Ambitious, hard-working, intelligent people aren’t hard to find throughout Emanuel County. From lesser-known citizens to well-known leaders, Swainsboro and other municipalities in the area are fortunate to call these folks, the ones who make a difference, “ours.” Of course, some of “our folks” have moved off and shared themselves with the world in various respects. The “Finding Our Folks” part of The Crossroads Chronicle aims to track down and catch up with our hometown people.
This week’s profile features Deidra Jordan, whose interview was conducted by Halei
Okay, start at the beginning. Give a little background about yourself.
Jordan: My name is Deidra Jordan. My parents are Leroy Jordan Jr. and Darlene Norris Jordan. I’m 28-years-old. I have one older brother, Dominique Jordan, and one younger sister, Destiny Jordan. I’m from Swainsboro, and I graduated from Swainsboro High School in 2011.
What came after high school for you?
Jordan: Immediately after high school, I attended Bethune-Cookman University (B-CU) in Daytona Beach, Florida from 2011 to 2015.
And what did you study there and why?
Jordan: I chose biology as a major because I was interested in becoming a forensic scientist. I became interested in the field of forensic science in my 10th grade science class after learning how fingerprints and DNA are used to solve criminal cases. I was fascinated when I learned that every individual on the planet, with the exception of identical twins, has their own distinct set of fingerprints! I had signed a full track and field scholarship to B-CU, so I knew which school I would be attending once I graduated. However, B-CU didn’t offer a forensic science major, so I conducted research online and noticed an article suggesting students interested in the field should obtain a bachelor’s degree in either biology or chemistry to best prepare for a career in the field. I was not a fan of chemistry but I did enjoy biology, so that’s how I chose my major.
Expand a little on your time as a Bethune-Cookman Wildcat. What events did you compete in? What awards did you win?
Jordan: I competed in the multi-events, meaning the heptathlon and pentathlon. In 2014 and 2015, I won the MEAC Women’s Indoor Track and Field Pentathlon title. I became the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) Women’s Indoor Track and Field Heptathlon Champion in 2015 as well. That same year, I won the MEAC Women’s Indoor Track and Field Conference Outstanding Field Athlete Award, and I was a nominee for the MEAC Woman of the Year Award.
In terms of academics and achievements outside of athletics, what did you accomplish at B-CU and where did life lead you after your time there was done?
Jordan: In the spring of 2013, I became an initiate of the Gamma Tau Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. My involvement in that sorority has allowed me to make meaningful connections, better manage my time, and develop my leadership skills. I’m proud to say I graduated cum laude from Bethune-Cookman University in 2015. I’ve since moved on and am a student at Florida International University in Miami. I’ve been enrolled in FIU since 2015 to present.
Tell a little about what you’re studying there and some of your proudest attainments.
Jordan: I started in the combined Master of Science in Forensic Science and PhD in Biology program. I completed my master’s degree in 2018, so now I’m finishing up my doctorate. While at FIU, I’ve obtained three different fellowships and aid for my research, the first of which was the Bridge to Doctorate Fellowship that provided funding for my master’s. This supplied a tuition waiver and stipend from 2015 to 2017. After that, I obtained the McKnight Doctoral Fellowship, which provided funding for my doctoral degree at FIU. Again, this supplied a tuition waiver and stipend from 2017 to present. The last of the three fellowships I obtained was the Delores Auzenne Fellowship, which supplied a stipend for 2017 to 2019. The Sigma Xi Grant in Aid of Research, which I received in 2019, provided grant money to help buy materials for my research.
What professional titles do you hold to date?
Jordan: I expect to be a Doctor of Philosophy in Biology this year. I’m on track to complete my PhD.
Briefly explain your work history as well as your current jobs.
Jordan: From 2017 to 2018, I worked as a summer camp instructor. In this role, I created curriculum for students ages 5 to 12 to use in science experiments. I also helped these students conduct those experiments. In 2020, I started working as a graduate teaching assistant at FIU, which I still do today. In that role, I’m an instructor of an undergraduate biology laboratory course where I lecture students, create exams, and grade assignments. In addition to that, I also started tutoring at Above & Beyond Learning, Inc. last year. Essentially, I’m a private tutor for college-level math, English, and science.
What are your future plans?
Jordan: After I graduate with my PhD, I’d like to transition into a research scientist position either within government or industry. I’m currently engaged to Terrell Williams, a native of Jacksonville, Florida and fellow B-CU grad; we’re planning a wedding for this fall, pending COVID-19.
In your opinion, what’s the key to success?
Jordan: In my opinion, the keys to success are determination and having a great support system. I’ve been extremely blessed throughout many aspects of my life, but there were many times when it got so tough that I wanted to give up on my dreams. My family and friends were always there to support me and remind me of the “why,” and that was a tremendous help.
Where are you living today? Where all have you lived since you moved off from home? Walk through how you got to where you live today and talk about the transition process, what you enjoy about living in your current city, something you’ve learned since being there, and the differences you’ve noticed between there and home.
Jordan: Today, I live in Miami since I’m completing my graduate studies and working at FIU. I’ve been here since 2015. Before I moved here, I lived in Daytona Beach for four years as a student-athlete at Bethune-Cookman. I first moved away from Swainsboro, away from home, in 2011. I was excited to finally be “out on my own,” and I enjoyed the freedom and growth I experienced. In Miami, I love that there are so many different cultures present and that I get to meet so many interesting people. This area is known for its beaches, parties, and, of course, being a vacation city, so there’s never a dull moment. If you want to go out and have a good time, you can because there’s always something going on. The cost of living is high here, though. I’ve been blessed to have my education fully funded and also have a salary from that, but it’s a well-known fact that graduate students are underpaid. The cost of living in Miami is very high compared to smaller towns or college cities, so I’ve learned to budget.
What, if anything, do you miss about home?
Jordan: I miss the quietness of Swainsboro.
How did growing up here help get you where you are today?
Jordan: Swainsboro gave me the ambition to think outside the box about what I could
do and who I could become. I’m still just starting, but I’ve already accomplished a lot of my own personal goals, and I feel proud about that. It has also kept me grounded. Knowing that I come from little ol’ Swainsboro has kept me humble as I remember how lucky I am to be in this position.
Who are some of the influential people who’ve helped you along the way?
Jordan: My parents. They provided me with a solid foundation and set expectations for my siblings and I to never settle and to strive for excellence in everything we do. Their support and guidance is what has truly influenced me to go the distance.
Do you have any advice for young people who read this—be it generalized advice and/or advice for leaving the area, either temporarily or for good?
Jordan: To the young people, I encourage you to do your best in everything you do because you never know what opportunity may arise or who may be watching you. I also encourage you to embrace discomfort because true growth cannot come without some sort of challenge. When you feel like something is getting too hard or that goal seems out of reach, keep going because you just might be closer than you think.
Do you have someone you’d like to nominate for inclusion in the ”Finding Our Folks” part of The Crossroads Chronicle? Call Halei Lamb at 478-494-3376, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or stop by 571 South Main Street, Swainsboro.