CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., Sept. 10, 2015 — Southeast Missouri State University alumna Erica Chandler of Affton, Missouri, spends her days showcasing to her city the stories of the students, staff and schools of the Affton School District. Her drive to find the good in everything fuels her passion to communicate these stories to her community.
Erica is the community relations director for the Affton School District in St. Louis, Missouri. In addition to publicizing the district’s good news, Erica is responsible for all district communications, including the Web site, social media, media releases, crisis communications and much more. She says every day is a new adventure.
“There are days where you have to leave the house with a toothbrush in your mouth and your socks in your purse to rush out to the scene of a bus accident that you didn’t know about until you saw it on the news,” she says. “But there are also days when you walk into a school and witness a student creating something amazing and you get to be the one to capture their smile of accomplishment. This job is challenging, but vastly rewarding.”
At Southeast, Erica earned a Bachelor of Arts in vocal music and a Bachelor of Science in mass communication with an emphasis in public relations. She also holds an MBA from the University of Missouri.
“When I first graduated from Southeast, I was thrilled to be able to combine my passions for music and communications by working in the Marketing Department for what is now Live Nation and subsequently at the Fox Theatre in St. Louis,” she said.
However her passions shifted when she had children.
Erica says, “Looking at school districts in our area, I discovered there was a need for help with communications at the district we lived in. What began as a volunteer position turned into a new paid position created for the district, and I am proud to be starting my fourth school year as the community relations director for Affton School District.”
Erica says she chose Southeast for numerous reasons but atop that list was the ability to be away from home but close enough to visit as much as she wanted.
“It was a good value for the money, and scholarships were generous. I began as a music major, and am thankful that I stumbled upon the mass communication program in my first year,” she said. “I’ve always loved to write and to help tell the story behind the story. Public relations was the perfect fit for that.”
While on campus, Erica was a student employee in the University Relations office. This is where she learned the importance of communications in education.
“Without someone to tell the story of what’s happening on campus or in the classroom, without the face of a friendly student, teacher or administrator for the public to relate to, a school — elementary, secondary, college or university – it is simply an institution rather than a vibrant, exciting place filled with achievement and possibility,” she said.
Erica has many great experiences at Southeast but her favorite, she says, is “meeting my husband in the Music Department.”
In the little free time she has, Erica can be found watching a Cardinals game, reading and, most importantly, spending much needed time with her husband, Aaron, and two boys, Milo and Hank.
“I love to read, and at this point in my life, I spend a lot of time invested in the interests of my kids: floor hockey, baseball, t-ball and wrestling,” she says.
Even in her free time Erica’s passion for serving comes out in her number one passion, being a mom.
To Southeast students she offers this advice:
“I encourage every student to find your passion — to find the one thing (or maybe things) that you love to do. Is it writing? Music? Problem solving? Organization? Reading? Sports? Whatever it is, find a way to blend your passion with your field of study. That’s a recipe for happiness within your career and your life,” she says.