Campus News

Remember the time-Cousins

In the 50 years since Charlayne Hunter-Gault and Hamilton Holmes became the first African Americans to register for classes at UGA, a total of 10,592 black people have become alumni of this institution. Each of them has a story to tell about their time her

Class of 2008
Juanita Cousins became the first female African-American editor-in-chief for The Red & Black, UGA’s independent student newspaper, in 2007.

She worked there for three years as a crime reporter, copy editor, photographer, opinions editor and news editor.

She said she had aspired to be editor-in-chief since high school, and when she heard news of her appointment she was elated and remembers jumping on her bed.

“I was appointed because of my merits and not the color of my skin, but that moment illustrated the longevity it took university officials to recruit, enroll and retain black students at UGA and motivate them to achieve leadership positions,” she said. “Charlayne Hunter-Gault and Hamilton Holmes opened the door, but plenty of other black UGA students-like Telvis Rich and Mark Anthony Thomas-paved my path to the top of Baxter Street’s hill.”

Cousins, a native of Stone Mountain, was the first in her family to attend UGA. She came to UGA for the top-ranked journalism school and said she wanted to be a journalist since she was 16.

Cousins, at The Red & Black from 2005-2008, said that one the highlights of her campus career was her involvement in the newspaper’s ongoing coverage of harassment allegations that involved several professors.

“The administration made a lot of changes,” she said, referring in part to the creation of the ombudsperson office in 2008. “It made me feel like I was doing something worthwhile.”

She was involved in the UGA chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists, which was named Student Chapter of the Year in 2007. She was also a member of the Eta Xi chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc.

Cousins was a Student Government Association senator during the 2005-2006 school year and organized Diversity Tailgate for two years. The tailgate was held to be a welcoming event for all students, to provide a safe haven for students of diverse backgrounds who normally don’t feel comfortable on campus on game days, said Cousins. The first year about 150 students came to the tailgate on Myers quad and the second year about 300 students came. One memorable moment was when her mother led a group of 300 students of diverse backgrounds in the electric slide at the tailgate.

“I looked around to find a sea of tans, beiges and browns laughing a having a good time together,” she said. “That’s when I realized the tailgate’s success.”

She said she had a good experience at UGA. Her first year she lived in Creswell Hall, which she described as the typical dorm experience complete with late nights and loud hallways.

“Your experience in college is what you make of it,” she said. “You can be like Charlayne Hunter-Gault and be involved and make the most of your time here, and that’s what I tried to do.”

She graduated in 2008 and now works as a business reporter for The Tennessean newspaper in Nashville, Tenn.