HOUGHTON, Mich. (WJMN) – “Actually getting out of Detroit, and seeing something different really transformed my life,” said Darnishia Slade Morris, Pavilis Educator/Manager of Global Engagement Programs at Michigan Technological University.
Darnishia was born and raised by her mother and grandmother on the northwest side of Detroit.
“They always believed that there were no limits for me, and so I never had a narrative of ‘ You can’t do that’ or ‘That’s impossible for you’.”
By the time applying to colleges came around, Michigan Tech was never Darnishia’s original plan. But when a Michigan Tech recruiter came to Darnishia’s high school, that was when her plans changed.
“It was when I came to the campus to visit that really sold me. I applied to Michigan Tech just because the application was free, to be quite honest, and didn’t know that this would become a special place and a home for me.”
Darnishia began attending Michigan Tech in the mid-1990s. Moving from Detroit to a rural, predominately white area in the Upper Peninsula was a huge cultural change for her.
“It was honestly people at the campus who helped and aided me and been able to get through it, not only from an academic standpoint but the culture, the weather, the everything. Everything was new and different. I vividly remember, it had to have been my first semester on campus, and walking through campus and people are like ‘Hi!’ ‘Hello!’ and I’m like ‘What they want from me? They must want something from me?’ Because it was just culturally so different for me. And I’ve become that person, I walk through campus and say hello to everyone. It was an adjustment, mentally I was ready and I knew where I was coming and so that helped.”
During her time as an undergraduate student, she belonged to a plethora of organizations such as the Society of Intellectual Sisters and the Black Student Association.
“I had an amazing community of other students, black students, and student organizations that really helped support [me]. We supported one another to do well academically and otherwise. “
While overall her experience as a student at Michigan Tech was positive, she did encounter some uncomfortable situations as a woman of color.
“There have been moments and sometimes surprising, sometimes disappointing, sometimes scary, and so I think that’s a part of the experience. It doesn’t justify how people respond but often I think the experiences that I had were based on ignorance, and other times it was just blatant, that’s what it was. And that’s where the people on campus, the support system, and fellow students really, really made the difference for me.”
Darnishia graduated from Michigan Tech in 1998 with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and a certificate in International Business. She returned to Michigan Tech in 2005 as regional admissions manager in southeast Michigan. And has since moved back to the Houghton area as a Pavilis Educator and Manager of Global Engagement Programs.
“I think it’s important to be at a place and in a place in the U.P. or at Michigan Tech where it’s predominately white. And for students who look like me or have experiences like me, to see me and know that they can also get through the experience here as well. That’s very, very important to me. That’s actually what called me back to the Upper Peninsula.”
Darnishia encourages other people of color to apply to Michigan Tech if they’re interested in attending the university.
“For me, coming from all-black neighborhoods and culturally diverse communities, I can imagine that I can imagine it can be very, very difficult for someone to transition to a place like Michigan Tech. I think generally speaking the safety is there. But you’re always aware.
“For me, I’m always aware of when I’m walking into a meeting that I’m the only person of color, sometimes the only woman depending on the meeting, and I’m always present to that. Just being mentally and emotionally ready to manage that is one thing I would recommend. And another thing that I will always say is to find your allies, find the people on the campus or in the community that will help you with the transition.”
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