Photo contributed by Krystal Rhaburn
Krystal Rhaburn, a first-generation student, graduated from California Lutheran University in May 2019. She walked away with a bachelor’s in communication, with an emphasis in public relations and advertising and a total of eight internships under her belt.
Rhaburn said being a first-generation student “both terrified and motivated” her.
“The initial fear came from the understanding that I would be the first/only in my family to receive my bachelor’s degree,” Rhaburn said. “And the motivation came from the support that I received from my family and loved ones who all constantly showed their pride and admiration toward me reaching such an achievement.”
When Rhaburn was a sophomore in high school she took a journalism class as an elective. Devoted to her writing, she soon became editor in chief of her high school newspaper.
“Completely, journalism was my world,” Rhaburn said.
During her college search, Rhaburn said she originally looked for larger state schools. She then narrowed her search to private schools and came across Cal Lutheran after she saw an advertisement.
“It was just a blessing,” Rhaburn said. “All four years [at Cal Lutheran], each year just reaffirmed that that’s where I’m supposed to be.”
When Rhaburn started at Cal Lutheran she applied for the Summer Orientation to Academic Resources program hosted by Student Support Services.
Monica Madrigal, Rhaburn’s academic counselor, said Rhaburn was very dedicated to her studies from the beginning.
“She knows that as a first-generation college student, you have to work extra hard,” Madrigal said. “Krystal was always super busy, but she always managed to do everything she had on her plate. When she took on a role, she would do it 110% and higher.”
During her first semester, Rhaburn decided to change her emphasis from journalism to public relations.
“I found out what public relations was and I fell in love with it,” Rhaburn said. “Now I get to incorporate my love for writing with my love for lots of other things.”
Through her college career, Rhaburn took advantage of a variety of opportunities in her field. According to her LinkedIn, her internships ranged from marketing in Australia to a community service internship at Cal Lutheran.
During her community service internship, Rhaburn worked under Madeline Liberti, the coordinator for community service.
In an email interview, Liberti said Rhaburn was “wonderful” and “put in all her effort in every program she created.”
Rhaburn helped coordinate the Doves of Love Program, which is now a yearly event, Liberti said. The Community Service Center collects holiday gifts for children in need through the non-profit organization Casa Pacifica.
“It was so special to see how receptive the students and campus community were to the idea,” Liberti said. “[Rhaburn] put her heart into the project and I am so proud that we have been able to keep her great work going each year!”
Rhaburn additionally worked as a gymnastics coach and volunteered as a presidential host and student ambassador on campus. She was also a reporter and the distribution and promotions manager for The Echo.
Out of all her internships, Rhaburn said her time at IMRE during her final semester was her favorite. She worked in West Hollywood as a public relations intern. She said she could see “the LACMA building from [her] window.”
“It was really fun. It was my first ‘big girl’ kind of job,” Rhaburn said. “I wasn’t really treated like the intern.”
Rhaburn said the job was very hands-on, and she felt tested by her boss “in a good way.”
To make time for her drives out to West Hollywood and classes, Rhaburn said “organization was key” and that she had to plan every minute of her day.
Jean Sandlin, a professor of communication, was one of Rhaburn’s teachers and mentors during her time at Cal Lutheran. Sandlin is the adviser for the Public Relations Student Society of America club on campus, which Rhaburn served as treasurer, vice president and president of. Sandlin worked closely with Rhaburn, and even has Rhaburn’s graduation announcement hanging on her office wall.
Sandlin said Rhaburn was an “engaged student” and always “going above and beyond.”
Sandlin said she thinks Rhaburn’s diversity in internships helped her decide what she wanted to do.
Rhaburn currently works as a public relations fellow at Hill+Knowlton Strategies, an international public relations company.
“I did not accomplish all that I did on my own,” Rhaburn said. “It was truly because of my family, friends, supporters and Cal Lu that I reached so many goals in just four short years. I’m incredibly grateful for my story, from the highs to the lows, and will always be proud of my time as an undergraduate student for not giving up and for always pushing myself to strive for more. It was definitely worth it in the end.”