Former Director of Public Relations Karrie Heartlein has always been interested in civic engagement. Now, as Knox’s new Director of Government and Community Relations, she will pursue opportunities for greater connections between the college and the community.
“Right now, there isn’t a person who’s … dedicated to that,” Heartlein said. “So that’s part of the role that I will fill.”
The creation of the new position comes alongside a larger reorganization of Knox’s communication efforts. Under the previous system, Heartlein was responsible both for overseeing public relations and occasionally managing joint Knox-Galesburg projects, such as some activities surrounding the 175th anniversary of both the college and the town.
“I’m putting the pieces of the web and publications aside and really focusing now on our relations with governmental entities and our relationships with the community,” Heartlein said.
Heartlein is already working on taking a group of students to the state legislature to lobby for the awarding of additional Monetary Award Program (MAP) Grants for Illinois students. This year, the state stopped accepting applications for MAP grants far earlier than in the past and gave colleges little time to notify students.
Within Galesburg itself, Heartlein would like to partner with the City of Galesburg on the Broad Street Expansion Project, which would expand and beautify the walkway between Alumni Hall and the Knox County Public Safety building near the intersection of N. Cedar Street and W. Ferris Street. She also hopes to expand opportunities for students to engage with local businesses and nonprofits.
“Are there organizations in town that need some help, that need a market study, that need a little research done that our students could do? I want to create those connections that allow them to do that,” Heartlein said.
While strengthening the community through student engagement could make Knox more attractive to prospective students, the most important impetus behind this position is fulfilling the college’s mission of fostering civic involvement, President Teresa Amott said.
“Part of our mission is to develop people who … will contribute to and lead their communities,” Amott said. “Here’s a four-year experience with a small city that is sort of ripe for those kinds of opportunities.”
Heartlein also emphasized the educational component, pointing out that skills learned while volunteering or interning in Galesburg cannot always be replicated in the classroom.
“Those are all things that contribute to a broader liberal arts education experience, and it’s something we haven’t had the dedicated personnel available to us to focus on as much as we could have,” Heartlein said. “This change will allow us to do that.”