Alumna Jenn McGinnis Reflects on Life at WPU

Mar 29, 2021

Alumna Jenn Lindberg McGinnis has achieved a great deal of experience since graduating from William Peace University (then Peace College) in 2003. A masters and doctorate degree from NC State and nearly a decade of work later, Jennifer still credits her undergraduate years at WPU as the most influential of her professional life. 

Like many WPU students, Jenn fell in love with the University for its size and intimate feeling of belonging.

“I came to Peace early on in high school to visit, and I just felt a connection immediately,” Jenn said. “I remember some of the faculty led educational sessions and one professor was an expert in child development, which was something I was already interested in from studying psychology in high school.”

When another faculty member found her later to return something she left in his classroom, she knew Peace was her choice for the future. 

“I felt like I would get the individual attention and support from faculty that I needed as a student,” Jenn said. “That was something I was really craving. I didn’t even apply anywhere else for college.”

That decision paid off. Jennifer studied psychology, leadership studies and human resource management (and graduated summa cum laude) once she realized she could use those paths to blend her interests together into a career.

“It was the Industrial Organizational Psychology class that made me believe there was a realistic future from my studies,” she said. “Meeting the professor Dr. Heather Lee, I felt like I’d found someone that I could model my professional life after. 

“It gave me so much more exposure to what was possible, and it all began to click.”

After achieving her bachelors, masters and Ph.D, Jenn returned to WPU as an adjunct professor to teach alongside some of the same faculty who taught her.

“Those three years were probably one of the coolest experiences I’ll ever have,” she said, adding that she continues to keep in touch with her former students and monitor their career development. 

Her time in the classroom led to her current role as manager of the career development and early talent program at Red Hat. Her team is responsible for setting the programs’ global strategy, designing what they look like and partnering with others to bring them to life.

“I think what’s really beautiful about my job is that I get to focus on a population of people that I’m really passionate about, which is early talent,” she said. “It allows me to connect back to the investments that people made in me early in my career at Peace and bring it full circle to invest in the next generation of college students.”

“It’s also exciting to be part of this work because human resources is no longer an administrative function anymore; it’s about adding strategic business value by thinking about how we put the employee experience at the core of everything we do,” she added. “At Red Hat, we’re focused on building and sustaining a strong employment brand to not only attract the talent, skills and capabilities we need today, but also what we’ll need in the future.”

“I think what’s really beautiful about my job is that I get to focus on a population of people that I’m really passionate about, which is early talent. It allows me to connect back to the investments that people made in me early in my career at Peace and bring it full circle to invest in the next generation of college students.”

This holistic view of employee development is exactly what drew her to the field while she was still in college, and she continues to point to that experience as the building blocks of her career.

“Peace helped me develop as a person and helped frame up my philosophy of leadership,” Jenn said. “That’s something I’ve brought into all of the jobs I’ve had, and my focus at Peace led me there.”