Erica Hawkins is a 2007 graduate of Ashland University and the Ashbrook Scholar Program. She serves as the Director of Communication for the Ohio Department of Agriculture. She is the lead spokesperson for the agency, providing counsel to senior administrators on media and public messaging and overseeing the team that manages the Department’s social media, program marketing, publication, and video production efforts.
HOW HAS YOUR EDUCATION IN THE ASHBROOK SCHOLAR PROGRAM PREPARED YOU FOR YOUR CAREER?
I write constantly in my job. I write talking points, speeches, press releases, issue briefs, and more. In order to be effective in my writing, I need to be able to see the bigger picture of whatever I am addressing and understand it from all sides and perspectives. When I make an argument in one of my publications, I need it to be strong and complete. The Ashbrook Scholar Program taught me to think through issues thoroughly and to anticipate criticism and questioning. That experience made me a strong writer and really impacts the way I view and talk about the public policies my agency is involved in crafting.
WHAT DIFFERENCES DO YOU SEE BETWEEN YOURSELF AND COLLEAGUES WHO WERE NOT EDUCATED IN THE ASHBROOK SCHOLAR PROGRAM?
The most striking difference is how little they have read! I employ two political science majors from other programs that have never read (one had never heard of) Locke’s Second Treatise on Government. That text is the philosophic roadmap that guided our founding fathers through the creation of the United States Constitution which is why it and so many other primary texts played such a crucial role in my education as an Ashbrook Scholar. I truly believe that reading those documents is an essential part of fully understanding what it means to be an American and I am thankful the Ashbrook Scholar Program is still teaching them, because apparently others are not.
HOW HAS THE PROCESS OF WRITING YOUR ASHBROOK THESIS PROVEN TO BE USEFUL TO YOU?
It wasn’t easy, but in the end it was a very positive experience. Looking back, the time that I spent with my advisor writing, reviewing, editing, arguing over, and re-thinking my thesis was the best career preparation I could have asked for because it changed the way I think about my writing and how the words I put on paper are seen through the eyes of other critical thinkers.