Hancock trades big-city TV for small-town college

Katrina Hancock has followed her communications career path from Detroit to Tabor College, where she works as director of communications. 'We have not given this college the exposure that it needs. I'm here to do that,' she says.

Even while making her mark in one of the largest television markets in the country, Katrina Hancock always stayed in touch with her small-town roots.

Now she is excited for the opportunity to grow her career amid those small-town roots, too.

The Marion High School graduate is the new director of communications at Tabor College. She said it?s just the kind of challenge she needed.

?It?s a different challenge,? Hancock said. ?I don?t have the deadline every day at 5, 6 and 11 (p.m.). The deadline is next week, next month. It?s different in that aspect.

?But I?m using a lot of the same skills I used in television, but in a different way,? she added. ?I?m writing the press releases, I?m working with the media, I?m dealing with the public and dealing with the students.

?It?s just a different job without the lights, camera and the action.?

And without the World Series, Stanley Cup Finals and myriad other professional sports events and teams she covered as a broadcast reporter in Detroit.

?The action is a slower pace, but the workload is huge,? Hancock said of her new role. ?I am managing all the communications for Tabor College in Hillsboro as well as Tabor College in Wichita. So it?s a different challenge.?

Marion influences

Hancock?s path actually started in Cawker City, where she finished her elementary education while her mother, Anita, taught music in the schools.

They moved to Marion in 1989 when Anita took a teaching position in the district and Katrina was about to start the seventh grade.

Katrina?s grandparents, Arthur and Alice Schle?huber, lived a mile from Marion County Lake and offered their basement as a place for them to live.

?It was perfect because I got to be around my grandparents every day,? Hancock said. ?It was wonderful.?

At Florence Middle School, she played all three sports and as a freshman in high school was a starter on the 1991 Marion High volleyball team that claimed the Class 2A title.

?I had a group of senior girls who were phenomenal athletes, so I was just blessed to be 6-2 at the time and a freshman, to kind of be carried along,? she said of the experience.

Though she loved sports, Hancock also excelled at forensics, music and other activities.

?I was very well-rounded, but appreciated the fact that I came from a small town,? she said. ?I had great teachers that I?m still friends with today.?

College career

Hancock?s height?she grew to 6-foot-3?and athletic ability caught the attention of the volleyball coach at Wichita State University. She was red-shirted her freshman year and started taking pre-med classes. Hancock said the dual challenge of high-level athletics and high-level academics almost overwhelmed her.

As a sophomore, Hancock decided to play intramural basketball. Her team made it to the national tournament in Louisville, Ky.

A friend of Hancock called an acquaintance?the head basketball coach at Bradley University in Peoria, Ill.?and urged her to take a look at the tall and talented athlete who was playing in the regional tourna?ment in Wichita at the time.

The coach liked what she saw.

?Within a month I had a full ride to Bradley Univer?sity,? Hancock said.

The move not only changed the direction of her athletic career, but her professional career as well.

During her senior year, Hancock was challenged by Bradley?s legendary broadcaster, Dave Snell, to consider a career in communi?cations. At the time, she was still pursuing her pre-med degree.

?Here I am on one road, and all of a sudden, in a matter of a few weeks and a couple of comments, I?m think?ing, am I really on the right road?? Hancock said.

With the encouragement of others?including her mother?she decided to pursue the communications degree. She finished the program within a calendar year?even while working three or four part-time jobs on the side to earn money.

?My mom has always instilled that strong work ethic in me,? Hancock said. ?If you want a second pair of jeans in high school, you need to work for it.?

Broadcast beginning

Hancock prepared herself for a broadcast career in 2000 while working as an intern under Snell at WMBD-TV, the CBS affiliate in Peoria.

?So I?m shooting, I?m editing, and a little bit of producing,? she said. ?I get so good at shooting that they end up giving me a news car, and I?m driving out to (cover) high school football games by myself. Unbeliev?able.?

Hancock graduated from Bradley that December, and took a job, sight unseen, at KGWN-TV in Cheyenne, Wyo.

?So I get on the air, I mispronounce names, but I?m learning,? she said. ?I?m so green behind the ears, it?s awful. But you learn by doing. Six months after I start my career in journalism, I?m covering the Stan?ley Cup Finals.?

Hancock said that experience was a watershed moment for her.

?It was like I know I?m doing exactly what I?m supposed to do,? she said. ?There was no doubt in my mind that I had made the right choice by not going to medical school and getting to cover sports.

?Being a former athlete, I love sports,? she added. ?It was phenomenal. I remember calling my mom going, ?This is just amazing.??

Major market

Between 2001 to 2012, Han?cock worked as a weekend sports anchor and reporter in two other television market?Topeka and Toledo, Ohio?before taking the job in Detroit.

During her time in the Motor City, she covered nearly every major sporting event and professional team in the market. She handled the color commentary for the former Detroit Shock basketball team of the WNBA during the 2008-09 seasons.

With time, her duties in Detroit broadened beyond sports.

?By the time I was toward the end of my second (three-year) contract…I was doing breaking news, too,? Han?cock said. ?They were so shorthanded, it was like, ?We have to get a body to the scene?go.??

Hancock said that expedience became another turning point in her career.

?I did not like breaking news?the negativity,? she said. ?I?m a very positive, upbeat, fun-loving kind of gal, and it?s just too hard. I didn?t ever want to become immune to that. I didn?t want to have to change my personality and be a Debbie Downer every day at work.?

That, plus the grind of her schedule was becoming too much?every weekend, every holiday was spent on the job.

?I just said I?m exhausted, I?m tired and I can?t do this anymore,? Hancock said. ?If I can?t give it justice, I?m not going to do it.?

In December 2012 she walked away. Or rather, drove away.

?I literally signed off on a Sunday night, on the air, and was home in Marion on Wednesday with all my stuff?I drove home,? Han?cock said. ?When I got home it was like, ?I get Christmas off.? It was a huge blessing.?

Time of transition

Hancock decided to devote most of 2013 to relaxing and renewal.

?I took a lot of trips and spent a lot of time with family and friends,? she said.

Because of her work ethic, Hancock also found time to launch a couple of businesses back in the big city. One was a small media company called Media Creations by Katrina. The other was Helping Hands for Homes, a business designed to help people facing foreclosure to find legal support. She had gone through the experience herself.

?My goal was?my mom being a teacher?to educate the public on what?s happened,? she said. ?How do you get out of this? How do you work with a bank? What if they don?t want to work with you? The answer was: Get an attorney.?

Hancock said the businesses startups were fulfilling, but were not supporting her financially.

In late 2013, she decided to find a job that would provide a regular paycheck. She found the Tabor College opening online.

?I applied for this job and went through an interview process of about two weeks,? she said. ?They offered it to me on my birthday?Jan. 23. So I took the job.?

Early impressions

Hancock started her new position Jan. 27. So far, it?s been challenging but also fulfilling.

?I?m overwhelmed now because there hasn?t been someone (in the position) for five months,? she said. ?On Day 1, I?m handed all this work and I?m playing catch up.?

At the same time, Han?cock said there?s so much good news to tell about Tabor College?like her recent story of students helping residents dig out after a snowstorm.

?To be able to tell good news every day, and to be part of something that?s Christian-based and positive instead of negative, is a breath of fresh air,? she said. ?It?s a big difference from walking into a toxic news room.

?People here are like ?hi,? ?good morning,? ?how are you,? ?thank you??it?s a Midwest small town,? Hancock said.

?It?s completely different than walking down Wood?ward (Avenue) in downtown Detroit. People are on their guard?you don?t know if somebody?s going to pull out a gun and shoot you and take your purse.?

So, will the job at little Tabor College be able to hold a big-time television reporter?

?I took the job because the pros definitely outweighed the cons,? she said. ?I?m now next to my family. On my weekends and holidays I can travel to places where I can relax instead of using my vacation time to go home and see my family.

And Katrina Hancock is not one to back down from a new challenge.

?I want to see this grow,? she said of her new assignment. ?There?s a lot that has not been done to promote this college, to grow it, to bring the alumni back on campus, to build a new fine arts center?all of that. There?s so many resources we have not tapped into.

?We have not given this college the exposure that it needs. I?m here to do that.?

While her career path has taken Hancock to many places, it?s been guided by a consistent desire.

?I?ve always wanted to help people,? she said. ?That was why I wanted to be a doctor. So I wanted to take this job to help people. I feel like I?ve already done that, but there?s so much more that I can do.?

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