TSU graduate overcomes obstacles to pursue lifelong dream

Posted on Monday, May 16, 2022

TSU student

Tia Whitfield, who graduated Summa Cum Laude from TSU with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, along with a minor in Administration of Justice, has overcome a lot while at the University. Even her road to get to TSU was filled with obstacles.

If there’s one thing that Tia Whitfield learned while attending Texas Southern University, it’s that speaking up can make all the difference.

Whitfield spoke up when she contracted COVID – weeks before the University transitioned to remote classes in spring 2020, which allowed her professors to help craft an online plan so she could continue her studies, despite the health issues she was going through. 

She spoke up during a group study session last fall, pouring out her emotions about her favorite grandfather who had recently passed – and her academic struggles following his death. Other students in the group shared similar stories as a result.

She also spoke up during a challenging statistics class, sitting in the front row, asking her professor questions, and demonstrating to other students that “there is no such thing a dumb question” when you are trying to understand the material. Rich class discussion followed.

“What I’ve learned is that when you speak up, people will listen,” said Whitfield. “And it also allows others to release what they may be keeping inside.”

Whitfield, who graduated Summa Cum Laude from TSU with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, along with a minor in Administration of Justice, has overcome a lot while at the University. Even her road to get to TSU was filled with obstacles.

“After high school, I thought I was over school,” said Whitfield, who attended Fort Worth Wyatt High School. “I was in the band, and my band director made a bet that if I got a scholarship to his alma mater (University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff), I would go.”

She earned the scholarship and enrolled at UAPB that fall, but her heart wasn’t in it.

“I learned that I couldn’t live someone else’s dream. Music was his dream, not mine.”

After a year, she decided to transfer to Texas Southern University, where her older sister was attending. She became a psychology major with the hopes of realizing her own, long-held dream of becoming an FBI agent. A campus visit to meet with her advisor prior to her first semester set the tone for her experience at TSU. 

“Instead of meeting the advisor, I met with Dr. (Needha) Boutte-Queen, who is the dean (of the College of Liberal Arts and Behavioral Sciences),” said Whitfield. “She saw my apprehension and she helped motivate me from the outset.”

However, a few months later, Whitfield came down with a serious case of COVID. Even after eventually testing negative, the side effects lingered, creating new challenges as she navigated the online courses that spring and fall. 

“I’m an ‘in person’ kind of person,” said Whitfield. “I need the interaction and face-to-face that you can only get in the classroom.”

Whitfield was excited when traditional classes were reinstated in 2021, but later that year when she learned that her grandfather had died, it sent her into another tailspin.

“I had a special relationship with my grandfather. Even though he had developed dementia, we were close. I kept it bottled inside and things suffered, including my grades.” 

A group project in her Cognitive Psychology class helped her deal with the situation. Speaking out to the other students was not only therapeutic for her, but for her fellow students as well. Whitfield began to find her footing, and she became involved in the University Criminal Justice Association (UCJA), as well as the Psychology Club.

Dr. Deneka Douglas, interim chair of the Psychology Department, saw a positive change in Tia during this time.

“The UCJA opened doors for her and helped turn her dreams and prayers into reality,” said Douglas. “Through the organization, she met judges, attorneys, agents and officers who looked like her, and this encouraged her to pursue her childhood dream of becoming an FBI agent.”

Whitfield thrived not only as a member of these clubs, but also as a leader. Encouraged and motivated by these mentors, she helped arrange to bring even more outside professionals to meet with TSU students via the clubs. Through the TSU Career & Professional Development Center, she learned about the TSU FBI Collegiate Academy, a five-week program that gives college students an inside look at the FBI as a career option. Not only was she accepted into the program in early 2022, but several of the Academy’s guest speakers already knew of her from her UCJA leadership.

“The speakers were encouraging, and the topics they covered were so interesting, including things like white collar crime and espionage,” said Whitfield. “They showed us that, no matter what major you are, there is a place for you in the FBI. It piqued my interest because there are so many facets to the FBI.” 

With graduation complete, she is looking at several career options. She is considering the military, as she has taken and passed the Armed Forces Vocational Aptitude Battery and comprehensive medical tests. She has also positioned herself for jobs with a variety of law enforcement agencies, not only locally, but at the national level, such as the FBI.

Regardless of where Whitfield’s career takes her, she knows that her time at TSU helped give her the direction and confidence she desperately needed.

“TSU has shaped me,” she said. “It is where I found myself, and now I know my worth. Most important, I want to inspire individuals to be authentic and remember to never dim your light to please others. As Maya Angelo once said, ‘You may encounter many defeats but you must not be defeated.’ I want everyone to keep the faith, keep their head up, and keep going.”

Category: Students

Press Contact

Office of Marketing & Communications

Related Links

Last updated: 05/16/2022