Westmont Magazine Learning to Keep Going Forward
As a business consultant and keynote speaker, Felicia Wright Roark ’07 encourages people to face challenges, take risks and persevere. Whether she’s speaking at a conference or working with corporate clients, she pulls from lessons she learned early in life.
Abandoned by her mother at age 4 and raised by a young, single father who later suffered from drug addiction, she overcame daunting challenges as a teenager. Having been responsible for her father and younger sister during high school, she sought a safe community that would provide structure, protection and grounding in Christ for college. Westmont offered her all that, but she was not accepted. She moved forward by attending Saddleback Community College, earning a high GPA, and applying to Westmont again. After being accepted as a transfer student, Felicia took out a personal loan to cover tuition and became the first person in her immediate family to attend college. Initially, she struggled through rigorous classes while also working off-campus but eventually excelled thanks to support and affirmation from her professors.
“Knowing that professors like Greg Spencer and Deborah Dunn truly cared about the success of each student motivated me to work even harder,” she says. “They have dedicated their lives to sparking intellectual curiosity in students. Signing that loan to pay for Westmont was the best decision I’ve ever made and has paid for itself tenfold. Westmont gave me more than just an education; it provided an enduring and holistic view of the world and my life.”
After graduating with a degree in communication studies, Felicia moved to Austin, Texas. She arrived without a job or knowing anyone in the city. “I had a dream and was willing to work for it,” she says. She sought a career in broadcast journalism so she could help people make strong, educated decisions about their lives. While working in broadcasting, she helped pass the Freedom of Information Act in Texas. Seeing the impact elected officials had on the state’s broad population shifted her interest to politics.
Felicia left a growing career in broadcasting to become a policy analyst for a state senator and later a legislative director for a state representative. “I loved being in that beautiful Capitol every day and meeting people from all over who came to testify on issues they were passionate about,” she says. “Westmont prepared me for this exciting and interesting work because I learned to think deeply and explore all angles of a topic without bias.”
After five years in the Capitol, she became a lobbyist and represented a trade association. “As a non-profit, we didn’t have the funds to donate to politicians as corporations did, but we possessed integrity and honestly reflected what our constituency cared about, which mattered to elected officials. Standing up for what you truly believe in helps you succeed—not just in politics.”
Felicia enrolled in an executive MBA program at the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas 10 years after graduating from Westmont. Once again she stepped forward and challenged herself. She took her lessons from the Capitol and began representing businesses from the inside as a consultant for a global professional services firm. “This is what it means to be resilient and not let fear of change or challenges hold you back,” she says.
Today, Felicia works as a motivational speaker and strategy execution consultant advising Fortune 100 companies. She serves on the board of Girl Scouts of Central Texas working specifically with girls without mothers.
Felicia is married to Brian Roark, a criminal defense attorney. They bonded over a shared passion for fly fishing and a desire to represent those who have struggled in life. “Most of his clients have had hard lives and end up in bad situations,” she says. “Someone needs to be willing to stand up for them.”
“Westmont has a special place in my heart,” she says. “I grew so much, learned to speak confidently, be curious, and listen with an open mind. Most importantly, I learned to never give up. Otherwise I would never had gone to Westmont, which is an experience unlike any other.”