Commencement 2023: Hannah Fields

A black female college student speaks at a lectern

Class valedictorian credits faith, family for shaping work ethic at Stillman College

By David Miller

Hannah Fields wakes up early on a spring day on Stillman College’s campus and begins rifling through notes written the night before.

In just a few hours, she’ll cram a thesis-worth of research into a three-minute presentation during Stillman’s annual research symposium.

She reviews and edits her work, rehearsing continuously until it’s time to to compete in the Three-Minute Thesis competition across campus. She makes the brief walk from her dorm room at Roulhac Hall to the Wynn Center and takes her spot in the queue.

Fields’ name is called, and the attention of classmates, faculty, and staff turn to her as she begins to explain “Double Consciousness: Individualism vs. Community in African American
Literature.” Her presentation is flawless. She doesn’t miss a beat.

An hour later, the judges award Fields first place in the 3MT competition.

“It was fun,” she says, modestly downplaying the results of her overnight “cram” session.

A black female college student displays a pin on her shirt
Fields was inducted into the Sigma Tau Delta English Honor Society in 2021.

For Fields, putting together a first-place research presentation in under 24 hours wasn’t an extraordinary feat. Fields, a double-major in English and journalism at Stillman, was perpetually busy at Stillman. She completed two senior theses from scratch, interned for the Office of Communications and Public Relations during both the fall and spring semesters, and was a consistent presence at band and other student life events, where she would shoot and film content for digital media projects.

Her time at Stillman – especially her senior year – has been a whirlwind, but the effort has more than paid off. Before Fields receives her two bachelor’s degrees Saturday at Stillman’s commencement exercise, she’ll take the stage and deliver the valedictorian’s commencement address.

Earning top scholar of a graduating class, coincidentally, is a familiar honor for Fields, who was valedictorian at Fredrick Douglass High School in Memphis, Tennessee.

“The first time I really thought about it is when I got the email yesterday that I will be carrying our department’s flag during commencement – all I could think about is, will I have to carry two flags,” she joked. “It’ll be special to tell my kids one day that I had the highest GPA in my college class.”

Fields will finish her Stillman career with a long and distinguished list of club affiliations and accolades. Fields is a recipient of the Golden Ticket Scholarship, the top merit-based institutional scholarship at Stillman. She’s also a member of the Harte Honors College and the Sigma Tau Delta English honors society.

‘Everyone needs help’

Fields admits that she often shouldered more than she could handle at Stillman. She says she didn’t want to let people down and would often help others with schoolwork before tending to her assignments.

But that selflessness wasn’t a flaw; that’s how she’s programmed. Fields, a devout Christian, found her passion for feature writing – and, eventually, her major – through the ministry and her family’s church, the Fields of Joy Ministry. She said her faith has been pivotal in helping her balance the rigors of her double-major and continue to help others.

“Help,” and recognizing when one needs it, will be the theme of her commencement speech Saturday.

“We can’t do anything alone,” she said. “We’ll always need help. And if we learn and recognize that, we won’t burn out. We’ll do better in life.”

Fields will now carry that theme to her father Antonio’s ministry in Memphis, where she plans to launch a multimedia department to amplify the gospel to area communities and beyond. She plans to start with a podcast, then video.

“We’ve brainstormed some topics, a production schedule, how we’ll film it, what other equipment and staff we might need,” Hannah said. “My dad has bought us some equipment to start out, so we’re ready to work now.”

Hannah is seeking a full-time job as a content creator to continue building her media production skills  developed at Stillman. Though she has a passion for writing, she’s become increasingly interested in video and podcasting after working on projects highlighting Stillman’s Blue Pride Marching Band.

“All the work we did with the band – interviewing them on the podcast, learning how to edit video and audio with LogicPro and Garage Band, how to sit down and conduct interviews – taught me how to do podcasts and how much I like doing it,” she said.

A full-time position in media would also help fund her endeavor at her family’s church, where she hopes to establish and grow the multimedia suit beyond the walls of the church and create a model that can be shared with other churches. She said that, once the podcast series is launched, she hopes to establish video storytelling.

“It’s exciting to think about,” Hannah said. “I’ve talked to my dad about starting a publishing company to tell our stories to people outside of the ministry. All of this it to help my dad and the ministry, and if I can use this to build a business, that’ll be great.”