Beyond the Yard- Feature Story

Monique Dawkins Shares the ‘Dirty Rules’ for How to Succeed

Image if Monique Hawkins

By Kelvin Childs 

Monique Dawkins (’03 CNAHS) finds Women’s History Month a “phenomenal” commemoration, especially with the successes women have had beyond what has occurred 20, 10 or even five years ago, from famous women such as the late Maya Angelou or Vice President Kamala Harris “who’s reppin’ both Howard but also the country at large.” 

“I think it’s such a powerful moment that we have to take in and appreciate how far we’ve come and to know that we still have further to go,” Dawkins said. 

Dawkins, director of learning and organizational development for Luminis Health, a non-for-profit health system in Maryland, wants to make history by paying it forward, sharing the lessons she’s learned in a 20-year career as a medical administrator and executive coach.  

She’s authored a book, You Know Best: 10 Rules to Elevate Your Leadership Power, that covers four kinds of rules. There are the “unspoken rules” people often aren’t taught about how to succeed. There are the rules of thumb about self-promotion and always being open to every opportunity that comes your way. Also, “I have a whole section dedicated to ‘the dirty rules’ as I call it, which is that, sometimes we think that everything’s going to be rainbows and sunshine. After we go to college, learn some things and have a couple jobs, we don’t anticipate that anything bad is going to happen to us if we do our best. But guess what? Bad things happen.” And the last group of rules is about life balance and self-care. “Everything that we do in our professional career will be there, but we have to sustain ourselves and our well-being,” Dawkins said. 

“Really, the book is about empowerment, encouragement and just really letting people know that even though you’re going to stumble, even though you’re going to have setbacks, even though you’re going to feel judged,” the lesson is that “you can get back up,” she said. 

Dawkins, a native of the Bronx, recalls that she never had a Black teacher from elementary school to high school – not until she came to Howard University. In her junior year of high school, she went on an HBCU campus tour, “and when I got to Howard’s campus, I was just struck. I hadn’t decided before I went to Howard that that was going to be one of the schools that I wanted to go to. But when I went, there was just something about the campus that drew me in.” 

She continued, “I love that it was kind of like this tranquil place up on the hill hidden away. But then, because I’m from the Bronx, I like that you had the urban setting, right down the hill.” After that, she had no interest in any other school. “I felt that Howard was it, and they also had the major that I wanted at the time, so it was like a match made in heaven,” she said. 

Initially, she intended to be a physician’s assistant, but didn’t get her preferred major, so she switched to health management and followed that course professionally. “But after I attained my doctorate from Columbia, I really decided to shift over to the Human Resources side. I wanted to move more from the doer to really being a supporter,” Dawkins said.  

“Early in my career, I used to really be focused on what I can do, how can I excel, but now it’s time for me to really pass the torch or really help to support others. So, how can I take the lessons that I’ve learned and share them? You know, as a coach, how can I support people to really see beyond where they are and where they can be? How can I teach and train and support and help other people?” 

In the end, Dawkins said, “It’s about having somebody else do better in an easier way than I had to.”