Kristel (Givogue) HladkySeptember 29, 2020
Kristel (Givogue) Hladky is married to her high school sweetheart and former Truman Alum, JR (Mathematics, MAE). Together they live in the suburbs of Kansas City where they are generally managing the chaos of raising four active kids ages 3-9 with a 5th due in February 2021! Kristel is a passionate member of the Spark Change Health team, working with a group of engineers creating solutions for Revenue Cycle clients and using her communication skills to share the success of their work. Kristel and her family find joy in family time, hiking trails, parish and youth organizations, camping, and road trips.
What year did you graduate and what was your concentration?
What extra-/co-curricular activities did you do?
I sampled many of the extracurricular activities that Truman offered and loved the diverse interactions and friend groups as a result. I competed on the Forensics team for a year, served as a Senator in Student Government, was a member of the Alpha Sigma Gamma Service Sorority, President of Truman’s Circle of Omicron Delta Kappa, and active on the executive board of Lambda Pi Eta.
I also worked what I consider the best part-time job in Kirksville for Truman’s Upward Bound program, tutoring low-income, first generation high school students in rural school districts surrounding Kirksville. I was part of an incredible staff and the experience helped immerse me in the local community.
Did you go to grad school? If so, where? Was it immediately after you left Truman or did you wait? Why?
I went to graduate school at the University of Kansas immediately after graduation. I loved the academic culture at Truman, particularly research and working closely with faculty and wanted the opportunity to continue to pursue this path. I earned my Master of Arts in Communication in 2012.
What was your first job after graduation?
The end of my master’s degree coincided with the start of our growing family. After leaving KU, I spent a couple of years teaching K-8 Spanish before ultimately landing at Cerner Corporation as a Technical Solution Analyst. My career there quickly grew into leadership/management of Revenue Cycle support teams.
What work do you do/What are you doing now?
Last December, I made the decision to join Spark Change Health, a growing start up focused on Revenue Cycle optimization and automation. Their culture reminded me of Truman’s liberal arts background with a strong emphasis on learning, continuously developing new skills, and creative problem solving. On our growing team, nothing is “outside our major” and we all study/practice across our stated roles to ensure we are bringing the best possible resolutions to our clients. As a bonus, I work with two other Truman alumni, so the Bulldog pride and legends of Kirksville life live strong. (Editor’s note: Woot! Woot!)
How has your Liberal Arts/COMM education helped you?
As Spark’s IT Program Manager, it is my responsibility to communicate with our internal (team) and external (healthcare IT, business office, hospital executive leadership) clients. Demonstrating strong verbal and written communication skills, organizing large amounts of information quickly and effectively, crafting a message, and more are at the heart of what I do every day. As a growing company, there are constantly things we discover that we need or want to create. Jumping in headfirst to areas I may have naturally avoided as a liberal arts student (Faustian theory JINS, anyone?) and finding out how interesting and rewarding those experiences can be has been a helpful foundation for this aspect of my career.
In a more general sense, I originally took some time “figuring out what I want to be when I grow up” as I entered family life and transferred out of academia. My Truman education has served me well as I navigated my early career life and expanded my skillset. My communication skills have been an asset in every workplace.
What was your greatest accomplishment at Truman?
My greatest accomplishment at Truman was being recognized as the Outstanding Undergraduate in Communication Studies my senior year. I truly enjoyed embracing every opportunity our faculty encouraged (presenting at the Student Research Conference, submitting to professional conferences, working closely with professor mentors) and the recognition highlighted how worthwhile these endeavors turned out to be.
Which class did you dislike at the time you took it, but now you’re grateful you took it?
I remember being very intimidated by my first rhetoric classes. As a double major in a social scientific field and already engaging in research with a member of the Psychology faculty, I was not sure how rhetoric might fit into my “worldview” and the reading list was a bit intimidating. Turns out, I not only enjoyed studying rhetoric but perhaps even more learning from the rhetoricians on faculty at Truman. It may not be the knowledge I lean on regularly these days, but it was a good lesson in not judging a book by its cover. It is also always exciting to revisit during election years.
Why is Truman a good place for a student to study?
Truman is an amazing place to study because of the quality of education students receive. I did not realize until I pursued my MA and became a Graduate Teaching Assistant that many schools have GTAs teaching a surprising amount of their undergraduate coursework. I loved my time as a GTA and the experience to teach undergraduate courses at many levels but in thinking of my undergraduate experience specifically, I cannot imagine it would have been the same without the Truman faculty I came to know and love.
The professors at Truman are passionate about teaching and that passion results in the highest quality education for and dedication to students. I worked hard as a GTA to emulate my favorite professors and often received comments that I “didn’t teach like a GTA”—perhaps because I had never taken a class with one! I expect there are opinions in all direction on this topic but the instruction from faculty from my first day on campus through graduation was undoubtedly key to my engagement in my coursework.
What would you say a COMM student should absolutely do while at Truman?
COMM students should absolutely say “yes” to any research or conference opportunities they are encouraged to pursue. If interested in graduate studies, these are a great foundation for applications. Even if not, going through the work of planning, organizing, executing, and presenting on a topic is excellent preparation for most any career. Academic conferences also provide opportunities for travel and networking—some of my favorite college memories are traveling to Philadelphia, Chicago, Atlanta, St. Louis, and even having my family come watch me present at the Student Research Conference.
What advice would you give someone who wants to go into the same line of work as you?
Be confident in your skills, but also willing to learn. Polish your written and verbal communication skills so that others confidently seek you out for your feedback. I learned early on that you can build quite the network in your early career when your leadership team comes to see you as someone they can trust to review their communication.
What do you miss most about campus/Kirksville?
I miss walking most everywhere but particularly on the quad. We came back for Homecoming last year, camping for a long weekend at Thousand Hills, taking the kids around campus, and attending the parade. It was great to share special spots and stories, to answer their questions like “Are these kids all at recess right now?” and to take more pictures than is likely necessary of the quad and Kirk Memorial.
What tag line would you create for the COMM department at Truman?
“COMM and go places!” It applies to the excellent opportunities I had as an undergraduate and remains relevant as I make use of my COMM degree while I continue to navigate life.
If you could come back to Truman and teach a class for a semester, what would be its title and what would it be about?
That Is Not How I Thought That Would Go: A Practical Course on Growing Up, Parenting, Figuring Out You May Not Have It As Together As You Thought and COMMunicating Your Way Through It! It would be about the value of communication in everyday life and confidently pursuing success regardless of where your path takes you. Sections would probably include “This Is Fine” and “Fakin’ It ‘Til You Make It.”
If you would like to learn more of Kristel’s story, you can follow her on LinkedIn.