Fiat Pride in Alfred University’s Black Graduates

Black History Month (February) acknowledges the contributions of Black and Afro-Diasporic people globally. It is also a time for Alfred University to recognize and celebrate the people of color who have brought distinction to our institution.

Laurie Meehan ’91, our University’s archivist, recently brought to our attention the story of Eliza Durant, a young woman from Haiti who enrolled in 1850 in the Teachers Course at Alfred Academy (which seven years later would become Alfred University) as our first Black student. At that time, it was remarkable that a woman was permitted to attend college on an equal basis as her male counterparts; it was even more extraordinary that, in this instance, it was a woman of color. Durant graduated in 1855 with a laureate of education degree. She returned to Haiti to teach after earning her Alfred degree.

While Durant died in the 1860s at a much too young age she played a pioneering role in establishing Alfred University’s legacy of inclusivity. We are the first institution of higher education in the United States to both admit women and allow them to pursue the same full course of studies offered to male students, and are one of the first to admit African American and Native American students. That legacy continues to be built upon by the many students of color who have attended Alfred University and gone on to better our world since Durant’s time.

This year, we would like to recognize three young Black alumnae who already are making impactful professional marks— Kizzie Parks ’01, Chagmion Antoine ’04, and Yasmin Mattox ’07.

Kizzy earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Alfred University. During her time at Alfred, she was twice named recipient of the Presidential Leadership Award. She went on to earn master’s and doctoral degrees in organizational psychology from the Florida Institute of Technology (FIT) in 2003 and 2007, respectively. While at FIT, she was named Outstanding Graduate Student in Industrial/Organizational Psychology in 2006.

During her doctoral studies, in 2005, Kizzy founded K. Parks Consulting, Inc., (KPC) for which she currently serves as president. Since its founding, KPC has been awarded over $50 million in government contracts. The business serves the federal government by providing contract staffing, professional and information technology services, management training, and curriculum development.

In 2014, Kizzy was named by the Profiles in Diversity journal as a “Woman Worth Watching,” and was also recognized as “Enterprising Woman of the Year.” Her company has been listed by Inc. magazine as among the 5,000 Fastest Growing Companies and was ranked 18th among Top Education Companies on that list. Kizzy also has been named to the Entrepreneur 360 list published by Entrepreneur magazine. Kizzy returned to Alfred University in 2011 to give a presentation titled “The Road to Becoming an Accidental Entrepreneur!”

Chagmion earned a B.F.A. degree (minor in communication studies) and has enjoyed a groundbreaking career in journalism while appearing as an actor on numerous television networks and shows.

As a broadcast journalist, Chagmion is best known for her work with CBS News, where she was a reporter, anchor, and producer from 2005-09. When she was hired by CBS at age 23—debuting as part of the news team for the Logo Channel, the first ever 24-hour network focusing on the LGBTQ community, including lifestyle news and entertainment programming—she made history as the first LGBTQ female, and first LGBTQ person of color, to be featured on a national news broadcast. Her groundbreaking journalistic work covering intersections of politics, pop culture, and human rights has been referenced by various academic and humanitarian organizations, including the United Nations. She has been quoted on diversity in media by Vox, Refinery 29, and CNN.

Chagmion has starred in television shows like Person of Interest, VEEP, Madame Secretary, and House of Cards. Since 2016, she has been an actor/performer, voiceover talent, reporter and host with SAG-AFTRA. A resident of New York City, she formed her own production company, Native Speak Media, in 2010. In 2017, Chagmion was an honored speaker, with former presidential candidates Corey Booker and Jill Stein, at the Yale Political Union, the oldest and largest collegiate debate club in the country. Other notable speakers hosted by the Yale Political Union over the years have included Presidents Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, Noam Chomsky, and Walter Cronkite.

Yasmin is a successful business owner in Rochester, New York, where she is CEO of Arkatecht, the company she founded in 2017. She earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Alfred University and a master’s in international studies from St. John Fisher College.

Arkatecht’s mission is to help working parents more easily advance in their careers. Yasmin and her team do this by creating software that tackles the logistical obstacles to professional advancement that parents face—time constraints and scarce childcare, for example. Before launching Arkatecht, Yasmin founded and ran Y Mattox Research and Consulting, a consulting firm providing clients with scholarly research in the social sciences as well as in fields in which social science methodologies can be applied.

In September 2020, Tech Rochester, named Yasmin Emerging Technology Professional Woman of the Year. Tech Rochester honors professionals in the technology field who live, work, and beneficially impact the Greater Rochester area.

As we observe Black History Month at Alfred University, please join me in recognizing and celebrating the accomplishments of Kizzy, Chagmion, and Yasmin. Their success is a source of great pride for our University.

Fiat pride in Alfred University’s Black graduates!