Demitrius T. Barksdale

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Gandhi-King Success Story

I am Demitrius T. Barksdale, a proud Gandhi-King Scholarly Exchange Initiative Scholar of the
inaugural program in 2022 at The University of Alabama (UA). I have had the privilege of being
at the University of Alabama for roughly 13 years. Attending and working full-time at this great
institution has been life-changing for many reasons. Throughout the countless educational,
research, service, and leadership opportunities I have been afforded, personally and
professionally, my life has accrued the greatest investments from some of the world’s greatest
individuals and student engagement resources offered at the Capstone.
This summer, I was extended an opportunity to interview for a life-changing experience as a
potential Gandhi-King Scholar. Dr. Joy Burnham, a long-time mentor and advisor, encouraged
me to consider applying for this prestigious endeavor. Upon reviewing the details of the
program, I realized that this program’s mission and vision encompassed much of my own
personal values, which are modeled after the lives of Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin L. King,
Jr. Both Gandhi and Dr. King believed in advocacy for others and their stance reflected my
heart’s posture and intent for all humankind.
Upon acceptance into this program, I was immediately reminded of being selected as a
Washington D.C. Youth Scholar, while completing my junior year of high school. You see, had it
not been for the encouragement of my former educators and the support of my mother, I would
have never considered accepting the invitation to interview as a youth scholar. I am so grateful I
did not forego my aspirations as a youth scholar and bow to my internal fears and defeating
thoughts. Attending D.C., as a Youth Scholar, marked my life forever as an adolescent. Thinking
forward to last summer, again, I was not going to miss another life-changing opportunity on my
journey of becoming. Being selected and engaged as a Gandhi-King Scholar has not only been
rewarding, but in the same way as my youth program, the Gandhi-King Scholarly Exchange
Initiative has begun to mold my identity as an individual, educator, and future leader.
To know the level of influence and impact this program has had on my life demands a level of
personal disclosure. Prior to the year 2020, I endured my own personal challenges, failures, and
tumultuous extenuating circumstances. During those years, I experienced a loss of employment
and financial strain, withdrew from my graduate program, and endured relational turmoil, all
resulting in displacement within the community I lived without a place to call home. Innately, I
am a fighter, a warrior, an individual who can endure the immeasurable, but somehow, I found
myself weakened by my circumstances with little to no ability to endure the ebbs and flows of
life. As I found myself in the darkest valley, the only two resources I had left were my faith in
Jesus Christ and a few relationships and connections. It was not until 2018 my life began to turn
around for the better, but in 2020, I would say, my life had begun to experience restoration and
As of today, I have regained, in abundance, much of what I had once lost, and accomplished
what I thought would never be achieved. I now serve as the Assistant Director of Professional
Development and Engagement and adjunct professor for Culverhouse College of Business at the
University of Alabama. In 2020, with the assistance and advocacy of my professional mentor,
Dr. Joy Burnham, I completed my graduate degree in Counselor Education, Clinical Mental
Health Counseling and I am currently enrolled as a doctoral student at the University of Alabama
for Higher Education Administration. I am a recipient of several academic accolades and
accomplishments including academic grants and scholarships. Personally, and professionally, I
enjoy devoting my time to my institution and community, serving as a mentor and advisor to the
UA Bridge Program (Men of Color Initiative), UA LEAD Program (a professional development
program), and students of the First Year Experience Program housed in the College of Business
at UA. Currently, I am developing a wellness program for my department which will provide
professional wellness resources for our undergraduate students. I am also working closely with
our alumni services and fundraising team at UA to establish my own book and supplies
scholarship, with an expected date of Fall 2023. This program has given me the courage to take
initiative on my dreams and God-given purpose.
Gandhi and Dr. King’s greatest attributes to society were their ability to empathize and love.
Empathy and love both demand much of each other. Empathy and love are now my greatest
strengths, being that they were once great weaknesses for me. I contribute this to the fact that I
now find the once darkest valley I have endured to be my greatest blessing. Those experiences
have taught me how to care for myself and others. Therefore, I hope to protect my ability to
empathize and love throughout life as I desire to be a leader who leads from a place of empathy
with love, understanding, and healing. This is what I have learned most from Gandhi and Dr.
King, to love beyond hurt.
Being chosen as a member of the inaugural cohort for the Gandhi-King Scholarly Exchange
Initiative has allowed for my growth and leadership development, in empathy and love. With the
knowledge gained and experiential learning opportunities through this world-class program, I
have been provided insight into my life’s calling and purpose.
As a future educator, orator, and community advocate, I only hope to have the impact that
Gandhi and Dr. King have on my life. It is my greatest intention to contribute to the legacy they
have left behind. I look forward to the culminating trip to India in January 2023, where I can
continue to hone my leadership skills and rejoin my wonderful peers on a magnificent journey.
Thank you, Educational and Cultural Affairs, for this wonderful program. It is incredibly

Demitrius T. Barksdale receiving his M.A. degree with his professional mentor, Dr. Joy Burnham

Demitrius T. Barksdale in the first week of his new role as Assistant Director of Professional Development and Engagement and Adjunct Professor for Culverhouse College of Business at the University of Alabama

Demitrius is pictured above with fellow Gandhi – King Scholarly Exchange peers on the Alabama A&M University Campus

Demitrius is pictured with fellow Gandhi – King Scholarly Exchange peers at a Huntsville festival during the program’s U.S. Residency

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