Veteran media professional Eva Pickens has been tapped by Texas Southern University’s President Dr. John M. Rudley to serve as the university’s new Vice President for University Advancement and Media Relations.
While some public relations professionals fear calls from media representatives, Pickens relishes the opportunity to talk to them. This may be one of the reasons Pickens was picked by President Rudley to serve in this new capacity, after having served TSU in a number of management and leadership roles for nearly 25 years; including having served as interim vice president since September 1st of 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. 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. At the times, TSU didn’t offer the program but Pickens did not allow that to slow down her 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-YOU image-building campaign in 1999, which helped increase enrollment by 22 percent and the university’s overall fundraising by 12 percent. Her efforts helped enhance the overall image of one of the nation’s largest Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
In 2005, Pickens 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.
Pickens returned to TSU in 2008, to once again take the helm of managing the university’s image as the University’s spokesperson. She immediately began pitching to media members, regardless of the circumstance, the benefits of talking about the exciting things that were happening at TSU. Pickens is quick to point out the many successes that have taken place at TSU, such as TSU students having a Microbial 1 experiment flown in space; possessing a Jazz Ensemble with one of the best student musicians in the country; having students in business who are winning entrepreneur scholarships; competing with Ivy League schools in its Executive Leadership CASE Competition; having students build a virtual airport from scratch in the TSU Airway Science program; and much more.
Out of all the initiatives that Pickens is most proud, she excitedly acknowledges that her work on launching a campaign to take 200 student musicians to Canton, Ohio to perform, upon learning that TSU alumnus Michael Strahan was being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Within 30 days of launching the campaign, Pickens had raised enough funds, including a gift from actor/comedian/entertainer Kevin Hart and Strahan himself, to charter a plane to take the TSU students to perform during the 3-day trip. While there, the students performed for the Grand TimkenSteel parade, Fan Tailgate and on the steps of the iconic Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Pickens spearheaded another successful initiative that heightened the awareness of TSU earlier in the 2015 calendar year. Pickens launched a “Tigers in the NFL” initiative which raised scholarship money for students at TSU. After researching and learning that TSU had placed more than 70 former student football players in the NFL, Pickens invited former TSU 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 and presented each of the former players with a customized maroon and grey blazer, in TSU’s school colors, as well as a presidential medal presented by Dr. Rudley, TSU Vice President of Intercollegiate Athletics Dr. Charles McClelland and Pickens.
Pickens has a long list of accomplishments to add to her credit at Texas Southern University. During her career, Pickens has won numerous awards including national awards for feature writing from the Associated Press and a first place award for TSU’s Image Campaign from The National Collegiate Marketing and Advertising Association.
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.”