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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

Graduate Spotlight: Dante Myers

By Betsy Hnath

Dante Myers is no stranger to Old Dominion University graduation ceremonies. This Saturday, he will earn his third degree - a Ph.D. in industrial-organizational (I-O) psychology.

But for Myers, who also holds a bachelor's and master's in psychology, the 129th Commencement Exercises will mark the "end of a journey."

"I've been blessed to walk across the stage before, but I was always working toward a future goal," Myers said. "After embarking on such a grueling yet rewarding program, to be hooded with a Ph.D., I can't really fathom how I'll feel. Dr. Dante? Dr. Myers? Which sounds better, both? Who knows? That title will probably always feel weird to me. I just know I'll be so happy."

Myers spent most of his childhood in Richmond. He is one of five children all raised by a single mother - a native of Jamaica.

"She was a track and field star and gave all of that up to move to the United States to pursue a better life," Myers said. "I'm so grateful to her."

Though she now lives in Atlanta, practicing as a nurse, his mother plans to be in the audience on graduation day.

"She's so proud of me," Myers said. "To have one of her kids reach the highest level of education means the world, especially since she sacrificed her educational pursuits for her children's success."

Like many first-generation students, Myers didn't have a path to follow when it came to selecting and applying to schools. In fact, college was a "last-minute option."

"Growing up it wasn't something I knew anything about or even really considered," Myers said. "From testing to applications, I didn't have much guidance at all."

Myers said the encouragement of his high school girlfriend - and now wife - Karina turned his sights toward college, specifically psychology.

"She saw something in me," he said. "I was always really interested in human behavior and she told me she thought I should go to school for psychology."

After looking at several universities he chose ODU.

"There was something about this school I felt so connected to," he said. "It was enough of a distance from Richmond that I felt independent, but I could get home to see my family and Karina at VCU when I wanted to."

A visit to ODU's Center for Major Exploration confirmed Karina's recommendation.

"I went into the center and after some testing and talking with one of the counselors we decided that psychology would be a good path for me," Myers said. "I feel like half of all my degrees belong to Karina because she called out that part of me so early."

Once settled in the right major, Myers' accolades and awards began piling up.

As an undergraduate, he received multiple research and travel grants. He also earned the Provost's Award for Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher based on his body of work.

Myers was just as outstanding as a graduate student for his research in underrepresented groups and servant leadership. He was awarded several scholarships and honors, including the Alumni Association Outstanding Scholar Fellowship.

Myers credits his family, his mentors and mostly his faith for helping him in all his achievements. He led a campus ministry for four years, an experience he says showed the true nature of the University.

"Some of the work I did while I was on campus was to bring together multiple Christian groups to support each other. It was amazing. There was such a wave of interest in an open dialogue," Myers said.

"I found ODU receptive and protective. I never felt censored or ostracized."

Myers became a father this year. He and Karina have a 10-month-old son, DJ. He is working for a Norfolk-based financial services company in an organizational development role. He's also starting his own small group to provide services to organizations that might not have awareness about or access to them otherwise.

"In my past, I've had some bad leadership experiences and I want to teach a new approach - one geared to servant leadership," he said. "I want to take what we do in I-O and bring it to nonprofits and churches."

After nine years at ODU, Myers says he's grateful every day he decided to come to the University.

"I'm so thankful, I don't know that my path would have ended up the same had I not come here" he said. "There are so many helpful faculty. From community to student groups, there's so much this school offers. ODU was a perfect fit."

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