Krystal Clark is a woman who has dedicated her career and extracurriculars to community engagement. As Director of the Office of Student Leadership at Vanderbilt, she is working to help undergraduate students develop lifelong leadership skills and behaviors. She exemplifies her teachings in her continued involvement in the community. Her work with local nonprofits centers on bettering the lives of girls and women through organizations such as Girls on the Run, Big Brothers Big Sisters, the YWCA and The Women’s Fund. It is her extensive volunteer work that earned her the title of finalist for the Nashville Emerging Leader Award and the Junior League’s 2015 Young Professional Nominee for the Nashville ATHENA Award. Krystal also serves as the first African-American President of the Junior League of Nashville. For Krystal, it seems that each day is a marathon, but it is one we are glad she is running as her daily efforts are propelling Nashville and its many organizations forward. Meet Krystal Clark, today’s FACE of Nashville!
Tell us about your background.
I’m from Portsmouth, VA, and attended the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, VA, earning a degree in sociology and psychology. As a first-generation college student, I sought out the services of campus staff members to help guide me through the bureaucracy of college and by doing so, I discovered my profession. Upon graduation, I attended graduate school and earned a M.Ed. in College Student Personnel from the University of Maryland, College Park. I held an assistantship in fraternity and sorority life at Maryland and, after graduating, took my first professional role as Program Coordinator of Fraternity & Sorority Life at Duke University in Durham, NC. After four years at Duke, I decided it was time to take the next step, and I moved to Nashville in 2011 to serve as the Associate Director of Greek Life. In 2013, I had the special opportunity of opening the Office of Student Leadership Development at Vanderbilt.
As Director of the Office of Student Leadership at Vanderbilt, what are your main responsibilities?
Working with undergraduate students and providing original, creative and interactive opportunities for them to develop lifelong leadership skills and behaviors. Our office offers a variety of programs and services that are accessible to all students. I serve as the main contact for TEDxVanderbiltUniversity, EVOLVE, a personal leader development program for sophomore and transfer students, and PREVAIL Women’s Leadership Conference. I also supervise a staff of one full-time staff member and one graduate assistant while overseeing administrative aspects of our work. My position requires a great deal of relationship building, curriculum development, program planning, speaking and facilitation.
As a speaker and facilitator for fraternal organizations, educational institutions and non-profits, what topics are your favorite to cover?
Women’s leadership, motivation, values-based leading and living, diversity and inclusion, body acceptance/body confidence and communication skills.
What are three top priorities you hope to accomplish in your tenure as President of the Junior League of Nashville?
The Junior League of Nashville has a rich 96-year history, and it’s always great to share our past accomplishments, and we certainly will continue to do so. It’s also important that we share our current story of the work our members are doing internally on committees and externally in the Nashville community in the areas of human trafficking, literacy and childhood obesity. The Junior League has evolved in many ways, and we want Nashville to know that we are an organization where a variety of people can find a place they belong and matter, and that we’re continuing our history of tackling tough and relevant community issues.
2. Community Partnerships
To do our work, we need strong community partnerships, and we are incredibly honored to partner with 10 nonprofits in Nashville who we provide resources in the form of philanthropic dollars and volunteers to create positive change in the areas of literacy and human trafficking. Strong community partnerships and being an effective community partner is always a priority of our organization.
3. Membership Experience
JLNxDesign (JLN by Design) is our theme for 2017-2018. My encouragement to our members is to own their Junior League of Nashville experience and design a JLN that they love. JLN offers a great deal of opportunities, and creating a vision for your membership and being intentional about engagement will help create a fulfilling experience. The membership experience is a key priority because we are a member-centered organization.
Locally, you have served on the boards of various organizations and volunteered for local non-profits and programs. Tell us a bit about your volunteer work and why it is important to you.
I believe that it’s important to give back to the place where you live and work. You have to create the community that you desire. Nashville is a city that made me highly aware, very early on in my time here, of the importance of — and I would even say the expectation that — if you can, you give. This culture engaged me right away, and I knew that I wanted to be a part of the philanthropic and service environment. I don’t come from an affluent background, but I do come from hardworking and giving people. Even though we were not rich, we still helped others in our community. We’re all interconnected, and my life has been truly blessed. It would be against everything I am and was made to be to not give back to those in need.
Most of my work centers on bettering the lives of girls and women. I served as a member of the Board of Directors for Girls on the Run Middle Tennessee and began their YP program — Starting Line. I was a Big Sister for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Middle Tennessee and later served as a member of the Franklin Wine Festival Royal Court to raise money for the organization. I was a reader for Reading is Fundamental and held a birthday book drive for Book ‘Em, collecting over 400 books. I first learned about human trafficking through Antoinette Regnier Welch, who informed me about The Hannah Project and inspired me to hold a drive for feminine hygiene products. I have volunteered at many agencies in Nashville throughout the years including Youth Encouragement Services and the YWCA. I’m a new member of the Board of Directors for The Women’s Fund and The Belcourt Theatre.
Where can we find you when you aren’t working?
These days, when I’m not at Vanderbilt, I’m at the Junior League of Nashville headquarters in Green Hills. You can also find me at CYCLEBAR in The Gulch, a dance class when I can sneak one into my schedule or Barre3 for a great workout, brunch with friends, a movie at The Belcourt Theatre and getting things done in a coffee shop (I have a special love for Edgehill Café and Barista Parlor) — and I love concerts. I’m also all about a committed Netflix binge and a great book.
What is an important piece of advice you have been given?
It’s pretty basic, but my mother raised me to smile and say “hello” to everyone. The same goes for saying “thank you” or sending a thank you note. It’s the simple but powerful act of recognizing people’s existence and effort. We all want to belong and matter. “Hello” and “Thank You” are easy ways to offer this to other people.
What books are on your bedside table?
This summer, I read Kevin Hart’s I Can’t Make This Up and Who Thought This Was A Good Idea? by Alyssa Mastromonaco, who served as Barack Obama’s Chief of Staff. Now, I’m diving into Adam Grant’s Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success, and I’m going to attempt to get back into The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead.
Excluding friends, family and faith, what are three things you can’t live without?
ChapStick, the Maps app on my phone and the type of laughter that makes me snort
Thank you to Ashley Hylbert for the beautiful photos of Krystal.
Our newest FACE of TriStar is Linda Hall, who experienced complications from surgery, leaving her with a lengthy road to recovery. Now walking again, she credits the incredible staff at TriStar Skyline Medical Center — and her doting husband — for her tremendous progress. CLICK HERE to read her inspiring story!