Managing Director, Integrated Marketing Communications
David Higdon serves as Managing Director, Integrated Marketing Communications for NASCAR, the premier motorsports organization that conducts numerous racing events, led by the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Since joining NASCAR in 2011, Higdon has been responsible for developing and implementing its new integrated marketing communications strategy and providing day-to-day leadership for team members based in Daytona Beach, Florida; Charlotte, North Carolina and New York City.
Higdon worked as a reporter, writer, producer and editor, including serving as Editor of the Portland Trail Blazers’ fan magazine in the 1990s, before transitioning into leadership roles with international sports organizations including the ATP (men’s professional tennis), LPGA (women’s pro golf) and the Champ Car World Series, which merged with IndyCar Racing in 2008. He also currently serves as Executive in Residence at the James H. Warsaw Sports Marketing Center at the University of Oregon’s Lundquist College of Business, and on the Diversity Advisory Council of the World Golf Foundation. Higdon’s writing has appeared in a variety of outlets, including The New York Times, InStyle Magazine and ESPN The Magazine. Higdon currently resides with his family in Jacksonville, Florida; his wife, Sharon, formerly worked as Vice President, Marketing for the Trail Blazers and participated in early editions of the Women in Sports Business Symposium.
Director, Business Strategy and Operations
Rachel Epstein is Director of Business Operations and Strategy for espnW, ESPN’s first dedicated business serving women who love sports. espnW.com was launched in April, 2011, with the aim of becoming the premiere site for women’s sports and providing commentary, in-depth features and a unique point of view on the sports world at large. The espnW brand lives across social and mobile platforms, television, films and events such as the espnW: Women + Sports Summit. Prior to her role with espnW, Epstein was part of the team that launched Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS), where she developed the League’s brand strategy and led League marketing, event production and sponsor activation.
Before helping to launch WPS, Epstein was an Associate Director in ESPN’s Consumer Marketing Group, responsible for the marketing and promotion of NBA and WNBA programming across ESPN’s media platforms. Her passion for media marketing began early in her career at Wenner Media, where she developed trade marketing campaigns for Rolling Stone, Us Weekly and Men’s Journal magazines.
A native of Buffalo, New York, Epstein graduated from Indiana University in 1995. While an undergraduate, she garnered All-America and All-Big Ten honors in tennis and was Team Captain her senior year.
As the Portland Timbers Director of Marketing, Emily manages a variety of promotional, marketing, advertising and grass roots programming for the club. She is responsible for overseeing key strategic community initiatives, including the pub program, food cart alliance and the KeyBank Little Timbers fan club.
Additionally, she plays a critical role in helping create and execute the organization’s Stand Together community marketing plan, social media strategy and advertising initiatives for the new professional Women’s soccer team, Portland Thorns FC. Emily graduated from American University with a BA in Public Communications and a minor in Graphic Design.
Professional Athlete, Co-Founder/Brand Director
Lauren Fleshman is an American track and field athlete. After winning 5 NCAA titles and 15 NCAA All American honors at Stanford, Lauren has won two USA Championships at 5000 meters, and has competed at the IAAF World Championships in Athletics in 2003, 2005, and 2011. In the most recent IAAF World Championships she finished 7th place, equaling the highest ever finish by an American woman in that event. She currently trains in Bend, Oregon and represents Oiselle Running as an athlete and partner. Fleshman is also the Co-Founder and Brand Director of a gluten and dairy free energy bar company, Picky Bars, founded in 2010. She also co-founded Believe I Am, a business creating sport psychology tools for female athletes including a self-published mind/body training journal and t-shirt designs. Fleshman writes a monthly column for Runner's World Magazine and has a website where she answers questions from running fans and maintains an online journal.
Manager, Women’s College Basketball Sports Marketing
Lauren Westendorf, a Bakersfield, California native, has been with Nike Sports Marketing since 2006. Though she has spent time working with Olympic/Action, and College Sports Marketing, she currently manages Nike’s efforts in Women’s College Basketball. She oversaw the 2012 Women’s Basketball Coaches Association high school All-America game, which Nike served as the presenting sponsor for.
Lauren played four years of volleyball for the University of Oregon. After graduating from the University of Oregon, she played professional volleyball for a few years in Austria before returning to the United States to join Nike.
Instructor, School of Journalism and Communication
University of Oregon
Kelli Matthews is a communicator, a business leader, community volunteer, teacher, cheerleader, mentor, and adviser.
Professionally, she has more than a dozen years of public relations experience. After running her own shop for the last ten, she’s now part of the Turell Group, a marketing, public relations and digital strategy company. Her responsibilities have included for high-level communication, strategic planning, budget management and leadership for a wide variety of clients. Her particularly interests are in digital strategy and helping organizations large and small navigating their options for maximum results.
Her eight years of work with undergraduate and graduate students at the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism & Communication has kept her on the cutting edge of research and practice in public relations. She currently teaches courses in Principles of Public Relations, Strategic Planning and Cases, Public Relations Campaigns, Introduction to Strategic Communications, Strategic Social Media, and Social Media Essentials. She has several published pieces as well as a number of academic and professional presentations that she has created and executed.
She lives in Eugene, Oregon and has two sons, who are the lights of her life and the center of her universe.
Past WSBS Panelists
- Chalcea Park, Davie Brown Entertainment
- Kristin Adams, Digital Royalty
- Rachel Newman Baker, NCAA Director of Agent, Gambling and Amateurism Activities
- Suzanne Davies, Nike
- Stacey Allaster, WTA
- Beatriz L. Perez, CMO for the North America division of The Coca-Cola Company
- Rosemary St. Clair, General Manager for Nike Team Business
- Jennifer Lau, Director of Action Sports, IMG
- Zayra Calderon, Executive Vice President, Tournament Development and Worldwide Sales, LPGA
- Karen Harrison, CFO and VP Finance, Seattle Seahawks and Sounders
- Lauren Anderson - adidas - Senior Partnership Marketing ManageR
- Terri Hines - Nike, Inc. - Director of Communications, Jordan Brand
- Christine McDonald - Susan G. Komen for the Cure - Executive Director, Oregon & SW Washington
- Sarah Mensah - Portland Trailblazers - Chief Marketing Officer
- Kelly Wolf - Octagon - Director, Client Management Services, Tennis
- Lee Ann Daly, former VP of Marketing, ESPN, current EVP and Chief Marketing Officer, Reuters’ (2006 Award Recipient)
- Val Ackerman, former President of the WNBA, current President of USA Basketball (2005 Award Recipient)
- Donna Lopiano, CEO, Women’s Sports Foundation
- Jodi Sittig, Nike Women
- Paula Votaw, International Speedway Corporation
- Sue Levin, Founder of Lucy Activewear
- JoLynn Ovington, Founder of NAU and Former Director of adidas Women
- Sonja Henning, Attorney, Tonkon Torp
- Sandi Bittler, Nike
- Renee Baumgartner, Sr. Associate AD, Oregon Athletics
- Maryanna Young
- Maidie E. Oliveau, Attorney, Law Sports
- Elizabeth Primrose-Smith, VP Worldwide Sports & Olympic Sponsorship, IBM
- Erin Hubert, Portland Trailblazers
- Fran Vetter-Gray, Coca-Cola
- Jamie Sykes, NFL
- Cindy Trames, Nike
- Dina Gilbertie, NHL
- Peg Lalor, Gorge Games
- Mary Decker-Slaney, US Olympic Track & Field and World Champion Athlete
- Leah O’Brien-Amico, US Olympic Softball Player
- Sherri Luell (1999, Youth Sports Leader of the Year)
- Kasey Sconce (1999, Junior High/Middle School Sports Girl of the Year)
- Sarah Denner (1999, High School Sportswomen of the Year)
- Wendy Gabbe (1999, High School Sportswomen of the Year)
- Marta Monetti, Portland Trailblazers
- Julie Shumaker, EA Sports
- Tiffany Stone, Coca-Cola
- Teri Wagner, ABC Sports
- Mary Decker Slaney
- Kelly Krauskopf, WNBA
- Angela Batinovich, President of the Portland LumberJax, Professional Lacrosse Team
- Nona Lee, VP and General Counsel, Arizona Diamondbacks
- Patrick Linden, President and CEO of National Pro Fastpitch
- Susan Parker, CEO of Frank Creative, formerly with Reebok, adidas and Vans
- Shelley Smith, ESPN Reporter
- Cathy Griffin, Founder of Own Your Own Career
- Lara Merriken, CEO & Founder, Humm Foods Inc., creators of LaraBar
- Merritt Richardson, Strategic Assistant to the CEO, Nike
- Teresa Kuehn, Deputy Director of Athletics, Cal Athletics
- Lisa Walker, Co-Owner and Director of Marketing, Salem/Keizer Volcanoes