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Awardee Spotlight: Aniya Watkins

The 2018 Promise Prize Scholar, Aniya Watkins, discusses her academic career at UIC and what the award means to her. She also shares some insight on why she chose to attend UIC.

person standing in front of a mural smiling

“…I have the ability to change the world in which I live, and also be a role model and a mentor for younger women…”

Aniya Watkins  |  2018 Promise Prize Scholar & AAST minor

What is your major, minor, and current standing and why did you choose your field of study?

Aniya Watkins: I am a senior with a major in psychology and an African American studies minor. I’m in the Honors College. I chose psychology because life is so complex and sometimes we don’t understand why things happen or why people do the things that they do. So psychology was a way for me to be able to understand life and people a little more. Having the African American studies minor, um, I felt that it helped me with my major for that reason as well and understanding things from a historical context and how different things in history have changed people psychologically and what that looks like today.

Why did you choose UIC?

Watkins: UIC was actually the only school I applied to. I had no plans on going to college while I was in high school. School wasn’t for me. So my mom let me be homeschooled for a little bit and then right before prom I decided to go back to high school. And then that weekend I had an epiphany. I had a heart to heart with God and he told me that he would open the door if I walked towards it. And so UIC was the only school I applied to after not planning to go to college and I’d never expected to excel. I’m the Executive Vice President of the National Society of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, I’ve just amazed myself.

How did you hear about the Promise Prize?

Watkins: Professor Rhodes is my honors fellow and she nominated me. When she told me about my nomination, I was honored. It was the first time I had received an award that really meant something. I was able to be recognized for something outside of being a scholar or student.

What does winning this award mean to you?

Watkins: It means that I am continuing the legacy of strong black women, that I am a leader and activist in my community and that I have the ability to change the world in which I live, and also be a role model and a mentor for younger women that in today’s society I think black women are very hyper-sexualized and that it’s easy to forget that you can be an intellectual, you can want to change the world. You can change the world. It really means a lot to me. It was motivation to keep doing what I do.

What was your experience like at the summit?

Watkins: I actually couldn’t attend the summit. I am an Inroads intern and our leadership development conference was the same weekend and it’s only for seniors. But I’ll be going in August to the next summit and I’m excited. I’m excited to meet other people that have the same focuses and passions as me. I think it’ll be a great networking opportunity and I’m excited to meet the next promise prize recipient.