Design a Major … Create a Career
This article first appeared in the October 2013 issue of Tableaux.
When Krystal Taylor, a 2010 Fontbonne University graduate, was enrolled here, she was everywhere: coaching new students through their first few weeks of college as a FOCUS leader, lending school spirit to the Griffin Girls dance team, participating in Fontbonne TV commercials and, of course, making the grade as a motivated student. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree focused on corporate and legal communications, a program she designed herself with the help of her advisor. Taylor was a “university major,” a design-your-
own path for proactive students who thrive on challenge.
Today, Taylor continues to seek out challenge. Tableaux caught up with her this summer at the downtown St. Louis office of The Mission Continues, where she has served for two-and-a-half years as the executive assistant to founder and CEO, Eric Greitens, a Navy SEAL, author and Rhodes Scholar.
The Mission Continues is a nonprofit that awards community service fellowships to post-9/11 veterans, helping them find empowerment, connection and purpose after their years of service. For Taylor, the job blends everything she studied during her time at Fontbonne — law, business, communications — and allows her to combine career goals with community impact, which, she says, is both meaningful and rewarding.
At Fontbonne, why did you choose the university major?
I had so many interests as I started college. I wanted to learn more about the law, understand business practices and learn how to be an effective communicator. I also had interests in psychology and women’s studies. The university major allowed me to explore all of these interests.
I studied pre-law, business and communications. I was required to take the core classes from each program, but then I was able to spend the rest of my time taking the classes that interested me the most. Even though I was taking classes from all three concentration areas, I found that what I was learning in one class was always complementing the others.
How did you determine your course of study?
I had an advisor guiding me through the process, and we built a good plan for deciding where I would focus my energy while at Fontbonne. I focused on knocking out the general requirements during my first two years, but I would take one class per semester to explore my interests. This approach ensured that I would graduate on time, and it allowed me to make good decisions about what I would study during my junior and senior years. I guess it was probably early junior year when I made the decision to focus on pre-law, business and communications.
Who was your favorite professor at Fontbonne?
This is a really hard one for me. So I’ll name two professors.
Corinne Taff, assistant professor of American history and culture and director of interdisciplinary initiatives, and Heather Norton, English professor and current interim associate vice president for academic affairs, two of my favorite professors for many of the same reasons. They were passionate about teaching, and their classes were always the most challenging. I appreciated that, even as a college student. I learned the most from their classes, and I walked away with a sense of accomplishment.
As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
As a kid, I wanted to be a teacher. I always enjoyed planning, organizing and leading others. I also knew that I wanted to do something that would make a difference in the lives of others, and I knew that I wanted to do meaningful work. A teacher seemed like the perfect fit.
How did you find your position?
I was waitressing after graduation, and a Fontbonne alum stopped by to grab dinner one evening. We started to talk about our plans for the future, and I told her about the positions that I was applying for at the time. She mentioned that her company was hiring. The next day, I followed up, and from there, I interviewed for a few months (yes, a few months), and I was offered the job.
Describe a day in your work life.
The first few hours of my day are usually dedicated to preparing for meetings, calls and travel since I work to support the CEO. Then, I’ll turn to the priorities and projects that I manage on a daily basis. For instance, I help to manage the top development prospects for The Mission Continues. So I’ll do some work identifying potential donors, completing prospect research, creating strategies and stewarding prospects.
Next, I might turn to a project that I’m managing for the Greitens Group (Greitens’ for-profit venture). For example, I’m currently managing a consulting relationship that our CEO is working on this year. We are doing talent recruitment for a large hedge fund. So I might spend a few hours doing candidate research and assessment.
During the last part of my day, I usually focus on returning emails and phone calls so that I can depart for the day knowing that I have responded to priority emails and requests.
What has been your favorite project while working for The Mission Continues? The Greitens Group?
I’d have to say that one of the coolest things that I’ve done while at The Mission Continues is helping to manage our partnership with J.J. Abrams and “Star Trek.” J.J. owns Bad Robot, a successful production company well known for the television series “Lost,” and films like “Star Trek” and “Star Trek Into Darkness.” So for the release of “Star Trek Into Darkness,” J.J., Bad Robot, Paramount and the cast of “Star Trek” came together to support The Mission Continues by helping us to raise awareness, build our brand and raise money to fund our programs.
At the Greitens Group, the coolest project that I’ve worked on is the release of Eric’s book, “The Heart and the Fist.” At the start of the release, our team set the goal of getting the book on the New York Times Best Seller list. After months of promoting the book, helping to manage media around the release, and organizing and managing book events, the book hit the New York Times Best Seller list for eight weeks in a row.
How did your degree and your time at Fontbonne help you in your current career?
Fontbonne did an excellent job of helping me to develop my writing, which is such an important skill. I remember being pushed to write well in the communications program, and I value that experience today. I’m also thankful for my background in American culture studies, my minor. At Fontbonne, we explored trends in American thought and culture that I feel make me a sharper observer of the world today.
What are your goals for the future?
These are more short-term goals, but this year I’ll be finishing up coursework for my master’s degree in public policy administration with an emphasis in nonprofit management from the University of Missouri-St. Louis. I also hope to be accepted into the Coro Women in Leadership Program offered by Focus St. Louis for the fall 2013 class.
When you’re off work and wanting to kick back, where would we find you?
You can usually find me in South City. I love the area. It’s a fun, young and energetic part of St. Louis. You can find so many unique bars and restaurants, and I really appreciate that.