era and how can we harness this newfound relational energy to actively define the “next normal” with our co-workers, our customers, our communities, and ourselves?

Alex StonehillCommunication Leadership Connects 2022