New AASU director hopes to emphasize cultural awareness, change


The newly appointed African American Student Union director has high hopes for the spring semester.

Joanna Hillman, a political science sophomore, was appointed director of AASU during the fall semester’s finals week and said she’s looking forward to seeing what the semester has to hold for the student organization.

“My overall goal really is just to move forward and keep our focus on our cultural awareness,” Hillman said. “That’s what we’re here for.”

Student Government Vice President Giovannie Medina announced Jennifer Dykes’ termination Nov. 9 and cited working and management styles as reasons for her dismissal. Hillman served as interim director for about two weeks while SG searched for a director.

Dykes told the Spinnaker her firing was never fully explained and she was terminated due to communication issues.

“I’ve found reason to believe there is something wrong and unjust behind this situation,” Dykes said.

Medina said Hillman knows the SG constitution well and she understood SG’s desire for AASU to go back to its roots: cultural awareness. He further explained AASU had been lacking in its initiative to spread cultural awareness during the fall semester.

Medina said Hillman’s presentation to the Budgets and Allocations committee, where she requested the funds for Michael Eric Dyson to be the keynote speaker for this year’s Black History Month, impressed him.

“She has really good leadership potential,” Medina said. “Even under stressful situations, she still strove forward and made progress and great strides in AASU.”

Hillman worked as the scholastic initiatives committee chair for AASU from fall 2009 to spring 2010 and became assistant director for AASU in summer 2010.

Hillman said she wants to help move AASU forward and to forget about the director shake-up. Hillman said the transition to director was rocky. With the help of Hillman’s advisor, AASU members and the committee chairs, the transition has performed well, she said.

AASU hosted an open house event Jan. 6 to open up the office to students interested in joining AASU and offered free Chick-Fil-A to students who came to the event.

Aside from the open house, AASU will be hosting a membership meeting Jan. 13 at 7 p.m. Hillman said Jan. 18 is a big day for AASU, with a membership luncheon at noon that includes free food and giveaways to participants. AASU will also be hosting a discrimination forum Jan. 18 at 7 p.m., with representatives from the LGBT Resource Center as well as other groups on campus to discuss the current state of minorities in America.

Hillman said the AASU is partnering with the Volunteer Center for a Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service to help with the Second Harvest Food Bank.

“We’re going to pack boxes for food, and we’re going to pass them out to families,” Hillman said.

AASU member Brittany Herndon, a UNF political science junior, said things seem to be going great, and she hopes AASU will continue to grow and branch out. Herndon said the AASU needs to reach out this semester and partner with other minority groups to really bring out the great qualities for each group.

Hillman said she is looking forward to Black History Month and sharing the events not just with AASU but with the entire student body.