I am a public relations and organisational development specialist with twenty years of international professional experience in Europe and the United States of America. I am Strategy Director and Founding Partner at Neue Unica branding agency and Associate Professor of Communications at Vilnius University. I was Founding Director of Go Vilnius, the official development agency of the City of Vilnius, and a public affairs consultant to Fipra Lithuania. From 2011–2015, I was Vice-Rector for Development and Communication at the European Humanities University in Vilnius. From 2015–2017, I was a member of the Liberal Movement – a Lithuanian political party; in 2016, I was elected to the party’s ethics commission. I left the party in August 2017 due to what I felt were insufficient measures to deal with emerging allegations of corruption.
I was born and raised in a Lithuanian family in the United States of America. Before moving to Vilnius, Lithuania in 2011, I actively contributed to the promotion of Lithuanian culture abroad; I was President of the Los Angeles Lithuanian Community and coordinated the Los Angeles–Kaunas Sister Cities Program.
I have worked as a broadcast journalist and editor for the Lithuanian Service of Radio Free Europe in Prague and as a correspondent for Lithuanian State Radio. I have also worked as program manager and development director at the Los Angeles-based Center for Civic Education. I hold a political science PhD and an MA in politics from Claremont Graduate University, as well as a BA in German and political science from Hillsdale College.
My grandparents and great-grandparents were active Lithuanian citizens, educators and public servants. My great-grandfather Juozapas Akmenskis was a member of the Constituent Assembly of Lithuania and the First Seimas of Lithuania, and a state auditor; my other great-grandfather Vincas Ruzgas was an educator and a museum curator (you can visit the Educational Museum and V. Kudirka Public Library he established in Kaunas). My grandmother Elena Akmenskaitė-Ruzgienė was a teacher and Principal of the Lithuanian School in New York for many years; her sister Ona Žilius-Žilevičienė and her husband Danielius were honored as Righteous Among the Nations for saving a Jewish girl from the Holocaust. My other grandmother Vincenta Rapšytė-Udrienė was a teacher in independent inter-war Lithuania. After learning the family was slated for deportation by the Soviets, she, her husband Teodoras Udrys and their two young children (one of them – my father Arūnas) emigrated to the West. My grandfather Algirdas Ruzgas was a famous philatelist and numismatist.
My father Arūnas worked as an attorney for Consumers Energy for many years; my mother Virginia Rūta is a teacher of foreign languages. They both live in Michigan. I have a sister and two brothers; one of them – Almis – founded the Performance and Analytics Department of the Municipality of San Diego and is currently the Mayor’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Innovation and Policy.
For more details about my work, please visit my LinkedIn page.
Thank you to Vidas Černiauskas for the photo (from Vilnius Men’s Fashion Week).