Erica Hawkins is a 2007 graduate of Ashland University and the Ashbrook Scholar Program. She currently serves as the Chief Communications Officer for the Ohio Department of Transportation. She leads a team of 30+ public relations, digital design, and video production professionals throughout the state who are responsible for the agency’s external, internal, and creative communications. She also provides strategic counsel to senior administration officials on media, public messaging, and crisis communications. Erica has serving the State of Ohio since her graduation from Ashland. She previously held roles with the Ohio Senate and the Ohio Department of Agriculture.
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 have met dozens of political science majors during my time working for the state that have never read (or ever heard of) Locke’s Second Treatise on Government. That text is the philosophic roadmap that guided our Founding Fathers through the creation of the 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.
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.