YWCA Women of Distinction Erica Daniels inspires others with motto of excellence
Erica Daniels is a YWCA Rock County Women of Distinction for her professional accomplishments and service to her community and church.
Erica Daniels likes to get comfortable in her career roles, but that’s not what landed her the job of Beloit College’s chief of staff and secretary of the college.
In the last two decades of Daniels’s career, there have been some amazing opportunities, some that Daniels never even recognized herself. She built her career first as an administrative assistant under her mentor, then at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, and finally in a top position on a campus she now calls home.
“These are the roles that polished me and made me into the professional that I am today,” Daniels says, reflecting on her professional journey.
Today as a Beloit College senior leader, Daniels is the president’s chief of staff and secretary of the Board of Trustees and serves on the search committee for Beloit College’s 12th president. She also guided the college through the pandemic, chairing the COVID Task Force.
YWCA Rock County’s 2023 Women of Distinction for her professional achievements, and church and community service. Beloit College colleague and Help Yourself Program Director Regina Hendrix says her lifelong friend energizes others. On May 10, Daniels will be honored as
“When Erica walks into a room, her aura exudes Women of Distinction,” Hendrix says. “Young people and elders are drawn to her spirit. Erica makes you want to do better and be better, inspiring those around her.”
A Beloiter through and through
Daniels first stepped on campus as a teen looking to build a future with the Help Yourself Program, inspired by campus senior staff Betty Tardola, Fred Buggs, and Tasha Montgomery, but never saw herself at Beloit College.
Instead, Daniels headed to Clark Atlanta University but eventually returned to her hometown and started work for community leader Regina Prude. It wasn’t long before Prude told the then-21-year-old Daniels to move on.
“She saw such potential in me, more than I saw in myself, and told me I needed to leave the nest,” Daniels remembers her very first mentor.
Years later, the next push came from University of Wisconsin-Whitewater employee Dr. Roger L Pulliam, which landed her 10-year career at Wisconsin’s largest higher education system.
Daniels often thinks back about how she didn’t always see opportunities in front of her.
“I attribute this all to a higher being, and others seeing things in me that I did not necessarily see in myself,” she says.
Daniels thought back to her first interview, waiting outside the President’s Office, and saw a painting of a crowd of white people standing in a bus station; the only Black person was a janitor. It made her uncomfortable, feeling that perhaps Beloit College wasn’t the right place for her.
She called her husband, confident of a job offer, but she didn’t know if she would accept it.
Her husband, Dr. Shedrick Daniels said, “Erica, God is only going to offer you so many opportunities before those opportunities stop. When he offers something, and you say no, another one may not come along.”
Daniels decided to take the executive administrative assistant to the Provost and Dean of the College position in 2012 and delved into learning the job. She felt supported by staff and faculty, including the late professor Dr. Debra Majeed.
“I took the position by the horns and ran with it,” Daniels remembers.
Four years later, Daniels took on the role of executive administrative assistant in the President’s Office. When the chief of staff position opened up, she dutifully began to search for someone to take on the role.
When President Scott Bierman said he had someone in mind and pointed to Daniels, she looked behind her, perplexed. But Bierman was convinced.
“Erica was exactly the right person for this most important position,” Bierman says. “Her knowledge of the college, understanding of the President’s Office, and relationships with so many people within the Beloit community — both college and city — were unparalleled. But most compelling were her traits of great judgment, unquestionable integrity, sharp intellect, and kindness. My only concern was if she would accept the offer.”
It took time for the offer to sink in for Daniels.
“It was a humbling experience for me because I had never once considered myself in that role,” Daniels says, not realizing she was being prepared for the role all along.
She also didn’t expect to be the first Black woman as chief of staff of the college.
“I would not give myself the trailblazer title, but I understand what it means to be the first in this position, and that means a lot to me and those watching me,” Daniels says.
She’s had challenges but overcame them. The painting that caused her to rethink her decision about joining the college had come down and she’s seen a lot of positive momentum in creating equity at the college. She’s part of the college’s Anti-Racism Liaison Team and helped form the Becoming Better plan, the college’s roadmap to equity and anti-racism.
“I hope that I build this position, so the next person who comes in after me can go further than I have,” says Daniels, who is the guest speaker at this year’s Black Excellence Commencement at the college.
Beloit College is home
Daniels’s husband keeps motivating her to achieve the best, as do her four children, Christian, Madison, Morgan, and Chloe.
“My family plays a huge role in my life,” Daniels says. “Sometimes I don’t know how I find the time. I have this big job at the college, and another big job with my family, so it is definitely a balancing act to keep everything on track.”
As a Beloit Memorial High School grad and former Miss Beloit 2002, Daniels calls Beloit her hometown. She is a dedicated member of the Emmanuel Baptist Church serving as a deaconess, choir member, and youth ministry co-director. She’s also on the Greater Beloit Economic Development Corporation Board of Directors and a former Visit Beloit board member.
When Daniels learned she was named one of the YWCA Rock County Women of Distinction, she was shocked and humbled, especially because she was nominated by her best friend since kindergarten, Regina Hendrix.
The honor reflects Daniels’ life philosophy.
“Everything that I put forward has to come from a place of excellence,” Daniels says. “If I would not give what I am putting out to my family and those who are closest to me, I can’t in good faith give that out to others.”
Her motto is to “own what you don’t know” as she strives to learn something new each day.
“Don’t limit yourself. Don’t put yourself in a box. I’ve been guilty of that a couple of times by saying I am ‘only the’,” Daniels says. “Take your position seriously, go above and beyond, and be the best in whatever your job is, because you never know who is watching and whose life you are impacting.”
When Daniels hears that people don’t know about Beloit College, she invites them to check it out.
“We have amazing faculty and staff, unique students who are doing amazing things on campus,” Daniels says. “Beloit College is a very special place, and whatever I can do to champion the college, I’m going to continue to do that.”