Randolph-Macon College student Deja Dennis ’19 is committed to seizing opportunities.
The English major and Spanish and journalism minor serves as secretary of the Diversity Council and as copy editor of the Yellow Jacket student newspaper; is a member of the Black Cultural Society, Hispanic Heritage Club and THRIVE, a peer-to-peer program; and she is a regular contributor to The Stylus, a journal of creative writing produced by the English department.
A Writer at Heart
In 2018, an essay that Dennis wrote was published in The Coil, an online magazine. Submitting essays was part of an assignment in Feature Writing, a course taught by English Professor Seth Clabough ’98, executive director of the Higgins Academic Center and director of the Communication Center. Dennis’ essay featured an interview with History Professor Michael Fischbach.
“Professor Fischbach’s classes and office are some of the most open-minded spaces I’ve ever been in,” says Dennis. “Being around him reignited in me a passion to learn just for learning’s sake.” Having her work published was the culmination of a three-month editing process. “Professor Clabough’s class inspired me to choose journalism as a minor. For years I’d immerse myself in feature articles and longform writing without really knowing what it was, so being formally introduced to it via his class was a major ‘a-ha moment’ for me.”
Beyond the Classroom
Throughout her college career, Dennis, the recipient of the Edward A. Wyatt scholarship, has sought out beyond-the-classroom opportunities. She is an intern in the Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs; participated in Boot Camp, a two-day program sponsored by the EDGE career preparation program; and did an internship at Middle Grades Partnership, an enrichment program for Baltimore students, where she served as a creative writing/journalism teacher. The internship helped shape her decision to pursue a master’s degree in public policy.
Dennis was accepted to three graduate schools—an experience that “opened my eyes to the fact that I can get my foot in any door, no matter how daunting, with hard work and a lot of prayer.” This fall she will pursue a master’s degree at Rutgers University’s Bloustein School.
“It’s a small school within an enormous university, meaning I’ll be able to have direct access to my professors and take advantage of big-school perks,” explains Dennis. “Rutgers offers brilliant faculty, a strong curriculum and the opportunity for research.” She is also considering taking coursework in public health. “Cycles of trauma, undetected mental illnesses, and the criminalization of addiction are all issues I hope to deepen my understanding of in order to better serve the community,” she says.
Yellow Jacket Pride
“My professors are invested in my growth as a student, which is more powerful than words can describe,” says Dennis. “They are passionate, accessible and kind.” She is also inspired by peers whose determination resulted in new initiatives—including the Black Cultural Society and Men with a Purpose. “Yellow Jacket pride means recognizing the ways your own experience is falling short and working to make sure it’s smoother for future students,” she says.