Student Spotlight: Donyah Richardson-Thurmond  C’23

Donyah Richardson-Thurmond  C’23

What attracted you to Drew?

My great Aunt is a two- time graduate of Drew University. While she was training me in Opera to audition for other schools, I discovered how great the music department is at Drew. Upon visiting the campus, I also noticed the welcoming and positive environment. I felt that attending Drew would greatly contribute to my growth and success as a student.

Why did you choose music as a major?

Music is, and always has been a large part of my development as a person. I’ve been immersed in vocal and instrumental studies for the majority of my life; I know the positive impact that it has and I feel that it is my purpose to encourage creative musical expression to the next generation of BIPOC through teaching. My idea of a dream career is (still) to be a teacher to young BIPOC to be a catalyst for positive change in our communities.

Have you done any internships?

In the summer of 2019, before my freshman fall semester, I interned at Reckitt Benckiser.  I earned this internship from a youth development program called, The All Stars Project of New Jersey; It is an initiative that focuses on exposing BIPOC students and communities to the professional world and opportunities.

Reckitt Benckiser is a large company in Parsippany, New Jersey that owns and develops several popular household items such as: Lysol, Veet, and Woolite. For that summer, I shadowed tax analysts who taught me the purpose and function of the tax department in companies similar to RB. At the end of the immersive experience, I was required to present an original product that fit within their product mold of hygiene, health, and nutrition. The experience taught me the meaning of learning and growth outside of personal interest; I gained useful knowledge despite it and my career path being completely different.

Have your co-curricular activities inspired your interest in pursuing education?

Being the Sophomore Representative for the Black Student Union and Teaching Assistant for the Launch Drew 110 course, have given me direct access to first-year students allowing me to positively impact their social and extracurricular experiences at Drew.

Do you have any mentors at Drew?

My mentor is my DSEM professor Dr. Eric Anderson. He helped to make my transition to college smooth, and guided me in determining my best academic path towards becoming an educator.

Have you studied abroad? Done any short, long or nycTRECs?

I was accepted into the Summer 2020 shortTREC to England, however, due to the pandemic, the trip was cancelled. I hope to re-apply in the near future so that I can add that to my other immersive experiences.

What issue in the world means the most to you?

The plight of the Black Community, and current external forces and the history that caused it, are the most important issues in the world to me. We are the most robbed, slaughtered, stereotyped, mistreated, and misunderstood community in the world. The trauma is deeply rooted within our community. The racism is deeply rooted within American soil, and it continues to manifest in ways that harm our community. It is my responsibility as a black woman to protect, lead, and advocate for my community.

What are a few of your favorite memories of Drew? 

Some of my favorite memories include, but are not limited to: Hosting my first Black Student Union event (Colorful Verses), Taco Tuesdays, Pan African Choir, and going to the arboretum to think.

How has your identity as part of the Ethnic/Racial Heritage and Gender & Sexuality Communities impacted your journey?

Being a Black Queer woman, I have often experienced bullying in the past. I felt isolated, especially when I attended a predominantly white elementary school in Pennsylvania. Those experiences discouraged me from being myself at one point, however presently, they have become motivation to create safe spaces for all other individuals within those communities. My identity is the reason I have a purpose.

What advice would you give students who are just starting out that you wish you had when you started?

Do not make any career defining choices in your first year of college. Even if you believe that the career you’ve chosen will not change. Take introductory courses, and connect with individuals in that field to gain an unbiased perspective on that choice; it is subject to change, just as mine is currently.

What are your career goals? Where do you hope to be in 5 years?

In five years I will be teaching creative writing and English to BIPOC elementary school students, empowering and affirming them in their identities, to hopefully contribute to the development of the next generation of BIPOC leaders.

Are there any fun fact (s) you would like to share?

  • I am a singer, and a poet.
  • I was named Entrepreneur of the Year for New Jersey in 2019 by Ernst & Young
  • I collect tree leaves from every new state/ country I visit and save them in a scrapbook alongside the pictures.
  • I am currently learning Japanese, and have a lot of experience singing Italian Arias.


Posted by Yasmin Acosta
Yasmin Acosta Launch Catalyst