Tamara Hext Hilliard (’86) arrived at UT Arlington with every intention of pursuing a career in television broadcasting.
She enrolled in radio and TV courses in the Department of Communication and used her experience as Miss Texas 1984 and a runner up in the 1985 Miss America contest to gain camera time. Following graduation, however, her career plans took a slight detour and Hilliard found herself at the beginning of a multi-year career in commercial acting and serving as a TV spokesperson. Years later, she leveraged those experiences and her communication skills into running a gourmet food company.
“I believe my education and the experience I received from both UT Arlington and my commercial career have helped me communicate effectively in my journey of being an entrepreneur,” she said. “There is no doubt that having a college degree lends credibility to any career of business pursuit.”
Today, Hilliard is CEO and owner of Tay’s Gourmet, which makes gourmet granola products. Her company distributes to retail stores such as Kroger, Albertsons, Fresh Market, Central Markets, Market Street, United Supermarkets and many independents in seven states throughout the Southwest. Tay’s Gourmet has been featured on ABC’s “Good Morning America” and is an affiliate of Children’s Hunger Fund, a nonprofit organization that delivers food and hope to children in crisis.
Hilliard hopes current UTA students will be inspired by her experiences when she delivers the keynote address Tuesday, Oct. 20 at Comm Day 2015, a day-long event for Communication majors. The annual event will run from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in the E.H. Hereford University Center’s Bluebonnet Ballroom.
In addition to Hilliard, students can get advice from communication professionals on two panels, talk with job experts and take professional headshots.
Hilliard, who is also a certified yoga instructor, said several Communication professors were instrumental in guiding her toward graduation.
“Dr. Jack Gibson [a Communication professor] was probably the professor that had the most impact on me,” she said. “Not only was he a wonderful teacher, he was a wonderful man. He had the ability to encourage, teach and inspire me in my efforts both in and outside of the classroom. I will always appreciate his role in my education.
For Hilliard, relocating to Texas and finishing her degree at UT Arlington was a significant milestone.
“I truly believe that choice [to attend UTA] has had a lasting impact on how I view approaching difficult tasks and long term projects,” she said. “Set your goal and figure out a way to accomplish that goal, even in small increments.”