From brochures to advertisements, from emails to exhibit displays, and mobile apps to video tours, five EMU alumni help promote the James Madison University brand through graphic design, photography, videography, and web design. Four of them – Katie Landis ’12, Justin Roth ’12, Lorinda “Rinn” Siegrist ’89 and Frank Ameka ’07 – came to their various positions with degrees in visual arts and communications and internships in EMU’s small, but multi-faceted marketing department. The fifth alumnus is something of an anomaly: Web developer Jamie Johnson was already a minted Duke who had earned his bachelor’s in computer information systems before completing an MA in counseling in 1999 at EMU. We’ll save his unusual story for last.
Katie Landis, an assistant photographer in the marketing department, started her position at JMU the day after graduation. She shoots, edits, archives and delivers photos for the alumni magazine, orientation guides, the Madison Family Handbook, and other projects. Landis also manages four student photographers, emphasizing the “art of visual storytelling” that she learned from her EMU professors.
Since February 2013, Justin Roth has worked at JMU as an assistant video producer. One of his first tasks was to produce video of newly appointed President Jonathan Alger during his get-acquainted tour of alumni around the country.
Rinn Siegrist, who holds a master’s from Syracuse, is the marketing design manager in JMU’s Office of University Communications and Marketing. Siegrist first gained experience as a student graphic designer in the EMU athletics department, and then worked full-time for seven years in the marketing department, designing EMU’s first website and a wide variety of marketing materials.
Since 1996, Siegrist has spent all but three years at JMU, “in various roles over the years, but they all amount to graphic design work,” she says. She currently designs and oversees graphic design and visual brands, including those relating to the JMU alumni magazine, the Forbes Performing Arts Center, and College of Visual and Performing Arts, development and student recruitment.
Across campus in the depths of Warren Hall, Frank Ameka runs what amounts to a small, but very busy marketing agency. Ameka is assistant director of technology and design, and his job is to oversee what he jokingly calls his self-created “behemoth.” Hired the year he graduated, Ameka consolidated client services into a student-staffed and team-oriented marketing agency specializing in integrated graphic design, web development, video, writing, and photography. His staff has exploded from four to 27 employees serving six major clients at the university, including Madison Union, the Office of Student Activities and Involvement, the Festival Conference Center, Fraternity and Sorority Life, Kijiji Leadership, and the University Program Board. At any given time, his student-employees could be developing digital signs and web promotions, filming a leadership video, designing a webpage, or working on advertisements for upcoming Madison Union gallery showings.
“At EMU, I took advantage of every opportunity to practice my craft,” he said, whether single-handedly creating the yearbook, photographing campus events, or filming the Mennonite Youth Conference. “We offer that same opportunity here.”
Web developer Jamie Johnson graduated from JMU with a degree in computer information systems and worked in informational technology for WLR Foods from 1995 to 1999 before attending EMU and then pursuing a career in behavioral health counseling. After five years, he returned to the IT field.
Now his digital “artistry” is behind the campus directory, the mobile apps website, and the IT portal that the university community uses to access electronic accounts, among other projects. Johnson has also contributed to webpages promoting the Marching Royal Dukes, the Forbes Center, the Furious Flower Poetry Center, and the department of art, design and art history.
“Counseling skills play a role here in being able to support and encourage,” he says. “The skills I learned at EMU also assist in learning to speak the customer’s language to help them understand the technical aspects of something I have developed, maintain or support.”
— Lauren Jefferson