Unveiling a character: Kimberly Vetter, journalist at heart
From a remarkably young age, Kimberly Vetter learned how to wave around tape recorders and push microphones into people’s faces. This was a skill Vetter would carry with her for decades, as she soon grew to find out.
Vetter is now the director of presidential communications at Rice, where she manages outreach for President Reginald DesRoches, helping curate his public persona and communications with the rest of Rice.
An experienced writer herself, Vetter hails from Shreveport, Louisiana, where she grew up in a household that emphasized the importance of education. With a sociology professor father and a social worker mother, Vetter said that her childhood was marked by open discourse and attuned her to social justice issues, ultimately paving the way for her future in journalism.
“We would watch ‘60 Minutes’ [with] Barbara Walters. I loved, at a young age, watching those shows, stories, investigating and all the facts,” Vetter said. “I remember my dad saying, ‘Well, why don’t you think about becoming a journalist?’ I would have my tape recorder and a little microphone and I would interview my parents in the backyard.”
Backyard roleplaying would eventually come to fruition when Vetter went to Centenary College of Louisiana to study communications, working at her campus newspaper. Journalism, she said, provided an outlet to channel frustration or make a statement, as Vetter found out after writing about her negative experience with a campus police officer.
“It was nice to have a voice,” Vetter said. “I wrote a column about [the officer]. And I don’t know if anything happened as a result of that column but again, the power of words and journalism as an outlet … I’m sure a lot of people identified with that. And maybe something got done.”
After graduating and obtaining her masters degree in journalism from the University of North Texas, Vetter worked as a reporter and editor for 15 years before transitioning into communications for Texas Children’s Hospital.
“I remember the first time that an executive said, ‘Just write the quote for me.’ That was hard for me because you’re not supposed to do that as a journalist,” Vetter said. “I had to change the way that I looked at things. You’re gathering voices from other people as a journalist, you are somewhat creating a voice in corporate communications.”
Vetter’s eventual move to Houston was a logical one. She had just settled down with her husband who, after an unsuccessful date in college, she had coincidentally reconnected with while working as a reporter in Corpus Christi. The two of them relocated to Houston for his job, but Vetter said that her personal ties to the city reach a bit deeper.
”My dad passed away when I was a sophomore in college. That was … a turning point in my life because we were very close,” Vetter said. “He was from Houston. He loved Rice as well, so being back here is special.”
Vetter joined Rice at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, where she was brought onboard to manage communications for the Provost’s Office, eventually shifting to the President’s Office in July 2022.
“I enjoyed my time [in corporate communications] but was ready for a change. And when I started looking, there was a job available in the Provost’s Office,” Vetter said. “It was smack dab in the middle of the pandemic ... I didn’t meet Reggie in person, after I had landed the job, for probably three months.”
And despite being fulfilled by her current job, Vetter said she still misses the access to information that journalism provided.
“I miss being in the know,” Vetter said. “You were more informed than anyone as a reporter.”
Outside of managing Rice’s research publications and crafting Reggie’s Instagram presence, Vetter is an avid reader and audiobook consumer — as avid as possible while also parenting two children, Vetter said.
“Wally Lamb is my favorite author … I love the unveiling of a character and he does an incredible job at that,” Vetter said. “On my bedside table, I’m reading Michelle Obama’s second book. I’ve read Kiese Laymon’s ‘Heavy’ … I think good writing is important and it’s not lost today.”
When asked about her goals for the future, Vetter maintained her commitment toward serving Rice as both an institution and a community. Serving herself, though, has remained more elusive.
“Serving myself has never motivated me,” Vetter said. “I have to believe in what I’m doing. Otherwise, I’m not going to do it … But if I can feel proud of my work, I think that’s how I see as serving myself.”
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