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The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

Amy Phenix '88 resigns after two years

By Emma WestRasmus

After just two years serving as Director of Communications at Macalester, Amy Phenix ’88 has announced she will be leaving Macalester for the University of Minnesota, where she has been named as the chief-of-staff for U of M President-designate Eric Kaler. April 8 will be her first day in the new position. The announcement about her abrupt departure was a surprise to many colleagues and administration officials, though it wasn’t completely unexpected.

“I was surprised, but not shocked,” said Tommy Bonner, Vice President of Advancement and Phenix’s boss. “Amy is very talented and has good ambitions, so I figured at some point the U would come looking. Five years [at Macalester] would have been ideal, but she accomplished a lot in two years.”

“When I found out what the job was I wasn’t surprised,” said Media Relations Manager Barbara Laskin, who works in the Communications and Public Relations under Phenix. “She didn’t want to leave, but it’s the job of a lifetime.”

Even Phenix was surprised at the suddenness of her upcoming job change, and admitted the timing of the move wasn’t ideal.

“I had an opportunity come along that I didn’t seek out and wasn’t expected,” said Phenix, who said she was tapped by the U of M during their search. “Mac has been a great place to work.”

Phenix has played a critical role in the development of Mac’s increased use of social media outlets, including the redesign of the college’s website, last year’s President’s Day YouTube video, and this year’s President’s Day phone call, which reached nearly 7,500 alumni and friends of the college.

“In many ways my role [at Macalester] is similar to a chief of staff in advancing the President’s agenda,” Phenix said.

Phenix has worked closely with President Brian Rosenberg in promoting Macalester through social media, and Bonner said the combined creativity and effort of the two has been extremely successful in the branding of Macalester on a national stage.

The redesign of the website was a major project spearheaded by Phenix during her two years at Macalester, and she considers it “hugely successful.” Phenix said she believes that the website is a significant factor of what attracts prospective students, and cites increased hits on the website and a dramatic rise in applications this year as indicators of the website’s success.

“The website is first and foremost for prospective students,” Bonner said. “That’s our face to them. By keeping our name positive online, it can only help the institution.”

Though Phenix said she would have liked to stay through the end of the Step Forward capital campaign which ends in December, she is confident that the campaign will end successfully even without her leadership. Step Forward is a five-year campaign aiming to raise $150 million, a goal three times larger than any target amount in Macalester’s history. The capital campaign has also been responsible for a variety of projects, including major construction projects like the Janet Wallace Fine Arts renovations, the Leonard Center and the Institute for Global Citizenship.

Bonner echoed Phenix’s confidence that Step Forward will conclude successfully despite Phenix’s absence, noting that much of the planning work for the rest of the campaign is already complete.

“A lot of the heavy lifting happens earlier,” Bonner said. “Things are already in place, and we have a plan for next year.”

Though Phenix says the communications preparation for the last few months of the capital campaign is in good shape, she’ll miss being at the helm of communications to see the conclusion of Step Forward.

“With something you’ve been part of, you want to be involved until its completion,” Phenix said. “On a personal level, I’ll be sad to miss that.”

Bonner lauded Phenix’s work over the last two years, including her ability to “distill authentic Mac stories” to create a sense of credibility on campus about the Macalester community.

Laskin said Phenix has created a more cohesive Communications team that relies on each other more than in the past.

“In one’s life, you meet supervisors and teachers that you want to work hard for,” Laskin said. “[Amy] engenders that in people.”

David Warch, current Director of Client Services in the Communications office, who will take over Phenix’s post in April as an interim. Bonner described Warch as Phenix’s “number two,” and said Warch will hold the position of Communications Director until someone is hired in the 2011-2012 academic year. According to Bonner, he will start a search in the summer, and plans on hiring a new director during the fall semester.

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