Derrick Brown, electrical engineering ’91: My Honors classes helped me nurture my writing and speaking in ways that augmented my focus on engineering as a career path.

After Elloree, S.C., native Derrick Brown earned a Clemson bachelor’s and Georgia Tech master’s in electrical engineering, he found a passion for education.

In 1998, Brown founded KnowledgeBase, Inc., creating content to enhances reading, writing, math, entrepreneurial, leadership, and critical thinking skills. From 2004-2010, he served as a founding faculty member, governing board representative, Director of Corporate Relations, Dean of Students, and Assistant Principal of Tech High (Charter) School in Atlanta GA.

Currently Brown is the Director of Performance Management for the Georgia Charter Schools Association (GCSA). GCSA’s mission is to be an effective advocate and service provider for all charter public schools in Georgia. Brown develops, implements, and reports metrics that assess each member charter school’s academic, operational, and governance performance and progress.

What were your key involvements as a Clemson student?

Tutor for the Program for Engineering Enrichment and Retention. My experiences tutoring fellow engineering students helped to guide me towards my purpose as an innovator in the world of teaching and learning.

President of the Clemson Society of Black Engineers. Leading a professional student organization helped me battle my shyness and identify my voice as a leader, speaker, and writer.

Clemson University Minority Council. Serving on the council introduced me to the concepts of tolerance, reconciliation, and diversity as tools of social change.

What Honors experience had a significant impact on you?

My first Honors class experience was the most impactful. I took Dr. Mark Charney’s Honors English Composition class during my first semester. Our class was small (12 students) which allowed us to interact with Dr. Charney a lot. He provided positive, detailed, individualized feedback on an array of writing assignments (letters, reviews, essays, poetry, etc.) that encouraged his students to develop their unique writing gifts.

He helped me to become an efficient writer, which allowed me to convey my thoughts with clarity and simple elegance. His influence and praise helped me to envision and accomplish a goal of writing professionally.

How would you describe the Clemson Honors experience to someone considering enrolling here?

I do not believe that people differ in levels of intelligence, but do believe that they differ in levels of experience. The experiences I had in my Honors classes (particularly English) helped me to nurture my writing and speaking gifts in ways that initially augmented – and eventually broadened – my focus on engineering as a career path.

After Clemson and The Calhoun Honors College, I learned to treat graduate school, jobs, and business launches each as stops along my path to a purposeful end – rather than as my ultimate destination.

What advice would you offer current Clemson students about life AFTER Clemson?

Enjoy the drive of life with your head up and with your eyes wide shut. That way, you will see opportunity and solution where others may only see failure and problems.

What advice do you have for Clemson students about being successful while they are here?

Engage all the people with whom you have constant contact. Talk to them by asking and answering questions.

Learn their names, and what they mean. Our given names describe our life’s purpose.

Learn where they are from, and it will give you cultural, political, and anthropological perspectives on their personality and character.

Learn what they want to do with their lives, and you will understand the reasons why you were brought into relationship.

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