Last October, the UGA Alumni Association launched the UGA Black Alumni Affinity Group, which is led by the Black Alumni Leadership Council. The council seeks to connect with black alumni and students through shared experiences and to continue building a welcoming and supporting campus community. Erica Parks (MPH ’11) is a member of the Black Alumni Leadership Council, and we recently interviewed her to learn more about her UGA experience and what drives her to stay connected to the University of Georgia.
When did you graduate from UGA and what did you do after college?
I graduated in May 2011. I got my master’s in public health from the College of Public Health. After I graduated, I was unemployed for 38 months. During that time, I volunteered with the Alumni Association and started attending the Women of UGA luncheons, where I started giving financial seminars. I drove to Fort Jackson and interviewed for a job. Before I got back, I was called and told I was the No. 1 candidate. I started screaming, because it took literally all I had to get to that interview.
How did you get involved with the Alumni Association?
We hosted a networking event where we had a panel talking to students about life after college and the importance of networking. Stuff like that led me to serve on the Black Alumni Leadership Council.
Which Black Alumni Event are you most proud of?
I have a very strong feeling about giving. The UGA Black Alumni Brunch and Learn: A Discussion of Finance and Wealth was the first event that we made about giving and “making the ask.” Giving is important, and if you want people to provide, you have to be the first person to give or show support.
How has serving on the Black Alumni Leadership Council benefited you?
I love being engaged, but I have not been able to be as engaged as I want to because I live in South Carolina. I’m still searching for ways I could be engaged more, either in the Black Alumni realm or the UGA realm. Since I can’t be heavily involved, I sponsor individuals. That’s how I give. I’m challenging myself to be more engaged in a variety of things.
What is the most important experience you learned as a student?
I had a lot of professors that stretched me. I was influenced greatly by one of my professors at UGA, Dr. Corso, and learned how to be a mentor thanks to her. You may not like it when you’re going through it, but you appreciate it once it’s over!
What is one piece of advice you would give to UGA students?
Build relationships, because that will cover everything. Building relationships is so important — you never know when you’ll have to reach back to have someone vouch for either the work you’ve done or your character.
UGA is committed to its students and mission as a land and sea grant university. What is your commitment?
I’m committed to the G! I give with my time, my talents, and my money. I make sure that I’m diverse in my giving — now, I’m looking at what I can do for Women of UGA because of the opportunities they provided me with when I was unemployed. I’m committed to supporting UGA’s mission, its programs, and its students.