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Institute for Emerging Issues

IEI Welcomes New Communications Director Jennifer Heiss

The Institute for Emerging Issues (IEI) at NC State University is excited to welcome Jennifer Heiss as its new Communications Director. She brings years of communications and marketing experience working for government offices and, most recently, NC State University. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Communication from UNC-Chapel Hill and is passionate about the state of North Carolina.

Q: Tell us a bit about your background and how you came to IEI.

A: As a former communicator with the N.C. Department of Transportation, Wake County Government, and North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives, I’ve had the opportunity to work with rural and urban communities across the state in multiple capacities and see the impact of our work on the local level. Most recently, I managed communications for a national agriculture research program headquartered here at NC State University. In addition to my experience in media relations and crisis communications, this role gave me the opportunity to really dive into web development, branding and user experience. When I learned about the position here at IEI, I knew it would be the perfect next step for my career. I’m excited to officially be part of the IEI team!

Q: What interests you about working at IEI? Is there a particular program or area of work you’re most excited about?

A: I’m looking forward to diving into all of our programs and finding great stories to tell. I was introduced to the BAND-NC program during my time with North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives when several of our member co-ops were providing Wi-Fi hotspots in rural communities for students who were remote learning due to the pandemic. The BAND-NC program is helping to make digital inclusion a reality, and I’m excited to see how it will change the future of our state.

Q: What do you believe is the biggest emerging issue facing our state?

A: I believe the biggest emerging issue facing North Carolina is a lack of affordable housing. Housing costs are skyrocketing and inventory is being scooped up almost immediately, making finding an affordable place to live more and more difficult. It’s great that companies want to move to our state, but we need to have affordable housing that allows all North Carolinians to have access to jobs, health care centers, schools and more.

Q: What kinds of things do you like to do for fun?

A: I recently completed my master’s degree, so having free time is still a relatively new concept! My husband and I play disc golf at local parks most weekends if the weather is nice. While I’m a relatively clumsy person and rarely shoot at or below par, I enjoy spending time outdoors with friends and family while seeing my game (slowly) improve.

Q: Is there anything else you want us to know about you?

A: I’m originally from the Washington, D.C. area but have lived in North Carolina since I was a kid. It wasn’t until I went to Appalachian State University for college that I really started to explore the state from the mountains to the coast and embrace all that North Carolina has to offer. Now, I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else!