Because of her work as board chairperson for the Peter Paul Development Center in Richmond, Va., Elizabeth City State University (ECSU) Graduate Jessica Brooks, Ph.D., was recently featured as the Personality of the Week in the Richmond Free Press. A Bertie County native, Brooks is now serving her second term in the role. It is the oldest development center in the Richmond metro area, serving primarily minority children and families in the city’s East End.

A 1992, Business Administration alumna, Brooks currently works at Virginia State University as an associate professor in the Department of Psychology. She recently shared her thoughts with the Office of Communications and Marketing on how being a Viking shaped her life, and how she gives back to her community and the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) community.

What is your role with Peter Paul Development Center?

I get to make decisions and create interventions that support our mission to help the neighbors of the East End and educate its students.  My role as board chairperson with this organization affords me another opportunity to sow positive seeds in the lives of others, while helping to make a difference in the lives of our youth and their families.

How did your matriculation at ECSU help you along your career path?

Attending ECSU was a life-changing experience. It allowed me to be educated, encouraged, challenged, mentored, and trained by the best professors a student could have. Dr. Ivory Lyons, in particular, mentored and assisted me with garnering internships with Fortune 500 companies, while I was working toward my undergraduate degree. The time he invested in helping me learn how to present in a professional manner, compete for coveted jobs, and prepare for job opportunities made a difference. Since leaving ECSU, I served as a Senior Vice President for Bank of America, Chief Strategist and Innovation Officer for the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, Associate Professor at Virginia State University, and Chief Executive Officer of my behavioral health agency. I am a licensed clinical psychologist.

Are there any particular experiences at ECSU that helped shape you, personally?

My softball coach helped me learn patience and humility. Dr. Glenda Davis, the yearbook editor, showed me how to be a strong, female leader seasoned with grace. Mrs. Spence, the wife to one of our administrators, demonstrated the love and sacrifice of sisterhood in Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. I was blessed to attend ECSU, a place where everybody is somebody.

What have been the benefits of your HBCU experience?

I cannot say enough about the positive experience and growth that resulted from attending a Historically Black College and University! It felt like I was part of a family, I was trained to compete with the best and brightest, I was accepted for who I was, and was free to be authentically me. In summation, my classmates helped to make ECSU feel like home, a place I will always cherish and never forget. 

How do you show Viking Pride?

I give back to ECSU, other HBCUs, and communities that produce future ECSU and HBCU graduates. I and am now paying forward all the good deeds done to me, to my students, and members of the community where I serve as the chairperson of Peter Paul.