Eva Pickens Named VP for University Advancement
While some public relations professionals fear calls from media representatives, Texas Southern University’s Eva Pickens relishes the opportunity to talk to them. Whatever the circumstance, crisis or celebration, Pickens’ attitude is either, “Here are the facts; let’s get it straight.” Because Pickens doesn’t mind putting on the proverbial boxing gloves and confronting difficult situations, popular local news reporter Isiah Carey says, “Eva believes in Journalism 101: telling it like it is, without fear or favor.”
This may be one of the reasons Pickens has been tapped by TSU’s President Dr. John M. Rudley to serve as the university’s Vice President for University Advancement and Media Relations. Pickens has served the university in a number of management and leadership roles for nearly 25 years; including having served as interim vice president since September 1, this year. In her new position, she has oversight of alumni relations & special events, development and fundraising, communications & marketing and community outreach.
A graduate of Southern University in Baton Rouge, Pickens received her bachelors of art degree in journalism in three years. “I would have finished in 2 ½ years had I known all I needed was an elective,” recalls Pickens. “I was in a hurry to graduate, get out and start a career.” The PR maven often carried 18 hours per semester, and twice took on 21 hours, while maintaining her social standing as champion spades player and daytime soap opera aficionado. She’s been in a hurry ever since.
After a five year stint with a New York Times subsidiary, the Opelousas Daily World Newspaper, Pickens moved to Houston to pursue a master’s degree in public relations management. The fact that TSU didn’t offer the program at the time did not slow down Pickens’ progress as she, along with the dean of TSU’s School of Communications, proceeded to create it. Pickens invested in her career by attending workshops, conferences and forums around the country to keep up with the latest trends in public and media relations, fundraising, branding in communications and crisis management.
During Pickens’ first stint at TSU she engineered the university’s TS-YOUimage-building campaign in 1999 that helped increase enrollment by 22 percent and overall fundraising by 12 percent, and enhanced the overall image of one of the nation’s largest Historically Black Colleges and Universities. In 2005, Eva worked as director of communications and community relations for Texas’ largest community action agency, the Gulf Coast Community Services Association (GCCSA). While there Pickens successfully lauded to a national audience the agency’s successes of moving more than 500,000 families toward self-sufficiency by promoting the agency’s job skills training, head start programs, computer training, and other life-affirming services.
During her career Pickens has won numerous awards including national awards for feature writing from the Associated Press and a first place awards for TSU’s Image Campaign from The National Collegiate Marketing and Advertising Association.
Pickens returned to TSU in 2008 to again take the helm of managing its image as the University’s spokesperson, and pitching to media members regardless the circumstance the benefits of talking about the exciting things that are happening as TSU. Thus, Pickens is quick to point out fact that TSU students had a Microbial 1 experiment flown in space, and possess a Jazz Ensemble with one of the best student musicians in the country. “Our students in business are winning entrepreneur scholarships and competing with Ivy League schools in its Executive Leadership CASE Competition. We have students building a virtual airport from scratch in our Airway Science program,” shared Pickens.
Initiatives that’s she most proud: Upon learning that TSU alumnus Michael Strahan was to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Pickens launched a campaign to take 200 student musicians to Canton, Ohio to perform. Within 30 days, she had raised enough funds, including a gift from actor/comedian/entertainer Kevin Hart, and Strahan himself, to charter a plane to take the students for the 3-day trip. While there students performed for the Grand TimkenSteel parade, Fan Tailgate and on the steps of the iconic hall.
She spearheaded another successful initiative that heightened the awareness of the university earlier this year. Pickens launched a “Tigers in the NFL” initiative that raised scholarship money for students at Texas Southern University. Learning that TSU has placed more than 70 former student football players in the NFL, Pickens invited players back to campus for Homecoming 2015. A total of 30 athletes returned, including Winston Hill, Lloyd Mumphord, Kenny Burrough, Andy Rice, Darryl Colbert, Jack and Mike Holmes and a host of others. The university honored them by presented each with a customized maroon & grey blazer in the school colors and a presidential medal presented by Dr. Rudley, Charles McClelland and Eva Pickens.
Pickens has a long list of accomplishments to add to her credit at Texas Southern University. She moves with her own entourage of dedicated volunteers, including her family and friends who are always ready to help where needed.
Whatever the institutional situation, Pickens is ready and willing to get in the ring and tell it like it is…all for the sake of the student, which she says, “is always my focus and driving force.”