Sharing the Right Message to Make a Difference for Others
From journalist to producer to managing communications, Kristi Wyatt is a story teller. She brings her diverse background to her role as associate vice-chancellor of communications and engagement for the Alamo Colleges district.
“I love communications because it’s a public service. I’ve always worked in the public sector and been able to provide people information that can change their life. If it’s about evacuations, it can save lives. If it’s about access to education, it can change lives. That’s what really gets me going.”
A Texas native who grew up in Beaumont, Wyatt’s path to San Antonio included weathering hurricane Ike as the director of communications and intergovernmental relations for League City. Serving in the same role for San Marcos, she navigated the devastating 2015 Memorial Day flood that swept through the city.
Wyatt’s title at Alamo Colleges District really means chief communications officer, working to share the overall message of the five campuses. While it’s her first job in higher education, “Any good communicator can communicate, no matter what the message is.”
And for Wyatt, the message she’s delivering inspires her every day. “Our mission is empowering diverse communities for success and ensuring that students have access to education to better their lives,” she explains. “That is something anyone can get behind.”
“Our new building has a giant mural of students in caps and gowns. Every day as I walk up to the building, it reminds me why I’m here.”
“I feel that God gives you specific talents and opens doors of opportunity. Where I am is where I’m supposed to be and I have a job to do here. I’m doing it for a higher purpose, and I know it’s going to change someone’s life. It may not seem like it when I’m busy with menial tasks, but it’s a building block to something bigger.”
The push to help others goes beyond her role at Alamo Colleges. “I love the opportunity to talk to young women about their career paths and goals. Sometimes it takes someone connecting with you to inspire you to the next level,” notes Wyatt. “I tell stories of obstacles I’ve overcome in my life and offer advice on how young professional women can overcome their own challenges.”
“Sometimes, we just don’t know what we don’t know. If someone shares their story, it can inspire us to overcome the barriers in our own path.”
She credits the women she’s worked with for helping her career, including her mother, a pastor in Beaumont. “Watching her not let anyone stand in her way, doing what she felt called to do, and what she feels is her passion really shaped who I am as a woman.
“It’s important to have the wisdom of women who’ve come before you. But it’s also important to get the perspective of women who are young and up-and-coming. They are eager and they have the energy to help you reach your goals.
“It’s interesting what you can do when you share. A lot of opportunities have come about because I decided to share what I have learned, or posted on LinkedIn to share what we’re doing here at Alamo Colleges. These success and trial-and-error stories have helped people and they remember that.”
Wyatt also credits her success to a service mentality. “People come to count on me. If I’m asked to do something, I do it 100 percent. I do the best that I can no matter what is asked, no matter what the timeline is, no matter what else I have going on. When people can count on and trust you to do a good job, they begin to rely on you. That trust opens doors and creates a reputation.”
Her skill, reputation for excellence and willingness to share have definitely opened doors. “Do something that you love. Commit to it, prove yourself, make sure people trust you and share your knowledge. Opportunities will come.”
Wyatt’s path of opportunities hit a roadblock that she almost didn’t overcome. As a communication professional, her voice is one of her strongest tools. What she thought was laryngitis came with a letter from the doctor which said, “We don’t know how to fix you. You are going to need to start thinking about how you can adapt your life to this.”
Because she talked for a living, the diagnosis was devastating. But she didn’t give up. She found a specialist and was ultimately diagnosed with a rare neurological illness called spasmodic dysphonia that involves spasms of the vocal cords. The condition causes interruptions of speech and affects voice quality. It’s a lifelong condition that must be managed daily. “It’s part of who I am and is just something I deal with. I’ve been blessed with the right doctors and advice to be able to overcome it and continue to do what I love.”
With her passion and commitment, there’s no doubt Kristi has a long career ahead of her. “I can’t imagine not being in communications. I plan to continue to pursue my passion and help other women along the way.”
By Dawn Robinette
Photography by David Teran