Curtez “Tez” Hawkins not only completed a planning degree at Ball State, but he also played football, an unusual feat for a CAP student. A native of St. Louis, he graduated with a BUPD in 2013 and is currently an associate planner with Eagle County Government in Vail, Colorado.

To honor Black History Month, CAP has asked some of our most successful Black alumni to share some thoughts. Here is our Q and A with Tez:

Why is it important to expand the American narrative to include the accomplishments and stories of Black Americans?

The biggest reason is representation and perspective. In the past, the American narrative has not highlighted most of the accomplishments of Black Americans, but only the most  socially and politically controversial accomplishments. From the perspective of black children, to be accomplished,  you need to be a Dr. King, a LeBron James, an Obama, a Jay-Z or a Floyd Mayweather rather than an architect, a CEO, a community leader, a news reporter, or a farmer. If our accomplishments in those less social or political spotlights are not recognized, over time the black youth have nothing to reach for outside of fame and fortune, or worse, the stereotypical narrative that is often highlighted.

Why is mentorship of Black youth important to you?

This is important because without it, the blind is leading the blind. What I mean is that many black millennials and those of later generations are the first in their  family to do something whether that’s a four-year college or a trade degree, Instagram model, a homeowner, or a traveler. And, therefore, their parents are unable to give substantive mentorship/guidance on their future and their journey. Therefore they are more likely to fail or take a lesser path.

What advice do you have for Black students who aspire to work in the design professions CAP teaches?

Start drinking some coffee unless you are wired differently. That was a joke, but a true statement. The advice I would give is recognize your limits and find a way to break through them. You are going to be surrounded by a lot of people who were raised differently, started ahead of you in many ways, and will have connections and strategies that you were not given, and that may feel discouraging and unfair. Please push through that discouragement. You are going to have processes and information, and a workload, that makes you hit your limit. Please, push through those limits. Prove something to yourself and those who come after you.

What Black artists or design professionals influence your work? In what ways?

At the age of 28, I am still working on finding some. Let that sink in.


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