Heather Preston, Ph.D. is a 2019 graduate of the PHD Program in Leadership and Change at Antioch University.

Dr. Preston at her Dissertation Defense.

L-R: Dr. Lize Booysen, Committee Chair, Dr. Laurien Alexandre, Committee Member, Dr. Pete Smudde, APR (not shown), Dr. Dean Mundy, External Reader (not shown).

Dissertation Committee

  • Lize Booysen, DBL, Committee Chair
  • Laurien Alexandre, Ph.D., Committee Member
  • Pete Smudde, Ph.D., APR, Committee Member
  • Dean Mundy, Ph.D., External Reader


public relations, public relations education, public relations curriculum, public relations leadership, public relations instruction, inclusive leadership, portraiture, leadership and change, ethnography, inclusivity, DAC

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Multiple voices from educational and professional arenas have called for change in the way in which public relations undergraduates are prepared to navigate complex communication challenges in the 21st century. Some scholars have advanced leadership as a way to address this change, identifying the undergraduate public relations curriculum as the ideal place to introduce future practitioners to leadership as a way to better prepare them to initiate and participate in positive social change in complex contexts. However, scholars have neither made in-depth connections with leadership theory and practice, nor provided a framework for designing a curriculum for incorporating leadership into public relations undergraduate programs. The purpose of this research was to examine the practice of inclusive leadership and communication in an exemplary organization in order to answer the question: What would an undergraduate public relations leadership (PRL) curriculum look like? Portraiture was used to uncover and illustrate the key ways in which inclusive leadership and communication manifest at a successful Chicago-based interactive technology firm. Findings support the idea that an inclusive leadership and communication culture is created through direction, alignment, and commitment (DAC). Furthermore, the research provides evidence that inclusive leadership and communication skills can be developed through practice and support. An analysis of sample public relations undergraduate programs was used in conjunction with research findings to bridge the gap between inclusive leadership development and public relations undergraduate education. A public relations leadership (PRL) curriculum was created to help public relations undergraduate students better develop leadership, communication, and relational skills. This dissertation is available in open access at AURA: Antioch University Repository and Archive, and Ohiolink ETD Center,


Heather Preston, Ph.D.

ORCID Scholar ID #: 0000-0002-8785-9859

Heather Paige Preston Biography

Writer, musician, Blue Ridge Parkway enthusiast, and professor of public relations, Heather Paige Preston embraces the art of life and learning.

HP’s varied repertoire includes professional, academic, and life experience in media relations, magazine writing and editing, copy editing, freelance writing and design, journalism, non-profit public relations, international travel, tourism, popular culture studies, and leadership and change.

Her practical chops are evident in her creative, written, and design work for local and university clients. When she’s not in professional or professor mode, HP exercises her inner rock god with local bands, writes humorous travelogues for a small but dedicated following, and creates incredible party and road trip playlists.