Arvaughnna Postema '14

A graduating senior from Columbia, South Carolina, Arvaughnna Postema is surprised to learn that her name has been buzzing around the Department of Communication lately. Sometimes, she says, she feels like she has no idea who is truly paying attention to her. This is understandable--when one of your passions is radio, you can’t always gauge your level of engagement beyond the microphone. This humbleness is what makes her impact on the College of Charleston even greater.

Vaughn always knew she wanted to go into communication. When she was younger she submitted an essay for the D.A.R.E. program because, a self-proclaimed tomboy, the prize was a bike, and she WON. She’s always loved writing and public speaking, and went to a school that featured magnet programs specializing in arts, media and technology.

Postema has loved Charleston and the College of Charleston since she first visited during her junior year of high school. She enjoys mentoring every week at Fort Johnson Middle School and running the Battery. However, she almost didn’t come to CofC. In the last few months of her senior year, Vaughn’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. She reflects on spending the night in the hospital after her mother’s surgery, and having to wake up and go to school to deliver a presentation the next morning—but her mind was elsewhere. Postema wanted to stay home to support her mother, but was encouraged by her to pursue her dreams and take advantage of this opportunity.

Throughout her chemotherapy treatment, Vaughn’s mother, a pastor (as is her father), continued to preach and send daily motivational text messages to the community.

Vaughn says, “I learned there’s no excuse to not strive towards what I want because I’ve seen a woman who is very independent--reduced to needing assistance--retain her independence.”

It was a tough transition for Vaughn, though. Being away from her ill mother made her distracted from her studies at times. She lost two of her scholarships from not maintaining the required GPA, but then worked her tail off to regain one of them again—something no one thought could be done.

She says, “I’d realized, you can either sit back and make excuses or pick yourself up and say, I know I can do this.”

This mindset of determination, perseverance and dedication guided Postema through her four years at College of Charleston, where she is a communication major, a former leader of the Black Student Union (which she still collaborates with) and her sorority Zeta Phi Beta. Most of all, she is known on campus as an advocate for minorities.

She hosts a radio program focusing on race relations on Cistern Yard radio called Transcend and Transform. Radio is where she believes she’s made the biggest impact at CofC. Vaughn says that the program provokes dialogue within minority groups that they may not have thought was relevant to them. She once had a girl come up to her and say she was better prepared to face the same issue discussed on the show that coincidentally arose later that day in class.

While Vaughn is often asked to take leadership roles, she says, “you don’t need a title to care, you only need a heart.”  Her theory is that just by being passionate about an issue and showing up to show your support is as vital to the issue as being the voice. Some of the qualities she believes are most important to being a leader include selflessness, the ability to listen and admit when you’ve made a mistake, and self-awareness. Vaughn says she is conscious of taking care of herself, to make sure she can stand firmly on her beliefs, without being spread too thin. She says, “you need to know how to take the pressure off and channel it to productivity.”

In the classroom, Postema admits that she is not the best test-taker, and does not always achieve the highest marks. What she is proud of though, is the way she applies her lessons outside of the classroom, her persistence, and the support system she’s built. Vaughn names Dr. Robert Westerfelhaus and Dr. Merissa Ferrara as the cornerstones of that support system in the Department of Communication, because of their genuine interest and connection that translates beyond subject matter. She speaks of how much they pushed her, held her accountable but also understood her in a unique way.

So what are Vaughn’s ambitions post-CofC? She has a vision: waking up in a beautiful place of her own, with the sea breeze coming through the open window, walking into her kitchen with black granite counter tops and sitting down at the table to review the lineup for her radio show, review what charity event she’s working on that night, and who she has lined up to coach in public speaking. Whatever it takes to achieve that vision of entrepreneurial, diverse responsibilities—she will find a path. She wants to have her hand in everything in the most professional way. Vaughn says, “communication is so malleable, what you really need is drive.”

Vaughn is looking forward to staying in Charleston after graduation and actively give back to the College as an alumna. She wants to see more minority students come through the Department of Communication because she says, “the family and culture here are like no other.”