Eric Winkfield is a living legend in Florida A&M’s School of Journalism & Graphic Communication. He’s an award-winning leader, and an admired communicator and mentor.
In the spring of 2015, the 26-year-old graduated with a bachelor’s in public relations. He immediately took on graduate school at the University of West Virginia for his master’s degree in integrated marketing communication. But he’s been long remembered and spoken of since his reign in SJGC. As a freshman, he hit the ground running.
“I wanted to set myself up to be in the best position to apply for jobs when I graduated,” Winkfield said.
Winkfield served as the president of the Public Relations Student Society of America, the vice president of the Collegiate 100, and on the editorial and branding sides of The Famuan. He also joined a student-run PR firm called PRodigy, where he honed skills he still uses, and worked an internship every summer of undergrad. He was a driven student long before he stepped on the highest of the seven hills, however.
As a high schooler, Winkfield excelled and served as the spirit chair in the student government association. That position exposed him to event planning, logistics and certain aspects of PR unbeknownst to him at the time. He continued by explaining that his SGA adviser encouraged all of her students to pursue things they’re passionate about and that fit their personalities.
“I’ve always been a people person,” Winkfield said. “I’ve always been somebody who could connect individuals and connect different stakeholders. I’ve always considered myself a problem-solver.”
Pursuing a degree that fit his personality is how Winkfield ended up in j-school. He was eager to understand his major, and the skills he would need to have a successful career. He said he introduced himself to upperclassmen who inspired him, and professors in SJGC long before entering the building to take a class.
Angeline Taylor, a visiting instructor and mentor to Winkfield, recalled being one of the professors he introduced himself to. About eight years ago, he approached Taylor after an event she had spoken at and asked her to be one of his mentors. She vividly remembered Winkfield’s smile that night.
“He knew that he needed help developing his stories and that was one of my strengths,” Taylor said.
Taylor admitted the mentor-mentee relationship with Winkfield has been a learning experience for both of them. She said she’s learned the importance of family, forgiveness, being present and putting forth your best foot, under all circumstances. She continued by explaining what it’s been like to watch Winkfield grow.
“Eric was always very poised, mature, professional, but lately I’ve noticed that he’s become more engaging with those attributes and he’s become more inclusive,” Taylor said. “He’s risen to the level that he not only is aspiring for more, but he aspires for others to get their definition of success, as well.”
In addition to Taylor, Winkfield has had many mentors. He grew up in a single-parent home but said he had a community of men who stepped up in his life.
“It’s like I inherited all these fathers,” Winkfield said.
The relationship with the men in his community, showed him the true value of having mentors and mentoring others. And, even with his hand in so many different pots, Winkfield still finds the time to talk to his mentors and his mentees. La’Crai Mitchell, friend and colleague of five years, said she admires how generous Winkfield is with his time.
“I’ve always admired that he gives so much when technically you would think he doesn’t have anything else to give because he has so many things going on,” Mitchell said.
She said he’s “selfless” in the way he regards his family and friends. She also revealed Winkfield hasn’t lived the perfect “fairy tale,” but that only pushed him to work harder.
Winkfield has gained success, while maintaining healthy relationships with his loved ones and better learning himself.
“I think that everybody should strive to develop that level of confidence and comfortability with themselves,” Mitchell said.
Dontae Iverson, friend and colleague of about seven years, had similar observations.
“He’s only gotten better since I met him,” Iverson said. “He’s the younger one, but he always takes the older brother role when it comes to us.”
Iverson said Winkfield was dedicated to the craft of PR long before other students. He also said Winkfield has been a voice of reason in his life and a teacher in some ways.
“He’s definitely taught me how to be a better man, to be a better worker, how to be more responsible,” Iverson said. “Eric never shied away from having those uncomfortable conversations.”
Iverson suspects that within the next two years Winkfield will be in the top of his field.
“I can’t even fathom what the future has in store for him,” Iverson said.
As far as today, Winkfield is the public affairs manager at Pepco, an Exelon Company that is a promotion he received after only a year with the company. He is also an online professor at the University of West Virginia, member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity and serves on the board of directors for the After-School All-Stars. Winkfield believes he is exactly where he is supposed to.
“I’ve been born to be a communicator,” Winkfield said.