Kristyn Miller, Program Director, CampusTown Waco Initiative, Prosper Waco //
What inspires you?
People’s capacity for good-hearted change. In Waco, we have made great strides in both grassroots and institutional community transformation, all brimming out of a genuine desire for improving our city holistically. The amount of visionary and dedicated leadership on issues of great importance in our community is truly inspiring.
I’m also inspired by those part-human, part-superheroes who wake up at the crack of dawn, kill it in their work day, grocery shop, volunteer, work out, make dinner, organize their junk drawers, and still manage to get 8 hours of sleep, all without a cup of coffee. I’m still trying to figure that one out.
In your opinion, what are the top 3 issues facing Waco today?
While these issues aren’t our largest issues as a community, they certainly are some of the most timely priorities to Waco.
The city is in such a rapid resurgence of growth, interest, and new energy, that we really are all — across all sectors — having to pay mind to capitalizing on three unique opportunities:
- Capitalizing on tourism and downtown development. Waco has been re-placed on the map, and this time, it’s for reasons we are proud of as a community. National attention brought by household names like HGTV’s Fixer Upper and Magnolia have also brought us 20,000-30,000 people to our downtown to visit the Magnolia store-front on any given week. This clearly poses a good problem for us to have — we have to connect these tourists to the community beyond the store-front and give them, and our Waco citizens, even more great businesses to patron.
- Leveraging Baylor University’s involvement and partnership with the City. Baylor University has also earned national interest and recognition over the last several years. With its recent, consistently winning football program, growing academic-research programs, and continuously improving campus culture and community, Baylor has had over 5 years of record-breaking numbers of visitors, applicants, and enrolled students. Further, our University and City relations are stronger than they have ever been before. This is creating all sorts of opportunity for partnership in tourism, research, and employment.
- Unifying community progress across all social, cultural, and economic demographics. With great development, it is easy for the risk of great divide to also follow. And with our city on the rise, it is all too easy for certain people and particular groups to get left behind and fall into the cracks. This gives us as community leaders an especially important imperative to keep the first things first and consciously and consistently reach for community feedback of lived experience. Unifying groups of people for a common vision of what the community can be is incredibly challenging but something we are highly committed to doing as Waco continues to develop and improve.
You wear many hats. What are one or two projects on which you are currently working that you are most excited?
We just launched a pilot summer internship program for at-risk, economically disadvantaged high school students on a high school campus that hasn’t had internship opportunities offered in years. This summer, 17 upcoming seniors are working with major industry leaders across our community in areas they’re interested in working in the future. Our high school intern just started this week, and we’re all really excited about it in our office.
We’re also experiencing a great deal of energy and excitement in cross-sector efforts to bolster programming in our downtown area for several community events. The City, non-profits, cultural arts organizations, private merchants, and our University are all coming together to see what each can do to push more people into the downtown and keep them there later and longer. New events are being created, like a downtown Welcome Back Bash for returning college students that will launch this Labor Day weekend.
Small wins, but all of this is very exciting for our community. This “all-hands-on-deck,” cross-sector participation is really moving our community forward and making it more exciting than ever before. You have to count the small wins.
What’s your advice for the next generation of city change makers?
Say yes to everything. When you’re provided an opportunity to get involved, take it. Shoulder responsibility, contribute as much you know, and learn along the way By taking initiative, you will gain knowledge through experience, but you’ll also gain something all the more valuable — trust.
If you really want to affect change, get involved, offer a helping hand, a positive attitude, and a spirit of innovation.
What should we know about the your work that you haven’t yet mentioned because we didn’t ask the right question?
The work I do in town-and-gown relations is part of a larger, community-wide, collective impact initiative to improve health, education, and financial security across all demographics and all sectors. What’s great about how my role relates into the broader Prosper Waco effort of poverty alleviation is that it is one very necessary piece of a larger pie.
Economic development and poverty alleviation are two sides of the same coin; you can’t have one without the other. So as we make strides in improving our community through both bottoms-up and top-down approaches and strategies, the role of talent retention in economic development has become increasingly important to our University and colleges and to our local workforce and, therefore, to the community-wide collective impact initiative.
Finally, could you tell us something about yourself than most of your colleagues don’t know about you?
You would never know it just by looking at me, but I’m one quarter Mexican and am incredibly proud of my hispanic heritage. My grandfather immigrated to the states when he was just a teenager and has worked tirelessly to become successful in his education and career. This is something I take great honor in and influences how I see the ethic of work.
About the City Changemaker
Kristyn Miller Kristyn is a graduate of Baylor University with a Bachelor of Arts in Corporate Communication. Because of her love for the community, she considers it a privilege to begin her career in Waco after her recent graduation. In her free time, Kristyn volunteers with students through her church.