Published on February 10, 2017, at 4:55 p.m.
by Meredith Folsom.
“My parents and I went to brunch after church one Sunday afternoon, and my mom suggested that I try PR because I like writing and public speaking,” said Katie Gatti, firm director of Capstone Agency, The University of Alabama’s student-run communications firm. “And, my 18-year-old self said, ‘Yeah, sure.’”
Little did Gatti know that her “Yeah, sure” would lead her to become one of the country’s top public relations students. Gatti was selected as a finalist for Public Relations Student of the Year by PRWeek. In March, as one of the top two finalists, Gatti will be flown to New York City where the winner will be announced.
From day one of freshman year, Gatti fully immersed herself into anything PR-related. From building relationships with professors to asking upperclassmen for mentorship — she did it all, and she began creating a strong presence throughout the communications school.
“It has to go back to the beginning of her college career, the fact that she walked into Capstone Agency freshman year,” Teri Henley, Capstone Agency faculty adviser and instructor at The University of Alabama, said when asked about Gatti’s involvement. “She doesn’t wait to try something. She is just fearless and walked in, and she was never afraid to ask questions.”
Gatti has the knowledge and experience of a star student, but a lot of students in UA’s PR program have those qualities. It is her presence, in a physical sense, that makes her the best of the best — a quality only a student like Gatti exhibits.
“I think a lot of people, especially students, feel like they can do everything kind of remotely,” Henley said. “She was always physically in the space, and there is so much you learn when you are physically present. There are just things she would pick up or opportunities she would be given because she was there.”
Now a senior, Gatti continues to excel in public relations but has also learned to create a structured work-life balance regime that even Henley, her adviser, is in awe of.
When asked about how she makes time for fun, Gatti laughs, but it’s a serious question. How does someone who has so much on her plate make time for having fun?
“It’s really not that difficult,“ Gatti said. “I was thinking about that the other night, and I am a firm believer that you just need to schedule your time.” Gatti credits an organizational tactic called work blocking to help keep everything in order.
Work blocking provides Gatti the organizational tools and energy to power through a typical 8-to-5 workday. “From 8 to 5, I go pretty hard — around dinner time I can usually do whatever I want and focus on myself,” Gatti said.
Maintaining the work-life balance she currently has is important for Gatti when looking at post-graduation jobs.
“I really believe in the culture of a company,” Gatti said. “The culture is what will make me become a better version of myself, and at the end of the day that is more important to me than pretty much anything else.”
“A better word [to describe Katie] than present is intentional,” Henley said. “She is really intentional about whatever she is doing. I am always surprised when I see a post of her off doing something fun and crazy, and I wonder how she has time to do that because in that moment she is very much in that space and she is very intentional of that.”
Gatti subconsciously began to embrace a more intentional outlook when she started practicing yoga. Yoga is a part of her life that allows her to keep a healthy mind, ultimately giving her the ability to consistently produce quality work.
“I started [yoga] this summer while I was interning at Southwest Airlines in Dallas,” Gatti said. “It was my time after work every day where I would go spend the hour and just be on my mat to rewind and process everything that happened to me that day. I think yoga played a monumental role on how I developed this summer – coming into my own – so I have continued during this school year. When it comes to making time for it, it’s actually not that difficult.”
It’s the healthy body, healthy mind mantra that many students lose sight of while trying to achieve their goals.
“Everybody thinks that they can burn the candle at both ends and it’s not going to burn out in the middle, but it always does,” Henley said.
Katie Gatti, however, is not that student. She has intentionally trained herself to be a candle that burns on only one end — creating a brighter, more powerful flame that continues to grow.