Elicia Pegues Spearman has always been up for a challenge — and compelled to help the next person.
Since she was a little girl growing up in Hamden, less than a mile from Quinnipiac’s Mount Carmel Campus, she never settled for the status quo. Instead, she always pushed herself to achieve more while holding the door for those who came after her.
But just as she was set to begin her role as vice president of human resources and general counsel at Quinnipiac in April 2020, the global pandemic slammed many doors for people throughout the world.
But Spearman rose to the challenge as she did countless times before by diligently working to ensure the members of the Quinnipiac community felt secure and supported with all the resources they needed.
“Both in law and HR, you are generally reactive, but the best part of my dual role is that I so often get to be proactive,” said Spearman, who was recognized as one of Savoy Magazine’s Most Influential Black Lawyers. “When I see certain problems, I am able to implement policies and procedures to prevent them from coming up again.”
It’s all part of learning to be a better person and creating more opportunities for those around her, she said.
“I believe in being a lifelong learner no matter what position you are in,” she said. “I believe in building partnerships and relationships to help people succeed.”
It’s why she was drawn to working in higher education, with the prospect of mentoring the generations that followed her using the tools and resources needed to succeed, and the knowledge she gained through her hard work and perseverance.
Spearman has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to creating an environment where employees are excited to see members of the HR and general counsel teams, which is not always the case for her colleagues at other companies and universities.
“I strive to help members of our university community — all faculty, staff and students — to reach the next level,” she said. “Working together creates a better environment for everyone.”
Change is constant, she said — but it’s also something everyone must overcome. She has created a reputation as an agent of positive change and a resource for navigating uncharted waters.
“You have to communicate why — the vision and how you are going to get there,” Spearman said. “You have to be agile to tweak your plan as you need to. You need to have strategic vision, and to shoot for the stars. Who wants to shoot for the trees? Shoot for the stars and have a plan and a process for strategic growth.”
Noting that she started her journey at Quinnipiac from home with her computer mailed to her, she worked with her team to develop innovative techniques to make the university community feel connected and valued despite the physical distance — such as virtual cultural and heritage celebrations, flexible Fridays, and opportunities for members of the university community to get to know each other.
It all went back to her roots. Years earlier, when she was a young girl growing up steps from the university she now helps lead, Spearman was the captain of both her track team and cheerleading squad. There, she laid the groundwork for a commitment to going the distance to support those around her — a reputation she is celebrated for today.
“You have to acknowledge people’s worth, acknowledge people’s fears — while acknowledging your own fears,” she said. “I definitely believe in the old adage that nothing beats a failure but a try. If you don’t try, after all, you will fail.”
For her lifetime of work, she was awarded the prestigious Savoy Magazine’s 2019 Most Influential Women in Corporate America; and this year she is featured in their Law and Social Justice 2022 Edition as one of the Most Influential Black Lawyers.
“I know many of the wonderful people who are being honored,” she said. “To be honored among these incredible men and women is really humbling and a great feeling.”
She attributes her success at Quinnipiac to President Judy Olian’s unwavering support and desire to hear and understand different perspectives.
“She allowed me to be my true self,” she said. “My diversity of thought and opinion is valued and welcomed. We may not always agree, but she’s always open to hear my perspective.”
Spearman continues to nurture and help provide opportunities to young people — both at Quinnipiac as well as through the various community service and church organizations she dedicates her time to supporting.
“I tell them to dream big and not be afraid to reach out and ask someone for help,” Spearman said. “Don’t give up. Have a plan. Work your plan. Most people are willing to help. All you have to do is ask.”
She said helping others often starts with a smile and a warm gesture.
“People often underestimate the power of an encouraging word,” she said. “Someone can have self-doubt, but an encouraging word can really help that person to excel and thrive.”https://www.qu.edu/eliciaunleashed/