Amazing Students Profiles

Dervin Cunningham

Dervin Cunningham

Dervin Junior Cunningham exemplifies how a UGA student can make the most of his freshman year. The son of Jamaican immigrants and the first in his family to attend college, Dervin has already achieved a variety of scholastic successes.


Albany, Georgia

High School:

Westover Comprehensive School

Degree objective:

B.S. in Biological Sciences, minor focus in Music.

Expected graduation:

May 2014

University highlights, achievements, awards and scholarships:

Although I am only a rising sophomore at the University of Georgia, sometimes I feel like my time here has been much longer. During my first year in college, I went through many experiences which has allowed for me to grow so much, both intellectually and personally. In order to talk about my success here at the University of Georgia, I have to give insight to the ideology behind my motivation.

In 1985, my parents immigrated to the United States from the island of Jamaica with no college education. They did not know what lay before them; however, they had a vision of creating a better life for themselves and posterity. My family tirelessly worked in hopes of attaining the “American Dream”. Their own vision begot businesses which they constantly struggled to keep flourishing, from their own determination to provide successfully for their future family.

Despite the fact that I enjoy aggravating my parents, which I believe every child does, I have always loved and appreciated them. With that said, I was quite eager to tackle the challenges of college. In late June of 2010, I began my undergraduate career with the Freshman College Summer Experience. Though I was only allowed to take 6 credit hours of classes, I ended the program with a 4.0 GPA in addition to receiving an award for the Most Outstanding Student in my PBIO2240 class with Dr. Sue Wessler. To me, that small accomplishment was just an assurance that nothing was going to hinder me from achieving my dreams.

Nevertheless, on October 19, 2010 I got a call from my mother. My own father, who cared for me for 18 years of my life, was being tried for deportation back to Jamaica. Never before have I experienced so much confusion. All of sudden it seemed so hard to focus on my goals, because I did not know what would happen. I have always learned how not to let my emotions affect me, but this time it seemed so hard. For a period of roughly four months, I felt lost. If he were to be deported, there was a good chance that I would not be able to finish my undergraduate career at UGA.

Fortunately, his case was dismissed. However, I learned that with a flick of a wrist, one’s life could drastically change. Not only did I become closer to my family, I became more focused and determined. Life is truly ephemeral. Tomorrow is never guaranteed to anyone; moreover, there is no greater reward in life than the pleasure and feeling of accomplishment derived from giving life your all. Why should one risk dying tomorrow, without being able to leave his imprint in this life today?

I am an honors student at the University of Georgia. This upcoming year, I will be serving as the vice president of Minorities in Agriculture Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS), social chair of The National Society of Collegiate Scholars (NSCS) and finance chair of The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). I also am a part of several other organizations, including the UGA Navigators, The Peach State Louis-Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (PSLAMP), The Black Affairs Council (BAC) and Georgia Daze. Since I have been here, I also have been recognized as a CURO Apprentice, CURO Summer Fellow and a Multicultural Scholar.

Current Employment:

As a CURO apprentice, I work at the Complex Carbohydrates Research Center under Dr. Kelly Moremen. My research project is entitled “The Recombinant Expression of Genes in the Glycosylation of Mammalian Cells.” The overall objective of this study is to understand the function and biological significance of various proteins which work in conjunction with carbohydrates on the cellular wall.

Family Ties to UGA:

I am the first individual in my family to pursue post-secondary education.

I chose to attend UGA because…

…I knew it had a strong science program. I had already decided I was going to become a doctor, because I love the sciences, and I enjoy helping other individuals in any way I can. In addition, since it was in-state, I could use HOPE and other scholarships to pay for my undergraduate career without financially burdening my parents.

My favorite things to do on campus are…

…hanging out with my friends, working out at Ramsey, and eating Mongolian Philly Cheese Steaks at East Campus Village.

The craziest thing I’ve done is…

…participate in a program called “South Campus Sexy”. Every year, several organizations on campus select a male and a female from their club to participate in this event. The participants have to dress up as the opposite sex and perform in a miniature pageant. Though this was funny, this was an experience I did not voluntarily do and would never do again.

My favorite place to study is…

…probably at the Science Library on campus. This place is so quiet that most students are apprehensive to go there!

My favorite professor is…

…Dr. Pamela Kleiber. I became acquainted with her because she was the assistant director of the Honors Program and the head of the CURO Apprenticeship Program. Although she is one of the busiest faculty members on campus, she also is one of the nicest people you will meet. I cannot even count how many times I have had one-on-one meetings with her discussing my academics and even life itself.

If I could share an afternoon with anyone, I would love to share it with…

…Dr. Ben Carson. Dr. Carson has been chief of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center for almost three decades. His autobiography entitled Gifted Hands is one of the best books I have ever read. The simple fact that he rose from being known as the dumbest person in his class to one of the most brilliant doctors this world has ever seen is more than inspiring to me. I recommend this book to everybody who has not yet read it.

If I knew I could not fail, I would…

…become a chef. I have always had a passion for cooking, which I inherited from my father. At around the age of five, I began messing with the microwave. You could find me after school in the kitchen heating up Hotpockets. Around the age of eight I began to cook at my father’s restaurant and from that point on, there was no stopping me.

After graduation, I plan to…

…attain a M.D. Ph.D. so that I can become a practicing physician and continue conducting research.

The one UGA experience I will always remember will be…

…the beginning of my spring semester of college. I was excited about the new semester; however, I kind of wished that the holiday had been a little longer. Surprisingly, my wish came true as the campus was covered with almost a foot of snow right before the first day of classes. School was closed for almost a week. I can clearly remember the chaos as students used ironing boards and dining hall trays in attempts to sled down the hills of UGA.