Britt Kiser | Sailing Towards Success

Britt Kiser and Kenton Bird

Sailing Towards Success

Argonaut Managing Editor and public relations graduate turns opportunities into success

By Amanda Cairo

For public relations graduate Britt Kiser, it was the simple act of joining a group that shaped her university career. Four years after she pledged Alpha Phi, the recent managing editor of the student-run newspaper The Argonaut has made the most of opportunities that came her way and is ready to face the post-graduation world.

“I wouldn’t be anywhere without my education and the experiences I’ve had,” says Kiser, who contributes her success to getting involved. “I’m very fortunate to have come to the University of Idaho; I’ve been offered a lot of opportunities.”

The public relations graduate, with a business minor, came down for a Vandal Friday after meeting recruiters in Kenai, Alaska her senior year of high school.

“They did their job well. I fell in love with the campus,” says Kiser. “I got to meet with professors in JAMM (the school of journalism and mass media) and they completely sold me on coming here.”

Britt KiserKiser quickly settled into university life and rushed Alpha Phi, where she started off holding small positions before stepping into chapter positions. As a sophomore, Kiser took a class from the student newspaper’s adviser Shawn O'Neal. As a PR major, she didn’t think she was interested in working for the paper until the strong-willed adviser brought her to the Argonaut office.

“I loved it. It’s such a supportive place,” says Kiser, who worked as a writer, news editor and managing editor. “Writing for the paper has given me more confidence and helped me better understand PR. Public relations and journalism are like cousins who always don’t get along. It’s good to see the other side.”

In addition to on-campus opportunities, Kiser worked as a public relations intern in Sen. Mike Crapo’s office in Washington D.C. Having already interviewed high-profile administrators on campus for the student newspaper, Kiser says working in the nation’s capitol was challenging but not as intimidating as she thought it would be. And since she had worked the reporter side of the interview, shadowing the press secretary helped bolster her public relations degree.

She also took a communications internship with the Boise nonprofit Speak Your Silence, which helps people overcome the stigma of childhood sexual abuse. Connecting to her community as a student, Kiser helped with social media for Moscow non-profit, My Own Home, which helps elderly people stay in their homes. She was able to create a Facebook page geared toward the target audience’s children to help them become more involved in the process.

“I’m really interested in non-profit organizations,” says Kiser. “I feel strongly about working for a purpose.”

During her final year at the university, Kiser took her biggest non-profit leap. She traveled to Ecuador for an alternative spring break trip, where she worked with a daycare called Pasitos de Esparanza and at Santa Lucia Cloud Forest, in an eco-reserve community named Yungilla. She performed arduous tasks, like chopping down trees with a machete and carrying the trees long distances. She also met people whose culture and backgrounds were far different than what she was used to.

“It was an awesome experience,” says Kiser. “It really changed my perspective on a lot of things.”

While Kiser had always believed she needed to be successful as soon as possible, her trip outside the U.S. and helping others has changed her idea of what success means.

“I had time to reflect on myself and what was important to me,” says Kiser. “I looked at my education and really thought about what I could do.”

In deciding what she could do, Kiser was offered a position in the prestigious Teach for America program, a movement of leaders who help drive change in the education system toward the goal of closing the achievement gap, by teaching in underserved areas. While she has decided not to participate in the program, Kiser realizes she has the tools and knowledge for the next step of her journey.