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Professor Williams encourages students to take charge of destiny

Published on April 16, 2021

Professor Williams encourages students to take charge of destiny

Professor DeRon Williams.
Professor DeRon Williams.

On April 14, DeRon Williams, professor of theatre at Eastern Connecticut State University, offered students advice on how to overcome obstacles while sharing some of his personal experiences. Williams began his presentation, “Overcoming Life’s Happening: Being Patient and Taking Charge of Your Destiny,by sharing his educational background and sharing the poem “Mother to Son” by Langston Hughes 

“It really sums up some of the things you’re going to face in life," said Williams of the poem. "We must learn how to roll with the punches as they come because it will never stop. 

Williams shared his own obstacles beginning in elementary school. Because he moved from Florida to Georgia in the middle of the school year, he had to repeat the first grade despite being a star student. “Of course, I cried because my friends are moving forward, and I’m left behind. I felt like a failure,” said Williams. “Then I pressed forward through that. In some ways it was the best thing that happened to me; I turned this bad and horrible situation into something positive.” 

Progressing to high school, Williams was again a star student. In his senior year while filling out college applications, he was told by his guidance counselor that he was “not ready” and “you’re not going to succeed.” Williams was an A and B honors student and had all the skills to succeed in college. “Despite his advisement, I knew what I was capable of. So, I pressed forward and did not allow someone else to dictate what’s best for me,” said Williams.  

One thing that came true was, in some ways I wasn’t ready to go to a four-year institution,” said Williams when describing his transition to a new environment and way of living. “Not because I was incapable of doing the work, not because I wasn’t intelligent enough. It was because I didn’t know how to organize my day-to-day activities in this newfound freedom.”  

In his first semester of college, Williams failed two classes, which resulted in losing his scholarship. “High school was very structured. Then you go to college where there’s a whole bunch of freedom and you’re the only one who is in control,” said Williams. Not having the finances to fund his education turned out to be another obstacle in his educational life.  

By maintaining his mantra “push forward,” after his sophomore year Williams earned a spot on the dean’s list every semester. After learning his lesson of the repercussions that come with skipping class and not paying attention, he completely restructured his college life. 

Slides from Williams' presentation.

Slides from Williams' presentation.


After his four years were coming to an end, as a speech and theatre major with a focus in directing, Williams applied to three directing programs and was denied by all of them. As a result, he shifted his focus to art administration. “It was beneficial that I took this route because with the other route I wouldn’t have gained widespread experiences.”  

After graduating with his masters degree, Williams pursued a career as a professor by working toward his Ph.D. While in the process of obtaining his Ph.D., Williams again faced unfair judgement from his advisor. “If you can’t even hold a piece of hope that I will be a great student, a great Ph.D. candidate, a great professor in the future, I want no dealings with you,” proclaimed Williams. “I don’t want anyone on my space that’s going to be negative toward me. You’re not serving me any purpose. You don’t want me to succeed. So, I pressed forward.” 

While in the final stages of his Ph.D. program, eager to graduate and after spending ample time crafting his dissertation, Williams was told that he could not graduate and must rewrite his dissertation. “Do I tell my family that I’m a failure in some type of way? Should I tell them that I didn’t do what I was supposed to do, or that it wasn’t quality?”  

Williams concluded: “So those are a couple of the tacks, splinters and torn boards that I’ve experienced. Making small goals makes it easier for you to achieve the ultimate goal you’re looking for because you’re only thinking about that moment. You’re being present, you’re being mindful of the moment that you’re in. You’re going to make mistakes even when you think you’re doing everything right; you’re going to make mistakes. It’s a part of life. 

Williams ended his presentation by sharing the poem “Still, I rise” by Maya Angelou. “The reason I picked this poem is because it talks about the obstacles that are going to come your way, but you have to be able to still rise above it, persevere and be the phoenix in the ashes.” 

Written by Bobbi Brown