Growing up in the small town of Clayton, North Carolina, Dana Broadus was already dreaming of exploring faraway places and writing the stories of the characters she met there. But she had no idea how her world would expand once she became a Spartan.
A Writer Imagines Her Future
By the time Broadus was considering college, she had already published a book. An avid reader since she was very young, Broadus authored the young adult fantasy fiction book, “Imagine”, while still in high school.
“It’s about a girl that goes to another world and has to save the planet and everything in her kingdom,” she says. “It’s hard to believe I was only seventeen and did all the research and work to self-publish my own book. I’m still proud of it.”
“Imagine’s” main character’s determination to make a difference in her kingdom mirrored the young author’s dreams as she began to consider colleges. When touring UNC Greensboro, she was struck by the diversity on campus and the opportunities at Lloyd International Honors College.
“I had been wanting to study abroad for as long as I could remember,” Broadus explains. “Then I learned about how the class sizes are smaller and a bit more of a challenge. I love a challenge anywhere! Add to that, living with like-minded students who are passionate about their studies, and I was sold.”
Exploring a Broadus World
As the middle daughter of a minister from Clayton, North Carolina, campus life initially gave Broadus a culture shock, but she found her way at UNC Greensboro.
“I didn’t understand exactly how to relate to people coming from different backgrounds, but connecting with others at club events and volunteering on campus was monumental for me. Now I run The Undergraduate Creative Writing Club, a UNCG organization I founded, in hopes that I can reach others in the same way.”
Broadus thrived in the Honors College’s interdisciplinary educational environment and credits professors for helping her carve a field of study that not only fit her passions but also defined a career path.
“I knew I wanted to be an English major and study literature, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do with the degree.” Broadus explains. “I also knew I wanted to minor in Spanish. I was inspired by volunteering at a refugee center in my hometown, but I didn’t know how to incorporate writing with that. From the beginning, I was able to sit with professors who helped me decide how to get where I wanted to go.”
Broadus took classes that allowed her to explore how her favorite subjects intersected. A first-year classical studies class compared Greek mythologies to modern film and piqued her curiosity about UNCG’s anthropology minor. A comparative literature class introduced her to linguistics. Then, a summer abroad program in Cadiz, Spain completely rocked her world.
“I was the only one in my family to have a passport and this was my first time getting on an airplane,” Broadus remembers. “I was scared, so a faculty-led, group trip was ideal for me. When I got over there, I immediately realized just how big the world was.”
“I visited places like Granada and Seville,” Broadus continues. “I witnessed intercultural resources coming in and out of cities and heard people speaking in different languages share their viewpoints. It deepened my interest in anthropology and made me realize that I could use my writing to tell diverse stories.”
Interdisciplinary Education at Work
Broadus returned from Spain with a better direction for her studies and for the practical skills she wanted to hone before graduation.
As a McNair Scholar, she dove into undergraduate research. The prestigious federal program encourages undergraduate research opportunities for low-income or underrepresented students who plan to pursue doctoral studies. Broadus worked with Dr. Amy Vines on a research project and attended academic conferences in preparation to present her own research findings in the summer of 2023.
Broadus’ research compares American folklore narratives, like Br’er Rabbit, to medieval Spanish literature with influences that stem from Arabic and Northern African cultures. Although English isn’t a common McNair Scholar field of study, Vines says that Broadus has used this opportunity to take on research that supports her interests in various cultures and linguistics.
“She’s invested in presenting the humanities as a viable career path,” Vines explains. “Her project represents her passion for studying the connections between globality, history, and narrative, and examines how these things come together to influence cultures today. She’s very engaged and, with each step in her academic journey, she is driven to create more options for herself.”
Broadus’ drive has also been evident in her part-time job on campus. In addition to classes and research work, she logs twenty hours a week for University Communications (UC).
“I’m so thankful that Career and Professional Development directed me to the UC position to develop my writing skills,” Broadus says. “I have loved my interdisciplinary studies, but I always worried about how I would use it to contribute to society. As a UC writer, I interview students around campus, and strive to understand their perspectives so I can help tell their stories.”
To date, Broadus has written over 50 articles for UNCG News during her two-year tenure. Just this semester she wrote a series to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month in both English and Spanish. She appreciates the real-world application of her studies and the people skills she’s developed at UC: “I’ve grown from a shy student to a professional who can write a compelling story that grabs readers’ attention.”
Brave Steps Forward
As Dana Broadus contemplates her graduation, she can’t help but admire the journey that brought her from the “Imagine” fantasy storyline she created in high school to the writer and scholar headed to graduate school for linguistic anthropology.
“When I was a teenager, I struggled with anxiety. When I would get stuck in situations, my parents encouraged me to do it afraid. They gave me the support I needed to channel my stubbornness and power through. I used this family slogan when I was scared to travel, intimidated to present my work or conduct interviews, and any other situation that kept me from trying something new.”
That advice, along with an exploratory educational route where she took full advantage of faculty support, has paved a successful path for Broadus at UNCG. Her advice to other students is to enjoy the ride no matter where it takes you.
“With each class, I got one step closer to knowing what I want to do. From classics, to Spanish, to cultures, to anthropology, to linguistics – every step brought me closer, even when it felt like I was taking two steps back,” she says. “My journey at UNCG has broadened my world in ways I could never have imagined.”
Story by Becky Deakins, University Communications.
Photography by Sean Norona, University Communications.