Ladies of Liberty: Amanda Joinson, Director of Marketing and Administration at Phelps Construction Group

Posted September 30, 2019

Earlier this month, the new Statue of Liberty Museum opened on Liberty Island with experience and exhibits by ESI Design. The new museum is part of a $100 million Liberty Island-wide beautification effort that is funded by our clients, The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation.

To celebrate we’re sharing the stories of some of the talented people who have worked for over five years to bring this world-class museum from concept to completion.

In this edition, you’ll hear from Amanda Joinson, Phelps Construction Group’s Director of Marketing and Administration, who worked on the the construction of the new museum. She never imagined that while working with the same company where began her career as a high school graduate,  she would help complete not one, but two impactful projects on Liberty and Ellis Islands. 

Amanda Joinson, Director of Marketing and Administration, Phelps Construction Group
Amanda Joinson, Phelps Construction Group

Name: Amanda Joinson
Job Title: Director of Marketing and Administration, Phelps Construction Group
Years of Experience: I’ve been with Phelps Construction Group since the beginning (12 years) but I’ve been working in this role for a little over a year now.
Age: 30
Nationality: American with a background of Italian, Norwegian, English, Irish
Languages Spoken: English
Education: Bachelor of Arts in Communications and Journalism at University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and a Master of Business Administration with Marketing concentration from Montclair State University.


What was your first encounter with the Statue of Liberty?

Amanda Joinson, Phelps Construction Group: I first visited the Statue of Liberty with my parents, grandparents, and great grandparents in 1991. Obviously I can’t remember that much, but it was the first time my great grandparents had seen the Statue of Liberty since they came through Ellis Island. My first real memory of the Statue of Liberty was from my great grandma. She used to always tell us the story of how she asked her dad what “the white stuff” was upon arriving in New York. Coming from Italy, she had never seen snow before. It has kind of become a joke between my brother and I growing up in New Jersey, but I did think of the story when I saw the museum under construction on a snowy day.

More recently, I traveled to Liberty Island with Phelps Construction when we were working on the Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration’s Peopling of America Center, and again with the Statue of Liberty Museum. I can’t believe our firm has the opportunity to work on this historic soil every day.

What was your role on the project? What did that mean for you day-to-day?

AJ: Working on Statue of Liberty Museum was a little different than our typical projects. In addition to working on paperwork such as Contracts, Change Orders and Insurance, I was responsible for submitting access requests and background check information to the National Park Service. If an employee wasn’t listed on the access request or didn’t have security clearance, they were not able to work on the island that day. There were way too many 6 AM phone calls, but it’s all worth it now that the museum is wrapping up. As the project continued, I became more involved in Marketing our involvement in the project via press releases, social media, and dealing with news outlets.

The project has prompted Joinson to ponder the question “What does Liberty mean to you?”

You have been part of the opening of a new museum for the Statue of Liberty — how does that feel? What does that mean to you?

AJ: I can’t believe I was involved in a project that millions of people will visit every year, not to mention my family and friends! It’s also crazy to think of all the people who have walked in this space years ahead of us. It’s much different than working on an office renovation where so few have the opportunity to appreciate the work put into it. It’s obviously still satisfying to complete other projects, but this is just different.

The museum means progress — how we are progressing as a company and as nation.

Why is having a museum dedicated to the Statue of Liberty important?

AJ: It’s incredibly important for families in which previous generations came through Ellis Island to understand the Statue of Liberty and what it symbolized to our ancestors. Furthermore, the museum allows us the opportunity to assess the ever-changing meaning of Liberty and what Liberty means to us. I’ve been working on this project for years and it is still difficult to provide a concrete answer to “What does Liberty mean to you?”

After working on this project, has your concept of liberty evolved?

AJ: As I mentioned above, “What does Liberty mean to you?” is such a difficult question to answer and I think I’m much more aware of the need to define it after working on this project. As of now, I think it comes down to freedom to choose what Liberty means. If you’ve tested the kiosks in the museum, there are so many options presented and no two people will choose the same keywords. During my last session I chose things like Opportunity, Family, Press, Education, Recreation Technology, and Entrepreneurship. However, my reasons for choosing these keywords are going to be completely different from the person standing next to me and that in itself is the idea of Liberty.

Do you have a unique/special connection to Lady Liberty?

AJ: My great grandparents on my mother’s side of the family, Pauline Abroscat and Salvatore Arduino, came through Ellis Island from Sicily. Their names are listed on the American Immigration Wall of Honor.

My Dad’s mother, Magnhild Kollevoll, came through Ellis Island from Norway in 1955.

What were the steps in your journey to this iconic project?

AJ: Working at Phelps Construction Group began as summer job answering the phones right out of high school. At the time, I couldn’t have fathomed this would be my career after college but I can’t imagine myself anywhere else. We’ve grown so much in twelve years.

I learned the National Park Service’s policies for accessing the island when we worked on the Peopling of America Center on Ellis Island. I naturally assumed managing that aspect of the project would be my responsibility upon our award of the project.

Since you started your career, what’s the biggest change you have seen in the world of construction?

AJ: I like to think technology has changed the construction industry since I started in 2007 – there is still a lot of paper – but I guess it would be hard to build something of this magnitude off of a cell phone or laptop screen in the field. However, in the office I like to think things have become more streamlined with our integrated Project Management/Accounting software CMiC. We’re not there yet, but I’m trying to go paperless!

What advice would you give to your younger self starting a career in construction?

AJ: Ask questions. I wouldn’t be where I am today if I didn’t ask questions and attempt to learn more about the construction industry, and I’m not a expert by any means, but I’ve been lucky to learn so much from Doug Phelps and Jeff over the years.

If you were giving a tour of the new museum, what would be your top highlight?

AJ:I know it’s cliche but the original torch is incredible. I love artifacts like the foot and the ear as well. It’s such a different experience, being able to touch these pieces (foot and ear), rather than staring up at them on the actual statue (because who is really looking at her toes or ears anyways?!). These pieces are such a small part of this new museum but it really puts the immense size of the statue in perspective.

I really do love being able to climb up to the roof as well! The vista offers such a unique view of the city. Once there was roof access during the construction process, I gravitated there. On the early morning trips to Liberty Island, I went up to the unfinished vista, coffee in hand, and looked out towards the city as the sun came up. The island has a totally different vibe at 7 AM without the tourists, it’s so nice.

About Phelps Construction Group

Phelps Construction Group, headquartered in Boonton, NJ, provides pre-construction, design-build, and construction management services. The firm has completed a wide range of major commercial, industrial, and institutional projects since its founding in 2007; including The Grammy Museum Experience™ at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ.  More recently, the firm completed Hanover Crossroads, a retail plaza in Hanover, NJ containing TJ Maxx/Homegoods, Ulta, and Five Below.

If you have any questions for Amanda, sound off in the comments!

To read the rest of the interview series, click here.

ESI Design

NBBJ’s New York experience design studio, ESI Design, transforms places into experiences that seamlessly weave the physical and digital worlds together.

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