Erica Davis recently was elected to the Board of Trustees of the Department of Education in Harris County, Texas. As a student in Columbia’s Executive M.S. in Strategic Communication program, she has been focusing on learning to bridge the divide between government officials and the communities they serve.
Why did you choose the Executive M.S. in Strategic Communication program at Columbia?
As Chief of Staff for Alan Rosen, the Harris County Precinct One Constable, I chose the Executive M.S. in Strategic Communication program at Columbia University to help me grow individually and professionally. As a civilian working within a law enforcement agency, it is important for me to always be prepared in the event of a crisis, and to help our officers effectively communicate with our community members. Additionally, it is my responsibility to create platforms for uncomfortable conversations to ultimately build bridges between law enforcement and our community. In order to communicate a message effectively, you must know your audience, and utilize quantitative and qualitative research to make favorable outcomes. The program has given me tools to enhance my leadership role, and further the organization’s mission and goals through communication.
Let’s replace the word 'help' with the word 'change' in our communities, and serve with a conscious commitment for equal opportunity for everyone.
Tell us about your new role in the Harris County Department of Education. What do your duties entail as a Board of Trustees member? What kind of impact are you looking to make in the role?
It was such an honor to be a part of a historic election in Harris County. The Harris County Department of Education (HCDE) supports the third largest county in the country by enriching educational opportunities and providing value through services. The Board of Trustees establishes policies governing the operation of HCDE. As a newly elected official, I think public service needs to be redefined. Let’s replace the word “help” with the word “change” in our communities, and serve with a conscious commitment for equal opportunity for everyone. The impact I want to have in this role is to make learning more affordable and accessible through training and funding. HCDE is the source for Head Start, after school care, therapy services, special population schools, adult education, and more. In my new role, I am passionate about finding ways to end the school-to-prison pipeline, and increase resources for our youth in under-served communities.
How does what you are learning at Columbia apply to your career in public service?
For the past eight years, I have had the honor to work for the public, serving as a bridge builder. I began attending Columbia during the Black Lives Matter movement, and the classes couldn’t have come at a better time. I was at a loss for words and strategy to convey to the community that good officers still exist. The Strategic Communication classes I have taken this semester have prepared me to reach different audiences through different platforms. While on the campaign trail, I was able to write speeches and create presentations needed to gain the public’s trust.
Are there specific classes, professors, resources, or connections that you value?
Writing and communicating have been a challenge for me since childhood. Even in the early stages of my career, I developed a complex that hindered me from being my authentic self. This semester has contributed immensely to my growth. Some of my standout courses were Compelling Communicator with Anne Witkavitch, Digital Communication with Jamyn Edis, and Strategic Communication Management with Alexandra Merceron. All my classes provided me with the necessary tools to build relationships with leaders and organizations. Columbia’s wonderful instructors, along with my talented cohort, will provide anyone with a broad community that will grow into a true support system. Of course, COVID-19 has impacted all students, but Columbia has made virtual learning a unique experience that most will find rewarding.
You have a place in public service because there is so much work that needs to be done in our communities.
Do you have any advice for future students interested in pursuing similar leadership roles?
Begin your leadership role and develop your personal roadmap with strategic communication as the foundation. It will benefit you in any profession you pursue. Columbia not only provides you with the tools to succeed, but assists you with the change you wish to see in yourself. You have a place in public service because there is so much work that needs to be done in our communities.
What does your future look like?
As a millennial, I am excited to serve in my new role and will work very hard for my constituents. With my degree from Columbia, I will feel more prepared to one day make laws for the nation and serve in our U.S. Congress.
Learn more about Columbia’s Executive M.S. in Strategic Communication.