Kaitlyn Palividas, B.A. in Broadcast Journalism, c/o 2017
Minors in History and Leadership Studies
Manager at NES Fircroft
As one of the inaugural members of the Bonner Leaders Program in 2013, Kaitlyn had a profound impact on the culture within Bonner and the Honors College through her work on MLK Day of Service and Bonner Congress. Even after her graduation, she continues her substantial involvement in various alumni organizations, giving back to the university and making her presence known.
What are you up to after graduation?
I am a manager for a technical engineering staffing company, NES Fircroft. I manage the recruitment and account management team for a specific division of the company. I've pretty much been here since I graduated and have just stuck with them. We staff energy projects, but I've moved on from direct recruiting and instead manage the recruitment and account managers team, basically a sales manager that worked my way up!
To be honest, I needed a break from UH after I graduated. I was involved with Bleacher Creatures, Honors Ambassadors, Mentorship, Club Theater, MAO, and Dodgeball. When I graduated, I had to make sure I had an identity that wasn't completely tied into UH or Bonner. I took a break for a year, but I still came back for football and basketball games. I moved to another part of Texas, moved back to Houston in 2019, and became involved again. I'm co-president of the UH Young Alumni Association, on the Valenti board, UH Alumni Foundation Board, and Honors Advisory Board. On these boards, we're trying to gain momentum to get people involved to help get UH nationally ranked. Part of this comes from alumni engagement, which means donating, volunteering, coming to events, engaging in emails and social media, etc. I want to start something like this for Bonner in the future. I'm really passionate about giving back to UH and being involved even after I've graduated. My mindset is that the better UH does, the better it serves the rest of us and every one after.
What do you look back on in your time with Bonner?
My involvement with Bonner was kind of different from many students today because I was in the first class. During the first two years, we weren't really doing student-led projects. We had partner organizations in the city, but sometimes they didn't know how to best use our time and effort. I pretty quickly became what would be a program development intern for Bonner. I spent 10 hours a week working on a lot of initiatives rather than a singular project. I helped a little with what would become the WISE tutoring project, but I wasn't a tutor. MLK Day of Service was my big project, which we hosted for the whole campus. Eventually, another department on campus took over planning for the MLK Day of Service, and I am proud to have initiated that work. At the time, that must've been the biggest service event UH had in terms of participation, it was pretty cool.
I also led the initiative to plan and host Bonner Congress in 2015 with my peer Grace Schwarz. Bonner Congress is one of the Bonner Foundation's annual national meetings where network schools send representatives to participate in several days of workshops, learning, networking, and cultural experiences. When we hosted Bonner Congress, more than 100 students from across the Bonner netowork attended, and it was a huge success. For MLK Day of Service, I was on that leadership team and we worked with a bunch of different organizations on campus until another department on campus took that over.
What is a favorite Bonner memory?
When I was a student, our "Bonner Spring Break" trip involved attending the Beach Clean Up in Port Mansfield in South Texas. We did that all four years, and these trips provided some of my favorite memories. It was a huge community-building thing, and I was usually on the planning committees. We would try to mix up housing and project placements to force students to talk to people they didn’t know, we did team building, and people always fought over who would work on the breakfast crew in the early mornings. We participated in two full days of service and spent a lot of time bonding and getting to know each other outside of our regular routines.
Looking back, getting all of these college kids to give up half of their spring break to do service was a pretty big feat in itself. Once it had been established, it was always like of course, why would we do anything else during our spring break? I loved the long drive, staying up late in the houses, cooking together, doing the beach clean up, and getting to know the community in the small town. After the beach clean-up, they had one really good restaurant that would do karaoke and we would end up taking over. People from the town would remember us the year after for our performances! But the beach clean up itself was really important because it was a fishing town and the water is their economy. The way the current and land works, any trash in that area would wash up on the beach in Port Mansfield. We must've cleaned miles of that beach and collected thousands of pounds of trash. You always left feeling so accomplished, but the sad part was that you would come back the next year and it was just as dirty as it was before. It really emphasized that we needed to keep doing this, because not only were we helping the community, but also the animals in the area because obviously the cigarette butts and diapers weren't helping them.
What are you most proud of from your time with Bonner?
Even though I think my class, the inaugural class, was really important in establishing the culture and program, I'm most proud of the programs that were created during my time that are still running today. I'm just proud that almost 10 years later, Bonner still exists. At the time, no one really knew who we were, and a lot of community partners didn't want to work with a bunch of 19 and 20-year-olds. The fact that it’s a full program with over a hundred people, with a program alumna directing it, makes me super sentimental.
What about now?
A little over 5 years after graduating, I feel like a real adult. I got married, I'm really confident in my job, and I have enough bandwidth to be involved in other things. I'm just happy with where I am. After I graduated, I wanted to grind as much as possible to make things easier for me in the future, and I think I'm at that point now.
How did Bonner help to get you where you are now?
Bonner is great at teaching soft skills and leadership. Service leadership as a whole is promoted in Bonner, and also the idea that the best leader makes leaders out of the people that are around and support them. That concept tied into developing a culture and making Bonner synonymous with a close-knit group of people are probably the two best skills I got from Bonner. I manage a pretty big team at my job and the other organizations that I volunteer with, and these skills have really been useful. I work a corporate job, which is different from what Bonner is, but I think that the leadership skills I developed in Bonner were essential to my getting promoted quickly - I'm the youngest manager in my office! I even remember talking a lot about Bonner in my interview, and I think it's just interesting to mention. From all the things you can be involved in college, to be able to be like "Hey, I was involved in this service organization that did 10 hours a week," everyone is always surprised how I fit that all in.
Besides Bonner, Honors also helped me because of the job I had in the College and my Leadership Studies minor. I used to work in recruitment for the Honors College and I met NES Fircroft at a career fair and interned my last semester as a recruiter.
What is your advice for current Bonner Leaders?
First, enjoy it because it goes by so fast. And then you're like me and you've been out of college longer than you were in college.
Second, I would challenge any Bonner, if there's something that you want to do, just put your mind and your heart into it and you can do it. Whether it's project or culturally related, whatever it may be, Bonner is one of the most supportive environments that you can be in. Enjoy the time, take advantage of the freedom, and know that anything you're doing now will be relevant in the future.