Last June our family of five made the move from Dallas, Texas to Central Illinois. I had become a mother for the third time and “Big Vic” – who was a ten-pound newborn – was only four months old when we boarded our one-way flight from DFW to CMI.
We can joke about this now because things have worked out and life is good. We made the choice to relocate from the bustling city to a more rural environment where our kids could run wild and free. My husband is from Monticello, just outside of Champaign, and is a U of I grad. His family is dispersed within a small radius of our home and as they say, “it takes a village to raise children.” We met in Dallas when we both worked at Southern Methodist University, he as an athletic trainer and I as a media relations specialist in the athletic department.
I’m a small-town Texas girl, so farmers and wide open spaces are familiar to me. That said, I spent my entire professional life in Dallas, home to many world-class PR firms and global companies. As one might imagine, the business landscape in Central Illinois, particularly Champaign-Urbana, looks quite a bit different. While the transition has been relatively easy for my husband (who continues to home-office for his employer) and my resilient young children, I am still figuring out where I fit into the professional mix within this market.
For the last five years, I worked as a freelance PR/communications advisor. I have retained some of my Texas-based clients and am excited to be working with some really fantastic Illinois-based companies and brands as well. Prior to life as a consultant, I grew up professionally in a variety of corporate communications roles with national and global companies.
I’ve experienced quite a bit of personal and professional change over the last few years. Through it all, the constant has always been PRSA. I served as the Membership Chair for Dallas PRSA in 2012 and am now very happy to serve as the Central Illinois PRSA Membership Chair. If we haven’t already been touch, let’s do that soon. My CI PRSA colleagues have provided an overwhelming amount of hospitality and genuine interest my professional development. Being the “new kid on the block” is not always easy, but this group has certainly made my transition as smooth as possible by providing a comfortable atmosphere where I can network and ask questions. As your Membership Chair, and as a newbie to Illinois, I would welcome the opportunity to get together for a casual lunch or cup of coffee. Let me answer any questions you may have about PRSA and let’s help each other figure out ways to solve business challenges by providing smart, strategic PR and communications solutions.
Stefanie Santos McLeese
Owner and CEO
Central Illinois – PRSA