A Story of Achievement - Jennifer Herman


College of Business alumna, Jennifer Herman, is a Native American Lakota and a member of the Oglala Sioux tribe in South Dakota.  Jennifer graduated in December 2012 with a BSBA in Management and has shared her story with us...

For most of my life, I lived in a place very different from this state of Mississippi. I grew up with all of my extended family with whom I was very close and deeply attached. My heritage has been a big influence on my outlook on life; I embrace it in everything I do. When I decided to meet my father and pursue a goal towards education, I severed all of what I knew and cared about in this world.

Jennifer HermanI am a Native American Lakota from the Oglala Sioux tribe in South Dakota. My tribe is located in the most impoverished county in the whole United States and is comparable to that of the least developed countries of the third world. Our unemployment level is very high; most of my people live way below the poverty level, and the life expectancy rate is the shortest of any group in the Western Hemisphere. Many of my family do not have common things other people take for granted, including no electricity, running water, sewer, or heat for their dwellings, most of which are trailer homes. The reason for all this information is to explain that there are still Native Americans living amongst everyone, even though there are not many in this area anymore. In addition, sharing this information shows the type of environment I came from, the hardships I experienced and how I used these circumstances to push myself to achieve a Bachelors Degree and compete in a world foreign to my own. 

Jennifer HermanAt age 17, I was living on my own, had a job and means for myself, but had dropped out of high school.When I met my father, he told me that I had my entire life to work but only a limited time to get an education. This gave me the drive to better myself because I knew I could do whatever I put my efforts to as my ancestors have always done. I completed my GED at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, and earned my Associates Degree. I then transferred to what I consider a very prestigious school, The University of Southern Mississippi.

Looking back from the first conversations I had with my father, from adapting to the various culture shocks, to self-educating myself, to the present day of graduating in December with my Bachelor's degree in Business Administration Management, I can proudly say that I will be the first in my family to earn a college degree. I will carry on all the wisdom I have, which was passed down from my ancestors, grandmother, mother, and father and furthered by the education I received from the University of Southern Mississippi, into the future generations to come. My grandmother is and always will be my inspiration in all her actions and words. She is the last of my family to be a full-blooded Lakota, and I honor her for who she is and all of her sacrifices for her grandchildren. 

Jennifer HermanI will use my education to pull my people out of the unfortunate situations we are in and to teach future generations that education is the key to achieving what you want in life.  I will announce that even though one's life may be filled with a sense of hopelessness and despair to remember that if I was able to succeed despite the hardships I was faced with, anyone else is just as capable.