A quick conversation with Devin Randolph, ’07, is sure to yield the impression that he is an impressive, affable young man. He even carries the Bible around the same way most people have their cell phones cemented to their hand.
However, if one were to have that same quick conversation a decade earlier, they would have found a different version of Randolph. This version would be more likely to get kicked out of high school than being accepted to graduate school at Cornell University. In fact, Randolph was at one point expelled from Calhoun County High School for bad behavior and kicked out of the cooking school, Johnson and Wales, for bad grades.
The rise of Randolph version 2.0 began when he was rebooted as a student at Claflin University. He dramatically straightened up his act and his grades. The St. Matthews native now has a Master of Public Administration degree from Cornell and was recently appointed assistant vice president for student development services/director of residential life at Claflin.
Randolph wants to expand the social conscience of the student body by engaging them on current issues, such as educational equality and the economy.
“I want focus on students’ sense of citizenship and establish a great sense of civility and humility in them. By doing so, Claflin will continue to foster an environment that supports academic development and social learning outside of the classroom,” says Randolph.
As an exception to the rule in terms of at-risk students finding success, Randolph wants to correct that injustice. He founded an organization called College Is Attainable (C.I.A.), which aims to steer struggling middle school students towards achieving a college education. He piloted the program in his hometown and hopes to expand it in the near future.
Upon arriving at Claflin, Randolph’s future was in doubt. He was conditionally accepted to the University and had to demonstrate an ability to make the grade to continue his matriculation. He did and was even later accepted to the Alice Carson Tisdale Honors College.
“I think the institution provided me with a rich history in terms of my heritage and purpose. I was lost. I didn’t know who I was. I lacked a sense of purpose,” said Randolph. “Claflin grounded me in spiritual values and that was truly important as well as the confidence the institution instilled. I now had confidence to tackle pressing issues that surrounded me.”
It was Randolph’s first meeting with President Henry N. Tisdale, who was congratulating the Claflin Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) club for winning second place at a national conference, which truly inspired him. “I admired him. He left a profound effect on me,” Randolph says of Tisdale.
As a student, Randolph graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in business management and was president of SIFE. He was a member of the School of Business Advisory Board.
Randolph stayed at Claflin working as an admissions counselor and recruiter. “It gave me the opportunity to make a difference because of my troubled beginnings. I understood the kids coming to the table and I really wanted to be an advocate for them. Being an admissions counselor was a life changing experience,” he said.
He often fought for prospective students with low grades that he felt had the potential to grow. Randolph noted many of those he fought for also found success at Claflin, like he did. Randolph recruited several international students from Trinidad and Tobago as well. Also, he met his fiancé, Nakisha, a College of Charleston admissions counselor, at a recruitment fair. It was a truly transformational time of growth for Randolph, rising from troubled youth to top student, and then emerging as an adult role model.
During this time, he also did mission work and built homes in Haiti following the devastating 2010 earthquake there.
That fall, he started his pursuit of a Master of Public Administration degree at Cornell.
The last few years were a truly transformational period of growth for Randolph, rising from a troubled youth to top student and then emerging as an adult role model.
Now, he is happy to return to Claflin after completing that program.
“I wanted to come back to a place where I got my beginning. I felt the University contributed so much to me. This is my way of giving back,” said Randolph. “We’re in a prominent moment under the leadership of Dr. Tisdale and I want to be a part of expanding the mission of Claflin.”