Mason alumna remembers special gift from esteemed journalist Barbara Walters


It took Kami Watson-Huyse six years and many jobs on and off campus to get an undergraduate degree at George Mason University. Watson-Huyse, BA Speech Communication ’94, was entering her last semester when she found herself out of options and feared that she wouldn’t be able to graduate.   

Headshot of Kami Watson-Huyse. Photo provided.
Headshot of Kami Watson-Huyse. Photo provided.

“There were just a lot of really difficult semesters and that particular semester, I was short the money,” said Watson-Huyse. “I didn’t know what I was going to do, and back then there was no such thing as a GoFundMe, you know?” 

"I got the news that I was going to get that scholarship, and it was just such a relief,” said Watson-Huyse.  

That scholarship was a gift from journalist Barbara Walters who spoke at Mason in 1993 and asked that her speaking fee be donated to a deserving female journalism student.    

Thanks to Walters’ scholarship, Watson-Huyse was able to graduate at the end of that semester. Walters, who died in December, was known worldwide for breaking barriers and being the first woman to co-host a U.S. news program.    

“I've also got a nice little letter from Barbara Walters here,” said Watson-Huyse. “She said, ‘I was pleased to hear from you and to hear that you've received the Central Fidelity Barbara Walter Scholarship. Congratulations. Your letter made my day. With best wishes,’ and then she signed it.”

Letter from Barbara Walters to Kami Watson-Huyse. Photo provided.
Letter from Barbara Walters to Kami Watson-Huyse. Photo provided.


Although Walters wanted the scholarship to go to a female journalism student, there wasn't a journalism major at Mason at the time, but journalism classes were offered to in the Department of Communication. 

Mason now offers resources to students who face financial challenges similar to Watson-Huyse's such as the Stay Mason Student Support Fund.  

“Stay Mason was created in 2015 to assist students facing unexpected financial hardships and emergencies,” said Maggie Olszewska, the director of the Student Support and Advocacy Center. “Students who meet the basic eligibility criteria are encouraged to apply for funding.” 

“The center also offers consultations for students who wish to explore their financial well-being and develop a plan for financing their education. Students can request a meeting with the financial well-being staff by filling out the Request Support form,” said Olszewska. 

Tribute tweet from Kami Watson-Huyse's Twitter account for Barbara Walters.
Tribute tweet from Kami Watson-Huyse's Twitter account for Barbara Walters.

Some of Watson-Huyse’s on-campus jobs included being a residential advisor and working as the advertising manager for the student-run newspaper, Broadside, the precursor to The Fourth Estate.  

“It was so much fun, and I met so many great friends. I just loved the work,” said Watson-Huyse. “I had this tiny little Mac computer, and it had Adobe PageMaker. We'd create the ads, print them out, and then we'd cut and wax them onto the pages—it’s so old fashioned.”  

Her love of advertising and marketing continued to grow throughout her time at Mason.   

“I learned that I loved [public relations] because of one of my professors, Steven Gladis,” said Watson-Huyse, who went on to work in D.C. as a director of communications for the Manufactured Housing Institute for 10 years. She started blogging in 2005 and also began working with social media influencers.    

“I always look for what I call the magic middle of influencers, people that have really strong devoted communities,” she said. “[Because of my job] I got to do so many great things, like go to the White House when Bill Clinton was president. We filmed in the Oval Office.”    

Watson-Huyse is currently the CEO of her own company, Zoetica, and works mostly in health care. She is accredited in Public Relations with the Public Relations Society of America. Watson-Huyse also won the Women Who Mean Business Award from the Washington Business Journal in 2022.  

She founded multiple organizations including Social Media Breakfast of Houston, a free grassroots monthly meetup of social media marketing professionals.  

She lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband and three children.