Colleen Kearney Rich Is the December Employee of the Month

Posted: December 1, 2009 at 1:04 am, Last Updated: November 30, 2009 at 5:10 pm

By Rashad Mulla

Colleen Kearney Rich with her daughter, Claudia, at the . Photo by Evan Cantwell

Colleen Kearney Rich with her daughter, Claudia, at the SUNRISE Oceans in Motion summer camp held at Mason. Photo by Evan Cantwell

Editing scores of Mason brochures and pamphlets. Creating new magazines. Reinventing the university’s flagship publication. For Colleen Kearney Rich, the December Employee of the Month, it’s all just part of the job.

Rich, editorial director in Creative Services, is the managing editor of the Mason Spirit, the official university magazine that reaches 140,000 alumni, parents, faculty and staff. She manages the Spirit web site, uploading web exclusives and content frequently. She also heads the production of Mason Research, the annual magazine keeping track of faculty research and discoveries.

Rich says she is attached to every publication that leaves her office, because she takes each story personally.

“Every person I interview, I end up developing a relationship with them in some way,” Rich says. “I don’t want to let them down, I want to be proud of the piece, I want it to be useful and I want readers to read it.”

Rich’s co-workers are also aware of her work ethic.

“She improves every piece of writing I turn in with painstaking edits,” says Leah Kerkman Fogarty, senior writer in Creative Services. “She suggests engaging angles for stories whenever I’m stuck on a particular assignment.”

Rich graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University in 1985 with a degree in mass communications, with a focus on magazines. She joined Mason three years later, when the university’s main publication was a magazine called George Mason.

After joining what was then called University Publications in 1990, Rich helped develop the original Mason Spirit in 1995. More than 10 years later, with the magazine “unattractive” and small, Rich helped re-launch and rededicate the magazine in 2008, amping up the content, improving the design, expanding the mailing list and creating a new web site.

She interacts with individuals from almost all of the university’s departments while trying to cover as many of them as possible for the magazine. What she can’t fit into the magazine, she puts on the site. These challenges are what make her job engaging, she says.

“There are constantly new things popping up, and that’s my favorite part,” Rich says. “It’s never straight news. I always have to try to find an interesting angle.”

She has met various big-name stars while on the job. She interviewed the late Robert Prosky, of “Hill Street Blues” fame, when the actor gave his collection of personal papers to the George Mason University Libraries. She asked mystery author Scott Turow about the origins of one of his characters (who coincidentally bears the name George Mason) in his book, “Limitations.”

On the day Rich is scheduled to receive the Employee of the Month award, she will interview Mason basketball coach Jim Larranaga for an in-depth article on building successful athletic programs. It’s all part of the feverish work ethic her co-workers cite.

“She’s been known to take job jackets home with her so she can copy edit brochures while sitting on the sidelines of her daughter’s soccer practice,” Fogarty says.

In her spare time, Rich attends two book clubs and a fiction writing group. She primarily writes young adult fiction. While a graduate student in Mason’s nationally ranked creative writing program, she was a founding member of So To Speak, A Feminist Journal of Language and Art. She has also written essays for the Washington Post and Literary Mama. She lives in Fairfax with her husband and three children.

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