When Kristen Marie Craft graduated from Erskine in 2017 with a degree in psychology, she was unsure what career path she wanted to follow. Now, just three years later, she is Vice President of Operations at Anderson Interfaith Ministries (A.I.M.) and is pursuing a Master of Arts in Applied Psychology at Liberty University, specializing in Industrial/Organizational Psychology.
Kristen, a native of Anderson, S.C., had participated in food drives for A.I.M. over the years, but it was thanks to her undergraduate research project and a chance meeting at Dillard’s that she first began working for A.I.M. in 2017.
“I worked at Dillard’s department store while in school and kept that job into the summer after graduation,” Kristen says. “One day, one of my former high school teachers came into the store; she knew that I’d graduated and that I’d published a scholarly article based on the research I’d conducted in Dr. Elsner’s classes. She informed me that she was now working for A.I.M. and that there was an opening for an AmeriCorps VISTA position.”
In the yearlong AmeriCorps position, Kristen began working with A.I.M.’s Women and Children Succeeding (WACS) program, which assists mothers pursuing college degrees by providing childcare, fuel assistance, and career coaching. It was through this experience that Kristen began to sense her calling.
“During that year in the WACS program, I grew close to the moms and their children and really developed a heart for A.I.M., its mission, and its clients,” she says.
Shortly after completing her position through AmeriCorps, Kristen was offered a full-time position as Impact Specialist for A.I.M. Now, in her new position as Vice President of Operations, she manages human resources, budgeting, facility upkeep, contracts, and communication with the board.
As her workplace responsibilities increase, Kristen is also increasing her knowledge through her graduate work. Her studies in Industrial/Organizational Psychology provide insights into human behavior in the workplace, which Kristen hopes will “inform my work in my new role at A.I.M.”
Kristen’s sense of vocational calling has solidified over the last three years, but it wouldn’t have happened without the women she met in the WACS program. She credits these women as her source of inspiration.
“If it wasn’t for the time I spent working with the WACS program, I’m not sure if I’d be in grad school right now,” Kristen says.
“Being surrounded by strong women dedicated to overcoming obstacles and making a better life for their families inspired me to apply and enroll. It’s funny how, when I first started at A.I.M., I thought I would be helping those women, when really they were the ones who taught me so much about life.”
Kristen was a standout student at Erskine who served as vice president of the Student Government Association, was special events chair for the Athenian Literary Society, and was awarded the Ruth Kelly Scholarship, presented annually to an Erskine senior planning to enter the mental health field.