Many students on APSU’S main campus have likely had the pleasure of meeting Sydney Hawkins, a 20-year-old, rising-junior who is studying communications. She is the type of person who steps out and leads in whatever situation in which she is faced.
This writer first met her during the Student Government Association’s (SGA) 2018 Voter Registration drive. We met again on an Alternative Winter Break, where she led nine of us to Houston, TX for a week-long effort to restore a hurricane-damaged home and animal rescue facility.
Others may have encountered Hawkins at campus ministry gatherings, participating in study-groups, at Student Government Association (SGA) deliberations or watched her co-anchoring APSU-TV’s news.
Hawkins is the 2019-20 SGA president. She successfully waged a contested campaign against this year’s Chief Justice, Jake Kolaski for the opportunity. Hawkins attributes her winning run to aligning with her passion “of presenting myself in public and making a connection with people.”
When you do encounter Hawkins, expect to be taken in by her bright, intelligent eyes, her warm attention and her straightforward and reserved manner. Her inherent charisma is undeniable.
Like many students here at APSU, she has military roots. Both parents were deployed in the US Navy. While an infant, she moved to West Tennessee (Millington, Memphis and Jackson) where she was primarily raised by a single mother who worked, made a home for her daughters and completed her bachelor’s degree at the University of Memphis.
Hawkins counts her mother as a role model. Like her, Hawkins has always been working while going to school. She said, “I felt like I had to grow up quicker than my friends.”
When she was 13, her family moved to Nashville for her mother’s job with the State of Tennessee. It was at East Nashville Magnet High School (her alma mater) that she first ran for class president. It was her only electoral loss thus far.
All through high school, Hawkins wanted to be a radiology technician. She had heard APSU had (has) a good program in radiology. “But,” Hawkins explained, “I had my head filled with those horror stories of kids running through their scholarship.”
Her caution led her to take inventory of what she was really passionate about. This is what she discovered:
“I used to get in front of the class and give little impromptu speeches,” She said with a grin. “I was never uncomfortable presenting myself out in the public.”
So she decided to go “the journalism way.”
Shifting her major to communications was a natural fit. These decisive, some might say “mature” attitudes and behaviors have brought a lot of success to this dynamo.
Here are a few of her “habits” that have kept her on course that she was happy to share:
- Let your work, clubs and organization know that your studies and your life come first
- Use a planner, write yourself sticky notes and put reminders/alarms in your phone
- Organize and join study groups
- Get plenty of sleep, drink lots of water and eat well
- Remember where you came from and where you really want to go.
Hawkins’ goals for her junior year include “going to more football games and more basketball games. I have school spirit, but I want a little more.”
When it comes to graduate school, Hawkins has some ideas. She suggested that serious professionals should cultivate mentors in their field of focus.
One of her mentors pointed out that in the world of television broadcasting, a portfolio is the ticket to getting work. If a student can get a solid portfolio as an undergraduate through internships, “then why take on all that student debt?”, according to Hawkins.
Independently, Hawkins secured and successfully completed a summer-long internship shadowing news talent for the local NBC affiliate in Jacksonville, FL.
On the last day of her internship, she was able to deliver a “package” about back-to-school shopping tips and have time with the anchors to discuss, on camera, what she discovered during her investigation.
Her career aspirations are crystal clear. She wants to be a news anchor, whether it be “hard” news or entertainment news. When she talks about this, there is a laser focus and an urgency.
As far as being SGA president, her guiding principles are as lofty as they are straight forward. “I am big on peace and love. I want to be known as a decent person. I want to treat all people with respect and want students to feel welcome and seen for who they are.”
During Hawkins’ campaign, she met with several student groups and organizations. She was inspired by a discussion format convened by the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance (FMLA) where a discussion circle is drawn and difficult matters relating to patriarchy and misogyny are aired.
“I want to do more genuine outreach events with students like that. I want them to have their voices heard,” Hawkins said.
Before rushing off to Freshman Convocation, where she led the Pledge for our newest Govs, she offered “that all students can attend the Wednesday SGA meetings at 5 p.m. They are held in Morgan University Center Room 307. The first 15 minutes are open to public comment.”
Watch our interview with Sydney Hawkins below.
Editor’s Note: The SGA Office has moved to the second floor of the Morgan University Center in Room 211 (the previous home of the Hispanic Cultural Center) and they propose to have an open door policy whenever the Executive Committee and/or Senators can staff the office.