BY PETER DORFMAN
As a broadcast journalist, Yaël Ksander estimates she has interviewed more than 7,000 people. Now that she’s been appointed communications director for Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton, she’s becoming comfortable on the other side of the microphone.
Ksander stepped into her role this spring, replacing Mary Catherine Carmichael who took a new position as the City’s public engagement director. In addition to being Hamilton’s spokesperson, Ksander handles media relations and the mayor’s broadcast presence.
The 50-year-old Virginia native graduated from the University of Virginia with a B.A. in English, and from Columbia University where she earned Master of Arts and Master of Philosophy degrees, both in art history. Her decision to continue her education brought her to Bloomington.
“I’d been east of the Appalachian Trail and west of the Pacific Coast Highway, and never spent much time in between,” she says. “But I had decided to become a painter, and Indiana University had a great M.F.A. program. I applied in 1998 and was accepted. My friends thought I was moving to India. That seemed more likely.”
She earned her M.F.A., but also joined WFHB-FM, Bloomington’s community radio station. Then a job became available at WFIU-FM, the campus-based National Public Radio affiliate. Ksander stayed for 16 years, eventually becoming the arts desk editor in addition to producing A Moment of Science.
“Radio appealed to both the extrovert and the introvert in me,” she says. “You talk one-on-one with lots of people. Then you take your tape, parse it, cut it into little snippets, and make something. I was reporting on art, and at the same time creating something artful that I got to share with 45,000 listeners.”
She spent the last year at the IU School of Global and International Studies, producing and editing content for the school’s online newsfeed and website. She was profoundly affected by experiences like her involvement in a roundtable on Syria. “Once you realize the difficulties faced by 65 million displaced people in this world, it can be hard to sleep at night,” says the mother of two, ages 15 and 12.
Ksander volunteers with the Center for Sustainable Living, the Foundation of Monroe County Community Schools, Lotus World Music & Arts Festival, and Friends of the T.C. Steele State Historic Site.
As the City’s communications director, Ksander has narrowed her global focus to concentrate on the issues of city governance. It’s easier, she allows, in a city that is open to the world. “I do love that aspect of Bloomington’s culture,” she says.