Director of Community Engagement to start new position with the city of Webster Groves

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Jennifer Starkey has been with Webster since 2013. On May 3, she will start her new position for the city of Webster Groves.

Jennifer Starkey will be leaving Webster University on April 23. She is accepting a career with the city of Webster Groves as the new Public Affairs and Community Engagement director, which she will begin on May 3.

The announcement initially came in the form of a Tweet from the Webster-Kirkwood Times, which congratulated Starkey on her position. The role of director for Public Affairs and Community Engagement was just created this year.

Starkey, a two-time graduate from Webster, said it is time for her to make a change and face new challenges. She has plans to assess the communication methods and styles of the city.

“There’s a good foundation of communications that are already there, and I’m hoping that I can build upon that … so that the community has a better understanding of what’s going on, what’s ahead and what the city can do to help them,” Starkey said.

Starkey has been with Webster since 2013 when she began as a media relations officer for the Public Relations Department. She moved up to associate director of Public Relations within a few years. In 2017, Starkey was chosen as Webster’s director of Community Engagement.

During her time at Webster, Starkey helped plan the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Conference. She also had advertisements placed in newspapers and magazines to promote the university’s events and served as a middlewoman between the university and Webster Groves.

“I wanted to work to show this city the benefits of having this large, global university in their neighborhood,” Starkey said.

Starkey reinvigorated the community discount program, which partners with various establishments in the Webster Groves area to give students discounted prices on food, apparel, cosmetics and even orthodontic treatment.

“[Business owners] appreciate the fact that we’re trying to get students to stay in the area after classes are over and help their businesses out,” Starkey said. “And they’ve reached out to me, ‘How can I hire students to work at my organization since you’re right down the street?’ So those kind of relationships have had ripple effects that benefit the students and the businesses.”

In addition to providing businesses with connections to the university, Starkey is involved in the Webster Groves/Shrewsbury/Rock Hill Area Chamber of Commerce. She says this connection strengthened her relationship with the city and the people living it.

“They’re more comfortable contacting us and we’re more comfortable contacting them when things come up,” Starkey said.

Starkey also has previously worked in public relations for various organizations such as the American Dietetic Association and Academy of General Dentistry. She says the experiences she had throughout her careers will benefit her in her upcoming role.

“I think I’ve gotten really good at researching my audience, researching the people that I’m trying to target and communicate with and alter my messages to meet that group,” Starkey said. “Communicating to dentists, of course, is a different mode of communication than communicating with students, so I think I’ve improved on that throughout the years and I think that’s going to really come in handy … with all the different parts of Webster Groves.”

Webster has not presently decided on who will replace Starkey.

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Kate McCracken
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