Alumni of Distinction: Amie Collins

by Matt Jardin  |   

Amie Collins
2023-24 Alumni Emerging Leader award recipient Amie Collins, M.B.A. General Management ’17, B.A. Political Science '13, executive director of Best Beginnings. (Photo by James Evans / University of Alaska Anchorage)

Amie Collins, M.B.A. General Management ’17, B.A. Political Science '13, will receive the 2023-24 Alumni Emerging Leader award at the Alumni of Distinction Celebration Banquet on March 29, 2024, at Lucy Cuddy Hall on the Anchorage campus.

One of the lyrics of the theme song to Reading Rainbow, the long-running educational television program on PBS, famously sings: “I can go anywhere. [...] Take a look. It’s in a book.” Political science alumna Amie Collins perfectly represents that statement, having developed her interest in world travel and public policy through her passion for reading — one she works to pass on to future generations of children.

In 2022, Collins was named executive director of Best Beginnings, a nonprofit that promotes school readiness through early literacy and education initiatives in partnership with school districts, Head Start programs, and municipal and state departments. The largest of these initiatives is the administration of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, a national service that partners with local literacy organizations to mail free books monthly to children from birth to age five. In Alaska, Best Beginnings has been able to offer Imagination Library to more than 14,000 children in 129 communities.

Growing up an avid reader, Collins learned about foreign countries, and by extension, social justice and international relations. Once enrolled at UAA, she expanded on those interests by joining student government and the UAA Seawolf Debate team. The fact that both offered travel opportunities was an added bonus.

“Everything I did or got involved in was because of travel,” Collins joked. “If I had a sign, it would say, ‘Will do anything for travel.’”

While earning her Bachelor of Arts in political science and Master of Business Administration back to back, Collins met her husband at UAA and started her own family. Putting travel on hold to focus on raising her children, she saw an opportunity join Best Beginnings as communications and development director to focus on outreach and its growing literacy programs, a position she held for five years before the previous executive director, Abbe Hensley, retired. When the board of directors began its search for a leader who could replace their founder, it didn’t take long for Collins’s name to rise to the top.

“Best Beginnings is a public-private partnership, so my political science background has really lent itself to this role as I have the opportunity to work with policymakers who make decisions that impact families and children,” said Collins. “And my M.B.A. has really set me up to be a unique nonprofit leader. Nonprofits do amazing work, but sustainability is key. I could not do what I do if I was not viewing my work through the lens of sustaining a business while serving our customers.”

In addition to her work with Best Beginnings, Collins sits on the Family Advisory Council for the Clinton Foundation's Too Small to Fail organization.

Collins’ passion for reading isn’t something she shares with only her kids, or even other kids, but parents as well, noting that even the smallest amount of daily reading to a child can be transformative for intellectual development and relationship building.

“My love for language as a child became my love of language for other children,” said Collins. “To be able to share that message with other parents and caregivers, that regardless of how much money you have, where you come from or what's going on your life right now, there's something you can do every day that is simple and will add up to something truly incredible when it comes to your child's future. I think that's powerful.”

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