Around the Table with Jordan Grobe

Welcome to Around the Table, a regular series where we talk to people in our network and share the incredible work they are doing in their industry. In this edition, our summer intern, Ruby Werckman, interviews one of their Communications professors. Pull up a chair and join us for conversation and connection.

Scott Talan's headshot, superimposed over a designed background featuring two people sitting at a table.

Name: Jordan Grobe

Company: I.M.P

Where to Find You: Instagram, Linktree, Website

What inspired you to work within the music industry?

I always dreamt of working in or around music as a kid, but figured out pretty early that I wasn’t going to be the one on stage. I just remember watching Paul McCartney headlining Glastonbury when I was 7 or 8 on the old TV channel Palladia, which I think is now MTV Live. Paul was performing “Hey Jude” to 500,000 people and conducting the entire audience like an orchestra, and something clicked that desperately made want to be a part of that.

What was your career journey to becoming the Communications Coordinator at I.M.P.?

I was first formally introduced to I.M.P. (as more than just a fan and attendee) through college radio at George Washington University in DC. I’d interviewed a band, Caveman, at Rock & Roll Hotel for WRGW and at the end of the night the only folks left in the room were myself, Caveman, their local opener, and a friend of the local opener. Well, that other friend happened to be the Marketing Director for I.M.P. at the time, and after chatting for a while she insisted I apply for the Marketing Internship. They’d actually already filled up their roster for the semester, but they still needed a hand with tabling on-site at shows so that was my first foray into our venues before completing the internship proper the following semester. That was about ten years and five or six different roles ago now, and I’ve never left!

Are there any upcoming projects or events that you have been working on that you can tell us about?

Well the biggest one was the launch of The Atlantis – our newest and smallest venue designed as an homage to the original 9:30 Club. In my career and in my position specifically, we tend to work toward and build up to large scale projects and unveilings and announcements.

What does an average workday look like for you, though I assume there is no such thing?

The word “average” there is doing a lot of heavy lifting. The regular responsibilities that’re continual each day are assigning/managing our team of house photographers, connecting with local media outlets regarding preview coverage for our upcoming events, and coordinating with publicists in advance of each show to finalize their on-site policies and attending press lists. Every single show is different, with unique policies and requirements, different audiences, different reporters and photographers – sometimes there’s a video component, sometimes it’s just photo. On top of all that, there are other projects that pop up on a regular basis but are always different, whether that be writing new press releases for show announcements or special events or writing plaques for the new statues that we have at Merriweather Post Pavilion.

How do you juggle being in charge of communications for multiple venues and being in charge of so many different photographers at once?

With the help of my interns! (Note: Avid Core’s summer intern, Ruby Werckman, is also an intern with I.M.P.) There are a lot of moving parts to this job, especially during the summer when we have Merriweather Post Pavilion open. Our team has to manage media at every show at Merriweather and The Anthem, and I’ve had to be at most of these inaugural 44 shows at The Atlantis as well. Since I physically can’t be in more than one place at once, despite my attempts at cloning, I rely on the help of my team.

On top of your role as Communications Coordinator, you are also a stellar photographer. What can you tell us about your experience with photography?

I started in this position long before I picked up a camera of my own. I was in charge of our team of house photographers from the get-go, which meant that I was around all these creatives constantly. It also meant when they were submitting their work, I was the one reviewing it, trying to figure out which shots would be best to use for our promotional purposes. I spent a lot of time looking at concert imagery over the years, so I think I developed my own stylistic preferences from there – things I liked and didn’t like, what I thought could be improved. But all of that is just looking at someone else’s image as a critic, which is exceptionally different than figuring out how to actually operate a camera and capture your own. Fast-forward to The Anthem’s grand opening in October 2017, and we had a house photographer who was essentially The Anthem’s documentarian, a guy named John Shore. He’s truly one of the best photographers I’ve met, and he essentially shot every show from the day The Anthem opened until COVID closed us down (temporarily, for roughly 18 months).

After working with him for two years and him seeing what he called “the eye” in me, he literally gave me the second body to his camera during a show and told me, “You just need to do this,” so I did. And I loved it. Spent the next week doing as much research into photography and cameras as I could, pulled the trigger on a Fujifilm X-T3, and the rest, as they say, is history. Photography is this amazing and weird blend of both engineering and art, and there’s always more to learn, always more to capture.

What is the best advice you’ve received in your career?

My first gig in music stemmed from someone telling me “I don’t answer my phone a lot – keep calling until I do.” The notion of not bothering people, I think, is a really strong one. I think we have this innate fear of being burdensome – that that recognition of how busy everyone is these days prevents us from wanting to ask the questions we deserve to be able to ask. But there’s a polite difference between bothering and reminding, and often if you don’t circle back, don’t nudge, that note that means the world to you, that you’re eagerly awaiting a reply for, has unfortunately, unintentionally, fallen to the bottom of the recipient’s inbox. It can be a fine line to navigate, but it’s always worth reaching out a second time (and sometimes even a third). If they never replied in the first place, giving them a gentle reminder can only, at worst, leave you with the same result as you currently have – no reply. But having the willingness to just keep trying and just do something, rather than waiting for any of it to sort of happen to you, is important. 

What advice would you give someone just starting their career in this industry?

Take pride in what you are working on even if it’s not your dream, even if it’s not your end goal. Everything that you do is a stepping stone to the next thing. If you did something poorly before because you didn’t care about that thing, that’s not helping you reach the thing that you do care about – and it can actually hold you back. Showing people that you are there, that you care, and that you’re willing to help in any way really does go a long way. I think the best thing you can do in life, and especially in a professional work environment, is try to make someone else’s day easier. 

What song/album/artist do you have on repeat recently?

I’ve been bouncing through a bunch but I guess the new Grian Chatten, the lead singer from Fountaines D.C., album. The new Geese album is also great, as is the new Do Nothing album. This morning I was just listening to the new covers compilation from Nick Drake, and that’s been awesome.

When you aren’t working, what do you like to do?

When am I not working (laughs)? I like to watch movies, TV shows, comedy specials, work on photography that is not concert related, and spend time with friends.

If we were literally around the table right now, what food would you be eating?

It’s a stereotypical answer, but I’m a New Yorker, so I’m going to go with New York pizza.

Avid Fans Of: Barbenheimer

Avid (adjective) – having or showing a keen interest in or enthusiasm for something. It’s more than just our company’s namesake. Passion for our work and for the things we love is part of our core values. In this recurring series, we’ll share some of the things we’re Avid Fans of with you.

Barbie and Oppenheimer both premiered on July 21, 2023, sparking “Barbenheimer” – an internet phenomenon that led to countless memes, articles, and even its own Wikipedia page. Whether you’re on “Team Barbie” or “Team Oppenheimer,” one thing is certain: in an age of endless sequels, prequels, and remakes, two well-made, stand-alone films are something to celebrate.

For this edition of Avid Fans Of, the team weighs in on which of the two films they watched and what they thought. Bonus points for seeing both!

Ashley – Barbie

Ashley, wearing a pink outfit, poses inside a large, faux-Barbie box at the movie theater.

I had been eagerly anticipating the Barbie movie since I first heard about it! From Greta Gerwig to the entire incredible cast to the amazing teaser trailers and songs that were released, I could not get enough and was so ready to watch! I have always been obsessed with the color pink and Barbie brings me right back to my childhood.

When the movie came out, I was visiting my parents and my mom planned a special outing for us to see it together. She got us matching t-shirts, made themed treats, and pulled out her vintage Barbies from the 1960s. The movie had such sweet mother-daughter moments that it was really special to have that time together. I watched it again with friends a week later and it was cool to pick out entirely new moments to love!

Ruby – Barbie

A mirror selfie of Ruby Werckman in their pink outfit for the Barbie showing.

My friends and I had been talking about Barbenheimer for months, debating whether to watch them both on the same day, which order to watch, etc. I did end up seeing both films, but definitely not on the same day. I have major respect for anyone who did watch both films in one day, especially since I couldn’t imagine watching anything after watching Oppenheimer but ending on that note would be a bummer so it must be watched first, in my opinion.

Although I was actually a bit disappointed by Barbie, since for me it didn’t feel as provocative as others had made it sound or go any deeper than conversations about girlhood I’ve been having since 6th grade. Putting that disappointment aside, I am still team Barbie. Oppenheimer was good, don’t get me wrong, but at the end of the day it was just a movie to me. The actors were good, especially Emily Blunt, there were some cool shots, and it kept me surprisingly engaged for such a long film. However, it didn’t really do anything many other movies have done before to me, feeling like a bit artsier version of yet another film about genocide from a white man’s perspective, which frankly we do not need any more of. Although Barbie wasn’t as women centered as I had hoped for, it was still incredibly heartwarming seeing so many girls’ positive reactions to the film and walking into a movie theater filled with people dressed in pink. Barbie truly had an impact so what more can you say other than Barbie is everything and Oppenheimer is just Oppenheimer.

Rossana – Barbie

I can’t say I watched Oppenheimer (even though I love Florence Pugh), but I RAN to watch Barbie and it delivered as promised! Within the first 5 minutes, I was crying from just feeling the empowerment. I think I can go on and on about that, but I’ll save you the speech. The vibes were immaculate, and you could just tell who was going to be in the theater with you because in the crowd of Barbie and Oppenheimer folks waiting to buy popcorn, you could see all the pink just highlighted in the sea of people.

Every single person in the full theater room for Barbie was in pink. I used the bathroom before the movie began and saw more folks in pink, and we’d all greet each other by saying “Hi Barbie!” Greta Gerwig, Ryan Gosling, and Margot Robbie did a great job. I could even see moms and dads in the audience proudly wearing pink with their kids. I think the movie did a great job of touching on some very real and very relevant themes while adding comedy and light-hearted touches. AND to add more to the great movie, the hair and wardrobe on Margot Robbie was amazing! I even spotted Barbies I had (including weird Barbie) and accessories (like the pink convertible).

Susan – Barbie

A selfie of Susan Hernandez and her sister in front of the Barbie movie sign.

I was so excited to watch the Barbie movie when I heard it was coming out. I was definitely a “Barbie girl” growing up. I had so many dolls, movies, and a Barbie dream house. I still watch Barbie; I watched all the new Barbie shows and movies on Netflix. So, I was so happy seeing it in theaters.

I thought it was such a great movie, the whole cast was funny and silly. Margot Robbie was perfectly cast for Barbie, she was amazing in the role. My favorite scene was the “I’m Just Ken” musical number. It was just outrageous and random but that’s what made it great. I was stuck singing that song for a week after. On that note, I thought Ryan was great as Ken. I was just a bit disappointed with the Ken they gave us because I know based on my “extensive Barbie knowledge that Ken would never do what he did in the movie. But it was still fun to watch how they made it work between Ken and Barbie. The last thing I loved about the whole experience was just how excited everyone was to dress up to watch the movie. Everyone was wearing pink or even going all out wearing actual Barbie outfits from the movies or the dolls.

Alex – Oppenheimer

The theatrical poster for Oppenheimer, seen outside a movie theater.

I was looking forward to seeing Oppenheimer since the first time I saw the initial trailer on YouTube. I hadn’t heard anything about Christopher Nolan’s next film, so the trailer was a complete (and pleasant) surprise! The movie is full of masterful performances. The film’s main characters, J. Robert Oppenheimer and Lewis Strauss, are brought to life, respectively, by the hypnotizing Cillian Murphy and a particularly slimy and villainous Robert Downey, Jr. Several of the supporting characters, like the kind and patient Isidor Rabi, portrayed by David Krumholtz, and the wry, no-nonsense General Leslie Groves, played by veteran movie star Matt Damon, helped define Oppenheimer’s complex life and intense personal journey.

Oppenheimer treats intimate moments with broad, immersive strokes and focuses on large-scale issues with deft stylistic and narrative skill. By the end of this three-hour character study, a massive existential dilemma is illustrated, debated, and finally visualized with striking pathos and visual ingenuity. The events surrounding the creation of the atom bomb are told with drama and tension, buttressed by a moody, electrifying score by Ludwig Göransson. The film’s complicated, at times thrilling, at times somber story is a detailed glance back in time to when the world changed forever. Conveyed through strong thematic threads, as well as some unique surrealist imagery, the film involves the audience completely in its protagonist’s internal conflict, palpably punctuated by equal parts passion, intellect, curiosity, fear, and guilt. As someone who loves biographical dramas and practical filmmaking (Oppenheimer used very little in terms of digital effects, opting for composites of real explosions and in-camera depictions of light waves and particles), the movie provides a deeply humanist view of its subject matter and, at the same time, holds up a mirror to both the beauty and brittle nature of our lives on planet Earth.

Stephanie – Barbie

A Barbie doll held in front of a cell phone camera, with rows of theater seats and the screen in the background.

We waited for a month to enjoy the Barbie movie as a family. My older daughter came home from camp with a choregraphed dance to Dua Lipa’s “Dance the Night” song and excitedly asked us if we could go that night to see the movie. I took advice from my colleagues, which means we dressed in pink, blasted the soundtrack to the theater and ordered all of the pink snacks available. We even brought my daughter’s favorite Barbie (in blurred picture) to enjoy the dance sequences and suite of Barbie products placed in the movie.

I had high expectations. I’m pleased to admit that this film went above and beyond what I envisioned. It surprised me in many ways. The cast is obviously perfect. The messaging is powerful. I love that the writers/producers/directors weren’t afraid to poke fun at Mattel and our society’s stereotypes. I can’t wait to watch this again with the Barbie lovers in my life and recite our favorite lines. I’m looking forward to many sequels. And Mattel/Greta/Kate McKinnon – can we please get a spinoff of Weird Barbie asap!?

Amanda – Barbie 

I was obsessed with Barbie as a young girl. I had tons of clothes and dolls. Seven-year-old me would have sold my soul for a Barbie dreamhouse. But I distinctly remember the year Barbie fell out of favor with me. I was eagerly opening Christmas presents when I opened a gift from my grandmother, and my eager face fell as the wrapping gave way to a Barbie box. Ew. Barbies are for little kids, my eight-year-old brain probably thought.

In a lot of ways, my experience as a little girl mirrored Stereotypical Barbie’s story arc in the movie—perfectly fine and happy until growth changed her perspective on what makes her happy. To that end, it was a good watch, loved the music, star-studded cast, and made me question the role I play in reinforcing the patriarchy as a business owner, wife and mother, and active volunteer with young children. I would share more on that, but I have to run, Existential Crisis Barbie is knocking at my door.

Striking the Right Tone on Social Media

There is no clear guidebook for how to create social media content in the communications field. This is simultaneously one of the hardest aspects of this career path and one of its best. The lack of a clear guide allows for more individual creativity and expression. But it is not just about finding your own voice.

The biggest lesson I have learned working as Avid Core’s communications intern this summer is the importance of learning how to shift the tone, content, and style of everything you post based off the type of account and potential audience.

A social media post highlighting parks in the Anacostia watershed region, with a small image of each park arranged in a circle over a blue sky background.

I came into this internship with social media knowledge from working with a dance club at my college, American University. That content was in a much more casual context, and more trend and pop culture-based than the social media content I was asked to create for Avid Core’s clients, which include government agencies at the local, state, regional, and federal levels, and nonprofit organizations.

The first project I worked on was creating social media content for the Anacostia Watershed Restoration Partnership’s “Enjoy the Anacostia” accounts. The goal of this project was to bring attention to the ongoing efforts to restore the Anacostia River and the many fun activities you can do within the Anacostia Watershed.

This content had to be slightly more formal, since it was coming from an association of different state and federal agencies, environmental organizations, and private citizens, but still needed a conversational, friendly tone to convince an audience the parks are fun! To strike this balance, I incorporated more fun design elements and created content related to recent social media trends to reach a wider, active audience.

A social media post highlighting the Lotus and Water Lily Festival in the Anacostia watershed region, using cool colors and water lily graphics.

I was also tasked to craft social media posts for a federal agency. Their social media presence was much more straightforward and informative, meaning it was important to have crisp, organized graphics, and to speak in a more professional tone.

It took a bit of adjusting to this new mindset, but I spent time learning and understanding the agency, considering what audience these posts were aiming to reach, and making sure I had a clear idea in my head of the goals of each post to do so effectively.

Creating posts for Avid Core’s socials was a bit of a mixture of these two other projects. These posts had to be fairly professional, since they represent our brand, but they also must be friendly and reach out to the audience. Our goals are to pitch and sell our services, to get users to apply for a new job position, to read one of our blogs, or something along those lines.

A social media post announcing an open Administrative Assistant position with Avid Core, styled with the company's purple and white abstract design.

Talking directly to the reader and asking questions at the beginning of the post can be good ways to draw in engagement and participation. It was also key to keep these graphics within the Avid Core brand theme with lots of purple and white. There are so many different types of social media communication, and even more complex nuances to learn within the communication field as a whole since it expands far beyond social media.

From my experience, it is important to learn to think about how the content you are creating is different from others. Think about the audience you are trying to reach and what the goal of your post is, such as getting the audience to click on a link, attend an event, or even just engage with the post. Explore how you can use the unique elements and expectations for the platform you are using to share your message.

When you think about all these elements of your own media, you can find the right tone and style for your content, just like I did.

Ruby Werckman is a senior at American University studying public relations. Connect with them on LinkedIn.

Around the Table with Scott Talan

Welcome to Around the Table, a regular series where we talk to people in our network and share the incredible work they are doing in their industry. In this edition, our summer intern, Ruby Werckman, interviews one of their Communications professors. Pull up a chair and join us for conversation and connection.

Name: Scott Talan

Occupation: Professor at American University

Where to Find You: LinkedIn

You have held many different roles working in many different realms. You were the mayor of a small town in California. You wrote for Good Morning America and reported on-air for multiple news stations. You’ve worked with organizations such as the United Nations and March of Dimes and have been a professor at multiple universities across the globe, including as my professor at American University. What influenced your decision to work in so many different fields and organizations before settling into academia?

I think part of it is having a plan, and then being willing to part from that plan. So, my initial plan was to get into politics and I did, then I sort of fell into TV news and got into that field. Then that took me across the country and into grad school, which I hadn’t planned on. But interestingly, every job that I’ve had since grad school has been directly or indirectly related to grad school. And then when I moved to D.C., a grad school classmate was working as a teacher, and I said that seems interesting. So again, I had some plans and then I altered my plan. I think teaching combines all the things I’ve done before into one area and it also forces me to keep learning.

One memorable lesson I’ve learned from you is the importance of cultivating yourself as a brand. How would you describe your personal brand?

At this point, teacher and traveler. Thinker, reader, and coffee drinker.

Is there anything you have been working on recently or anything coming up soon that you would like to talk about?

I’m thinking about going into or learning more about the field of professional coaching…I’ve thought about it for years but recently I’ve been thinking more about it.

But right now, I’ve traveled so much abroad and in America that even though I’m about to get on a plane, it’s not to a new place so it’s sort of like enjoying life without having those “go, go, go, get ‘em” goals right in front of me.

I know you’re a big fan of travel and have worked and lived all over the place. What is the biggest lesson you have learned through your travel experience?

America is great, but there is a whole lot more in the rest of the world.

What is your favorite place you have visited?

Oh boy… Well, I’m headed to Vancouver for, I think, my fifth time. I’d definitely say that’s one of my favorite cities. If you went strictly by data, and this is a little bit of a two-edged sword about data, I’ve been to China about eight times so the data would say, “Hey that’s the country you’ve been to the most.” But part of it sometimes was work, part of it was just circumstance or an invitation. That said, China is such a huge country, with huge forests, and culturally so fascinating, I think it’s a mandatory place to go if you consider yourself any sort of traveler or citizen of the world.

What is the best advice you’ve received in your career?

It’s tough to say, because in high school I didn’t have a career yet. My auto shop teacher, he knew I wasn’t going to be an auto mechanic or fixing engines. And one day, he came to the back of the class where I was standing and watching everyone else working on their cars, talking to a buddy. And he said, “Do you know what I see?” He didn’t look at me, just looked straight out at the class the same way I was looking and said, “I see wasted potential,” and then he turned and looked at me and then walked off. Sometimes you can’t always be sensitive and wrap hugs around every word. Sometimes you have use straight talk, and that was straight talk. And I very much appreciate it, it kicked my butt into gear.

What advice would you give someone just starting to think about their career?

Go for it. Don’t sweat it. If it doesn’t work out, change it into something else.

When you aren’t working, what do you like to do?

Movies, just saw the new Indiana Jones. I love to watch the Tour de France, I watch it every day when it’s on. I like meeting and talking to people. Reading the news — I subscribe to six different newspapers — and just sitting in a café having coffee.

What is the best movie/TV show you have watched recently?

Well, I just saw, on Netflix, Unchained, it’s a documentary about last year’s Tour de France. I was actually in Paris for the final stage and there were so many riders I didn’t know about, so many backstories. It was an amazingly well-done documentary and I hope they keep doing it. I am also looking forward to seeing the new Mission Impossible. As long as you get what you expect from those franchise movies, it will be okay.

If we were literally around the table right now, what food would you bring?

Coke Zero and pretzels.

3 Years Later: DEIA Public Commitment

Avid Core remains focused on the importance of diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA), not just as a reflection of our corporate responsibility but as a tenet of our internal work culture.

Through our outreach and engagement work, we continue to do our part towards identifying, understanding, and weakening systemic racism by recognizing opportunities for growth, improvement, and education and taking advantage of those opportunities. This three-pronged approach extends across our firm’s hiring and workplace practices, how we support our team members, and how we choose to advocate for and support change in our communities.

We will not stop at just promising to be better; we are continuously reaffirming our commitment to equitable conduct as we recognize the gaps within our company that still need to be addressed and take the necessary steps towards improvement.

Below are some ways we’ve upheld and expanded on our promises from three years ago:

Promoting Pay Transparency and Equity

We recently completed a pay equity analysis, making sure that we’re compensating everyone equitably. While ensuring pay equity is an important social responsibility, it also helps us succeed as a people-first enterprise.

Reevaluating Avid Core’s Work Culture

In the past few months, we conducted a work culture session with Jade Johnson, cofounder of Johnson Squared Consulting, in which Jade led our team through a variety of virtual exercises. Giving everyone time to anonymously fill out questionnaires during the session, Jade facilitated discussions around the perceived expectations surrounding Avid Core’s internal culture.

She helped the group get a better understanding of different work cultures, providing the team an opportunity to not only reflect but also engage in assessing and contributing to our shared work environment.

This was not just a one-off exercise – we continue to work with Jade and her company because we understand that intra-workplace communication, our growth as a firm, and the wellbeing of our team members is an important, and ongoing, process.

Implementing Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility

Through Kantola Training Solutions, the entire Avid Core team participated in online sexual harassment and DEI training courses, viewing story-based videos and answering questions while also reflecting on personal workplace experiences as well as conscious and unconscious bias.

Team members were able to complete their assigned courses on their own time, helping ensure a more engaged learning process and, ultimately, help our company further develop a more conscientious approach to how we handle both internal and external interaction and conflict.

Floating Holidays and Celebrations

We continue to reevaluate our holiday schedule to make sure we’re being fair and accommodating to all. In addition to our company policy of providing team members with a floating holiday, we also took off June 9 and June 19 this year to commemorate Pride Month and Juneteenth, respectively.

Our Emphasis on Accessibility

Being mindful of different people’s needs and wants is an underpinning of our work. As part of our outreach efforts with various stakeholder groups and communities, we have worked to ensure language access for people with limited English language proficiency, while also translating stakeholder and meeting materials as needed.

Being thoughtful of different demographics and their specific needs and goals has shaped our approach to crafting outreach materials and general readability. In addition to language considerations, we work with our lead designer to finalize public materials that employ color contrasting, fonts, and letter sizes that work to enhance accessibility and make the given content available to as many people as possible.

Working to improve our work culture, while simultaneously striving to incorporate all voices in our communications and stakeholder efforts, is an ongoing challenge – but a rewarding one. As Avid Core continues to grow, diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility will remain a major touchstone of our work.

Our series of blogs on accessibility in communications, written by members of the Avid Core staff and exploring topics such as alternative text, color contrast, and webinar accessibility, represents a small part of this ongoing commitment.

Read our previous DEI reflections:

Three-peat! Avid Core recognized as 2023 Best Government Contractor in Prince William County 

Avid Core is honored to be recognized as the Best Government Contractor in Prince William County for a third year in a row. 

This award is given out each year by InsideNOVA magazine and it is always an incredible privilege to receive such a prestigious title.  

It feels even more special because it represents the community I call home. I am so grateful to the Prince William County community for your continued support of Avid Core.  

In the past year, we’ve donated to local public schools, developed new connections in Prince William County, and worked with several local businesses to host our celebrations and meetings. Attending events hosted by the Prince William Chamber of Commerce has allowed us to learn about our local leaders and identify new opportunities to help the county grow.  

Avid Core team members Rossana Gonzalez and Stephanie Mace at the Prince William County Service Authority’s Supplier Diversity Vendor Expo.

Most recently, we enjoyed exhibiting at the Prince William County Service Authority’s first Supplier Diversity Vendor Expo where we were able to learn about the steps our local government is taking to make processes more inclusive. 

Avid Core team members pose at the Lose It! Rage Room as the team celebrated the firm’s third birthday.

On top of these business-related events, our team has had a blast having fun in Prince William County as well. We loved meeting near the waterfront in Occoquan for our third birthday celebration and breaking things at the Lose It! Rage Room in Woodbridge.   

Thank you to our staff, clients, friends, family, and everyone who voted for us! We are committed to continuing to work hard to be worthy of this title and to provide care and support for our community. 

Avid Core Celebrates the Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

A purple graphic with large white text that reads Celebrating the Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

July 2 marks the anniversary of the groundbreaking Civil Rights Act of 1964. Signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson, the Civil Rights Act prohibited discrimination in public spaces, provided for the integration of schools and other public facilities, and made employment discrimination illegal in the U.S.

Avid Core is proud to play a role in this landmark legislation’s continuing legacy.

Title VI, enacted as part of the Civil Rights Act, “prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance.”

At the core of Title VI is a sentiment expressed by President John F. Kennedy in 1963:

“Simple justice requires that public funds, to which all taxpayers of all races [colors, and national origins] contribute, not be spent in any fashion which encourages, entrenches, subsidizes or results in racial [color or national origin] discrimination.”

In the decades since Title VI was signed into law, various nondiscrimination laws, regulations, and executive orders expanded its protections, affording further rights and access to legal protection, while ensuring that programs and activities are also free from discrimination on the grounds of sex, age, income-status, Limited English Proficiency (LEP), and disability status.

Avid Core believes the most impactful Title VI programs are directly tied to inclusive community engagement and outreach and have been grateful to put this philosophy into action in our work.

Following direction from the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), PlanRVA and the Richmond Regional Transportation Planning Organization (RRTPO) were required to update their Title VI plan and wanted to ensure it aligned with internal commitments to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Avid Core, in partnership with ONE EIGHTY, led the development and operationalization of the latest update of the Title VI Plan. The final Title VI Plan included Spanish translation and icons for Limited English Proficiency populations. The digital version was designed for Section 508 compliance and offered a mobile-friendly complaint form.

Avid Core also helped PlanRVA operationalize the values and Title VI commitments by developing the agency’s first Inclusive Purchasing Program, Inclusive Recruitment Program, and Equitable Public Meeting Playbook. Avid Core’s work helped PlanRVA lead the way among their planning district peers. PlanRVA has a purchasing power of nearly $2 million annually and the new purchasing program ensures that most of those dollars are spent with local businesses and businesses owned by members of historically marginalized populations. The new recruitment program had an immediate impact on four new positions recently created by the agency. The public meeting playbook will help make PlanRVA’s meetings more accessible to the more than one million people that call the Richmond Region home.

Avid Core, along with our partner KLT Group, is currently leading the development of the first formal Title VI Program for the City of Fairfax, Virginia. The formal Title VI program will expand the City of Fairfax’s commitment to nondiscrimination, increase community involvement, and open doors to more federal funding sources that support the City’s planning and transportation work.

As an independent city in the Commonwealth of Virginia, the City of Fairfax has very unique needs for this program. Avid Core’s approach to its development is rooted in public outreach to ensure the specific needs of the City and its residents are met. Our work is focused on looking beyond baseline compliance to align the new program with Citywide commitments to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

The tenets of the Civil Rights Act guide all our engagement and outreach work at Avid Core. We look forward to decades of anniversaries to come as we continue putting it into practice.

Avid Fans Of: Beach Reads 

Avid (adjective) – having or showing a keen interest in or enthusiasm for something. It’s more than just our company’s namesake. Passion for our work and for the things we love is part of our core values. In this recurring series, we’ll share some of the things we’re Avid Fans of with you. 

If your friends invited you to go with them to the beach or sit by the pool tomorrow, what book would you grab to bring with you?  

This month, members of the Avid Core team are sharing their favorite summer reads with you. With a wide range of genres and styles, from sweet modern romances to stunning, philosophical memoirs, you are sure to find the perfect book to enjoy in the sun this summer!  

Ruby Werckman – The Sun and The Star by Rick Riordan and Mark Oshiro

I have been re-reading the Percy Jackson books again recently and they honestly fit so well with a beach trip. It’s so fun to get lost in the mystical adventures of all the different demigods and let your imagination wander. The books are a perfect mix of casual humor as well as intriguing plot and character development. Specifically, there has recently been a new book released within the series, The Sun and the Star, co-written by Rick Riordan, the original author of the series, and Mark Oshiro, a newer, queer author. This new book centers on the characters Nico Di Angelo and Will Solace, following their dangerous descent into Tartarus while touching on themes of mental health and LGBTQ+ identity. It has been incredibly comforting and healing to read a book centered in a world I was so invested in as a child about characters who are like me, so I definitely recommend this book as a perfect summer read for the end of Pride Month! 

Stephanie Mace – Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain 

I used to fall for beach reads based on the trashy book cover, but then one book changed that for me. It was written by a chef that was quickly reaching “rock star” celebrity status with his show “No Reservations.” I loved his dark sense of humor and his storytelling. This book opened my eyes to what happens in restaurant kitchens. I enjoyed the way Bourdain described the flavors, the scents, and the sounds so much that it made me hungry every time I was relaxing on the sand. Every night it made me look at the wait staff, the menu, and the restaurant décor with a new perspective. This book sparked my desire to read a different autobiography every summer.  

Ashley Dobson – Happy Place by Emily Henry 

When I think beach read, I think Emily Henry! For the past few years, she has been consistently publishing beautiful books with fascinating characters, crafting dialogue in a way that makes you actually feel like the characters are falling in love, and balancing sweetness, humor, and, occasionally, some sorrow. This year she released Happy Place, which I have just picked up and am excited to read poolside this weekend! I can also highly recommend her other books: People We Meet on Vacation, the aptly titled Beach Read, and Book Lovers.  

Rashaun Bennett – We Refuse to Forget: A True Story of Black Creeks, American Identity, and Power by Caleb Gayle 

We Refuse to Forget tells the little-known story of the Creek Nation, a Native tribe that two centuries ago both owned slaves and accepted Black people as full members. This unique circumstance changed in 1979 when the Creek Nation expelled its Black members and revoked their citizenship. The book follows the path of Black Creeks suing the Creek Nation to have their citizenship reinstated and adds a new layer to how we perceive marginalization and racial and ethnic identity. As I read through the pages, I found myself drawing parallels between historic and contemporary understandings of identity reclamation, citizenship, and ambition. 

Rossana Gonzalez – On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong 

I’m into darker books and suspense which do not always combine well with the beach, but you can make any book a beach read if you bring it to the right location! I’m currently reading On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong. During a wine night with friends where we ended up trauma-dumping, one of my friends recommended this book to the entire group. It’s definitely a sad read, but it’s so beautifully written. It really showcases the struggles of POC families when it comes to generational trauma and communication. I’m definitely going to be reading more by Ocean Vuong, and I’m not even done with this one!

Alex Russell – The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac 

Written by my favorite American novelist, Jack Kerouac, The Dharma Bums is a relatively short book full of imagery and character, as well as wisdom, tenderness, and empathy for the natural world. Loosely based on a trip he took to California, where he met fellow writer and Chinese/Japanese translator Gary Snyder, the story follows the pair’s hiking trips in California, the State of Washington, and their city adventures in San Francisco. An open, honest first-person narrative about individuality and spirituality, The Dharma Bums saw Kerouac apply traditional Buddhist teachings to his own life and work, while learning about Zen thinking from Snyder. A breezy, funny, and at times wistful, even solemn, novel, Kerouac’s The Dharma Bums is a perfect book to read outside, whether on a mountain or by the water. Most of the events take place out in fresh air, where Kerouac felt free to be himself, invigorated by nature and a new, bright friendship.

Sarah Cox – Big Trouble by Dave Barry  

If you don’t know who Dave Barry is, I’m sorry. He’s won a Pulitzer, but what’s most important is that he’s an incredibly funny guy. My introduction to him was via the weekly Washington Post syndication of his Miami Herald column. Back in the day, my blessed parents pointed out that I might like his style… I read his column from elementary school until it ended in 2005. Lamenting at the end of that era, I was whining to my mom, when she told me, duh, he’s authored many, many books. Big Trouble was his first novel, so I started there and was delighted that this outrageous coastal caper contained that same sense of humor from his columns. The characters—a recently-fired reporter, two teenagers, incompetent grifters, a despicable embezzler, the Miami police, FBI agents, Russian arms dealers, and a cane toad—range from silly to sinister. The backdrop is the author’s “beloved” Florida, one of the few places in the U.S. where a smuggling attempt could be thwarted by a python. Big Trouble is meant for the beach—it’s action-packed, teaches important lessons about not being a creep, and will cause your belly laughs to be loud enough to disturb other beachgoers.  

Around the Table with Georgina Dukes-Harris

Welcome to Around the Table, a regular series where we talk to people in our network and share the incredible work they are doing in their industry. Pull up a chair and join us for conversation and connection.

Georgina's headshot, superimposed over a designed background featuring two people sitting at a table.

Name: Georgina Dukes-Harris

Company: Unite Us

Where to Find You: My website, LinkedIn


What first sparked your interest in the intersection of social justice, technology, and healthcare?

My lived experience growing up with a single mom in a low-income rural community where she worked as a nursing assistant. I saw the power of healthcare to help people heal and wanted to pursue a career in healthcare. However, after working in hospitals and clinics for 10 years, I realized that patients were not getting healed fully and that the incorporation of social justice and technology was needed beyond the four walls of a clinical setting – which led me to join Unite Us.

Are there any upcoming projects or events that you are working on that you can tell us about?

Moments That Unite Us: Amplifying Community Voices; Co-Lab: National Alliance for Cross-Sector Collaboration; and the Social Care Advocacy Agenda.

How do you ensure that your work is rooted in the communities you serve?

Conducting community needs assessments: Engaging with community members to learn about their needs, challenges, and priorities.

Collaborating with community members and organizations: Building partnerships with community members and organizations to involve them in the work – gaining their insights, and creating initiatives that reflect their needs.

Remaining attentive to cultural sensitivities: Understanding the cultural differences that can impact the success of the work and striving to ensure that one’s initiatives and materials are respectful and relevant to the communities being served.

Adapting your approach: Being flexible in adapting one’s work and approaches to better align with the changing needs and interests of the communities being served.

Being available: Making yourself available to listen to feedback, concerns, and suggestions from the communities one serves, and being committed to addressing their needs.

What are the challenges in applying a social justice framework to the world of healthcare?

Addressing systemic inequalities: Healthcare systems often reflect and reinforce existing societal inequalities due to unequal access to healthcare resources, discriminatory policies and practices, and other structural barriers. Addressing these systemic inequalities is a critical first step in applying a social justice framework to healthcare.

Balancing competing interests: The principles of social justice and healthcare equity may conflict with other important healthcare goals, such as cost containment, quality improvement, and patient autonomy. Finding a balance among these competing interests is essential when applying a social justice framework within the healthcare system.

Developing effective policy solutions: Social justice in healthcare requires the implementation of policies and practices that address the root causes of health disparities. Developing effective policy solutions that are culturally sensitive, evidence-based, and acceptable to all stakeholders is challenging, but important.

Addressing social determinants of health: Social determinants of health, such as poverty – employment, housing, education, and access to healthcare – have significant impacts on health outcomes. Addressing these social determinants requires a multi-sectoral approach that involves collaboration with non-healthcare sectors.

Overcoming resistance to change: Healthcare systems can be resistant to change, particularly when it involves challenging existing power structures or practices. Overcoming resistance to change and promoting social justice in healthcare requires strong leadership, stakeholder engagement, and a commitment to equitable health outcomes.

What is the best advice you’ve received in your career?

Pie: Performance. Image. Exposure.  Develop a strong personal brand and market yourself effectively.

What advice would you give to someone looking to join your field?

Build relationships and get involved in your community.

When you aren’t working, what do you like to do?

Create content and attend Marvel movie premieres with my son and husband.

If we were literally around the table right now, then what food would you have brought to share? 

Mac & Cheese.

Finding Support for My Internal Struggle

My internship with Avid Core started in April 2022 and when it started, I didn’t have a real idea of what a communications firm did. I had a vague idea that it was to “spread information to others” and once time came to start my role, it was very overwhelming for me. Not necessarily because it was difficult, but because I had another struggle I am constantly dealing with: Bipolar I disorder.

I have struggled with this illness throughout my early adult life. I was initially diagnosed in 2019, late into my sophomore year of college. Then I was diagnosed again this year. I worried how It would affect my career because of how this condition is viewed by others.

It’s very hard for most people to discuss this with their companies, out of fear of being judged. But at Avid Core, they make sure everyone knows it is okay to be different, which made me feel relieved. If I ever needed a day to regroup myself, I had support from my team.

That is one reason I enjoy working here. Avid Core prioritizes our health both physically and mentally, while still prioritizing the firm’s projects and clients.

During my time here, I felt that I have grown significantly as a working professional. The work dynamic here has been amazing. The team focuses on building our connection with each other by having team activities and meetings.

One of my favorite activities are our Avid Core team meetings, which have a theme for that day that allow me to learn a little bit each week about everyone, while they get to learn about me too.

Although I do enjoy learning about others, I would consider myself to be introverted. Being diagnosed with Bipolar I disorder and being introverted has also made me feel that that I was way too different from others, and I have internalized a feeling that I needed to be extroverted to be successful.

I continue to practice and find ways to still feel comfortable and feel like myself while also accepting that I need to speak with confidence to succeed. I have slowly progressed forward and I feel a lot more comfortable giving presentations and hosting interviews. Before, I would almost freeze up just from thinking about speaking to a group. Throughout my time at Avid Core, I have improved a lot.

I began doing these specific tasks because I mentioned to my leadership that I had a public speaking fear that I wanted to overcome, and they supported that goal by assigning me tasks that gave me opportunities to call, present, and interview. At first, I put on a façade to force myself to do what I needed to do, which now no longer feels as forced, but more natural. I do still struggle, but I continue to grow as a professional and as a person.

Now I am working here full time, which has made me feel great about my overcoming my silent struggles. I still struggle sometimes, but I no longer feel insecure or scared. The team here really makes me feel welcome and they are great at providing support when needed. I am very glad and grateful to be here at Avid Core and encourage more companies to follow their lead to empower and support team members who have different challenges.