Jess Hunt-Ralston, director of marketing and communications for the Atlanta BeltLine Partnership, is the new director of communications for the College of Sciences. She will begin her new position on Feb. 1.
“I am elated to join the College of Sciences and help share the story of incredible people and projects at the forefront of scientific inquiry and discovery, education and mentoring, and collaborative development and innovation,” Hunt-Ralston says. “I look forward to getting to know the faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends who make this work possible and to begin working with the College in tandem with campus communicators to support and expand the sciences at Georgia Tech.”
For Hunt-Ralston, it’s a return to both her alma mater—she graduated from Georgia Tech with honors in May 2012—and a former employer: She served as communications officer and senior designer for the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering from 2012 to 2018.
“This moment is quite a homecoming for me,” Hunt-Ralston says. “It’s been more than a decade since I arrived on campus to study industrial design and nearly as long since I began working in communications at Georgia Tech. I am thrilled to soon reconnect with old friends and begin forging new friendships and collaborative initiatives with colleagues.”
“Our faculty, students, and staff work every day to expand our knowledge of the sciences with next-level research. We are excited to have Jess back on the Georgia Tech campus to help us tell those stories and guide our communications strategies,” says Susan Lozier, College of Sciences Dean and Betsy Middleton and John Clark Sutherland Chair. “Jess’s work on one of the more visible and successful Atlanta development projects of the last decade is a model of community engagement and advocacy, and we’re excited about that here at the College.”
Hunt-Ralston takes over from current College of Sciences Communications Director Maureen Rouhi, who is retiring from Georgia Tech. Rouhi’s work included planning special content and campus activities for the first day of classes on August 21, 2017, which coincided with a near-total solar eclipse watched by thousands on Tech Green.
Rouhi also planned this year’s content and campus educational events for the International Year of the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements (IYPTCE), celebrating the periodic table’s 150th anniversary. The activities were interdisciplinary efforts involving other Georgia Tech schools and colleges. They included special Frontiers in Science lectures, a Halloween carnival in June, an art crawl, and a scavenger hunt during the first week of the fall semester. Thanks to Rouhi, three items of branded “swag” related to the Institute’s IYPTCE activities—a College of Sciences periodic table t-shirt, a commemorative beaker, and a periodic table “makeover” bound volume by the School of Industrial Design—will soon be enshrined in the Science Museum, in London.
“We have been enormously privileged to have had Maureen in this post over the past few years,” Lozier says. “In my short time here, I have come to appreciate her creativity, dedication, and enthusiasm. Though we are poised to welcome Jess into our community, that welcome is bittersweet since we will certainly miss Maureen.”
The Atlanta BeltLine Partnership is the nonprofit arm of Atlanta BeltLine Inc., a long-term plan for urban redevelopment of a former railroad line encircling the city’s core. Conceived by Georgia Tech student Ryan Gravel, work on the project officially began in 2006. Several sections are now open as multi-use trails, with retail stores, bars, restaurants, offices, and apartment complexes along the paths.
Hunt-Ralston’s BeltLine Partnership duties involved strategy, design, and development to achieve the Atlanta BeltLine vision through fundraising, programs, events, outreach, and advocacy.
“Serving as Atlanta BeltLine Partnership’s first communications director has been an honor and an adventure,” Hunt-Ralston says. “Since joining, we’ve secured the BeltLine’s largest philanthropic gift to date to begin building Atlanta’s Westside Park, celebrated the connection of more than 12 miles of contiguous trails, and significantly expanded our community outreach and initiatives around health, housing, volunteering, art, and culture.
“I also look forward to bringing a spectrum of strategic communications, community engagement, and development tools and insights into this new role at Georgia Tech."