JSU graduate discovers her life’s true calling through finding her own voice

JSU graduate, Verlondrea Austin at the 2022 Spring Undergraduate Commencement ceremony. (Photo Credit: Charles A. Smith/University Communications)

JSU graduate, Verlondrea Austin at the 2022 Spring Undergraduate Commencement ceremony. (Photo Credit: Charles A. Smith/University Communications)

Screen Shot 2022-05-04 at 4.04.48 PM

Verlondrea Austin, a Flowood, Mississippi native, recently graduated from Jackson State University (JSU) with her bachelor’s degree in communicative disorders. Juggling multiple interests and passions during her freshman year, Austin began her earlier stages at JSU navigating the adversity that comes with discovering one’s self. Pondering over what direction her passion for language would guide her, she explored all options across the spectrum before deciding on one program.

A second generation JSU tiger, Austin was encouraged at an early age to explore the multiple program options offered at the institution, eventually narrowing her focus down to either pursuing an English degree or a major within the medical field.

“My mom took me across the campus to multiple departments. She’s a JSU alum, so she was excited, but I wasn’t really sure of what my interests were…” said Austin. Ultimately, she decided to pursue a degree in communicative disorders showing a keen interest specifically in the anatomy of human language.

While working closely with the Detroit chapter of the JSU National Alumni Association, her new found interest in communicative disorders led to a unique internship opportunity. She capitalized fully on this opportunity to deepen her knowledge, connecting with local public health professionals who aided her in understanding the inner workings of the Henry Ford health system, one of the leading healthcare and medical service providers in Detroit.

“It was an amazing experience, and I am truly grateful to the National Alumni Association. I learned so much from being able to shadow working professionals, specifically learning about acute care, as well outpatient and inpatient care.” said Austin who found particular interest in head and neck cancers.

As life often brings a season of discomfort, Austin found herself questioning her potential and the path that she has walked, yet, she persevered. After learning she would need an additional year to complete her undergraduate courses and discovering was not admitted to her top graduate programs, Austin resisted the urge to settle for her circumstances.  She credits her prosperous year to the renewed mentality she adopted prior to entering into 2022.

“I told myself maybe [Detroit] is not a place that God wants me to go to, so I was settled with it. I told myself I’m going to come in this new year with a different mindset…I already felt a little defeated with staying an extra year, but I literally made the best out of the year,” said Austin.

Once again, in a season of uncertainty, Austin stood at the intersection of hope and hard work, and opportunities began to find her, including the chance to fulfill a lifelong dream.

Austin was afforded the opportunity to join the esteemed ranks of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., a moment she longed to experience coming from a long family lineage of sorority members.

“It was a big moment for my mom, my grandma, and my aunt. So it was a big thing that I did that, I would say this year was really good to me,” said Austin, who also worked closely on campus with JSU Pre-Alumni association, serving as ‘Miss Pre-Alumni’

A large part of Austin’s collegiate experience has been to trust her inner voice and silence the inner critic that spoke against her worthiness.

She said “God always had me, I’ve always been fine. So I used that to chill out and I just trusted him and did what I needed to do.”

Austin will pursue her master’s degree in speech pathology at Southern A&M University. She describes this opportunity as the ‘ram in the bush’ in her journey towards her life’s calling.

Remaining consistent amidst adversity and remaining true to herself, Austin found the language and power to not only materialize her future, but also explore the anatomy of language so that all may experience a brighter future.

# # #

Media Contact: Kyle Kidd, kyle.d.kidd-buckner@jsums.edu