Starr Center casts an open net of student collaboration with new director of communications and outreach

By Cecilia Cress

Elm Staff Writer

The Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience welcomed Amber McGinnis as the new assistant director for communications and outreach.

McGinnis is filling the position opened by the recent departure of JaJuan Johnson, according to Director of the Starr Center Adam Goodheart.

Goodheart said the assistant director position was reshaped to better fit the needs of Washington College and its students.

“We reconfigured the position a bit to focus more strongly on communications and outreach. This served WC’s overall institutional priorities in recruiting prospective students, gaining wider visibility, attracting donors, building bridges with the community, and creating new off-campus opportunities for our students,” Goodheart said.

Before joining WC, McGinnis spent 12 years at Chesapeake College in Wye Mills, Md. There she discovered an unexpected love for teaching and interacting with students as an assistant professor of communications and director of the honors program.

“I started teaching as an adjunct [professor] and found I really loved it. I loved connecting with students. It was almost like a different kind of marketing,” McGinnis said.

From Maryland’s Eastern Shore, she received her bachelor’s from Towson University in mass communications with a concentration in advertising. She then enrolled at the University of Baltimore where she received her master’s degree in communications and publication design.

“Even though I really loved the work that I did at Chesapeake [College] and I enjoyed teaching, I wanted to get back into marketing and advertising,” McGinnis said.

McGinnis said that she always had a distinct interest in the power of the written word and visual communication.

“I was the yearbook editor at my high school so I really discovered pretty early on that I loved the idea of strategic communication: writing, images, putting that all together to send a message, because I think that can be really powerful to people,” McGinnis said.

She attributes her decision to work at the Starr Center to her knowledge of the College’s good reputation, her desire to apply her skills in communication and advertising again, and her love for the history that permeates the WC community.

McGinnis also says she loves team environments, working with other people, and being collaborative on the many projects the Starr Center offers to students.

“I just think she’s a fantastic addition to the team and she brings all sorts of fresh energy, a really strong work ethic, and a can-do spirit. [McGinnis] also just has wonderful chemistry with the rest of us. That makes us all very excited to have her as a colleague,” Goodheart said.

In her current position, McGinnis is involved in WC’s Explore America Internship Program, an initiative run by the Starr Center which matches prospective WC student interns with renowned educational institutions across the country.

In just over six weeks of employment at the Starr Center, McGinnis estimates she has reached out to 40 different institutions to try to make them available to students for the program.

“She has been able to set up new partnerships with the National Aquarium and with Colonial Williamsburg, and with others who will be hosting fully funded WC interns this summer. She’s done all of that already on her own initiative and that’s been really exciting,” Goodheart said.

McGinnis firmly believes in the importance of the Explore America program and says it can positively “change the trajectory” of students’ lives.

McGinnis also spends her time helping plan the Starr Center spring event series, “Thursdays with the Starr Center.” 

According to the WC News & Events webpage, “Thursdays with the Starr Center” launched its debut on Feb. 18 and will continue on Feb. 25 with “An Evening of Words & Song,” an event “featuring an intergenerational line-up of local and WC poets and performers.”

McGinnis said that she encourages students to reach out to her if they have any questions about the Starr Center or the programs they have available to students, because “it provides many awesome opportunities for students to interact on campus in unique and different ways.”

“It’s not just for history majors. The Starr Center can actually support students in a lot of different majors and years. And really, some of the skills that you’ll learn at the Starr Center, be it as an intern with the Explore America program or anything else like that, are life skills that will teach you things that will help you in your professional career,” McGinnis said.

Featured Photo caption: Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience Assistant Director of Communications and Outreach Amber McGinnis joined the team, following a lifelong interest in the power of the written word and images. She primarily works with the Explore America program, which features internships with cultural institutions across the United States. Photo courtesy of Amber McGinnis.

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