Like many students, Deyara Tabu Morris ’16 hit a few bumps during the transition from her hometown of Baltimore, Maryland, to life at Syracuse University. “I was always a very independent person, but, at Syracuse, I no longer have had the safety net of family,” she says. “One of the most challenging things was learning to stand on my own two feet.”
As graduation approaches, though, she’s sad to be leaving the place she’s come to consider home. “I am so glad that I came to Syracuse,” says Morris, an A&S student who is graduating magna cum laude with a double major in mathematics and art, along with a minor in African American Studies. “I've met people who have changed my life for the better, and I have grown into a person I can be proud of,” she adds.
After graduation, Morris is returning to Baltimore to teach secondary mathematics (grades 7 to 12) through Teach for America. As part of the two-year program, she will also pursue a master’s degree in secondary education at Johns Hopkins University.
Since high school, Morris has kept busy with a full schedule of classes and activities. That’s unlikely to change with a challenging post-college plan already in place. Here’s what she says about her time at Syracuse University.
Tell us a little bit about life before Syracuse University.
I was very busy in high school. I was in as many clubs and organizations that would allow me in, including the Varsity Cheerleading Team. Every summer, I volunteered at Towson University’s Summer Art Camp at the Community Art Center. That’s where I decided that I wanted to work with children.
I was also a diligent student who worked very hard to get to college. I knew that getting an education was the most important thing for me to accomplish to help my mother [Tabu Winslow Morris, who resides in Houston, Texas] and me improve our lives.
Why did you choose Syracuse University?
I really wanted a university where I could be a mathematics major while also being able to pursue my passion in art. Syracuse offered the freedom to do so. SU also offered me a good financial aid package that made it possible for me to attend.
What’s your favorite thing about attending Syracuse University?
The Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA). It’s really my home away from home. Every single person who works in that office has looked out for me, as if I was family. They've helped me transition into the university, and have stayed by my side during the rough times. I will miss OMA and its staff the most.
Is there a member of the faculty that has had a significant influence on your academic trajectory?
Marissa Willingham, of OMA, and Joan Bryant, associate professor and interim chair of the African American Studies Department, have both been there for me since the first day they met me. Professor Bryant is always looking out for opportunities I would be interested in and takes the time to hear me out and keep me on track academically. Since Marissa was assigned my staff mentor through the fullCIRCLE Mentoring Program my sophomore year, she has been my rock. She has pushed me to keep going when I wanted to give up, and she has always encouraged me to reach my full potential.
What’s the best way to spend free time as a SU student?
Truth be told, I don’t have much free time. Between work, classes, and various organizations, I do not have that much down-time. However, on the rare occasions I do have some time, I like to get some extra sleep or catch up on all the shows I've missed out on during the week, or maybe attend an event thrown by OMA or one of the fraternities.
In what extracurricular activities are you currently participating?
I’m a peer mentor to incoming freshmen in the fullCIRCLE Mentoring Program, and I serve on the College of Arts and Sciences’ Dean’s Team.
Are you involved in any research projects or volunteer work?
I am interning at Southwest Community Center as the group leader of Intelligent Young Minds (IYM), an after-school group for children ages 11 to 13. During the summer, I was camp coordinator for the center’s six-week program.
How is Syracuse University helping you to achieve your goals and aspirations?
One way SU helps me achieve my goals and aspirations is by having so many academic opportunities available. The College of Arts and Sciences has allowed me to spread my wings and explore all of the parts of myself without trying to pigeonhole me.
What are some of the activities you like doing around Central New York that aren’t Syracuse University-affiliated?
I like to attend shows put on by The Redhouse. I recently saw Dreamgirls, and it was spectacular. I also like going to Destiny USA because it literally has anything you would ever want or need to do in one place.
Where is your favorite place to study or do homework on campus?
Other than my room, my favorite spot is Carnegie Library. As a mathematics major, I spend a lot of time in that library already, so it is a good place to get homework done between classes. It is also very quiet; people seem to overlook it and go to Bird Library instead.