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The College of Liberal and Fine Arts

On the Air with COLFA Alums

Flip on the TV or radio, and the faces you see and the voices you hear might just be graduates of UTSA’s College of Liberal and Fine Arts (COLFA). From the national platform of NBC Sports to the local public TV station KLRN, COLFA alumni are contributing to the ever-changing media industry one story at a time. Here’s a look at some of the COLFA alums making a difference in their field.

Michael Valdes, anchor, FOX News

As one of the original members of the local FOX News (KABB-TV) team that made its debut in 1995, news anchor Michael Valdes says that while the technical side of the industry has changed over the last 17 years, the job is still the same.

“The cameras have gotten smaller and the TVs are now in HD and it’s easier to go live, but it’s always been about storytelling,” said Valdes, who earned his degree in philosophy in 1993. “Your audience still relies on you to get the story right and tell it in a compelling way.”

Valdes, who comes from a family of educators, began his higher education at UTSA looking for something he could be passionate about. He discovered it in philosophy and in his media internship.

“I enjoyed being in the newsroom and watching how things operated and how things got done,” Valdes said. “I found it incredibly attractive and something I could excel at.”

Studying the works of philosophers like Plato and Aristotle has also helped him in his career.

“I always try to take a different point of view and break something down into a way that makes sense for the story,” he said. “UTSA helped me hone my logic skills and adjust to whatever the situation.”

Bettie Cross, anchor/reporter, KEYE -TV

Austin-based reporter Bettie Cross always knew she wanted to work in the media, but when she came to UTSA in the early 80s, a communication degree was not offered.

Cross, instead, earned her degree in political science after taking advice from a news director at a TV station where she was interning.

“He told me I should figure out what I really want to specialize in and become an expert in that,” Cross said. “That’s when I realized I didn’t necessarily need a degree in journalism. Instead, I made UTSA work for my career plan.”

With a passion for politics, Cross walked into the industry with practical experience.

“I don’t think people need to always follow the tried-and-true path,” Cross said.

Over the last three years, Cross exchanged covering hard-news politics for stories on lifestyle and entertainment. Until recently, she was the co-host of Austin Live, which aired weekday afternoons; she is now an anchor/reporter for TV station KEYE in Austin, TX.

Over the last three years, Cross exchanged covering hard-news politics for stories on lifestyle and entertainment. Until recently, she was the co-host of Austin Live, which aired weekday afternoons; she is now an anchor/reporter for TV station KEYE in Austin, TX.

Jamie Martin, radio co-host, KJ-97

“I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I got to UTSA,” said Jamie Martin, chuckling a bit. “I thought, ‘Well, maybe I’ll do something in the business field,’ but I wasn’t strong at math. I never thought about going into radio.” A job posted in UTSA’s job bank got the ball rolling, Martin said. That position led to two others that ultimately landed her in radio.

Today, Martin, who earned her degree in communication with a concentration in technical writing in 2002, can be heard on local country music station KJ-97 alongside Randy Carroll weekdays from 5 a.m. to noon.

“A lot of the stuff I learned at UTSA was writing, editing, and grammar,” said Martin. “I apply all that to what I do now at KJ. You’d be surprised how much writing we do for radio.”

Martin urges students who might not know what they want to do upon entering college to ask themselves a simple question: “What am I good at?”

“Pursue that,” she said. “Everyone is good at doing at least one thing, so find out what that is and go for it.”

Mario Vazquez, President & CEO, KLRN

Last October, alumnus Mario Vazquez was named executive vice president and station manager at public television station KLRN in San Antonio; effective October 1, 2012 he was named President and CEO. A student at UTSA in the mid-80s, Vazquez returned to the university in 2006 to finish his degree in political science.

“My whole life turned around in a very positive way after that,” Vazquez said.

After serving on the KLRN board for three years, Vazquez accepted his new position because of the mission of KLRN and the work the station does for the community. He never anticipated going into the media industry, but felt KLRN was the right place for him.

“I’m not sure if I would have gone to any of the commercial stations, but because KLRN is public television it inspired me,” he said.

At UTSA, Vazquez said he learned how to question things, not to accept the status quo, and to think beyond his own opinions.

“UTSA challenged me,” he said. “You don’t have to go to California or the East Coast to get a top-notch education. You just have to put in the effort and work if you want to succeed.”

Monica Taylor, anchor, FOX News

Although she started as a finance major her freshman year, Monica Taylor, anchor for local FOX News (KABB-TV), jumped at the chance to study public relations when the concentration in the Department of Communication became available her sophomore year. She earned her degree in communication in 1998.

After making the rounds in the public relations sector, including time with Spurs Sports & Entertainment, Taylor took the opportunity to move to the other side of the industry and join the FOX News team.

“It was a natural transition for me,” Taylor said. “I love public relations, but I couldn’t say no to FOX. It’s been a great experience.”

Taylor, who can be seen on FOX News First, thinks students who plan to enter the field should be passionate about the work because there is a lot of competition out there.

“Go out and do an internship so you can feel it and touch it,” Taylor said. “An internship will help you understand what this industry is all about.”

Michelle Beadle, reporter, NBC Sports

After three years with ESPN, Michelle Beadle has moved to NBC Sports. According to USA Today, Beadle’s NBC Sports deal includes a role on “Access Hollywood.”

“The TV thing wasn’t even something I had ever thought about,” Beadle said in a past interview. “I think a lot of people I went to high school with find this funny, what I’m doing now.”

In her new position with NBC Sports, Beadle covered track and field events during the 2012 Olympics in London. In the past she has also had stints with Animal Planet, Travel Channel, and People Magazine, and she covered the Golden Globes and other entertainment awards shows.

“I really don’t live sports,” she said. “I feel like to do my job well, I can’t just know sports. You’ve got to be a good human. You have to know what’s going on.” Michelle is a 2002 graduate of the Department of Communication.

Judie Garcia, anchor/reporter, WGN-TV Chicago

While she admits she has never taken a journalism course in her life, WGN-TV Chicago anchor and reporter Judie Garcia says her time at UTSA during the late 80s gave her a lot more than just a specialized education. It taught her to think.

“Every news director I have ever worked for will say that the most important skill a reporter can bring to the table is not knowledge of journalism, but a general curiosity and broad-based liberal arts education,” said Garcia, who earned her BA in English in 1990. “All the courses I took taught me to think critically.”

Along with the internships she was afforded during her collegiate career, Garcia credits the professors at UTSA for preparing her for what she calls a “quest for knowledge.”

“Today, I am still able to quote lessons from my political science, biology and French professors from UTSA,” Garcia said. “UTSA’s professors are not only knowledgeable in their field of expertise, but are also able to share their passion in such a way that it inspires you to a higher level.”

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