Growing up in the small, rural town of Enfield, NC helped shape Kierra Pittman’s worldview, thus she has always recognized the importance of giving back to her community and the younger generation. She also has a passion for the art of storytelling and wants to be the change she wishes to see in the world.
Graduating from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2020 came with many uncertainties and obstacles for Kierra’s future, due to COVID-19. However, she was presented with the opportunity to hone in on her creative writing skills and edit her mother’s book, Introspection: A Heart to Heart with Yourself. This experience allowed her to grow closer to her mother and taught her the importance of allowing opportunities to flow organically. Working on the self-help book has given Kierra special insight and she is quick to remind others that “It’s okay to have moments to yourself.”
How would you describe where you grew up?
If you know me, you’ve probably heard me shout, “252,” when asked where I’m from. I say my area code with pride because it’s an area that is often overlooked in terms of educational and financial support. My hometown is small but has helped shape who I am today. It has taught me the importance of being ambitious and determined despite the circumstances. Although the lack of resources and opportunities were devastating, I was inspired to create my own.
How did your identity shape your approach to diversity work?
Being a Black woman from a small, rural town in eastern North Carolina, the world seemed black and white. Growing up, I didn’t understand diversity and inclusion like I do today, but I did realize early the importance of pouring into underrepresented communities. I knew that I had to be a part of the change I wished to see. That’s why I served as a counselor and mentor in my hometown and the neighboring city and why I became heavily involved with diversity efforts in college.
How would you describe your role as a Student Ambassador in UODI?
My passion for giving back led me to the University Office for Diversity and Inclusion during my first year at UNC. I started as a volunteer then became a member of the Minority Student Recruitment Committee and eventually became the On-Campus Coordinator, which is now the Student Ambassador for Access position. As a Student Ambassador, I was able to learn from amazing professional staff, lead and work side by side with some of Carolina’s brightest students and connect with prospective students from across the country. Through this role, I was truly able to fuel my passion and purpose while leaving my heelprint.
What were some of the highlights of working with the University Office of Diversity & Inclusion and what were some of the challenges?
Working with the University Office for Diversity and Inclusion for all four years of undergrad was so fulfilling and life-changing. Leading Project Uplift and Achieving Carolina Excellence, participating in retreats with my fellow Student Ambassadors, and hanging out in the office were some of the highlights. Oh, and that time we put on an R&B musical for the PU Staff Talent Show!
Being a leader in itself can be a challenging yet rewarding experience. When I first started, it was nerve-wracking to speak in front of over 500 people or lead 100 of my peers, but as time went on, I grew confident in the role and excelled. Another challenge was ensuring that others understood the importance of the impactful work we were doing. It was more than just creating fun songs to sing at events. It was about encouraging and creating opportunities for deserving students from underrepresented populations. Overall, I found that keeping the mission and vision at the forefront allowed us to overcome anything.
How did you choose your major of Media and Journalism and minors in Entrepreneurship and Social and Economic justice?
Ever since I was a young girl, I knew that I loved the art of storytelling and writing. I also knew that I cared about social issues that my community and others faced. Despite my love for journalism, I decided to pursue a major in the health field because it felt like “the right thing to do.” Due to the lack of diversity of careers back home, the most successful paths appeared to be medical or dental school. I felt like I had to conform to societal pressure. Thankfully, I still gave journalism classes a try and ended up falling in love with the J school and the countless opportunities. My minors in Entrepreneurship and Social and Economic Justice came naturally once I immersed myself in my true passions.
Did you have a mentor during your undergraduate experience?
Mentorship is very important to me—so important that I had mentors throughout my undergraduate career and served as a mentor myself. My mentors—Dr. Joseph Jordan, Rachel Tates, Shakera Singleton, Janet Northen, and more—positively impacted my Carolina experience, each in their own way. I would recommend having a mentor to anyone because you can learn so much from the brilliant people around you whether they are peers or professional staff.
How did the opportunity to edit your mother’s book present itself? Did this influence your career path?
My mom is my best friend and superhero, and we support each other in every aspect of life. The opportunity to edit her third book, Introspection: A Heart to Heart with Yourself, came about organically and randomly during one of our daily talks. After telling me about the book, she asked, “How would you like to serve as editor of this project?” I was beyond excited to edit my first book with my role model. This opportunity allowed me to hone my skill set, as well as build my experience in a space that I’ve always adored.
How would you describe the transition from college to post graduation life?
Truthfully, I was nervous about graduating because I was still figuring out postgraduate plans and I felt like I would miss college so much. However, when the time came and I received that degree *praise break*, the nervousness vacated. Despite COVID-19 and not having a full-time opportunity lined up as I always planned, I felt grateful and excited because I made the most out of my college experience professionally, socially and academically and I know everything will work out.
How has COVID-19 affected the plans you had after graduation?
I could have never imagined my college experience ending how it did, but I firmly believe that everything happens for a reason. At first, I was discouraged because my initial plans were no more, due to COVID-19. Once I expanded my options and tapped into my talents, multiple opportunities, ones I didn’t even go searching for, found me. I’m currently working at Sweat + Co, an LA-based public relations agency, as an Account Coordinator and for Driven Society, a talent and experiential agency as an assistant project manager. This time in quarantine has also allowed space for creativity and entrepreneurship. I enjoy completing freelance work for small businesses through Braselle & Co., a subsidiary of kierrapittman.com. I look forward to growing and making a lasting impact in communications and the world!
Where do you see yourself within the next five years?
I understand the importance of living in the present while preparing for the future. In the next five years, I see myself accomplishing many personal and professional goals. There are so many to name, but I know I’ll be traveling, advocating for underrepresented communities, furthering my education (you can never stop learning!), expanding my brand and making more memories with family and friends.
What is one thing you wish you knew before entering college?
Simply: It’s okay to have moments to yourself. Often in college there’s pressure to constantly study, participate in organizations, hang out with friends, go shopping (if your name is Kierra), party and everything else. It’s perfectly fine to relax and enjoy time with just you.
What does Diversity mean to you?
We hear the term so often, but it’s more than just a word. For many like myself, it’s a reality, a truth. It’s the appreciation and understanding of varying races, ethnicities, gender, religions, cultures, realities, thoughts, backgrounds and more. Diversity is vital. Diversity is needed. It’s more than just fulfilling a quota or saying “Hey, we’re diverse.” Our efforts should be a true representation of the world we live in every day.
Written by Casey P. Jones