Challenges overcome, Kolbe Cathedral grad to receive Fairfield University degree on Sunday


When Kolbe Cathedral alumna Desirae Brown steps forward to receive her bachelor's degree at Fairfield University's commencement on Sunday, it will be the culmination of four years that have brought challenges beyond what most other college students experience.

When Desirae entered Fairfield in 2003, she had successfully completed the Project Excel program, one of three federally funded programs in which she studied that help first generation and economically disadvantaged students to succeed in college. What she wasn't prepared for was the sudden death of her cousin from a heart attack. Her cousin was the mother of five young daughters that Desirae was close with, including one who was just two years younger than her. It was a terrible loss that made it difficult to keep her mind on her studies.

Sophomore year she tried to get back on track. She had moved in with her grandmother in an attempt to make her life more stable and over the summer was active on campus with the orientation program. She also became active in the Freshman Year Experience and served as a tour guide and on the board of the Fairfield University Student Association.

She began junior year as a resident assistant, but then there was another crisis at home as her great uncle, with whom she was close, lost his life to prostate cancer. Then Desirae contracted pneumonia and bronchitis. "I thought about withdrawing from school," she says, "but some teachers helped me through." Dr. David Sapp, associate professor of English, was her advisor and kept her from over-extending herself, she said. Dr. Barbara Amodio in philosophy would reinforce principles that were taught in the classroom, reassuring Desirae that she was not early or late, but on a time line that was right for her.

Still, her GPA had slipped terribly and she knew she needed to concentrate on taking care of herself. She enrolled in summer classes just in time to intercept what in effect would have been an automatic withdrawal. Her summer grades gave her a reprieve and she came back for her senior year. Working 40 hours a week at the Quick Center for the Arts and the Fairfield YMCA and battling mono, she was still able to complete her senior year with a 3.3 GPA for the last semester. On Sunday she will graduate with a major in English professional writing and a minor in business management.

The challenges that have beset her four years of college have not deterred her. Desirae, will be moving to New Jersey and plans to study for a second bachelor's degree in Spanish and study for her LSATs. Her goal after that? She wants to work and study for a JD/MBA at Rutgers University.

Bookmark and Share

Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, nhabetz@fairfield.edu

Posted on May 17, 2007

Vol. 39, No. 232