Staff Writer: Alexandria Sessions
If you’ve checked your email recently chances are you have probably received an email from Kristen Johnson Yost, in the last few days. Yost, our very own campus Communication Specialist and University spokesperson, makes sure students and President Rhett Brown are up-to-date on all things Wingate, but are we up-to-date on all things Kristen?
Before leaving her footprints on the grounds of Wingate University, the Elon University alum decided to try her hand at interior design only to realize that may not have been her thing. Instead, she found her niche in public speaking, going to competitions and not shying away from a single sentence.
“So I thought ‘Oh my gosh, you can make money just speaking! That’s so cool’,” Yost said. “When I was trying to decide on what I wanted to do going to college…I’ve never been terrified speaking in groups of people and so I thought ‘Sure, I’ll go for that [Communications].’”
With the uncertainty of financial stability of just Communications, Yost graduated from Elon University with a double emphasis in Broadcast and Corporate Communications. In 2005, she landed her first Journalist job at an NBC station located in West Virginia. A year later she moved on to CBS affiliated with WDEF in Chattanooga, TN. Four years went by and she ended up being a one-man band for WBTV in Charlotte, NC.
“It was a great experience. I met a lot of great people and got to tell a lot of great stories,” Yost said. “I’m from a small town, so being able to broaden my horizon about how other people think and their perspectives and opinions was definitely eye-opening.”
Grateful for the experience, the journalist found her next step through a mutual co-worker who knew Wingate’s former Marketing Director, Jeff Hakinson who needed help managing WUTV here on campus at the time.
“I was hired on to be the executive producer of the station as a marketing tool. It was a great step out of the news but still doing the news side of storytelling, and introduced me for the first to the behind-the-scenes of higher ed,” Yost said.
Along with teaching the Studio Broadcast course here at Wingate University, Johnson Yost wears many hats in the office of Stegall including helping Brown and pushing out news for both faculty and staff, and students.
“I help Dr. Brown, our president, with external and internal communications…just kind of preparing him to know who he’s talking to, what they want to get out of the meeting, and all that good stuff,” Yost said. “For university Spokesperson, it’s just representing the university whenever the media calls, so putting out COVID response team emails or crisis management response emails.”
With these two positions, the former WBTV journalist has to work closely with Brown, who is intentional with his job, including showing appreciation for his co-workers and staff. This display of appreciation was something Kristen was not used to coming out of the News Writing business where everything is fast-paced.
“ Coming to Wingate was the very first time somebody ever told me ‘I appreciate you and the first time that they are like ‘I appreciate the work that you do’,” Yost said. “I never realized how meaningful that was until I heard it. In the news, it is just churning stuff out and there you are a dime a dozen. If you leave they will be replacing you the next day.”
Yost believes that Brown wants to see everyone succeed and thinks Rhett Brown is a great boss.
“I do appreciate the fact that he is so approachable… and very relatable. The fact that he went to this school and invested so much of his life in the school and that’s why I think that he genuinely cares about the students that go here and seeing them succeed, the same with employees too,” The 38-year-old said.
After arriving here in 2013 and taking on multiple positions, she still enjoys working at Wingate University, so when asked to move her office into Stegall to work closely with the administrative staff and Brown in 2019 she jumped at the opportunity. The constant change of positions is normal for the University spokesperson whose contracts in previous journalism positions, lasted about three years. With the school growing in many directions she continues to aid in any way she can. In a previous story in 2016 written by Robert Gay, on Wingate’s Weekly Triangle Yost said, “I’m a doer and always up for the challenge.”
Yost believes the Communication major is broad and can lead you to do many things, take her career path as an example. The former interim director of Marketing and Communications has some advice for students who picked up communication as their major.
“I think it’s a great field to go into especially if you don’t know exactly what you want to do,” Yost said. “My advice for students in the communication field is to keep in mind that you can do so much with it that you don’t need to limit yourself. Take advantage of every opportunity you have.”