Latasia Priest holds a degree in mechanical engineering — but instead of building machines, she spends her days building relationships. As the new assistant director of annual giving and prospect development for the North Carolina Textile Foundation (NCTF), she engages with young alumni every day to boost support for the College of Textiles at NC State.

“In this position, I would like to expand our efforts to not only build a pipeline for potential alumni donors but also to make sure we are increasing their affinity for the College of Textiles and increasing their awareness of the North Carolina Textile Foundation,” said Priest. “Our purpose is to support the College of Textiles through philanthropic support. We are the intermediary between alumni and the College and want to ensure that we’re able to maintain the College by way of that support and identifying potential donors who can help us get there.”

NCTF supports the College of Textiles through scholarship funding, administering more than 100 scholarships a year. It also works toward graduate placement and the recruitment of students, educators and researchers.

“With our focus being young alumni, we need to tell that story so they understand what we do and why we do it,” said Priest. “If I’m able to help do that successfully, I will feel like I’ve really lived out my purpose here. Because ultimately you will see more donations coming in, more alumni coming back and more alumni being engaged with the College in numerous ways.”

Priest came to the College of Textiles in February 2018 from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, where, as the assistant director of global alumni relations, she oversaw 18 alumni chapters. Prior to her work at Emory, she was the coordinator of the New Student and Family Program at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville — a position created for her by her alma mater after her graduation.

“In my first year at Tennessee, I started working as a student assistant to the Parents’ Association; from there, I really grew to love higher education,” she said, adding that the relationship-building aspect of the job is what drew her to the field. “One thing I realized very quickly was that (parents) are a very misunderstood population. They are often perceived as helicopter parents — they want to know everything, they want to have all this information. But really and truly, they just want to make sure their students are supported and safe while they’re away from their home. My job was to help them get the information they needed in order to fill that need.”

Although her mechanical engineering background is not an official part of her job description, she says she draws on it every day.

“Engineering taught me…not in a sense of formulas and equations, but it taught me how to think in a way that’s often different than my peers,” said Priest. “I’m able to look at things from a different angle than most people are. In our engineering classes, we were often process-driven, goal-driven — we looked at everything with the purpose of creating a solution rather than living in the moment of the problem. I bring that approach to everything that I do, personally and professionally.”  

Although Priest came to NCTF with years of experience in alumni engagement, she had a lot to learn about textiles.

“I’ve been excited to learn about all of the different careers that students can have when they graduate from the College,” she said. “I’ve really been enlightened to what textiles means and what the College of Textiles does and the partnerships it has formed with industry. It’s exciting that it touches everyone in multifaceted ways — so many parts of our lives are touched by textiles.”

Five Questions with Latasia Priest

1) What do you do in your spare time?

I like sports and am an avid football fan. Something my husband and I enjoy doing as a couple is watching sporting events. My favorite team is Tennessee, of course. NC State is growing on me, but nothing can overcome my love for my alma mater. I was a hostess for football when I was in college and that helped to grow my interest. Granted, I was the grandson my grandpa never had, so I was watching football when I was very young — and all the other sports that were on TV I got the typical Michael Jordan jersey when I was a kid. I like to travel, I like to cook.

2) What destination do you like to visit the most?

Domestically, I would say Miami will always be my favorite place. So many cultures thrown together into one, and it’s a beautiful city with beautiful people. There is always the nightlife that everyone hears about, but there’s such an interesting cultural side that I think a lot of people would enjoy if they took the time to venture off the traditional path of partying and the beach.

We want to ramp up our international travel. Cancun was gorgeous and (my husband and I) got married last April in the Dominican Republic, Punta Cana. It was amazing — best decision I ever made.

3) You mentioned you love to cook. What’s your favorite thing to make?

Good old Southern anything — I’m very much a Southern belle.I like cooking big meals. My grandparents had my mom and I’m her only child, so our dinners wouldn’t be that large — maybe 4 or 5 people — but she would cook enough for 10 or 12 just in case someone was coming by. I picked up that trait to never want to have not enough…even though we don’t know that many people here. Even though I’m a pescatarian and I don’t eat meat, I like to cook big meals for others. The whole Thanksgiving meal: pecan pie, macaroni and cheese, collard greens, candied yams…all of it. I don’t just do a little bit — I do a lot.

4) What are some of your favorite books and television shows?

I’m an audiobook person. I just finished “Year of Yes” by Shonda Rhimes and “The Wisdom of Sundays” by Oprah…I listened to that and it was a very transformational book. I would definitely suggest that for anyone.

I loved “Stranger Things” and I can’t wait for it to come back. “Black Mirror” was good. “Seven Seconds” was good on Netflix.

5) How do you feel about the College of Textiles, the campus and Raleigh so far?

I feel as though this has been a very interesting experience for me coming from private, small liberal arts college back to a large university, but the family atmosphere of the College of Textiles makes it seem a lot smaller. You feel like you can go to anyone to ask questions. I really appreciated that coming into the space…everyone was very nice.

The campus is beautiful. I like being on this side of campus, but I also like being on the part of campus where Reynolds and Talley is and being able to feel the heartbeat of the university by being around students and their energy.

I like Raleigh — it’s a smaller version of Atlanta. My husband, who works for the Wolfpack Club on campus, was the reason we moved to Raleigh, so I had a bit of time while I was working remotely for Emory from last September to this February to be able to acclimate to the city and explore a little bit. It’s a good middle ground between where my alma mater was in Knoxville and Atlanta, and I love them both for different reasons. It’s a mixture of both, a small city that has a town feel.

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