Kristen Toney - Journalism⁄Public Relations
Toney had been attending a university in Tennessee. But when health problems kept interfering with school, she returned home to Plant City, Florida-closer to her parents and her doctors. Her parents convinced her to try Southeastern for a semester even though she wanted to leave Florida. During the last chapel service of the semester, God told her not to leave Southeastern yet. Even though she had already made plans to return to her old university, she heeded God's directions. By staying at Southeastern, Toney learned a crucial lesson: to bloom where she was planted.
Toney, who graduated in 2005, earned a degree in Journalism/Public Relations at Southeastern. Professors here helped her develop her writing, she says. Tough grading and detailed feedback by English professor Dr. Rickey Cotton challenged Toney to clearly communicate her point in writing assignments. Dr. Cotton gave her a fresh perspective of her writing with the questions he returned on her assignments.
In addition to Dr. Cotton, a former Southeastern communications professor recognized Toney's gift for writing and also pushed her until an assignment was exemplary. "If you were good at something, [the professor] wouldn't let you quit until you were the best you could be," Toney remembers. A public relations class with this same professor taught her to produce fact sheets, press releases, and press kits. Toney says her writing improved because of her professors' high expectations and rigorous demands.
Toney's diligence paid off on the first day of an internship; she was prepared when her boss told her to write a press release. She interned with a program in Tampa, Florida, that provided resources, such as lawn care and electricians, for military families. During the internship, Toney practiced public relations skills she learned at Southeastern by organizing and managing fundraising events. Her responsibilities included advertising and soliciting businesses for donations. Toney also learned networking and teamwork during her internship. She described the experience as a beginner's course for getting comfortable with talking to people in business situations.
While Southeastern's communications seminar class is designed to give new students an overview of the field, Toney, who took it her senior year, says the seminar helped her define her long-term goals. Dr. Wade Mumm, the Southeastern communications professor who taught the class, encouraged lofty aspirations but promoted patience. He focused on practical topics and brought in guest lecturers from the communications field to describe their typical work days. Toney also reviewed basic public relations writing skills during the seminar.
Toney began writing for Floyd Publications in Plant City, Florida, while she was still at Southeastern. After graduating, she started writing full-time for Focus Magazine, a monthly publication with a local human-interest focus. Ten months later, Toney advanced to editorial director of the four editions of Focus.