Director of Alumni Relations,
West Virginia Wesleyan College
Harrison County native Kristi Lawrence Wilkerson says she got the message early on that it's important to help those around you whenever possible.
"I learned from my parents that you should be involved in the community in which you live and you should give to your neighbors," said Wilkerson, who earned a bachelor's degree in public relations in 1999.
She's also a big believer in the importance relationships play in business.
As a newlywed a decade ago, she left her job teaching in Wesleyan's communication department to live in Charleston where her husband, Curtis Wilkerson, was working. While employed in fundraising, advancement and development for West Virginia Independent Colleges & Universities Inc., she volunteered to begin a Wesleyan alumni chapter in the capital city.
Soon she was planning regional events and encouraging other alumni to take part, too. Ultimately, the volunteer post led to Wilkerson getting offered her current job as Wesleyan's director of alumni relations six years ago.
Wilkerson said she and others in her field report the task of keeping alumni engaged with their alma maters is growing more challenging.
"Colleges and universities need their graduates to recruit students, offer internships and job placements for current students and to make a financial gift as they are able," she said.
"Being part of a college or university is not simply a commitment that lasts four years, give or take a little. It is a lifelong commitment. If you had a good experience while in college, it is important to give back in whatever way you can to ensure that others can have that same great experience in perpetuity."
For Wilkerson, who has a 6-year-old daughter, Rebekah, the value of education can't be overstated. "I firmly believe that the only way to solve the problems we have in our communities, states and nations is to educate, educate, educate," said Wilkerson, who also holds a master of arts degree from Ohio's Miami University. "Our generation has some difficult questions that we will be faced with — are being faced with. I see education as our only path to solving problems and making our world truly better.
"Strengthening the institutions in West Virginia through engagement and fundraising may assist our state and its citizens, my neighbors, in tackling the issues of today and tomorrow. I cannot accept mediocrity when it comes to education, from pre-kindergarten through higher ed."