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We Are Liberal Arts: Krista's Story

Krista (Poplau) Giuffi, Director of Alumni Relations at Rush University Medical Center
February 9, 2017
Portrait: Krista Guiffi
Krista Giuffi
BA '02, Spanish and journalism
In We Are Liberal Arts profiles, we ask our alumni to talk about their career journey, reflect on how their liberal arts education shaped them, and what it taught them to do.

I am the director of alumni relations for Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, which includes four colleges: Rush Medical College, Rush College of Nursing, The Graduate College and the College of Health Sciences.  

Our team works within the medical center fundraising office to foster a meaningful relationship between Rush alumni and the institution—often referred to as “friend-raising.” We do so through volunteer management, alumni engagement programs, such as guest speaker panels and continuing education, to special events, such as reunions and social receptions, to communications by email and print. It is always fun to see the instant connection an alumnus has with campus at a reunion or seeing how much students appreciate hearing an alumnus’ story of how health care was when they were training in the hospital.

To lead and empower others

Since I was a print journalism student, I benefited greatly from a wide range of communications courses and analytical thinking through current events. I was in school during 9/11, and that experience really propelled me to consider the global effect of news communications (well before the social media age) and also the civic duty of everyday students in making their voices heard. Many of my courses in journalism reflected directly what was going on in the news and in our government at the time. I remember taking an internet law class with Jane Kirtley, in which we discussed the PATRIOT Act as it was unfolding in real time.
It wasn’t obvious at the time, because I was such an introvert, but I have come into my own as a leader in my line of work and enjoy collaborating with other people who inspire me with their knowledge and talents. I used to think that a leader was exemplified by a vice president behind a mahogany desk. Now I realize that leadership is apparent at all levels of work. I am a leader in my own right and I can empower others to be leaders as well, and that has been very fulfilling in my career.

To flourish in new careers 

This might sound cheesy, but I feel like my entire education at CLA has provided me the opportunity to change careers and flourish in each setting. I was never able to gain steady employment in journalism after graduating, and instead found myself working in public relations and strategic communications, first in a nonprofit setting and later in healthcare communications. My journalism degree set me up for success because of my writing and analytical skills and my knowledge of the media landscape. 

My path to alumni relations was through a combined communications opportunity that later focused on the engagement aspect in support of fundraising efforts, which I found I enjoyed. Again, I was able to use my relationship-building skills from public relations in this setting and also begin to develop program development strengths. None of this would have been possible if I didn’t have a strong foundation of the many core competencies from the CLA, which makes me a very proud and appreciative alumna. 

To understand other cultures

Learning a second language was a great benefit to my early career, as I worked as a Spanish-speaking patient advocate in a community clinic and later at a Latino community development organization as their communications director. Although I do not use Spanish on a daily basis in my current position, I think learning any second language is of great benefit because you also learn about other cultures or countries. My study abroad experience in Venezuela was a great personal growth experience for me. 
And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the news writing class I took with Paul McEnroe and Chris Ison at the journalism school. They were inspirational faculty members who genuinely cared about the journalism profession.

For current students in CLA we are highlighting career readiness as an integral part of their education.