Nancy Sawtelle, MS, ABC
35th Anniversary Q&A
“For the better part of 20 years, IABC was a focal point in my life. Some of my best and longest friendships grew from IABC.” –Nancy Sawtelle, MS, ABC
Question: When and why did you join or start participating in IABC? How did you become involved in the local chapter?
Answer: I became involved with IABC shortly after its founding. It was a good place to network and learn from other communicators in Bryan/College Station (although most of the members were affiliated with Texas A&M). Plus, many of my friends were members; so, it was a natural social opportunity.
Q: Have you held a leadership position with BVIABC? If so, which one(s) and when?
A: I’ve held many leadership positions with BVIABC—too many to recall. The following is the information I include on my resume: Member, Brazos Valley Chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators, 1981-present; Co-chair, 2005 District 5 Conference; Chair, Senior Communicators Special Interest Group, 2002‒2003; Member, Membership Marketing Committee, 2001‒2002; Co-chair, Brazos Bravo (Bronze Quill) Awards, 2000; Chair, Career Services Committee, 1994-95; Coordinator, Chapter Management Report, 1989-90; Judge, international Gold Quill Awards design competition, 1988; Judge, local-level communication competitions, including those for San Francisco IABC, IABC New York, and IABC Los Angeles; President, 1985-86.
Q: Please share any stories or comments about your service to our chapter. Was it a positive experience? Do you feel it has helped your career? Would you recommend it to others?
A: For the better part of 20 years, IABC was a focal point in my life. Some of my best and longest friendships grew from IABC. I served as chapter president for 18 months. During that time I reached a number of life milestones—I got married, I became pregnant, and I gave birth to my son.
In addition, BVIABC initiated the Brazos Bravo Awards Competition and held the first Brazos Bravo Gala. The speaker for the inaugural event was Texas Monthly editor Paul Burka. Also during my term as president, the chair of IABC visited our chapter. We were known as a very spunky, active, growing, and somewhat opinionated group that wasn’t afraid to disagree with the international organization!
IABC definitely helped my career. I pursued and achieved accreditation and was in the first group of candidates that took the four-hour accreditation test on a computer. BVIABC gave me opportunities to learn about and practice leadership skills, management, budgeting, and networking with a supportive group of professionals to support me and lend encouragement along the way. I believe that being engaged with a professional organization is exceedingly important to career development.
Q: My research indicates that the Brazos Valley chapter started in 1981. Were you involved in the founding of our chapter? If so, what would you say was the catalyst for forming an IABC chapter locally?
A: I joined shortly after its founding. I would say the catalyst for forming the chapter was the need for Brazos Valley communicators to network and share expertise and wisdom. There were, at least, two individuals (David Jones and John Suddath) who were members of IABC. To attend meetings, they had to travel to Houston or Dallas. Organizing a local chapter provided local professional development opportunities and shared the IABC experience with communicators in Bryan/College Station.
Q: What can you tell me about the early days of our chapter, or from the time when you first started participating? Who were some of the other members that were involved at the time you started participating?
A: We were almost immediately involved in professional development/outreach activities. One of our early offerings was the “Instant Editor” workshop for people in the community who had to produce newsletters and the like but had no formal training. “Instant Editor” was a great success and very well attended. Plus, it produced revenue to support professional activities.
One of my favorite chapter programs was the annual “Fame and Shame Game Show,” in which members shared triumphs and failures with the chapter.
In addition to David Jones and John Suddath, other notable early members included Joanne Armke, Wendell Fuqua, Laura Nowlin, Karen Riedel, Ann Cole, Exa York, Sue Lancaster, Terry Parker, Bernie Fette, and Doug Starr.
Q: Are you a member of other professional organizations, and if so, do you mind sharing which ones?
A: National Association of Science Writers and Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE)
Q: Why IABC? What is it about IABC that has kept you a member?
A: Networking, learning, professional development, and friends.
Q: What’s the one thing you’d change about IABC if you could?
A: I wouldn’t change a thing about my experience.
Q: Would you share what your job is and why you love what you do? What draws you to communication as a profession?
A: I’m director of public relations in the Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President. I love solving problems, facilitating processes, explaining issues, planning events, and waking up to new opportunities every day. I am grateful for many rich experiences and look forward to many more.
Q: What is one thing that you wish you’d known when you were starting out in your career?
A: Don’t be afraid to fail.