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Like any high school student, Derrick Carter ’15, ’12 had a dream of what his life was going to look like after graduation. “I never thought I was the smartest kid growing up, so basketball and band were going to be my way in to college,” he recalls. “I certainly never envisioned myself getting a master’s degree.” His music and basketball dreams were dashed when scholarships didn’t materialize. Reality truly set in when Carter realized that his parents couldn’t afford to pay for him to go to college.
“I went to a two-year technical school right after graduating high school in 1998 so I could jump right in,” Carter says. “I finished my program in computer information systems, but as I sat there at graduation, I couldn’t help but think, ‘This isn’t it for me.’ ”
Carter spent a few years working full time, but the urge to learn wouldn’t subside. “I just said, ‘I’ve got to go back to school. I want to go back to school,’” he explains. Knowing that he couldn’t sacrifice his full-time job—or his role as a husband and father—it seemed like a perfect fit when Walden kept popping up in his searches for educational opportunities.
After researching the university, Carter spoke with a representative and was highly impressed. “He cared about me as a person,” he says. “I wasn’t just a student or a number in a system to him. I got a really warm feeling about Walden from that moment on.”
Just a few weeks after completing his BS in Business Administration, Carter jumped right back in to get his Master of Business Administration (MBA). It’s no surprise that after walking at commencement this January, Carter re-enrolled at Walden in February to complete his journey by earning his PhD in Management. “I don’t have time to waste,” he says.
Carter, project director for the African-American Male Initiative program at Valdosta State University and a first-generation college graduate, just can’t seem to stay away from Walden and the nurturing environment he’s found here. “I can actually go to Valdosta for free. You get that benefit after 6 months, and I’ve been here for 8 years,” he says. “But Walden helped me get to the level I’m at now; I would not trade Walden for any other university.”
And Carter is spreading the Walden love to family and friends—including his brothers, sisters-in-law, and his kids, ages 7 and 2. “The connection that I have with Walden is just beyond words,” he says. “I talk to my son all the time about it. I let him know that I’m building a legacy for him and his sister. He and his sister have ‘Future Walden Graduate’ T-shirts from commencement. He knows that college isn’t an option; it’s a requirement.”
Derrick Carter Photo credit: Corey Reese