Question.) When did you graduate from WCU and in what subject area?
Answer.) I graduated in 2006 with a B.S. in Communication, concentration in Public Relations
Q.) Kate, what are some of your fondest memories of your days at WCU?
A.) I made lifelong memories and lifelong friends at Western. One memory that comes to mind quickly is early morning rehearsals with the Pride of the Mountains Marching Band before a Saturday home game. I treasured the cool, crisp air and quiet mountain scenery before campus woke up. Singing with my Sigma Alpha Iota sisters, going to basketball games, visiting the Road to Nowhere, supper and fellowship at the Catholic Student Center, tubing down the Tuck and midnight snacks at the Huddle House are all things I’ll never forget.
Q.) Who were your favorite professors at WCU and why?
A.) My professors in the Communication Department each had a role in impacting and inspiring my future career. I had an intro class with Don Connelly, who said Public Relations was a fast-growing field in which women were thriving – sign me up! Dr. Betty Farmer conveyed an air of professionalism and expertise that I wanted to embody. Deb Connelly opened my eyes to the world of healthcare communication and Michael Caudill put into perspective the importance of preparation and calm in the storm of a crisis. This particularly has served me well. Bob Buckner and Matt Henley with the Pride of the Mountains Marching Band provided the space for creative outlet and opportunities for leadership that strengthened my interpersonal and leadership styles with my peers, and now colleagues.
Not only were my professors knowledgeable and helpful as I made my way through school, I felt valued and that they were invested in me as a person. The first week of classes my senior year there was an unexpected death in my family, and I will never forget the kindness and compassion of Dr. Farmer, Professor Caudill and the band program during that time. While I was home with family they checked in on me and worked with me to make sure I didn’t fall behind. I think of that often. With a full class load and a number of students, they took the time to make sure I had what I needed to succeed.
Experiences in the classroom were real-world, relevant and helped prepare me for my career. But the experiences outside of the classrooms and text books – the relationships that developed through my education, are what prepared me for the world.
Q.) Tell us a little about your career path since graduating Western.
A.) When I graduated I knew I wanted to work in an organization that made a difference for their customers and the community. I found myself in a dream job working for Western Carolina University! I was an Assistant Director of Admissions for five years, serving incoming freshmen, transfer and non-traditional students. It’s very important to me to be of service, and when Wilmington beckoned me home, it was in the public mental health field where I found my PR footing. As the communications specialist and then Public Information Officer for one of the state’s regional mental health organizations, I oversaw communication and marketing efforts that resulted in an increase of education and awareness in our community. I also oversaw media relations and two organizational consolidations and rebranding projects. While with the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services’ communications team I managed media relations, providing information and resources that would directly impact citizens across the state. Some projects included rolling out information on Zika virus, the overdose reversal drug Naloxone and public health and social services initiatives. I also served in the state Emergency Operations Center’s Joint Information Center during hurricanes, winter storms and other emergencies. My heart’s work is at the local level, and I now serve New Hanover County in the Department of Social Services. I love public service and serving my home community.
Q.) Kate, as a student, you were a part of the Pride of the Mountains Marching Band as a member of the color guard. Tell us a little bit about that experience.
A.) Joining the Pride of the Mountains Marching Band and Color Guard was the best decision I have ever made. Coming to campus early gave me an edge when classes started my freshman year. I was familiar with campus, and there was a familiar face in every building. I made my lifelong friends in the band, and truly felt like a rock star on Saturdays when the crowd went wild at half time. Being a part of the Pride of the Mountains allowed me to stay involved with music after high school, even though I didn’t major in it. It allowed me to travel to places and meet people I never would have otherwise, (like going to Indianapolis in the dead of winter!). It offered the opportunity to be a leader and a teacher. After I graduated, I taught the color guard, saw the band receive the Sudler Trophy and traveled with the band to the Rose Parade as an alumna. Every performance, whether it was a high school exhibition or Bands of America Grand Nationals, was full-out 110 percent in your face. And I’ve carried that expectation of maximum effort and success with me. When I joined the band, no one said, “you’re going to learn how to be a more productive and all-around better person,” but that’s exactly what happened.
Q.) Kate, you are President of the Greater Wilmington Alumni Club, as well as being a member of WCU’s Alumni Board of Directors. Why do you feel it is important for alumni to stay connected with their alma mater?
A.) Cullowhee was my first home away from home and my time as a student at WCU was integral in my becoming the person I am today. Staying connected through the Alumni Association allows me to help ensure that students find their home at WCU and have amazing, life-changing experiences. It brings me great joy to give back to the university that has given so much to me. My hope is that all my fellow alumni celebrate the successes of WCU and continue to support our future catamount family!
Q.) Now tell us something unique and interesting about yourself that few people may know.
A.) I’m a founding instructor of WCU’s Purple Thunder. I’ve also run nine half marathons, and am a very busy home cook. I love trying new recipes and creating delicious meals for my loved ones, which balances out the running I suppose…