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"Moment of silence in the river with my classmates/peers as we pay homage to the ancestors. This is one of the rivers where enslaved Africans were forced to bathe in to look more "polished and presentable". The goal was for them to look better in order to be more profitable."

First generation student welcomes the unknown

Deja Brown | Psychology | Undergrad | Department of Psychology The universe is flowing with opportunities, if you were to ask Deja Brown.

By: Dustin Ryder

Confining oneself and refusing to reach into the unknown keeps you on a safe path, but at what cost? As a senior at IUPUI, Brown is embracing the unknown with open arms.

As a first-generation student, navigating the world of college can be complex and intimidating. Brown spent her freshman year doing the bare minimum—attending class, staying in her room and enjoying her comfort zone. When sophomore year hit, Brown found herself reaching for the stars, something she once thought impossible. 


Brown lounging in front of the Wood Fountain on campus.

Exploring the unknown 

Brown’s college experience shifted when she became involved in the Psychology Club as the public relations officer. This pushed her comfort zone further away as she promoted the club both vocally and with flyers. Now club president, Brown’s duties are vast, ranging from being an enthusiastic role model to overseeing the progress of various activities. She’s come a long way since her freshman year by pushing herself and learning the ropes of college.


“Hye Won Hye (the symbol I am holding) — Meaning: imperishability, endurance. Abena (My Ghanaian name given to me) — Meaning: Female born on Tuesday.”

 “I'm learning college is what you make it,” Brown shared. “Get involved, explore your passions, don't be afraid to take chances and try different things. Ultimately that's what I do — mingle here and there, while keeping an open mind. I'm not the same person that I was my freshman year—I’m not even the same human that I was last year.”

Aligning passions

Majoring in psychology was a given as Brown enjoys the brain and people watching; her major in Africana Studies was chosen sophomore year. Brown meshes her academic interests well, finding passion in her identity as someone within the African diaspora. Recently she presented at a poster session to shed light on schizophrenia manifestation and perception within the whole African diaspora. She’s looked at individuals in Europe, America, Africa and a multitude of other regions to see how schizophrenia is handled. This was supported through IUPUI’s Life-Health Sciences Internship Program

Preparing for an immersive study abroad trip to Ghana, Brown took an eight-week course that introduced her to the Ghanaian culture, political structure, and history. Doing so built a foundation for a secure understanding regarding contemporary African societies. The study abroad trip spanned a two-week period where students experienced key cities in Ghana. Brown was faced with intensive reflection regarding the country’s past to better understand how the present was developed.


Brown volunteered at a school while in Ghana. Here she can be seen with two students that requested a photo with her.

“I am still processing everything that I experience in this particular lifetime — especially moments from Ghana. Healing is not linear and change exists on a continuum. Both are attainable. I’ve decided to begin writing a book to capture the essence of my being in this universe,” Brown stated.

New discoveries

Outside of research, internships and work, Brown is part of the Psi Chi International Honor Society and is a research assistant in Ashburn-Nardo's Stereotyping, Prejudice, Intergroup Relations (ASPIRe) Lab. She is also a freelance photographer.  

“Periods of deep introspection have led me to where I am today,” she said, “I live my life according to alignment. If something doesn’t feel right, then I try to re-examine my current situation and take a different path.”