Kayte Hamel, ’03, M.A. ’05, Ed.D. ’20, Leads College Relations at Kishwaukee College
By Eva Richards
Kayte Hamel, ’03, M.A. ’05, Ed.D. ’20, has never shied away from leadership roles. Having moved to DeKalb from the Quad Cities when she was in sixth grade, she was determined to get involved.
“While I was in high school, I was very involved in student council and other extracurricular activities. I was my class president during my junior and senior years, helping to plan prom and graduation. These activities helped me develop my passion for event planning and leaderships skills early on,” she said.
But while Hamel had the drive to lead, she lacked the financial means to finance her education.
“My husband Brody and I both graduated from DeKalb High School and then came to Kishwaukee College, graduated with our associate’s degrees, and transferred to NIU,” Hamel recalled. “Both of us were first-generation college students, and attending Kishwaukee College for our first two years was financially a good move for us. I feel it set us both up for success as we progressed on. Now, having the opportunity to be a part of that process for students is incredibly rewarding, as I know how it can change and make an impact on students.”
Because the transfer process from the college to NIU was seamless and Hamel’s degree pathway was well-planned, she had an easy transition that allowed her to graduate a semester early with her bachelor’s degree in communications.
“I had worked hard to complete my degree early so I could move to downtown Chicago with friends,” Hamel said. “However, just before I entered my last semester in August 2003, my brother died by suicide. While I did graduate that December, it was not the right time to move. Dr. Jeffrey Chown in NIU’s Department of Communications was a family friend and encouraged me to consider the master’s program. It was during my master’s that my experience at NIU really influenced my career path.”
Hamel had the opportunity to become a teaching assistant, instructing 100-level speech courses. Through a study abroad program in Ireland, she also had the opportunity to travel Europe and experience new places, cultures, and learn things she never imagined.
“My husband met me in Italy and proposed in Venice,” she said with a laugh. “Yes, it was on a gondola!”
Hamel also enjoyed an internship with the Kishwaukee Community Hospital Marketing Department, helping with their events and community engagement. During this time, she was still grieving her brother’s death, and her experiences shaped her master’s thesis.
“Being a communication student, we studied communication theories. When it came time to write my master’s thesis, I worked closely with Dr. Richard Holt, my committee chair, on analyzing different communications from my brother, like letters and notes. All of these experiences helped me through what was one of the most challenging times in my life, but it also opened doors for me that sent me down my career path.”
While in her last semester of my master’s program, Hamel landed a full-time job with the Sycamore Chamber of Commerce as the director of Discover Sycamore, where she stayed for several years. During that time, she also taught as an adjunct speech instructor at Kishwaukee College until she was hired to be the college’s marketing director in 2007.
“I have worked at Kish since then, with my role expanding over the years. In my current role, as vice president of College Relations, I also serve as the executive director of the Kishwaukee College Foundation,” Hamel said.
Hamel appreciates that, in her role, each day is different from the one before. The variation of her responsibilities is what she loves most in her role.
“One of the highlights of my job is the foundation’s scholarship award process,” Hamel said. “Reading student scholarship applications, going through the award notification process, and then working to connect donors with their scholarship recipients, is very rewarding. Every donor and student have a different story. Learning about what motivates a donor to give and connecting them with a student whose life they can potentially change for the better, is extremely rewarding.”
In 2017, Hamel decided to go pursue her doctorate degree at NIU.
“Having been in the community college setting for over 10 years at that time, I knew I was in a field, and place, that I wanted to stay in. Completing a doctorate seemed like a good next step in my personal professional journey,” she said. “I had often considered going back for an advanced degree, but it was not until this program became available that I really considered it. The program format was online, with an in-person week in the summer at NIU’s Naperville Campus.”
Hamel noted that having the opportunity to complete a doctoral program, while working full-time, and raising a young family, would not have been as possible for her without the flexible structure of the NIU program.
“The program content was applicable to my work experiences and focused on practices and principles professionals can use to advance within the community college setting,” she said. “I truly love my job, and I believe in the community college system and the opportunities it provides for all to obtain a higher education or training.”