My Winthrop Experience

Name: Ebony Wilkinson '15
Residence: New York City, New York
Degree: Individualized Studies
Occupation: Program Associate, Bella Abzug Leadership Institute

Ebony Wilkinson came out of her shell during her college years and was confident enough to make a last-minute decision her senior year that changed the trajectory for her life's work.

She came to Winthrop from a small boarding school in northern Georgia called Tallulah Falls School as a shy young woman. Recruited as a student-athlete for track and field, she fell in love with the inviting atmosphere. "Winthrop is a very welcoming place, and I felt like I became part of a big Eagle family," she said, adding that there were only 23 students in her graduating high school class.

Wilkinson described her time at Winthrop as "exciting, diverse and very dynamic."

"I've been given a chance to open up and blossom," she said.

Due to injuries, she dropped out of sports but found fulfillment in other areas. After talking with her advisor her senior year, Wilkinson opted to change her major from exercise science to individualized studies with an emphasis on women's issues.

The New York City native and the daughter of West Indian parents graduated in December 2015 as the first Winthrop student to take advantage of the bachelor's degree in individualized studies. She spoke highly of the degree because it empowered her to design a major based on her passions and interests.

There is no program like this interdisciplinary degree at other universities in the region, according to Maria Clara Paulino, director of the individualized studies program.

Wilkinson put together a major based on women's studies, psychology, exercise science and public health. She then applied successfully for an internship at the Bella Abzug Leadership Institute in New York City where she spent three semesters working with social media, recruitment and fundraising.

The institute, named for the late U.S. Rep. Bella Abzug of New York, has worked with young women and girls since 2005 to inspire, mentor and train them to become leaders in creating positive social and economic change. During her internship, Wilkinson participated in several events at the United Nations that brought in girls from all over the world.

Now, the institute has offered her a full-time job as a program associate to work with adolescent girls. "This degree has helped open up doors for me," Wilkinson said, "And has made me a more dynamic applicant."

Wilkinson will now attend graduate school. She has been accepted into Fordham University's Masters in Nonprofit Leadership program.

Check out her thoughts on her Winthrop Experience.