Heather Davis Epkins loves inspiring others. One of her greatest joys can be summed up by one mother's comment, "My daughter walked into Heather's coaching session as a young woman, but walked out as a young lady ready to compete and win. She gained skills not just to compete for the upcoming crown, but for her entire life in future jobs, marriage, motherhood. We had to stretch a bit to afford her time, but in the end Heather's coaching was priceless."
As Miss Maryland 1998, Heather competed in the nationally-televised Miss America Pageant on ABC-TV in Atlantic City, NJ earning $35,000 in college scholarships. This allowed her to pursue a Ph.D. and pay on her college loans.
During the Miss America talent competition, Heather played an original piano composition streaming together The Flight of the Bumblebee, Doctor Gradus ad Parnassum and Hungarian Rhapsody #13. For this performance, she won Miss America's "Best Pianist" and a $5,000 scholarship. The first and only Miss Maryland to win the coveted "Quality of Life Award" for best national community service and a $10,000 scholarship, Heather continues to serve in her community and volunteer her time while making a home for her husband, two young children, and "Samson the Great" - the family Yorkipoo. Heather is a proud founder of a nationally-recognized anti-drug abuse program for children called LIFE (Loving Instruction for Elementary).
Heather graduated with her Ph.D. in Communication from the University of Maryland, College Park in May of 2011. Her dissertation research explored how the 'prestige press' of Washington, D.C. report on national security and terrorism. Heather has published her research in the journal of Media, War & Conflict and has co-authored a book chapter on the impact of 9/11 on public relations campaign strategies inside America’s travel industry. A second book chapter illustrating how reporters cover acts of terrorism for an international handbook is due to be published this year.
After obtaining a B.A. specializing in Journalism from Virginia Tech, Heather received her Masters of Mass Communication from Louisiana State University as a Full Fellow of the Manship School of Communication, conducting ground-breaking research on the impact of television media violence on rape victims. She was a START Center (National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and the Responses to Terrorism) Fellow and has extensive professional experience in public relations, journalism and media-government relations, having most recently served as Director of Communications, Public Relations and Partnerships for the leading environmental nonprofit restoring Chesapeake Bay oysters. Prior to this, she served as Communication and Public Affairs Director for what is now the U.S. Travel Association in Washington, D.C., as well as an on-air personality and Capitol Hill press secretary for a California congressman. Heather is honored to have served as a collegiate-level lecturer for the University of Maryland in College Park, Towson, Anne Arundel Community College, and Johns Hopkins University, teaching and motivating students to master public speaking and other important strategic communication and media-related skills.