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EU Alumni Perspective: Anne Marie Rhoades

Name: Anne Marie Rhoades

Graduation Year: 2009

Major: Public Relations & Advertising

Current Position: Vice President of Advocacy & Strategic Partnerships, Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance

City and State: Philadelphia, PA

Tell us about your career and what you do now.

 In the ten years since I left Evangel, I’ve been in communications and politics in all sorts of ways, from an advertising agency to a presidential campaign. Now, as I told a group of 2nd graders the other day, “I’m a cheerleader for the arts.” (Then I told them that I’ve touched off-limits dinosaur bones at the nearby natural history museum, so we got pretty off-track after that.)

Greater Philadelphia—11 counties that are home to 6+ million people—has an arts and culture-specific chamber of commerce that covers all the museums, theaters, concert spaces, galleries, choirs, the ballet, the orchestra…you name it, they’re members of my organization, the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance. In my role as the Vice President of Advocacy & Strategic Partnerships, I oversee all of the city, state and federal government relations that impact our member organizations and the cultural sector. If there is a bill in Congress that affects the National Endowment for the Arts or public television, for example, I head up the strategy for either backing or helping to beat that. I also lead the Cultural Alliance’s strategic communications team, which engages not only with our 440+ member organizations but with donors and advocates and the general public; additionally, I direct all of our data analysis, research and publications, which are used across the country to make the case for continued public and private support for arts funding, education and programming.

What is your favorite memory from Evangel?

 I got to tour with the Concert Choir for a good three years at Evangel, and each of those trips sticks out as such an incredible and ridiculous and priceless experience in different ways. Taking these extended road trips, meeting people from coast to coast, getting to see these incredible sights and visit friends’ families, escaping a hotel-on-fire, surviving flat tires, suffering through weird overnight stays (inevitably in a creepy basement or a room decorated with antique dolls), performing world-class music, and getting through the last leg of the trip by singing old camp songs at the top of our lungs is something I just can’t imagine getting anywhere else.


How did Evangel help you identify/develop your calling?

 While I majored in public relations & advertising (and they really helped!) what really cemented by calling was my Comparative Government minor. The first class, Comparative European Governments (Jenkins), became another, and another, and Comparative Central Asian Governments, and History of Russia I & II (a real hoot of a class, trust me), and that work—primarily guided by Rob Bartels—opened my eyes to what I was truly called to do. It became clear that public service and government were my vocation, and I really had the chance to identify and develop that through the thought-provoking content and lively discussion and academic challenges Professor Bartels made possible.


How did your experience at Evangel prepare you for life after graduation?

 I learned things from Nancy Pace-Miller, Mark Kelton, Melinda Booze and Juleen Turnage that I use every single day from City Hall to Congress. That said, it’s really Juleen Turnage who made what I do possible. Anyone who knows her career or the late 20th century history of the Assemblies of God knows that Juleen Turnage’s expert work is one of the foremost examples of successful crisis communications in the country.

Typically, crisis management, press relations and politics can be taught in a classroom but they can’t really be learned in a classroom, because you never know what you’re going to do until you’re halfway through it. Juleen’s work is the absolute exception to that rule. It wasn’t until years later, in a meeting with the New York City Commissioner of Homeless Services about a breaking scandal that was about to be published in an international expose by Der Spiegel, that I realized that not everyone knew the things I had learned from Juleen, because these incredibly high-powered, well-funded bureaucrats were eating my advice up. They were surprised by the simple recommendations that I’d internalized by learning from this expert in a small environment where we could pick her brain and engage with her and the experience she was sharing with us. The fact is, getting crisis management guidance from one of the crisis communicators is genuinely something that even tuition money can’t usually buy.


What advice would you give a current student preparing for the workforce?

There will be a lot of things that happen in the course of your career that Evangel will have prepared you for (see above) and there are a lot of things that happen in the course of your career that Evangel won’t have prepared you for. The workforce is NOT church camp or small group—and that’s actually a great thing. You’ll be around people and in situations you might not be comfortable with, but being able to blend in, look confident and learn from them anyway is KEY.


What would you look for if you were in a position to hire new graduates from Evangel?

 Right now, I’m looking for people who really get big data and understand how to tell a story with it—the narrative is king and a student who knows how to create those is going to be a compelling candidate for a job. I’m also looking for someone who doesn’t confuse a casual workplace with a no-accountability workplace, and someone who doesn’t put their whole life on social media.