We are pleased to share those who have self-nominated to serve on the UMAC Leadership Team. The election will be during the members meeting, Wednesday 3/30 from 2-4pm CT.

Julie Dwyer

I work with UM News reporters to cover the news of the global United Methodist Church and share inspiring stories from around the connection. I oversee the Daily and Friday Digests and work with communicators from general agencies and annual conferences around the world.

Prior to taking on the role of editor for UM News in January of 2021, I was the assistant news editor overseeing central conference content. I continue to work with more than 20 communicators from Africa and the Philippines to approve stories and edit their work. I traveled to Sierra Leone in 2018 to help train communicators in news and feature writing. Before joining the news team in 2017, I worked across departments as a content editor at United Methodist Communications.

Prior to joining UMCom in 2016, I worked at The Tennessean, Nashville’s daily newspaper, for 18 years in a variety of roles, including assistant entertainment editor and community content editor.

Outside of work, I am a PTO member with three kids at three different schools. I spend my weekends cheering from the sidelines at soccer and basketball games and gymnastic meets. I  also served on the Grace United Methodist Church preschool board for several years when my kids were younger.

Melissa Jackson

Melissa is responsible for the visual branding of the agency and other United Methodist entities. This includes the creation of logos, brand colors, sub-brands, the design and layout of collateral, marketing emails, digital marketing, videos, web development, and photography.

Prior to working for GCFA, Melissa spent 6 years working as a graphic designer for Word Entertainment/Warner Bros. Records, and 4 years as the Director of Creative Services for Trevecca Nazarene University. She holds a B.S. in Communication Studies with a specialization in graphic design.

Melissa has been a member of UMAC since 2017 and has been the proud recipient of 18 different UMAC awards.

Liz Lenox 

Liz Lennox is beginning her fifth year as the Social Media and Visual Communications coordinator for the Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference. She graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with degrees in media/professional communications and English literature, in addition to certificates in professional writing and children’s literature. Liz frequently works with local church communicators to develop their online presence and in 2019, presented on social media for the Laity Academy held at Africa University in Zimbabwe.

She serves on the board of the Ruth M. Smith Center, a personal care home for adults with disabilities supported by United Women in Faith, and is part of the public relations team. She was instrumental in the development of a yearlong antiracism action and education pledge for the Western Pennsylvania Conference and is committed to dismantling racism in Western PA and beyond. Above all, she considers herself a storyteller and gives thanks for the privilege and opportunity to do so every day. Her hobbies include reading, gardening, traveling, and crocheting.

Doug Peninger

A native of Charlotte, NC, Doug moved to High Point, NC in 1993 after completing an undergraduate degree in Sacred Music from Gardner-Webb University. While in High Point, he was co-owner of a professional portrait studio with clients from all over the state and southeast. He served on the executive board of Professional Photographers of North Carolina (PPNC), completing his term as Chairman of the Board in 2008. While on the board of PPNC, he became editor of the “Carolina Photographer” magazine. During his time with PPNC, he began “PPNC Charities,” which partnered with “Operation Smile” to help children across the globe have reconstructive surgery to repair cleft lips and other facial and dental abnormalities. As a photographer, he completed his Certified Professional Photographer, Photographic Craftsman ,and Master of Photography degrees. He has had eight images in the Professional Photographers of America loan collection and won the Kodak Gallery of Excellence award.

Following his service to PPNC, he was elected to the executive board of the Southeastern Professional Photographers Association (SEPPA), a regional professional association of 13 states with a membership of 2,000. He completed his term as Chairman of the Board in 2013. While on the board of SEPPA, he was the editor of “Southern Exposure” magazine, winning first place in national competition three consecutive years. Recognized for his work with “PPNC Charities,” Professional Photographers of America (PPA) asked him to assist in starting a national charity, “PPA Charities.” He served as the Vice- President for four years. Since it’s inception, the charity has given over a million dollars in aid to various organizations. He has twice won the PPA National Award for his service to organizations.

For 10 years, he has served as the Director of Communications for Centenary United Methodist Church in Winston-Salem, NC. Through its clergy and staff, Centenary embraces the downtown community with Biblical teachings, music and arts ministry, and generational programming. Always seeking to learn new techniques and technologies, he completed a Master of Arts in Strategic Communications from High Point University in 2015. While at Centenary, their magazine “Through Centenary Windows” has won first place in competition the last two years. Their podcast “Heart, Mind & Soul,” reaches a monthly, international audience of 2,000. A second podcast, “Centenary Every Day” launched in the fall of 2021 and is growing its audience as Doug welcomes clergy and Winston-Salem leaders to its platform to discuss relevant topics. His dream of live stream ministry was realized in 2016. The Centenary live stream audience continues to reach an international audience. During 2021, his desire to create a new video suite was completed at the church, hosting a newsroom, video, audio and photography bays. He recently served as the chair of the Communications Commission for the Western North Carolina Conference.

Jennifer Rodia

Jennifer Rodia is the Chief Communications Officer at United Methodist Communications where she oversees communication strategy and messaging for the denomination, training, and production. Jennifer has overseen United Methodist Communications’ training program for the last ten years.  In that capacity, in addition to designing and creating workshop experiences, she has facilitated workshops all across the United States as well as leading workshops in the Philippines, Cote d’Ivoire, Russia and presenting at a communication conference in Rome sponsored by the Vatican.

Prior to joining United Methodist Communications, Jennifer worked in multiple aspects of film, television, and commercial production.  She was a producer for NFL Films for over four years and, in that role, produced Kick-off, Thanksgiving, and Play-off campaigns for the National Football League with two of her spots airing during Super Bowls.  Some of her other clients included Nike, Johnson & Johnson, AT&T, Harley-Davidson and Partnership for a Drug-free America.

Jennifer was first attracted to the film industry through her love of writing and storytelling that continues to be a passion in her life and career.  Her present position at United Methodist Communications allows her to marry her gifts and work experience with service to the church she has been engaged with for most of her adult life.  The story she now shares is that of the church at work in the world.

Before moving to Nashville, Tennessee, Jennifer and her husband, Michael, lived in New York City for eight years that she considers pivotal to both her professional and spiritual development.  Together they have one child, Lukas, whose exploits appear frequently in her stories.

Katie Vesser Strangis

Katie is an experienced communications professional with a diverse background in print and digital media and design.

Her first journalistic endeavor was hand crafting a magazine for her church peers as a tween. Her mom still has the original Connections magazine, which included a very easy crossword puzzle. Since then, Katie has sharpened her craft as a writer, editor, photographer, designer, and now — thanks to Covid! — video editor through more professional and paying outfits, including: Paste magazine as a rock and roll journalist and photographer; VOX Teen Communications as Director of Media and Programs; and Atlanta Girls’ School as Communications Manager. She now works at Church Street United Methodist Church in Knoxville, where she has served as the Director of Communications since 2019.

Her favorite aspect of working in communications has always been editing, whether it is the written word, a designed piece of collateral, a strategic plan, or a video. Everyone needs a good editor in their orbit – even editors!

Amy Yeager

Aimee Yeager is a graduate of Mercer University’s McAfee School of Theology where she graduated with her Master of Divinity, with a focus in Christian Education. She received her undergraduate degree in Communications with a focus in Public Relations from Kennesaw State University. She is currently serving as the Associate Director of Communications for the Western North Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church.

Aimee has served as a contributing author for Smyth & Helwys’ daily devotional guide, Reflections, and an adult Bible study series, Connections, since 2016. While serving at the Western NC Conference, Aimee has contributed to stories for the conference website and magazine and serves as a member of the host panel for the conference podcast, Means of Grace. In addition to writing and podcasting, Aimee’s roles as the Associate Director of Communications include maintaining the homepage, news and events pages on the conference website, as well as designing and maintain various pages or ministry teams throughout the conference. She manages the conferences’ four social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn) and serves as a graphic designer for the WNCC office and various ministry teams and serves as the editor of the weekly WNCC E-Newsletter.

Prior to working at the Western North Carolina Conference office, Aimee served as Minister of Youth and Community Outreach for Webbs Chapel UMC, where she managed the church website, social media platforms, newsletter and all print publications for internal and external communication. She served as the Executive Assistant for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Georgia, planning and coordinating statewide denominational events, assisting all statewide committees with their communication and administrative needs, and overseeing the CBF/GA college internship program. In addition to these communications and administrative positions, Aimee has previously served as the children and youth directors for Wieuca Road Baptist Church (Atlanta), First United Methodist Church (Sylva, NC) and the Foothills Cooperative Parish (Gamewell, Colliers and Whitnel UM Churches, Lenoir, NC).

Aimee is married to Rev. John Yeager, an elder in full connection in the Western NC Conference and pastor of Mt Tabor UMC and Christ UMC, Salisbury, NC. They have two children, Henry and Thea, who love ninja training and ballet, respectively. Together as a family, they enjoy traveling, gardening, playing outside with their puppy, Sadie, and family movie nights complete with rainbow popcorn!