At the Ballard Center for Social Impact in the BYU Marriott School of Business, students are learning how to solve the world’s most pressing social problems—tackling issues such as poverty, homelessness, environmental sustainability, and more. Jess Dansie Anderson, the center’s managing director of marketing and communications, is working hard to reach and inspire more students across campus to become changemakers.
Anderson, originally from Sandy, Utah, took a unique path to her job at the Ballard Center. She studied the performing arts at Southern Utah University, served a Spanish-speaking mission in Los Angeles, then transferred to the University of Utah and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Spanish. She began her career as an entrepreneur and freelancer, using the skills she developed from a lifelong apprenticeship working in her family’s home-based marketing business.
Together with her husband, Josh, she founded Joshua Tree Media, which initially focused on wedding photography then transitioned to video production; the two then created Bagpipe Master, an online course and YouTube channel that has garnered millions of views and more than 38,000 subscribers. After a summer film-production program at the University of California, Los Angeles, Anderson completed a film production internship at Deseret Book before accepting a position at the College of Humanities at BYU where she worked as an art and digital media specialist and managed a team of student employees.
Anderson’s wide variety of experiences shaped her into the storyteller she is today. With aptitude in writing, art direction, graphic design, social media, and video production, Anderson is both a storyteller and a strategist. She enjoys telling stories, especially in a way that inspires people to act.
Because of her love for telling stories, Anderson was thrilled when she noticed an opening for the position of managing director of marketing and communications for the Ballard Center. “The more I researched, the more I realized the importance of the Ballard Center and its impact on the world,” Anderson says. “But I also recognized that even though I worked on campus, the stories of the Ballard Center’s projects hadn't reached me.”
Anderson applied for and accepted the position on the Ballard Center team. She now works to ensure that everyone at BYU knows about the Ballard Center. “We reach out to students all across campus, and no matter their skill sets, we encourage them to become involved and use those skills in order to make the world a better place,” she says.
“We're trying to develop student leaders who can see a social problem and figure out a solution, whether that's through their own startups, our on-campus internships, or any of our many connections to the world of social impact,” Anderson explains.
Anderson enjoys the challenge of telling the Ballard Center’s story in a way that helps people understand the purpose of the center. “A feeling exists on campus that just by osmosis you'll somehow figure out and know how to change the world,” she observes. “But that’s not how changing the world works; you actually need the education and the training, and our programs help provide that.”
In addition to her role at the Ballard Center, Anderson is a student in the executive MBA program at BYU Marriott. The skills she learns in class are helping her become more effective in her work and her role as a leader. One skill she is developing is incorporating data analytics into her storytelling. “In the past I’ve worked more as a creative director and dug deep into the creative side, but now I’m able to pair the data with the creativity to tell a stronger story,” she says.
Anderson never expected to tell stories of social impact. Growing up, she remembers that her sister, Angela, was the one involved with humanitarian work. While in high school, Angela once teased Anderson about her heavy involvement in choir and other performing endeavors instead of humanitarian causes, asking “Don't you want to help change the world?” Anderson responded by saying she simply wanted to entertain the world.
Now, she’s able to do both: sharing stories that captivate and inspire change. Anderson is grateful she embraced the uncertainty of career changes and allowed herself to walk different paths than she originally envisioned. “I'm able to use the skills I’ve developed along the way to tell compelling, emotion-evoking stories that inspire people to help and serve,” she shares.
Writer: Kaelin Hagen