Organization and Governance

Board of Advisers

The Bonnie and Bill Stubblefield Institute for Civil Political Communications relies heavily on it is bipartisan Board of Advisers for guidance and decision-making. The board consists of three university members, five-to-seven at-large members and one undergraduate student member. The Institute Director serves as an ex officio member. The blend of academic professionals with political and communications practitioners is intentional. The Institute does not take public positions on policy, issues or candidates.

David Avella

David Avella is the Chairman of GOPAC, the Republican Party’s premier organization dedicated to educating and electing a new generation of Republican leaders. A seasoned communications professional and political operative, Avella has spent the majority of his career working to advance free enterprise and conservative fiscal policies. He is a requested speaker on current national and state issues, how to communicate effectively, and how to execute winning political campaigns.

Avella is a frequent guest on national television and radio, including Fox News, Fox Business, Fox News Radio, and HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher. He is also a quoted source for national and local print, video, online and social media platforms. A native of Martinsburg, West Virginia, Avella earned his Bachelor of Science Degree in Political Science at Shepherd University. He and his wife, Claire, currently reside in McLean, Virginia with their daughters Emerson and Tinsley.

Dr. Scott Beard

Dr. Scott Beard is the Provost at Shepherd University, where he previously held positions as Associate Provost and Graduate Dean. He heads an innovative academic team of directors and programs ranging from Appalachian Studies and International Affairs, at the George Tyler Moore Center for the Civil War. He is a noted performing artist, having performed in more than 10 countries, was runner up for West Virginia Professor of the Year (2009) and was the WVMTA Music Teacher of the Year (2006). He is the author of four music anthologies and a soon to be released textbook from Oxford University Press.

Jordan Jalil

Senior double-majoring in political science and economics at Shepherd University. As a student and active member of the Shepherd debate and forensics team, political discourse is essential to raising up the next generation of statesmen in America. After graduation, Jordan will attend law school where she hopes to continue promoting greater civility in the political arena.

Kelly Johnston

Kelly Johnston retired from the Campbell Soup Company in October 2018 after a 16-year career as Vice President-Government Affairs.  Previously, Kelly spent nearly 25 years in Washington, D.C., in several leadership positions within the executive and legislative branches of the federal government, political campaigns, and the trade association world. 

He was the 28th Secretary of the U.S. Senate (1995-97), the chamber’s chief legislative, financial and administrative officer. The Oklahoma native holds a B.A. degree from the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma. He and his wife, Adrienne, live in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania. They have two sons.

Peter Loge

Peter Loge is an Associate Professor in the School of Media and Public Affairs at The George Washington University, the founding director of the Project on Ethics in Political Communication, and a strategic consultant. Loge has served in senior staff positions in the House, Senate, and Obama administration and he has led and advised a range of campaigns and organizations. His book Soccer Thinking for Management Success: Lessons for Organizations from the World’s Game debuted as a #1 new release on Amazon and his edited volume, Political Communication: Theory and Practice, is due out from Rowman & Littlefield in 2020

Dr. Ben Martz

Dr. William Benjamin “Ben” Martz, Jr. is chair of the Department of Business Administration and dean of the College of Business at Shepherd University. A native of Cold Spring, Kentucky, Martz came to Shepherd from Northern Kentucky University, where he served as professor and director of the Master of Science in Business Informatics Program. During his nine years at Northern Kentucky University, he also served as chair of the Department of Business Informatics for eight years.

Martz has published in refereed publications and journals, including Journal of Management Information Systems, Decision Sciences Journal of Innovative Education, Journal of Entrepreneurship Education, and Journal of Computer Information Systems. He earned a B.B.A. in marketing from the College of William & Mary, and an M.S. in management information systems and a Ph.D. in business (management information systems) from the University of Arizona.

Susan Mills

Susan Mills began her career at CBS News, where she served as a foreign affairs producer covering Central American countries. During that time, she also produced innovative and award-winning children’s programs In the News and 30 Minutes

Her reporting and programming work have earned Mills four Emmy awards and ten Emmy nominations, along with a George Foster Peabody Award, an Alfred I. DuPont Award, Ohio State University’s Journalism Award, and the Gavel Award from the American Bar Association. A graduate of Wells College, Mills now directs new programming initiatives for MacNeil/Lehrer Productions on cable, network television, and other media outlets, with an extensive focus on America’s First Ladies. Recent productions include “Nancy Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime,” “Lady Bird Johnson,” and “Betty Ford: The Real Deal.”

She is a member of the CATF Board, has established an endowed scholarship at Shepherd, and has lectured for the Scarborough Society, amongst numerous other philanthropic endeavors.


Rear Admiral Bill Stubblefield, PhD

Dr. William Stubblefield served 37 years of uniformed service with the U.S. Navy and later with the seventh uniform service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Prior to his retirement, Rear Admiral Stubblefield was in charge of NOAA’s aircraft and ships as well as the commissioned officers. He has commanded research ships which have sailed over much of the world’s oceans, including the Arctic and Antarctica. He has a Ph. D. in geology from Texas A&M University and has authored numerous professional papers. Since retirement, he has been active on several fronts. He served on the national Board of Directors of the Military Officers Association of America and the Advisory Board for the National Sea Grant College Association. He serves on the boards of several local organizations and was president of Berkeley County Commission/Council.

Scott Widmeyer

Scott Widmeyer has a 30-year record in providing strategic counsel to scores of decision-makers, from presidents to governors to chief executive officers to union leaders. From working as a newspaper reporter in the 1970s to running major media operations for national campaigns, Widmeyer knows how to get results for his clients. His track record of successes in education, health care, politics, campaign finance, technology, trade, and other public policy matters illustrate his impact as a “change agent” in things that matter most to America.

He founded Widmeyer Communications in 1988, building on a career in newspaper reporting and serving in major communications positions for five highly respected leaders — former President Jimmy Carter, former Vice President Walter Mondale, U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller, the late Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro and the late American Federation of Teachers president Albert Shanker.

He currently serves on the Boards of the New York City Leadership Academy, the Education Writers Association, the Contemporary American Theater Festival and the George Washington University National Council for Media and Public Affairs. He received many awards such as a David Rockefeller Fellow, The P. I. Reed Achievement Award, “Distinguished West Virginian Award,” and His firm received the 2012 Diversity Distinction in PR Awards from the Council of PR Firms. He also was the longest-serving board chair of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, as well as serving on the board of GLAAD.

Institute Staff

David Welch

Following a career as a political media consultant, corporate film producer and radio talk show host, David Welch was named the Inaugural Director of the Bonnie and Bill Institute for Civil Political Communications at Shepherd University in June 2019.

In his capacity as a political consultant, Welch has advised gubernatorial and congressional candidates in nearly 40 states and directed the efforts of eight state legislative bodies. Welch has also been the producer and director of multiple award-winning short-form films on science and health topics. Since 1995, he has hosted a daily morning radio show and is currently the co-host of “The Rob and Dave Show.” Welch began his career a member of the original class of LBJ Interns on Capitol Hill. He later went onto to the staff as Assistant Press Secretary for his assigned Member of Congress, Victor Veysey. After leaving Washington, D.C. to return to his native California, Welch worked for three years on the Minority Caucus communications staff of the California State Assembly in Sacramento, an additional three years as the Western Political Director for the Chamber of Commerce of the United States and two campaign cycles with the NRCC in Washington, D.C. He founded Welch Communications in 1985, a firm that later became M2 Inspired Multi-Media. David and Debbie Welch live outside of Shepherdstown, WV. They have five grown children and seven grandchildren.

Greg Fields

Dr. Stephanie Slocum-Schaffer

Dr. Stephanie A. Slocum-Schaffer is the Stubblefield Institute Senior Fellow, Research, Retention and Recruitment, and Faculty Liaison and Associate Professor of Political Science and Co-Coordinator of the Gender and Women’s Studies Program at Shepherd University, where she teaches a variety of courses in American politics, women in politics, research methods, and public policy. She has also taught at Gettysburg College and The American University.

Dr. Slocum-Schaffer received a B.A., Magna Cum Laude, in International Affairs and Spanish from Bucknell University, where she was elected to the honor society of Phi Beta Kappa. She was awarded a Ph.D. in Political Science from The American University after completing a dissertation entitled: “Choose or Lose? The Impact of Choice on Quality and Efficiency in American Public Education.” In 2003, she published a book, America in the Seventies: A Lesson In Limits, with Syracuse University Press. She also has published several articles and has made numerous presentations at conferences.


Dr. Matthew Kushin

Matthew J. Kushin, Ph.D. (@mjkushin) is an associate professor in the Department of Communication at Shepherd University. He’s an award-winning educator and scholar.

At Shepherd University, he developed, launched, and is the coordinator of the Strategic Communication concentration, which focuses on the intersection of public relations and social media. He has a combined 14 years of university-level teaching experience and has taught undergraduate courses in Social Media, Politics & Social Media, Public Relations Principles, Persuasion and Message Design, Strategic Campaigns, Communication Theories, Communication Research Methods, Applied Communication Research, Communication & New Media, Writing Across Platforms, Introduction to Mass Communication, Public Speaking, New Communication Technology.

Kushin’s research program focuses on the political and civic utility of online media, including social media, online news, and messaging apps. He has also conducted research in social media pedagogy. His work has been published in such peer-reviewed journals as Mass Communication & Society, the Journal of Computer-Mediated CommunicationNew Media & Society, the International Journal of Public Opinion Research, and the Journal of Public Relations Education

A leading voice in social media education, Kushin is the author of Teach Social Media: A Plan for Creating a Course Your Students Will Love and also writes Social Media Syllabus (, a popular blog and resource for social media educators. 

Sarah Burke

Sarah Burke is a proud alumna of Shepherd University. She is a member of the National Millennial Community, founded by Bill Imada. Through this, she was able to visit the White House and briefly speak in front of Laura Pence, Andrew Giuliani, and Steve Munisteri about the opioid crisis in West Virginia. She is the author of Finding Air, and Mismatching Colors, both of which are poetry books. She has competed in the Ketchum Mindfire Challenge and won the MS Paint Challenge in 2017. Sarah lives in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia with her family and is currently working on her Master’s Degree in New Media and Marketing at Southern New Hampshire University.

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Friends of The Stubblefield Institute

Friends of the Stubblefield Institute is a special way to support this important forum series and belong to a community that believes in positive discourse and constructive debate. Your support will allow the Stubblefield Institute to maintain and grow its programs and events, such as the American Conversation Series, our student-focused Listen.Learn.Engage. Initiative, a national research program focused on civility, our Student Leadership Academy, and support for our outstanding Debate and Forensics Team. It will also help support our new undergraduate program in Political Communications that will provide quality education to our next generation of public and policy communications spokespersons and strategists.

Individuals can join at our Gold ($500), Silver ($250), or Bronze ($100) levels. All members will be listed in our forum programs. Gold members will be invited to all pre-event presidential receptions. Silver members will receive two invitations to presidential receptions. Bronze members will receive one invitation.