Vincent J. McCaskill
How did USM prepare you to achieve your goals?
There is no doubt that Southern Miss trained me to be focused and a doer in the field I was studying in. I spent 10 years in television news as an anchor and reporter in Hattiesburg (WDAM-TV), Memphis (WHBQ-TV), New Orleans (WDSU-TV), and Raleigh, NC (WNCN-TV). I transitioned out of television news in 1998 as I began to pursue a new career in public relations and marketing (strategic communications). In 1998, I accepted a communications manager position with he University of Mississippi in its Public Relations division. I spent four-plus years at Ole Miss.
In 2003, I became the media relations manager for the Memphis School system which is the largest school system in Tennessee. I eventually matriculated into development work for the school system and was tapped to create its independent foundation (SchoolSeed). Since 2008, I have led SchoolSeed Foundation. The organization has managed nearly $200 million in support of public schools in Memphis. I can honestly say that Southern Miss prepared me very well for this journey.
What would you tell your younger self?
I would tell my younger self that you are unique, prepared, and believe in who God created you to be. Know who you are and whose you are. Don’t look to anyone to be validated. Your ancestors already paved the way for you to be in those rooms you will find yourself in. You are more than qualified to accomplish what others may think you cannot. Embrace your Blackness and be proud of it and know that your ancestors’ point of origin did not begin with slavery. Do not assimilate into a culture that God never intended for you. Rise above it. You are a light in a dark place. Do not blend in, but stand out so that light will shine. Your DNA makeup comes from Cameroon, Portugal and Spain.
You are a descendant of strong people who paved the way for you to be where you are. Build your legacy so that your descendants will be able to follow. Open doors for others and know that whatever you sow in the lives of others, you will reap. You will face challenges, but know that they will make you stronger. The dream God gave you will come to pass in your life, but the challenges will make you appreciate when the dreams are manifested in your life. When there are headwinds in your life, that will give you the lift you need to soar.
Words of wisdom to Black college students?
Embrace your Blackness. Do not be ashamed of that skin. Be humble, yet proud of who God created you to be. Be kind, but not a pushover. Do not look to anyone to validate what God has already validated in you. You are his creation and to understand the significance of that puts you in a position to succeed.
Was college worth the investment?
Absolutely! College allowed me to move into the middle class. The degree is a tool that continues to get me in spaces. But what God placed in me…keeps me in those spaces. The investment was well worth it. But I could not have done this without God. He alone deserves the glory. As I look back, he opened so many doors for me and ensured that I would get to a place to have a family, provide for my family, and see my daughter go off to college. God put me in position and I can only hope that I stewarded his resources the right way. Only time will tell. But Southern Miss was right for me at that time.
What was the most impactful topic covered in The Unheard Word?
I can remember The Unheard Word dealing with issues that were not mainstream. It focused on the movement of people of color. The things I see today, The Unheard Word was deep in it then. The publisher and writers behind The Unheard Word were truly woke. I wish I truly understand that back then, but I understand it now.