Of Indiana State, that is! Derek Griffin, ’20, went from thinking he wasn’t college material to aspiring to lead the university some day.
Derek Griffin’s dreams to play college football were shattered along with his femur during the second game of his junior year in high school. Luckily, the New Albany native had a good friend who pointed him to Indiana State to develop a new game plan.
“I put in my application at Indiana State, and when got the acceptance letter in the mail I had to shut it and reopen it to make sure they had the right address,” he said. “I was excited because I knew that one of my mother’s six children would get to go to college. Now that I’m here, it’s been amazing to be a Sycamore.”
It’s a gift that Griffin, now a junior at State, hasn’t taken for granted. Since he arrived on campus, he immediately found people ready to help him navigate college life, starting with selecting a major.
“When I came to orientation and sat in front of my advisor to set up classes, she asked me what I wanted to major in. I didn’t even think I would come to college for a while in high school, so I really didn’t know and ended up telling her aviation management because I’d Googled it and found that it was one of the top paying careers,” he said. “I went through four major changes since I came here, but I chose criminology at the end of my sophomore year because it seemed like an interesting field to go in to. I love helping people and I like to be the person who lets people in need know that they mean something.”
Griffin shows his thanks by being active on campus. He is a resident assistant over the Integr8 Living-Learning Community program in Jones Hall, a housing tour guide in the Office of Admissions and is working on becoming a desk worker at the Career Center. He also serves as a committee chair of recreation and adventure for Union Board and last summer served as a student leader on the Welcome Team.
“That experience had a huge impact on me because I used to not like talking in front of large crowds of people. Being on the Welcome Team helped me get out of my comfort zone,” he said. “I came from a low-income area and I really didn’t not have much. At Indiana State, I’ve been given all these opportunities.
“My way of thanking the university is by trying to be a strong advocate for the school, because I’ve been given the opportunity to become a better person, be challenged and take on leadership positions and spread the work about Indiana State. I just love supporting all organizations on campus and all Indiana State-related organizations on social media and information to my residents to let them know how to get involved and stay connected with campus.”
Griffin has even encouraged his younger brother to look toward “the Bluer things in life.”
“My brother doesn’t think he’s not college material, but I tell him college is as easy or hard as you make it. You can come here and have a good time by staying involved and getting your work done,” Griffin said. “I tell him about all of the resources Indiana State has to help you succeed — Math and Writing Center, math lab in Root Hall, tutoring services in Normal Hall and other study groups to keep students on their academic game.
“Coming in my freshman year, I worried about doing well in college classes, but I would go to the math lab in between and after classes and on weekends when I needed help. My freshman year English teacher, Samantha Jones, helped me learn how to write APA style and enjoy English because she understood that not everyone learns the same way and she took the time to sit down with me.”
After all of the leadership roles he’s taken on at Indiana State, Griffin is inspired to pursue a career in student affairs and continue his college career beyond four years.
“I didn’t think I was worthy of college coming in my freshman year, but now I hope to stay in school for two years beyond my undergrad, go to grad school and become president of Indiana State University someday,” he said. “I’ve been told to dream big, and that’s a big dream. I do want to get my master’s and Ph.D. somewhere else and come back here so I can use what I learned to help Indiana State grow into something even better.”