A Guide to AMA Higher Ed 2022

In the handful of conferences I’ve attended in person over the last year, I’ve noticed a welcome trend: greater presence and intention among conference-goers. Everyone has a renewed appreciation for being with one another. Fewer heads are buried in screens during sessions. My RHB colleague Alex Williams has called these experiences “joyful reminders of the human power that drives this profession.” 

I can’t wait for the energy of AMA Higher Ed 2022, coming up November 6-8 in National Harbor, Maryland. The challenges for marketing leaders and their institutions are expansive, and the conference agenda will tackle these issues. At the same time, the maturity of marketing in our sector is accelerating, and opportunities for meaningful impact and innovation are enormous. I am especially looking forward to presidents sharing their perspectives at AMA about the direct connection between marketing strategy and institutional strategy. Presidents from the College of Holy Cross, Fordham University, Rice University and the University of Montana will keynote a session, and RHB will host a special event with Greg Fowler, President of the University of Maryland Global Campus. 

I invite you to join Mary Gresch (Senior Vice President for Advancement at the University of Washington), Binti Harvey (Vice President for External Relations and Institutional Advancement at Scripps College) and me for our session about the Chief Constituent Officer. Each of us has led integrated advancement models coming from a marketing and communications background, an unconventional path by today’s advancement structures. We’ll make a case that it’s actually a logical progression for constituent-centric marketing leaders—and beneficial to an institution and the constituents who matter most to it.

Exploring D.C. and Beyond

You may be heading to AMA early for some sightseeing in Washington, D.C., over the weekend. I’ll be bringing my high-school-junior son who missed out on an eighth-grade class field trip to D.C. due to COVID-19. He gets a few days there with Dad two-and-a-half years later as a consolation prize.

No matter how many times you’ve been, there’s something awe-inspiring about being in our nation’s capital. I always try to do a sunrise run through the National Mall, and it’s a highlight every time.

If you’ll be exploring too, we’ve compiled recommendations from expert marketers—including insider tips from those who call the area home—to help ensure your time is memorable.

Rick Bailey, Founder and Principal, RHB

If you have time to make it into D.C., and your taste buds are shouting “Spain!,” you are in luck. Head to Jose Andres’ Jaleo for a wonderful evening (I recommend the pairings with the chef’s menu) or Estadio for a fun tapas meal. Both are excellent and the source of some great memories. The last time several of us were in D.C. we went to Belga, a Belgian restaurant that was over-the-top delicious. 

Amanda Sale, Senior Consultant for Enrollment Management, RHB

As a southerner and foodie, I highly recommend Succotash. And, bonus points, it will be close to the conference! Featuring James Beard Award winner, Chef Edward Lee, they offer a progressive perspective of classic Southern favorites. If you enjoy bourbon, I’d recommend trying their flight and pair it with one of their starters or snacks, you can’t go wrong with any of them.

Joshua Harless, Associate Vice President for Marketing, The Catholic University of America

Welcome to D.C.! For those who want to trek to the city and see the monuments, make sure you stop by Penn Quarter (north of the National Mall and just east of the White House). Check out the National Portrait Gallery and the National Building Museum and dine at Busboys and Poets, Oyamel or Central Michel Richard. If you are really adventurous and seeking to prolong the spooky season, make your way to Georgetown and visit the infamous stairs from The Exorcist (note there are plenty of dining and shopping options to help calm frayed nerves). Enjoy your time in Washington!

Julie Zito, Assistant Vice President for Marketing, American University

“Old Town” Alexandria, Virginia, is just a hop across the bridge from the National Harbor and Gaylord Hotel. Here are some of my Old Town favorites.

Virtue Feed & Grain is tasty and has something for everyone. It’s also located in a very charming historic building on Union Street, near the water. If you’re looking for views, chef-owned Hummingbird, inside the Indigo Hotel, is a great choice. Landini Brothers is an Italian Old Town institution in the middle of Alexandria’s historic district. Eat dinner and wander around the cobblestone streets. Taverna Cretekou has classic Greek food with a great patio. BARCA is a fun tapas and floating wine bar right on the Potomac. Not sure November will bring us patio weather, but you never know in D.C.!

If you have more time to spend and want to explore some D.C. “sights,” here are some spots that I love and that might be lesser-known.

Of all the Smithsonian museums, the National Portrait Gallery is one of my favorites. It has the only complete collection of portraits of every U.S. president outside the White House (with some very interesting and honest critiques of each presidency), as well as surprising and fantastic temporary and traveling exhibits. Be sure to check out the Kogod Courtyard, a beautiful and relaxing spot to sit and take in the gardens and have an afternoon cup of coffee (or glass of wine), regardless of weather. 

The National Building Museum always has interesting exhibits and the building itself is dramatic and spectacular.

The U.S. Botanic Garden, right near the U.S. Capitol, is always a welcome respite on a cold, dreary day. Surround yourself with stunning orchids, primeval ferns that have been around since the Jurassic period, and walk around and above the three-story tropical rainforest atrium right in the heart of the building.

Our favorite gelato place in D.C. is in the basement of the National Gallery of Art, between the East and West buildings. It’s always a treat to see Degas’ Little Fourteen-Year-Old Dancer, take your picture on the roof with the giant blue rooster, or marvel at Alexander Calder’s mobile and sculpture tower and then have a delicious cup of gelato and cappuccino next to the indoor waterfall.

Cynthia Martinez, Senior Director of Brand Marketing, University of Maryland

I always encourage people visiting D.C. to include three things on your to-do list: visit the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture, see the Lincoln Memorial at night and catch a free performance on the Millenium Stage at the Kennedy Center. 

Now where to get good food is a whole different story. No matter what type of cuisine you are feeling, chances are you will find it in and around D.C. There are restaurants everywhere. I like The Grill from Ipanema (Brazilian) in Adams Morgan, Bistrot du Coin (French) in Dupont Circle and the best margaritas are at Oyamel (Mexican) in Penn Quarter. Oh, and the University of Maryland is located in College Park, right outside of D.C. If you are in our neighborhood and like vegan, NuVeganCafe has the best vegan soul food. Delicious! 

Mark DeLong, Enrollment Marketing and Communications Director, George Washington University

Take the ferry from National Harbor to the Georgetown Waterfront and grab a drink or a bite at Farmers Fishers Bakers, Sequoia or Fiola Mare.

Union Market in Northeast D.C. has a wide variety of food and beverage spots, from steaks at St. Anselm to Latin American delights from La Cosecha and rum cocktails at Cotton & Reed.

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Rob Zinkan

Rob is the Vice President for Marketing Leadership at RHB.