Vol Greats: Kristin Luna (’05)

What is the most interesting part of your job?

The fact that it varies from day to day. On a Monday, I might be interviewing a world-renown chef, on a Tuesday I might be on the red carpet chatting with the likes of Lady Antebellum and Little Big Town, and on a Wednesday I might be hopping on a plane to Africa. I've been working in some sort of journalism role since high school and what I learned quickly after graduating from UT is that the more diversified your skill set, the more marketable you are as a freelance journalist. Thus, I've kept my areas of coverage broad; I focus on travel, food and entertainment reporting, but also love writing business profiles for magazines like Entrepreneur and Inc. and have ventured into copywriting for corporations, as well as media strategy and consulting.

In the past few years, my blog Camels & Chocolate has also become an integral part of my career. I started it on a whim in 2007 while working at Conde Nast in New York, and nine years later, it's evolved into a way for me to partner with tourism boards and consumer brands on creative influencer marketing campaigns. My husband and I started a side business, Odinn Media, to help more small businesses with their media strategy and marketing plans.

What activities or opportunities were you involved in at UT, and how have they contributed to your success today?

I was an editor at the Daily Beacon and loved every second of it. Not only did it force me to learn to write on deadline, as well as get me into the habit of going into a newsroom on a daily basis, but it also helped me hone my skills in an applicable way that you don't always get in a classroom. Jane Pope was a great adviser for us students, and I had a couple of ace mentors in the journalism department—namely Paul Ashdown, Bonnie Hufford and Lyn Lepre—who prepared me for the outside world, post-graduation.

Additionally, I interned in the marketing and promotions department of the Lady Vols for my entire senior year. This allowed me to indulge my sports-loving side while learning marketing practices that I still apply to my career today. I worked under Jimmy Delaney, who now is Assistant Athletics Director for Marketing & Sales for the men's side, and it was during Pat Summitt's reign; as a lifelong Lady Vols fan—Pat Summitt was akin to Elvis in my household as a child—there couldn't have been a better gig for me.

After finishing my journalism course in 2005, I went overseas for a year through the Europe in the World program that one of my professors told me about. This wound up being vital for building a freelance career—I wrote monthly hotel and restaurant pieces for Newsweek while I was away, as well as landed my first guidebook gig for Frommer's at just 23; from there, my freelance career seemed to snowball. When my sister went through UT a few years later, I encouraged her to use the resources at the Study Abroad office, and she wound up circumnavigating the world through Semester at Sea. I think every student who has the resources should use the Study Abroad office to investigate opportunities overseas; it was the best thing either of us could have done for our future.

Why did you choose UT?

My grandparents are both Knoxville natives who went to UT. My grandfather, Bill Housholder, was a letterman in the 40s right before he headed off to war—he's on the Wall of Fame and was honored at a home game in 2007 a few years before he died—and I never knew them to wear any color but orange. That love for the Vols was instilled in my sister (Class of 2011) and me from birth.

Additionally, UT has such varied offerings in terms of internships, clubs and experiences that help prepare students for a real career–I actually transferred from Sewanee during my junior year because I'd read about how great the JEM school was and all it had to offer. My only regret is that I had just two years in Knoxville instead of four! It was the best two years of my life.

What's your favorite on-campus memory or UT tradition?

I'm from Tullahoma, and we still tailgate with a big crew from my hometown at Circle Park every home game that we attend. It's such a blast getting into game day spirit right in view of Neyland, as well as on the same turf where I attended classes and worked for two years.

My mom, who was also born in Knoxville, is one of the biggest Lady Vols fans that I know, and we try to make it to a home basketball game at Thomspon-Boling each season or to the SEC tournament when it's held in Nashville.

What advice would you give to current students or young alumni?

Take advantage of every opportunity. You can sleep when you’re older! Don't be afraid to reach out to alumni whose careers you admire or wish to emulate; I've never seen such a devout group of alums as those who attended UT, and in my experience, they're always more than happy to help out a fellow VFL.

Kristin Luna
Magazine Journalist (Travel & Food Writer / Entertainment Reporter)
Nashville, TN