Looking back on her Huntington education, Kristen (Freeman) Garcia says she felt prepared for anything in the fields of broadcasting, radio and television after graduating in 2002. As it turns out, she was prepared for a lot more than that.
A native of Crawfordsville, Ind., Kristen graduated with a degree in media communications and an emphasis in broadcasting. But after graduation, she worked as a news reporter and photographer for two years. And today she now uses her communication skills to serve the public as a health information officer in northern Indiana. She also dabbles in professional photography as part of Zeta Alpha Studios.
Kristen’s journalism career began to bud during her junior year at Huntington after writing a simple story that caught the eye of the Roanoke News editor. At the time, Kristen was working as the “PR chick” of the Forester baseball team and had written a story about player Jerry Kaufman’s PRIME ministry experience in Australia. Her story landed her an internship at Roanoke News. The internship later grew into a part-time job and eventually a full-time position after graduation.
“Because of that internship, my life hasn’t been the same and I wouldn’t be the Christian, or reporter or person even I am today if it wasn’t for the amazing wisdom of God putting me there,” Kristen said.
Kristen worked as a reporter and photographer at the Roanoke News until November 2002, when she was hired by The Goshen News. There she worked as a general assignment reporter and photographer, covering everything from school boards, business, health, government and the Elkhart County Superior Court 3 on criminal days.
It was as a reporter that Kristen’s faith became crucial to her profession.
“When I worked as a reporter, being honest and truthful in the reporting was a vital must,” she said. “When working areas that were ridden with controversy, it was of utmost importance to be honest and present both sides of the situation with as little bias as possible.
“You have to be walking in the stride of Jesus in every aspect of life to be a reporter, as with any other job whether it be a mechanic, fast food worker, or a student or professor,” Kristen adds.
Her commitment to honesty in reporting paid off professionally. While at the Roanoke News, Kristen and her editor won an award for clarity and truth in reporting, beating out larger metropolitan daily papers for the honor.
In July 2004, Kristen left her reporting career to take a different type of communication position as a field public information officer for the Indiana State Department of Health. The position is one of many new roles created by the state with the help of federal bioterrorism preparedness grants.
Kristen travels constantly across northern Indiana, serving 18 counties in northern Indiana for her job. She works with local county health departments to create crisis emergency risk communication plans for public health emergencies. She also trains spokespeople for both counties and local hospitals and can act as an information liaison for the local health departments and hospitals in a public health emergency with county homeland security offices, law enforcement and para-health organizations.
While Kristen plays a large role in helping Indiana’s health departments, it was by attending a small university that gave her the chance to build relationships with professors and to have easy access to the latest in media equipment and technology.
“Keeping the classes small gave us the time to start on the equipment early in our education at Huntington and work with the upgrades as they came out,” she said. “It gives students almost four years of experience by the time they leave the university, where students at larger universities would only have one or two years experience.”
For students interested in media communications at Huntington, Kristen offers sound advice.
“When comparing classes and resources at various schools, look at the time you get to spend on the programs and on the air at their schools. Look at the resumes of the professors and see what kind of real-world experience they have in and out of Christian media. Huntington has professors with a lot of outside classroom experience and a lot of top resources, like the AVID equipment and the radio broadcasting equipment. By being one of the first ever LPFM stations in the country and by having the most up-to-date software, students will be able to leave the University with an excellent background.”
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