Growing up in Queens, N.Y., was not always easy for Kayla Boyd ’20.
“It was tough. I’m biracial—my dad is half white, and my mom is black—so I always looked a little different. I used to straighten my hair a lot, so the kids in my school would call me white girl and things like that. I knew that the people around me were going to keep me down otherwise,” Boyd said.
To get a fresh start, she enrolled in an arts high school in Manhattan. “That changed my life completely. I got exposed to Broadway musicals. I never knew I would love ‘Chicago’ the musical so much and ‘Hello Dolly.’ I never knew that I would start to fall in love with Mozart, Beethoven and singing songs in Spanish and African languages. I even got to sing at Carnegie Hall a couple of times, and we went to the United Nations and performed John Lennon’s song, ‘Imagine,’” she said.
Boyd found that same supportive community when arrived at SUNY Potsdam her first year. “I love the fact that there are a lot of resources at SUNY Potsdam that I feel like I wouldn’t have gotten if I had stayed in New York City," she said.
"This campus is very inclusive. Everybody knows each other. Potsdam is small, it’s a family.”
Boyd is now in her senior year at SUNY Potsdam, completing a double major in business administration and creative writing. She has continued to take on leadership roles on campus where she has helped to plan SUNY Potsdam’s annual Multicultural Weekend. She also oversees the Black Student Alliance, a student-run organization that creates a supportive community for students of color on campus. As president, she helped to establish the first Black Solidarity Day at the College. In December, the group hosted the annual Kwanzaa Ball and now she’s gearing up for the BSA Fashion Show, an event which will feature even more modeling this year under a new partnership with several fashion designers.
She’s also taken on a leadership role as the instructor for her own fitness class, Kayla’s Bootcamp. In the midst of one of her high-intensity workouts with her friends at the Maxcy Hall Fitness Center, a lightbulb went off. “One of my friends she said, ‘Oh my God, Kayla, you’re killing this. This is really Kayla’s boot camp!’ I started laughing and I was like, ‘Wow, that’s it! That’s what I should do, a boot camp,” Boyd recalls.
Before she knew it, she had been hired to lead a new high-intensity interval training (HITT) workout through the Potsdam intramurals program. “My boot camp is really to promote a healthier lifestyle and to have fun with it. It’s all about group work, because I know that a lot of people are uncomfortable working out by themselves," she said. “We do workouts over small periods of time and we have an even shorter time to rest. In that time, your metabolic rate is increasing, and so when you leave the workout, you’re still burning calories.”
Her entrepreneurial efforts on campus have been the perfect extension of her work in the Department of Business Administration. After taking introductory business classes her sophomore year, she enrolled in an upper-division finance class with Dr. Joe Timmerman and an entrepreneurship class with Dr. Edwin Portugal. “Those two men are very influential to me. Not only because of how they teach, but also how they speak to me and the advice they give me about the real world,” she said.
The first time she met Portugal, she walked into his class expecting to sit down and take lecture notes, but her experience was far from that. “I’ve never met a professor like Dr. Portugal,” Boyd said. “He’s very hands-on. As soon as I came to class, he separated us into groups, and we started doing very interactive hands-on projects. I loved it!”
“The different events and activities that SUNY Potsdam offers are phenomenal! There’s always something to do, every single day.”
During a competition in her entrepreneurship class, she led her team to a first-place win. She was also a team leader during the 54th Strategic Entrepreneurship Business Plan Competition in the fall of 2019. “I am very proud of Kayla, who has proven her top-notch leadership skills and innovative entrepreneurial skills as a student in my applied entrepreneurship course and in the strategic and global management course,” Portugal said.
She has also been working as a marketing intern for SUNY Potsdam’s bookstore, tackling additional out-of-the-classroom applied learning projects. “That’s given me more experience. We look at the analytics for the bookstore and based on that, we are trying to revamp the bookstore website and get more traction on it,” she said.
On top of that, Boyd is working on a second degree in creative writing, a path that has allowed her to embrace her creatively. “I love poetry. I’ve been writing since I was about eight years old,” she said.
She has taken everything from fiction and poetry workshops, to literary research and analysis with Dr. Christine Doran. “She’s phenomenal! She made me appreciate literature even more. I fell in love with Shakespeare while reading plays like ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream.’ I fell in love with Elizabeth Barrett Browning and a lot of different writers, simply from being exposed to them,” she said.
As she wraps up her senior year, Boyd is looking to her future and hopes to pursue a career as a financial planner or credit analyst. She also has aspirations to start a natural hair care business and an afterschool writing program.
For more information about the Department of Business Administration, visit: https://www.potsdam.edu/academics/SOEPS/BusinessAdmin
For more information about the Department of English & Communication, visit: https://www.potsdam.edu/academics/AAS/depts/engl
Article and photos by Jason Hunter