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A “Choice” Deferred: Faune Watkins, C’2023, Takes A Star-studded Journey to Commencement

June 2023


Faune Watkins In 1994, Spelman alumna Faune Watkins, C’2023, made the choice to change the world upon acceptance to Spelman College. She would have the typical Spelman experience as a first-year student and sophomore, but, in the spring of 1997, a major opportunity changed the course of her life and education.  

“I was a junior at Spelman when I got a phone call to go on tour with Michael Jackson,” said Watkins. “So, at that moment it was the question of, ‘Do I go and pursue this incredible once in a lifetime opportunity? Or do I stay and finish school?’” 

Her decision? She chose the HIStory tour with the legendary Michael Jackson.  

Watkins’ passion and devotion lies within the performing and creative arts. The Atlanta native grew up dancing and started her professional career at the age of 16. During her time at Spelman, she danced for the Atlanta Hawks basketball team and, after touring with Michael Jackson, danced with Janet Jackson and appeared in Destiny Child’s “Say My Name” music video. Later, as an actress, Watkins appeared in such films as “White Chicks,” “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” and “Epic Movie,” to name a few. She also became a writer and producer. 

Despite her success in Hollywood, Watkins said there was never a question of if she would one day return to Spelman, but when. When the coronavirus pandemic caused a global shutdown in 2020, she took that as her cue to finish the academic dance she started in 1994. 

“It was always a goal to achieve. I come from a long line of educators and a legacy of college graduates in my family,” she said proudly. “I wanted to continue that legacy.” 

In addition to her two children, legacy is what has kept Watkins motivated. “I did some research on the correlation between legacy and history, and it’s so important to understand and know what's come before you for innovation to take place. You must understand what foundation you’re building upon to innovate.”  

The College’s legacy and continuous advocacy for women are among the many reasons Watkins felt confident to withdraw in 1997 and return 25 years later. When asked about her first experience touring, she credits Spelman for her success.  

“Traveling is an education, and I was blessed enough to be able to experience the arts, the industry and business with a front-row seat — literally. I may have put down the books, but I didn’t stop learning. My education took on an experiential format,” she explained. 

“Even in dance, specifically at Spelman, there’s an anthropological lens. Traveling the world and being able to experience the food, culture and traditions, then take that information and love into the passion I have for dance and for the arts, creates such a cohesive and beautiful environment for creativity and fosters excellence.” 

Returning with a lifetime of lessons and experiences under her belt, Watkins returned to Spelman in 2021 and enrolled in the Pauline E. Drake Scholars program, which provides adult learners with the opportunity to re-enroll in college or begin their studies for the first time with the goal of earning a bachelor’s degree. She studied dance performance and choreography with online and hybrid on-campus courses. 

“I was like the auntie in the room,” she exclaimed. “I think the difference for me is having those lived experiences that I came back to school with. I definitely had an appreciation for the moment and my time in the classes. I felt more confident in answering questions or asking questions and sharing my ideas.” 

“I had to adjust to the workload, but I really enjoyed the experience. I felt embraced, celebrated, welcomed, supported, and encouraged to complete my degree as a PED Scholar,” she said.  

Watkins completed her coursework in two years and graduated this spring with the class of 2023.“I’m so grateful. My mom said that my smile was just beaming. Watching my husband and children cheering and screaming — it was beautiful,” she said. “Moving that tassel over to the other side was a very special moment that fills my heart with joy and pride.” 

With her new degree in tow, Watkins’ post-graduation plans include travel and developing more projects that fuse her passions for music, dance and producing.  

When asked what she would tell her younger self, she said, “Pursuing your degree will open doors of opportunity that will take you into a life beyond your wildest dreams. That is what happened to me.” 

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