Posted tagged ‘Arkansas’

Meet a Member: Kristin Netterstrom Higgins

February 4, 2015
Kristin Higgins

Kristin Higgins

Kristin Netterstrom Higgins is one of the outstanding Arkansas members I spent the day with this past fall at the affiliate’s fall workshop. She is one of the energetic members of the affiliate. She is working to make agriculture easier for the public to understand and is continuing her education to be able to help others continue to learn. She is another unique and unbelievable NFPW member I am proud to call a friend.

Name: Kristin Netterstrom Higgins

City and State: Bryant, Arkansas (right outside of Little Rock, and geographic center of Arkansas)

Affiliate and any leadership positions: Arkansas; Current 2nd Vice President and past high school journalism contest director.

Years a member of NFPW:  11 years. (Wow, has it really been that long?)

Tell us a little about you.

I’m originally from Chicago but have lived in Arkansas for more than 20 years, long enough to acquire an accent and claim to be a native. As a child in Chicago, I read the Tribune’s kid section religiously. My grandmother also used to tell me stories about how her father was a newspaper publisher (Arkansas, Iowa, Florida).

All I ever wanted to be was a newspaper reporter, so that was the only path I had figured out for my life. I spent 9 years as a newspaper reporter and then gave it up in 2012 before my daughter turned 2. I realized that I love newspapers but they don’t love me and wouldn’t be there to take care of me when I was old. It was scary and hard trying to figure out what else I could do with my skills, but I realized I love learning about policy and educating others about what laws mean and how they can impact you (I was a city hall reporter after all).

Now I work for the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Public Policy Center, Cooperative Extension Service.

Kristin Higgins is back in school working towards a Master's degree.

Kristin Higgins is back in school working towards a Master’s degree.

Otherwise known as Extension. Or the Public Policy Center. Or the UA. Or, those people who brought you Master Gardeners and 4-H and soil testing. I am learning to be an adult educator, meaning I am trying to teach the public important things about boring things. Or about why they should care about something they never thought of before. It’s just like writing a news story – what’s the hook and why should they care. I write newsletters about energy policy, water quality and state ballot issues, which gives me a legitimate reason to still be hooked into APW/NFPW.

I’m back in school, getting my master’s degree in Agricultural Education and Extension. This degree path has taught me about program planning and I’ve even taken some agricultural communications classes that have turned out to be pretty good.

Oh, and I’m married to a wonderful artist who I met at the student newspaper in college. We have one daughter who is turning 5 this summer and growing up way too fast.

Any career advice you would give?

Keep learning – read the latest research, check out MOOCs – those free online classes that many universities are offering. Get involved in your community. Try new jobs – I say this because I think I would be a much better reporter now than before because of the new experiences I’ve had working as a government employee. Being a reporter was my first real job so I’ve learned a lot in my new career that I know would have come in handy. (Maybe this should be advice to editors: hire older people who maybe don’t have journalism degrees because they bring a different perspective than someone straight out of college who may be cheaper but not better).

Kristin Higgins sharing her knowledge about agriculture.

Kristin Higgins sharing her agriculture knowledge.

Which talent would you most like to have?

I would like to be able to play a musical instrument without much effort. I have a cello that I bought a few years ago and took some lessons from a guy who taught kindergarteners. The cello is gathering dust for many reasons. I want to be able to pick up the cello and just play, and not have to learn how to play. Now on to super power: super sonic hearing!

If you could live anywhere, where would it be?

I have yet to figure this out. I’ve come to realize that most cities look the same. Ideally, I want to live in a community where I could walk to the library, bank, post office, grocery store, farmers market, restaurants, school and work. If you know of such a place, drop me a line.

What book are you reading?

For fun: I recently picked up some books by Anne Lamott because of an essay of hers that I saw on Facebook. I’m half way through Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith. For school, Measure What Matters: Online Tools for Understanding Customers, Social Media, Engagement, and Key Relationships is one of many titles assigned this semester.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

I belong to multiple postcard clubs where I send and receive postcards from strangers. This is because I’m not a fan of flying and I probably won’t make it to many countries.

Why is your affiliate and NFPW important to you?

The people I have met in Arkansas Press Women keep me grounded. They have helped me realize that relationships are important, and that your work is not all of who you are. My first editor –APW’s current president Debbie Miller – invited me to join. Then later, past-president Mary Hightower helped me land the job I’m at now. I had no clue how important these connections would be 11 years ago. And I think I’m finally realizing how important it is to have a national connection, which NFPW provides for all affiliates. I think I could pick up the phone and call an NFPW member in another state who I have never met and easily connect.

Way to follow you on a website, twitter, Facebook, etc.

Follow me on Twitter @knetterstrom, and I am usually the person behind Arkansas Press Women’s Facebook posts. I have a personal Facebook page and I’m also on LinkedIn.


Award winning communicator focuses efforts on Arkansas and national responsibilities

July 7, 2014

She is a talented and award winning communicator who has captured sweepstakes honors in the National Federation of Press Women’s annual communications contest. She currently leads Arkansas Press Women, an affiliate I hope to visit later this year, and volunteers on the national level as well. I always look forward to seeing her smiling face at the national meetings. When she faces a challenge, she overcomes it with determination and hard work. Meet unique and unbelievable NFPW member Debbie Miller. 

Name: Debbie Miller


Debbie Miller

City and State: Bentonville, Arkansas

Affiliate and any leadership positions: Arkansas Press Women, current president. Previously served as vice president and contest director.  Currently serving as parliamentarian for NFPW.

Years a member of NFPW:  28

Tell us a little about you.

I am an Arkansas native who first tested those creative writing muscles in elementary school. When I was a junior in high school, my local weekly newspaper sold and the new owner asked high school students to provide copy for his newspaper. Eventually, I was paid to write feature stories for the publication, and I was hooked.

I worked more than 25 years in print journalism as a reporter and editor before going to the “gray” side — higher education public relations at NorthWest Arkansas Community College in 2011. This has been a wonderful opportunity for me, and it has been some fellow Press Women members who have helped me transition successfully to a different career.

My husband also is a former newspaper reporter and photographer who now works in higher ed communications. We live in a unique community of 35,000 people that’s also home to the world’s largest retailer. I am a breast cancer survivor.  I learned some valuable life lessons from that experience, including trying to recognize what’s important in life.

Any career advice you would give?


Debbie Miller and her husband celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary in Hawaii earlier this year.

Take every opportunity that you can to acquire new skills and learn from others.

Which talent would you most like to have?

My siblings were very musically talented, and I don’t think I ever was. When I was in my pre-teen years, I played the ukulele. (My mom later put flowers inside the center hole and hung it on the wall, so I’m uncertain how truly gifted I was at this.) However, I recently bought a ukulele on an anniversary trip to Hawaii, and now I would really, really like to play this thing.

If you could live anywhere, where would it be?

I would probably choose my native Arkansas, but Colorado would be a close second.

What book are you reading?


What would people be surprised to learn about you?

I am incredibly shy and fearful of public speaking, but when our SPJ chapter presents a Gridiron show each fall, I absolutely turn into a ham.

Why is your affiliate and NFPW important to you?

Arkansas Press Women and National Federation of Press Women are important to me because my fellow members have inspired me to be a better communicator and a better person. They also provided the support I needed to take my reporting and editing skills to a different venue and flourish.

Way to follow you on a website, twitter, Facebook, etc.

I am on Facebook, but I use it for personal rather than professional communications. My Twitter handle is @NWACCMiller, and I also am on LinkedIn as one of many Debbie Millers.

Storycatcher Dickey Smith uses words to communicate passion for life

March 10, 2014
Sylvia Dickey Smith

Sylvia Dickey Smith

She entered this world backwards and when Sylvia Dickey Smith gets bored she finds a way to reinvent herself. She is another unique and unbelievable NFPW member who takes life by the horns and finds a way to do things her way.

Name: Sylvia Dickey Smith

City and State: Hot Springs, Arkansas

Affiliate and any leadership positions:

My first experience with NFPW came by way of Ginger Mynatt who introduced me to Press Women of Texas. I had sought a journalist to write a newspaper article about WWII and to include information about my historical novel, “A War Of Her Own.” Ginger heard about my need, called me and agreed to write the article.  She urged me to not only join NFPW but to enter the book in the Communications Contest, and I did. It won 1st. place at state and went on to win 2nd place in the national contest.  Note: Ginger sold her article to a monthly magazine, but in order to save space, the editor slashed the paragraph about my book—and Ginger and I both gnashed our teeth.

Years a member of NFPW: Three gong on four years.

Tell us a little about you:

I tend to reinvent myself—over and over again. Read on and you will understand.

I entered this world backwards—feet first and left-handed—and have done most things backwards every since. (I have a list!) I married at 17 and spent the first half of my life as a stay-at-home mother and pastor’s wife. Six of those years were on the Caribbean island of Trinidad where we worked as missionaries. In the late 70s, we moved back to the states due to a health issue. Boredom overcame my fears of being too dumb to go to college and at the age of 40, I enrolled in my first freshman class at the University of Texas at El Paso. Over the next five years, I fought my way to a BA (Honors) in Sociology and a Masters in Educational Psychology, all while rearing four children, being a pastor’s wife, and a foreign missionary.

After graduation, my life took a different turn. I struck out on my own and began a career as a single mother working with non-profit and for-profit organizations within the human services field. I conducted private practice as a licensed professional counselor and marriage and family therapist, and taught graduate school as an adjunct professor. Five years later I married My Bill, a full-bird Army Colonel, retired. We moved to the Austin, Texas area where I continued working in human services. After retirement, and bored again, I started writing novels—and haven’t looked up or stopped counting since.

A year ago, my husband and I fell in love with Hot Springs, Arkansas, sold our condo in Texas and headed east. After settling in, I took a real estate class and recently started working as a REALTOR®. Meanwhile, I hold my breath waiting for a call from my agent telling me she’s sold my latest novel.

Any career advice you would give? As my friend said to me, “Sylvia, I’m tired hearing you say you want to write a book. Put your derrière in the chair and write it.”

Which talent would you most like to have?

I wish singing was in my wheelhouse. Folks say perhaps I am tone deaf. No, I’m not. I can hear when I am off key. I just can’t hit the notes. Music moves my soul. I long for the ability to belt out that passion. I guess that is why I write.  I am a born storycatcher, so I use words instead of music to communicate that passion.

If you could live anywhere, where would it be?

Wow. Now that’s a tough question for me to answer. I love living in Hot Springs, but I also love Hawaii. Then again, I’d love to check out Portugal, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden …

What book are you reading?

Wired For Story: The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence, by Lisa Cron. An excellent book! I suggest every author read it. And no, I am not receiving royalties on this book.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

I see and hear everything—I miss nothing. Seriously. Living in the present moment tends to result in opportunities to touch another person’s life in a positive way. I embrace those moments.

Why is your affiliate and NFPW important to you?

I love associating with strong women. It doesn’t take a person long to learn that NFPW is FULL of strong women—women who have been strong longer than I knew women could be. They inspire me, challenge me, honor my path, and encourage me to aspire for even greater accomplishments. When I attended my first national conference I was overwhelmed at the intentionality I witnessed by the women welcoming new members. In the midst of 400+ women, I felt home.

Way to follow you on a website, twitter, Facebook, etc.