First Black Miss Auburn reflects on Auburn experience

By Virginia Speirs

Published: Feb 26, 2021 11:02:00 AM

“Feel the fear, and do it anyway.”

This is a motto that Vania Bynum, ’94 computer engineering graduate and the first Black Miss Auburn, lives by.

After transferring to Auburn from Xavier University in New Orleans during her undergraduate career, there were many adjustments Bynum had to make, she said. Her father had always wanted her to come to Auburn, and she honored his wish.

“There are two main memories that stood out [to me] from my time at Auburn,” Bynum said. “The first, I’ll say, was befriending Dr. Nick Conrad … he was there for me when I came to Auburn as a transfer student ... and when my father passed away, not long after I became Miss Auburn, he was also there. The other would be becoming Miss Auburn. Being the first Black Miss Auburn was an amazing experience and it was very humbling to contribute to society in that way.”

Bynum was nominated for Miss Auburn by the National Society of Black Engineers. At the time of her nomination, she was very focused on her engineering studies, so she prayed that if it was something she was supposed to do, it would happen. She became the first Black Miss Auburn in 1993, 57 years after the establishment of the program.

Bynum said that becoming Miss Auburn helped her connect with many organizations and communities across the campus that she might not have interacted with otherwise. She believes that one of the beauties of being the first Black Miss Auburn was that she was able to unite Auburn in a way it had not been united before.

“I was able to really connect with not only Black students, but with students throughout the campus, students of all races and backgrounds,” Bynum said. “...I think when I ran for Miss Auburn, one of the main focuses for us was to reach out to organizations that others may not reach out to… the beauty of my diversity was to come and unite.”

After returning to Auburn in 2017 for a Miss Auburn reunion, Bynum said she was filled with emotion and was impressed with the camaraderie that every Miss Auburn shared, despite the fact that she had not returned to Auburn in many years.

“For me, when I came back [for the Miss Auburn reunion], the biggest thing that stood out to me were the changes,” Bynum said. “It was beautiful just to be back there and to be reminded of the role Auburn played in my life.”

Media Contact: Chris Anthony, chris.anthony@auburn.edu, 334.844.3447

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