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CGU student earns prestigious fellowship

by Melina Tisopulos

After a sleepless night of tossing and turning and constantly refreshing her inbox, the email Drucker School of Management student Deja Darrington had been anxiously awaiting finally arrived.

Upon opening it, she was immediately greeted by a celebratory message: The American Association of University Women had awarded her a fellowship of $18,000.

“I really couldn’t believe it, and I had to keep checking my email,” Darrington said. “All of the work that went into this application, and the stress from waiting to see if I would get the fellowship was worth it. I have to thank CGU Professor Haakon Brown, Mary Romo, and Gerard Baab for their support with my application.”

Darrington began her application process for the AAUW fellowship last August, setting weekly goals to diligently tackle its numerous essay prompts while simultaneously balancing school and work. In early April she finally received the good news.

The mission of the AAUW is to champion equal opportunities for women in education. AAUW has awarded more than $135 million in fellowships and grants to support female scholars pursuing graduate education. Darrington received its selected professions fellowship, for those who are studying a field in which women are underrepresented. For Darrington, this field is business.

The AAUW will begin accepting applications for its next cycle of fellowships and grants on August 1. More info is at aauw.org.

Darrington initially began studying business at UC Riverside and became enthralled by marketing, specifically in getting to work in tandem with customers.

“I really enjoy engaging with customers and listening to what they value, and what feedback and insights they offer to drive marketing strategies,” she said.

Shortly after graduating in 2016, she began working as an alumni programs coordinator for UC Riverside. Wanting to develop a more in-depth understanding of marketing, she planned to eventually return to school to earn a master’s degree. When a communications and events specialist role opened at CGU, it was a perfect opportunity for her to take on a marketing-oriented role and continue her studies.

Beyond the enticing work experience, she felt drawn to CGU because of the philosophy behind its Drucker School of Management.

“Usually when people hear about management, it’s very self-serving and black and white,” Darrington said. “But with Peter F. Drucker, he’s very focused on the people of the organization, and how organizations can’t exist without humans.

“I love that he’s focused on how organizations have a social responsibility for the communities that they are a part of. It has been a transformative experience diving deeper into Drucker’s philosophies of management. My courses so far have definitely challenged me, but it’s gotten me to think differently and outside of the box. I’m making sure I’m looking at the entire picture when making a decision that affects others. It’s been great so far.”

She began at CGU in the spring of 2020, but her time on campus was quickly interrupted by the pandemic’s stay-at-home orders. Upon returning to in-person schooling this past fall, she decided to become involved on campus to connect with her peers. One group she belongs to is the Drucker Net Impact, which aims to instill Peter F. Drucker’s philosophy through serving the local community. She also volunteers with the National Black MBA Association, an organization that provides career and educational support and opportunities for Black youth.

Darrington intended to finish her MBA in 2024. However, with the help of the fellowship, she can take on a heavier course load and will instead graduate early in spring 2023. With so few scholarship opportunities available to graduate students, especially those in MBA programs, she is immensely grateful to receive this support.

“I know people always say something is a dream come true, but honestly it was. School is not cheap, and with everything going on with the pandemic, and costs increasing, it’s a dream come true,” she said.

While the fellowship is certainly noteworthy on its own, it represents just one of Darrington’s several remarkable academic achievements; this past fall, she received scholarships from the National Black MBA Los Angeles Chapter and AfroTech World. She also placed third in The Small Business Challenge, a regional 48-hour hackathon-style competition. For the competition, business MBA students are placed in small groups and tasked with strategically approaching an issue impacting a real small business. Their solution is then presented in a brief pitch to judges and the business owner.

“I really enjoyed that competition,” Darrington said. “It really challenged me, and you get to help small businesses. It’s a win-win. I hope to compete again this year.”

When free time arises in her busy schedule, Darrington enjoys visiting San Diego and Coronado or spending the day at Disneyland.

Recently, she became a customer marketing manager for a small tech firm in San Francisco. After earning her MBA, she hopes to continue to evolve her skills in marketing, be a guiding light for other women pursuing graduate education and careers in underrepresented fields and navigate a long-term career in the tech industry.

As she enters her fellowship year, she looks forward to meeting and connecting with other AAUW scholarship recipients. The community of fellow scholars is one of several aspects of the AAUW Darrington values, and she hopes more women can benefit from its support in the future.

“The fact that AAUW is giving funding to women, especially women of color, that are in these fields that are underrepresented, has such a tremendous impact,” she said. “I am hoping that more students will be able to find this opportunity like I did. AAUW is all about equal opportunity for women and is one of the largest resources of funding exclusively for graduate education, which is just amazing.”

Interested students can begin applying for the next round of AAUW fellowships and grants on August 1. The nonprofit offers a variety of financial opportunities to support women’s educational and professional pursuit, including its selected professions fellowship, funding for international students, research and projects, and career advancement. Visit aauw.org for more information.

Melina Tisopulos is a rising senior at Claremont High School and is the COURIER’s summer intern.

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