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HBCU Spotlight: Autumn Kyles, Hampton University


HBCU Spotlight

Historically Black Colleges and Universities, also known as HBCU’s, have been educating African Americans (and other ethnic groups) since Cheney University of Pennsylvania’s opening in 1837. Fast forward to 2015, there are over 100 Black Colleges and Universities across the United States; illustrious universities and colleges that have produced distinguished graduates including writer Toni Morrison, director Spike Lee, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, and rapper Common. These schools continue to educate young African American people, and women in particular, at amazing rates- including yours truly (#spartanpride). When I received my position as a College Candy author, I knew that it had become my duty to showcase the talent, strength, intelligence, and beauty found at HBCU’s all across the country. This is the first interview in a series of interviews entitled HBCU Spotlight, which will feature a woman or group of women making a difference at her HBCU.

My first interviewee has set the bar high. A recent graduate from Hampton University and a soon to be MBA holder as part of the 5 year program, Autumn Kyles has done more in her 4 years as a Hamptonian than some people do in a lifetime. Aside from being a Hampton honors graduate, Autumn, a native of Detroit, Michigan, is also the Second International Vice President of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. I recently sat down with Ms. Kyles to get a better understanding of how she manages all of her responsibilities in addition to keeping up with her studies; check out the interview below.

KarenCC: Why did you choose to attend Hampton University?

Autumn Kyles: I originally wanted to go to Michigan State, at the same time I wanted to go away [for school] so that I wouldn’t be stuck. In Detroit, you either go into the auto or healthcare fields which can force you to stay in one area. Because I wanted to go away and was also interested in HBCU’s, I took tours at both Hampton and Howard University. When I came to Hampton’s campus, I just felt as if I would flourish and that’s why I chose to attend Hampton.

KCC: What has been your favorite experience over the course of your undergrad at Hampton?

AK: Becoming a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. has been my favorite Hampton experience. My mom is an AKA and I would go to all of her meetings and just watch her and the other ladies. When I finally got the opportunity to join, I jumped at the chance and I am glad I did. I have gained close friends and sisters and so much more from the experience. Being a member has been rewarding. Because we are a community service organization, we are really about giving back and understanding the privilege that attending college truly is. We aim to make sure the community is thriving as much as possible.

KCC: Would you recommend Hampton University to another student, and why?

AK: Yes. A Hampton education is an education that you won’t find anywhere else. Hampton University makes sure to help students develop interpersonal skills, emotional intelligence, and other transferable skills. I am in the 5 year MBA School of Business program that really helps to groom students for the future. In addition, Hampton is family oriented and makes students feel at home.

KCC:  In addition to being a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., are you a part of any organizations on campus?

AK: I am a member of several organizations. In addition to AKA, I am apart of SGA (student government association) the student recruitment team, the school of business leadership program as the manager of seminar, and an organization called Sister to Sister which is a mentoring program for college students and young girls.

KCC: Give us a day in the life of the Second International Vice President of Alpha Kappa Alpha.

AK: It honestly varies. During the beginning of the week, I’m going to class and doing homework like normal students. However, I am still on call 24/7; meaning that I am constantly helping to get work done. I am the Chairman of the Undergraduate Activity Committee and International Activities, Second Vice President of finance, and also Second Vice President of the Educational Advancement Foundation. Within a day, I can be doing anything from working on our webpage to operating our social media. More recently, I just completed a Regional Conference tour, during which I gave speeches,reports, and conducted workshops. Alpha Kappa Alpha is a 24 hour job.

KCC:How has having a leadership position like that shaped your undergraduate experience? (do you ever feel overwhelmed, etc.)

AK: It’s a double edged sword. On one hand, my self confidence has increased. To be held in the same regards as women with multiple accolades makes me feel like I am doing extremely productive, important work. On the other hand, I’ve missed out on a lot of normal student stuff like games and campus parties. Despite that, I still wouldn’t trade the experience. I have been places I never thought I would be able to go to and met people I would never have been able to meet. My position has made me proud of who I am as a student and what I have accomplished.

KCC: What advice would you give, not only to girls at Hampton, but other HBCU’s as well, who want to acquire leadership positions like you have?

AK: I would say to be strong in who you are. Don’t compare or try to match yourself up to others. I came into my own when I stopped thinking about what other people were doing. I also began to understand loss and the fact that I wouldn’t always win everything. Having a position like mine means owning who you are and being comfortable in who you are.

KCC: Okay Autumn, last question. Why do you love your HBCU?

AK: I love my HBCU because it has made me feel comfortable in who I am as a Black woman. I grew up in the suburbs in a very diverse neighborhood, and never really understood who I was. Hampton made me realize who I was. Hampton also gave me a sense of refinement and a luster that only Hampton students have.


Born and raised in the ROC (or Brooklyn, New York) Karen Elleyse is a current junior at Norfolk State University majoring in Interdisciplinary Studies. She enjoys dancing, singing, reading, writing (ofc), and watching cat videos on YouTube. follow me! @kvrn.__