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Students hear pros present at Mass Communication Week

Rachell Ramirez, Staff Writer

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Lack of money didn’t keep Lydia Saldaña from being successful. Today she’s communications director at Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation and has been for 23 years.

She told VMT communications students about her life and career during a presentation at Mass Communication Week at Texas State University on October 16.

Saldaña discussed the lessons she learned along the way.

At age 6, Saldaña said she was as a voracious reader and up to today she still reads many books. Her love for reading became a huge factor in her success in high school. She said she had a love for writing and in middle school, and she had a love for poetry.

In middle school, her first networking opportunity was with an AP teacher, Saldaña said. Her teacher encouraged Saldaña to enter a competition. Saldaña’s teacher mentored and helped her for the competition, and Saldaña won first place and a $500 prize. That is when she started to think about going to college, she said.

“You’re never too young to develop a network. Like right now your network is your fellow students, certainly your professors, and your teachers,” Saldaña said.

Saldaña knew if she wanted to go to college she would need AP classes and to focus on writing. In high school, she got deeply involved in speech and debate and that set her up in a career for television news, she said.

Saldaña graduated with a 4.2 average and received two full scholarship offers, she said. Then job offers came her way.

At age 17 she said she was the youngest women ever to work at KLBJ Radio in Austin, and then in 1981, she received her first full-time job as a radio reporter at Austin. She was 19. Her boss at that job was her first professional mentor.

“People want to mentor. If there’s someone you admire that you see out there in media professionally reach out to them because I guarantee you the mentor gets as much out of it as the mentees so earlier in your career work on finding a mentor but as you’re progressing on your career you can be mentoring young people and people around you,” Saldaña said.

Saldaña received a job offer from CBS News in New York but had a 2-year-old daughter and couldn’t accept the position. She then moved back to Austin and couldn’t find a job immediately but by 1990 she found a position for video manager at Texas Parks and Wildlife.

She said working there was like going to another universe. Everything there was something she isn’t used to doing, like going to state parks and camping, she said.

Since TPW was missing news operations and had no marketing efforts she landed on a video production unit. The first thing she did, she said, was to talk to her boss about making a weekly television series. They took a year to produce a year’s scripts of programs so they could be on the Public Broadcasting System every week. That was more than 30 years ago, she said, and the program is still going strong.

The unit also started a media operation because there were so many untold stories at Texas Parks and Wildlife. Saldaña said she feels very fortunate to be in that position and also with her mentor.

She was promoted to communication director 6 years later with a staff of 105.

“When you make the right decision for the right reason things work out okay,” Saldaña said.

Saldaña met so many people and worked in big campaigns like “Don’t be a pain in the boat.” It was the first campaign she worked to develop and execute.

“Parks and Wildlife was the first state agency in Texas to do any social media, and it went really well,” she said. The agency’s social media sites now have thousands of followers.

In 2005, she was thinking about what’s next and started working towards a master’s degree. She said it took her exactly 6 years to get her degree.

“Everything you do you may not realize at that moment but everything you do, everything you learn, and every person you meet, there are all connections to it,” Saldaña said.

VMT also students had a full day of other activities at Mass Communication Week:

  • A visit to KTSW radio station and The University Star newspaper.
  • A celebration of the Hachar Program’s 15th anniversary. This is the program which sponsors VMT’s visit to Mass Communication Week every year.
  • Presentation with the Admissions counselor about attending the university.
  • A visit to Alkek Library and the bookstore.
  • A visit to the broadcast students’ television studios.
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Students hear pros present at Mass Communication Week