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SARAH DERRICK- Communication Studies Dean's Scholar
Sarah Derrick’s Unexpected and Deserved Road to Dean’s Scholar
By Nick Clark
In addition to maintaining a heavy academic workload, this year’s dean’s scholar for communication studies balances friends, family and faith through diligence and an enlightened perspective.
A senior majoring in communication studies, Sarah Derrick is the fourth of five siblings. She is set to graduate this May and moving on to pursue a master’s in the same field at Virginia Tech in the fall. There, she will serve as a graduate teaching assistant for public speaking. Her future aspiration is to get a Ph.D. in communications as well as a master’s in sociology.
Derrick’s road to Radford was unexpected. After plans to attend an out-of-state college fell apart in July 2015, a month before classes began, her twin brother -- someone she considers a hero in her life -- advised her to apply to Radford University. He was also set to attend Radford.
Thanks to her brother’s advice, Derrick personally received a call from the dean of admissions, 12 days prior to the first day of classes, notifying her that she had been accepted. Derrick had a strong desire to attend college but originally intended for Radford to be a temporary holding place.
“I was thinking I was either going to transfer to UVA or Boston College and then I never left. Now I don’t really ever want to leave southwest Virginia,” said Derrick.
Although she admits she wasn’t a great student in high school, Derrick commenced her college career with a double major in biology and psychology with plans of pursuing a career as a psychiatrist.
“That got torn apart when I realized I didn’t love biology,” said Derrick.
Derrick changed her major to communication and has never looked back. She finds herself more drawn to communications due to its capacity for real life application.
“I feel so lucky that I love what I’m doing … The majority of our lives are made up of work and we all are naturally good at something, so why don’t we do something we’re naturally good at?” Derrick asked.
From college-related endeavors alone, Derrick is no stranger to plans changing abruptly. Where some may be discouraged or disconcerted by sudden interruptions, she embraces the potential opportunities.
“I have a plan but I’m also open to plans being ruined because I recognize the good in that. Radford was never my plan and yet it coming into my life put my life on this course I never could have imagined,” said Derrick.
Derrick has learned how to process stress through experience and believes stress is a good thing to an extent. During the times when stress gets overwhelming, instead of allowing it to derail her life, she relies on self-care and her strong support system.
“I do take mental health days when major things happen and it’s just not smart to be in the classroom,” said Derrick. I will take time off to deal with the emotions so that they don’t turn into something that affects my ability to learn or affects my ability to be a friend, cause those are my priorities,” she said.
Derrick credits following Jesus for her ability to clearly prioritize.
“I’m a part of college ministries and that has helped me to always see my priorities as people first, work second,” said Derrick.
Derrick has been heavily involved on campus during her four years, having served in positions such as: Tour guide for the Office of Admissions, Quest Assistant and Peer Instructor through the Office of New Student and Family Programs, staff member for Radford University Outdoor Programs and editor-in-chief for Odyssey.
She’s also completed two independent studies, one examining the rhetorical frames of social movement and the other researching the pedagogical approaches professors take on campus.
She’s presented at two conferences: The 2018 National Communication Association Convention in Salt Lake City and the 2019 Virginia Association of Communication Arts and Sciences conference held at Radford.
When she attended NCA, she received two travel grants, one from the National Communication Association Student Caucus and the other from the Radford University Office of Undergraduate Research.
According to Radford’s website, each year a dean’s scholar who best represents outstanding achievement in his or her discipline is chosen from each CHBS program. Faculty members nominate students based on academic success, commitment to the community and service to their field.
“Getting this award felt humbling because it meant that people saw that what I was doing is valuable and I believe that’s a reflection of the faculty at our school,” said Derrick. “Ultimately, everything I’ve ever accomplished is because of the faculty here. They empower students and that’s what the Dean’s Scholar should embody.”