SJGC’s unsung ‘she-roes’: A Women’s History Month highlight

Deborah Thigpen and Ranata Hughes are just two of the amazing women in SJGC. Photo courtesy: FAMU SGJC

As March is Women’s History Month, women who have made history in the United States as well as their local communities are being celebrated as the backbone and architects of society. For Florida A&M University’s School of Journalism & Graphic Communication, our unsung heroes are Deborah Thigpen and Ranata Hughes.

Deborah Thigpen began her career in journalism at an early age.

“I wrote for my junior high school newspaper and submitted a story to get published in The Cleveland Press, the city daily newspaper in the Young People Write to the Press section,” Thigpen said. “I was only 13 years old, and the article ‘Black history is American history’ gained city-wide attention. People around the city called my home asking to speak to the girl who wrote this article.”

From that moment on, Thigpen knew she wanted to be a journalist. She started her career as a freelance journalist, but it was inspiration from Patricia Tobin, a pioneer in the public relations industry, that made her switch from journalism to public relations.

“Tobin realized few opportunities for women of color in her field, so she left her broadcasting job and opened her PR agency, Tobin and Associates, in 1983,” said Thigpen. “I opened Thigpen PR when no one would hire me full-time, and I was no longer satisfied working as a freelancer.”

Thigpen is currently a visiting assistant professor in the SJGC teaching PUR4800, which is  Public Relations Agency, a course that will help students transition from classrooms to the boardrooms of PR agencies.

“I’m not only helping students to learn real-time in a real-world setting the intricacy of running and working in a PR agency, but they are also learning how to become community advocates, media leaders, and entrepreneurs, ” said Thigpen. “ I know that at the end of the course, scholars will understand how to build a brand, are in tune with themselves, and own their brand ID.”

Thigpen’s words of wisdom to the future journalists and publicists of the industry is to understand that research is a vital part of their careers.

“My advice for future journalists/publicists is to learn how to do research in mass media and understand the use of information resources,” said Thigpen. “Research well. It is of utmost importance for a journalist to write accurately and present facts that can be verified as valid by any reader. Take your research class seriously.”

Ranata Hughes began her journey due to her love of helping others.

“I have always had a love for people and helping others to accomplish goals, which later turned into a love for also helping nonprofit organizations and companies achieve specific goals,” said Hughes. “So, I worked as a seasonal public relations and hospitality professional for events when I was a freshman in college because others said I was good at it, and decided to major in journalism or public relations from that point because I enjoyed the work.”

Hughes originally started in the broadcast journalism track but then switched her major to public relations because of her love for the writing aspect.

In 2015, Hughes came to FAMU and joined the School of Journalism and Graphic Communication after the dean at the time reached out regarding a possible position.

“She explained to me that she noticed the great work I was doing in the industry and she wanted to speak with me about an adjunct position teaching pr and journalism courses,” said Hughes. “I was thrilled and accepted the offer, and was later invited to join SJGC’s faculty and staff full-time in 2017.”

Hughes now serves as the internship coordinator for the SJGC. She uses her platform to help students reach their dream jobs and improve as the journalists and publicists of the future.

Her advice to them is to not be distracted and focus on their goals.

“Focus on no one else but yourself,” said Hughes. “Do not compare yourself to others and their progression, but work hard to develop the necessary skills you need to not only function in the industry, but to lead in the industry. Believe in yourself, and go get it!”