Incoming Executive Director of University Communications Amy Jessee has already mapped out her first days on the job.
As chief communicator for the University of Mary Washington, Jessee will begin by listening – to students, staff, faculty, administrators, alumni, community supporters and others with a stake in telling the university’s stories in the ways that matter most.
When she arrives on campus in late June, she won’t have to start from scratch. Jessee is a 2006 graduate of UMW, where she majored in business administration and English and earned the Colgate W. Darden Jr. Award, bestowed on the undergraduate with the highest grade-point average. She holds a master of arts degree in professional communication from Clemson University.
Her four years on campus in the 2000s laid the groundwork for a higher education communications career that has seen her handle increasing responsibility and a variety of challenges. Jessee has worked with large public land-grant research institutions, private universities, and technical colleges via workforce investment boards, but her mission remains in the public liberal arts and sciences, where she’s served for the past 10 years. She has directed editorial services at Georgetown University McDonough School of Business and most recently led a multimedia communications team at UNC Asheville.
Jessee is eager to return to her alma mater, to support and serve the university where she made discoveries intellectually, personally and professionally.
“I loved my time at UMW,” she recalled. She explored classes in creative writing, linguistics, accounting, marketing and organizational creativity, an expansive experience that she said speaks to the power of the liberal arts and sciences.
“This education is one that really launches a lifetime of learning,” she said. “It gives you the potential to see things from a variety of perspectives.”
As a sophomore, Jessee began working for the precursor to the department she will now lead, University Communications. She started as a news clipper, tracking media mentions. But mentors within the department soon recognized her value as a contributor, particularly as the institution underwent its name change from Mary Washington College to the University of Mary Washington.
Jessee’s role with the department grew to encompass writing and editing, handling media inquiries, and managing the university website. After graduation, she stayed on full time for a year before leaving for graduate school at Clemson.
There, she and husband John Ridout, a fellow 2006 Mary Washington alum, both earned graduate degrees. He holds a Ph.D. and works as a transportation planner. They have two children.
Mary Washington is fortunate to bring back a communicator with Jessee’s unique combination of professional and personal experience, said UMW Chief of Staff Jeffrey McClurken.
“As an alumna, as an accomplished communications leader, and as a someone with great familiarity with public liberal arts and sciences institutions, Amy brings knowledge, experience and insight with her as she starts this new role,” McClurken said. “I look forward to working with her and the University Communications team to tell the Mary Washington story.”