Dean, Florida A&M
Educator the Year
By Ashlee Green, NABJ Program Assistant
A college school dean typically develops academic policies, budgets and programs and appoints faculty committees. But it doesn’t end there for NABJ Educator of the Year James Hawkins, dean of the Florida A&M University School of Journalism and Graphic Communication.
"I can still hear him saying, ‘All the kid wants to do is go to school,’” said Kim Godwin, a former student of Hawkins and senior producer for "CBS News with Katie Couric.” "He said it as he fought to find financial resources for students who could not afford to buy books. He said that as he reached into his own pocket to buy lunch for students who were hungry. He said that as he paid utility bills for students so that students could study for final exams.”
The Educator of the Year award honors the service, dedication and academic guidance of an exceptional journalism teacher, professor or educator. As SJGC dean, Hawkins has built a reputation for providing an abundance of professional opportunities to students at one of the top historically black journalism programs in the nation.
Hawkins has invested countless time, energy and financial means into the lives of too many students to remember. Under his leadership, SJGC moved into a 100,000-square-foot building and boasts more than 500 students enrolled in its programs.
"As a former student of Dr. Hawkins, I can attest to his remarkable and unwavering commitment to make sure journalism students succeed and excel in a competitive profession,” NABJ President Kathy Y. Times said. "He has made it a priority to send FAMU students to NABJ conventions and conference for more than 20 years. I’m proud to call him a mentor and a dear friend to NABJ.”
NABJ Student Representative Georgia Dawkins, a 2010 FAMU graduate and an ABC News desk assistant, said: "Dean Hawkins has invested so much time and resources into NABJ and into introducing the organization to a new generation. I am a proud product of his generosity and love for NABJ.”
Hawkins, a graduate of Oakwood College and Ohio State University, began teaching at FAMU in 1977 as an assistant professor in broadcast journalism. While teaching, he continued reporting for The Associated Press and the Oakland Tribune over the summers. In 1982, Hawkins was named director of the journalism division when the program evolved into the SJGC.
"He’s been around since the earliest days of our journalism program, so every student who’s ever passed through it has some tale to tell about how Dr. Hawkins went above and beyond the call of duty for him or her,” said Peter McKay, a Wall Street Journal reporter and former FAMU student. "Sometimes it’s a word of encouragement at a low point [or a] kick in the pants when you need it.”
Hawkins became interim dean in 2003 after the sudden resignation of founding dean Robert Ruggles. The FAMU Board of Trustees made it official by naming him dean in less than a year.
"As dean he has pursued, demanded and expected excellence at all levels – from the faculty, staff, alumni and students,” said Keith A. Miles, FAMU’s director of radio and television division. "In fact, since his ascension as dean, the journalism program has won more awards at the state, regional and national levels than in the previous 30-plus-year history of the school.”
Hawkins guided the school to becoming the first historically black college or university recognized by the Accrediting Council for Education in Journalism and Mass Communications. Under his direction, the school recently sent students to 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa to work with Chinese students from Shantou University to create multimedia stories about the international event’s impact on the host nation.
In 1991, NABJ started its annual broadcast short course program at FAMU under Hawkins’ watch. Throughout the program’s 19-year history, the course has encouraged NABJ student members to pursue careers as multimedia professionals.
"He knew the importance of connecting his students with professionals who could make a difference in their journey – and he made sure those connections were made,” said Elise Durham, award-winning producer, former FAMU student and 2010 NABJ convention chairwoman.
Durham has since been back as a short-course teacher. Her very service is a direct testament to the life lessons Hawkins has instilled in his students.
"More than two decades later, the legacy continues as some of my students from the Short Course are award-winning journalists who give back in their own way,” she said.