Outstanding Young Alumni Award Winner 1993
Sometimes, parents don’t always know what’s best.
Connie Walker knows that first hand.
“My parents didn’t want me to go to college because they didn’t think it was a good investment,” Walker recalls. But if she hadn’t gone, she never would have been able to find her calling in journalism.
“When I went out and covered things for class, I realized this is what I was meant to do,” she says.
An award-winning alumnus from the Department of Journalism at UW Oshkosh, Walker currently is president and general manager for WUNC, a public radio station in North Carolina that serves an audience of 300,000. At WUNC, she is responsible for its management, growth and sustainability.
Walker earned her bachelor’s degree from UW Oshkosh in 1983, and in 1993, was named an Outstanding Young Alumni while working as a host and reporter for Wisconsin Public Radio.
Since 2012, she has also served on the Board of Directors for National Public Radio. This board instills policies, gives direction for the company as a whole, checks performance and gives financial oversight.
Walker says she decided to attend UWO partly because of the student newspaper, the Advance-Titan.
“I loved working at the Advance-Titan,” Walker says. “It was a lot of fun, and a good experience.”
Walker says the all-nighters were a little daunting at times, but that she learned a lot both about writing and about being a copy editor. She recalls a fellow student, Pat Durkin, who trained her on editing at the A-T, saying, “Remember that people are “who’s and not that’s.” She says she also loved spending hours in the photo lab developing photos.
Yet despite that great experience, Walker says she had a difficult time finding a job after graduation because the economy was in a recession. But since she had worked at a radio station during high school and another one during college, she was able to find work there.
“For me, it was a connection,” Walker says. She worked in commercial radio for five years, and after that, went to Wisconsin Public Radio for 17 years.
Her decision to move to North Carolina centered, in part, on weather. She recalled traveling to North Carolina for conference planning in January 2005. Wisconsin had a blizzard, but North Carolina’s temperature hovered around 70 degrees. “While it didn’t hurt that the weather was great, I mainly fell in love with the region and the station’s ambitions,” she says.
Walker says she enjoys working as a general manager at WUNC and assisting people “in producing great journalism” as a leader.
“I really do like helping our staff serve the public by helping to find the money to make that work possible,” she says.
Walker is appreciative of the education she received at UWO, and says it has helped her succeed in her career.
“First of all, there is no way I could have attained a position in public radio stations that our university licensees without a four-year degree,” she says. “And my experience in college taught me a lot about how to approach storytelling.”
She encourages students or young alumni to take advantage of any opportunities they have through internships, volunteer work, work with campus media of part-time jobs in fields that interested them. “Making connections in college can pay off enormously later when you are trying to prove to prospective employers that you are a great hire,” she says. “And lastly, be curious and ask questions, in whatever you are doing. That’s innate to great journalism; it helps inform you and makes life more interesting in general!”