Public Affairs and Communications
Max Benavidez, Ph.D., is Associate Vice President for Public Affairs and Communications at Claremont McKenna College.
Benavidez served as the Assistant Vice Chancellor for Communications and Senior Counsel at UCLA and was a member of the University’s Executive Committee. Before his time at UCLA, he was the Director of Media Relations at Caltech, where he also headed the Public Biology Series and produced the Caltech edition of “Airtalk” for KPCC-FM. He also served as Director of University Communications for the Chancellor’s Office of the California State University System. He managed his own communications firm whose clients included Harvard University, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Ford Foundation, the Annie E. Casey Foundation and others. He has been published extensively on a wide range of topics including communications, public policy, and social media.
He received a B.A. in Philosophy at UCLA and his Ph.D. in New Media, Communications and Higher Education at Claremont Graduate University.
Nick Owchar ’90, M.A., is Director of Development Communication and Content Production.
Owchar served previously as deputy book editor of the Los Angeles Times, coordinating the newspaper’s literary coverage, and as a regular reviewer and critic. He was involved with author event programming for the annual Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. Before the Times, he was an adjunct English instructor at Citrus Community College, where he taught writing for many years, and a general assignment reporter for the L.A. Thomson News Group (consisting of three newspapers: The Whittier Daily News, The San Gabriel Valley Tribune, and The Pasadena Star-News).
He received a B.A. in Economics and a B.A. in Literature from Claremont McKenna College; he was selected as a Dunbar Fellow of the Family of Benjamin Z. Gould Center for Humanistic Studies. He received an M.A. in English and American Literature from Boston University.
Joann D. Young is Director of Media Relations.
Before joining Claremont McKenna College, Young served as Communications Manager at Auto Club Speedway, the premier motorsports facility in Southern California. She worked alongside world-class athletes, high-profile corporate companies, Hollywood A-listers, local community partners, and some of the most influential journalists from around the world to create, launch, and manage award-winning public relations and marketing campaigns.
Prior to the Auto Club Speedway, Young took on media relations, marketing, and producing at various radio broadcast properties including the Disney-owned ABC Radio Networks, the Los Angeles Dodgers Radio Broadcast, and The Tavis Smiley Show on public radio.
Young earned a B.A. in Criminology, Law and Society and a B.A. in Asian American Studies from the University of California, Irvine. She was also a Fellow with the Public Policy and International Affairs Fellowship Program at the University of Maryland, College Park.
Bryan Schneider is Director of Integrated Communications.
Schneider previously worked at the University of Southern California, where he directed award-winning marketing projects and web development for the USC Health Sciences, including the Keck Medical Center, Keck School of Medicine, Keck Hospital and USC Norris Cancer Hospital. Prior to USC Health Sciences, he was Public Communications Manager for the USC Annenberg Center for Communication, where he oversaw all communications and marketing functions for this university think-tank.
Before joining USC, Schneider was Assistant Director of Marketing and Communications at Claremont Graduate University, where he focused on media relations and writing/editing for CGU’s magazine, The Flame. He began his career at CGU as a prospect researcher and grant writer before moving into communications.
Bryan received his undergraduate degree from UCLA and his master’s from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
Chris Watts, M.A., is Director of Athletics Communication.
Watts serves as the communications director for the 21 varsity teams of Claremont McKenna College and Claremont McKenna-Harvey Mudd-Scripps Colleges (CMS) Athletics, an NCAA Division III member of the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC). His responsibilities include oversight of the official athletic department website, www.cmsathletics.org, along with involvement in CMS’ live video broadcasting efforts. In addition, writing and producing content (videos, photo albums, video interviews, web pages, stories, etc.) for the CMS Athletics website, CMS social media pages and Claremont McKenna College website are a part of his daily responsibilities along with athletics alumni communication. During his time with CMC, Watts has nominated three student-athletes who have been featured in Sports Illustrated's Faces in the Crowd feature (March 4 and June 10, 2013 and June 15, 2015) and one play that has been on ESPN SportsCenter's Top Plays (Top Neighborhood Plays - Oct. 29, 2014).
Prior to coming to Claremont in November of 2012, Watts served as the recreational sports manager and sports information assistant in the Chapman University athletic department. During his four-plus years at Chapman, Watts assisted in the publicity of the school’s 20 NCAA Division III sports and also oversaw tremendous growth in the intramural program. He also served as the media relations assistant for the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, a minor league baseball team in Southern California, before working at Chapman.
In addition to his work at Chapman and with the Quakes, Watts has assisted in the media operations of several major sporting events including the 2014 Rose Bowl, 2014 BCS National Championship, 2010 Fiesta Bowl, 2011 BCS National Championship Game and 2010 Major League Baseball All-Star Game along with the 2011, 2014 and 2016 Division I Men’s Basketball West Regionals.
He received a B.A. in Mass Communication from Principia College (Ill.) in 2008 and his M.A. in Sport Management from the University of San Francisco in 2011. Watts’ experience around college athletics and the Division III level is not limited to being an administrator or an observer however. During his time at Principia, he played four seasons of basketball and was voted captain by his teammates and coaches for three seasons. Watts is a member of the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) and the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA).
Grace Comisso is the art director for the Office of Public Affairs and Communications.
She creatively designs, develops and produces CMC publications to communicate clear, consistent messaging for the College.
Before joining CMC, Comisso managed her own design studio and worked as an art director for various clients, ad agencies and in-house corporate design departments. Her design career spans more than two decades in Pennsylvania, New York, and now in California, where she has created marketing materials for education, entertainment, finance, healthcare, human resources and real estate industries.
She studied Visual Communications at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh.
Cameron Grimm is the Director of Video Operations in the Office of Public Affairs and Communications.
Prior to joining the CMC team, Grimm worked as the lead editor at a Google-funded YouTube channel that received over 10 million views. Before her time with YouTube, she was a video producer for a large retail company where she wrote, shot, produced and edited all the company video content. She has extensive work experience freelancing for production companies, retail outlets and websites throughout the L.A. area.
She received a B.A. in English from Scripps College and went on to study film editing at the Los Angeles Film School.
Lorraine Wang is Director of Web Design and New Media Production.
Wang previously worked in journalism as a copy editor, writer, designer and web producer. At the Los Angeles Times, she designed the front page and produced the latimes.com homepage.
She graduated magna cum laude from Yale, where she majored in English.
Tatiana Shabelnik, M.L.I.S, is Web Interactive Services Manager for the Office of Public Affairs and Communications.
Shabelnik served eleven years as a Web Manager for Whittier College and four years as a Web Team Manager and Reference and Instructional Services Librarian for Michigan Technological University. She also taught library and information science at the University of Culture in Belarus for five years. In 2010-2011, Shabelnik served as President of the Rotary Club of Pico Rivera, and in 2011 represented Rotary International and Rotary District 5300 at the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade.
She received her B.A. and master’s degrees in Library and Information Science at the Belorussian University of Culture, and a master’s degree in Library and Information Science and Certificate of Advanced Studies from Louisiana State University. She also completed coursework in Rhetoric and Technical Communication at Michigan Technological University for its Ph.D. program.
Eva Collins is the Administrative Assistant for the Office of Public Affairs and Communications. She joined CMC in 2010. Prior to working at the College, Valenzuela worked seven years at Mount San Antonio College and was an office manager for an aerospace industry company.
Martin Beck is the Web Content Developer in the Office of Public Affairs and Communications at Claremont McKenna College. Previously, Beck covered the social media industry for Marketing Land and Search Engine Land, and was the social media and reader engagement editor for the Los Angeles Times. Beck, who started his career at the Times as a sportswriter and copy editor, has a masters degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and bachelors degrees in political science and economics from UC Irvine.