Marsha Currin McGriff

For Marsha, barriers are made to be broken. So are comfort zones.

Marsha attended Arlington High School, where she participated in marching band and served as drum major, a role historically occupied by men. When invited to drum major camp in rural Indiana, Marsha realized she was not only one of the few women but also the only African-American. But where others may have seen a challenge, she saw opportunity. It wasn't long before Marsha and her fellow drum majors were able to break down stereotypes and embrace their true common ground—music.

After graduation, Marsha headed to Tuskegee University in Alabama to study political science. She soon followed this with a master's degree in higher education. While at Tuskegee, Marsha developed a passion for mentorship rooted in her own experience with the late Lawrence Hanks, then-chairman of Tuskegee's Department of Political Science and later a professor of political science at IU Bloomington.

Description of the following video:

I am Marsha Currin McGriff, and I am the director of the Hudson and Holland Scholars Program. And I am proud to say that I have served Indiana University approximately 17 years, approximately only because I haven't quite turned 17 yet.

 

How would you feel if somebody told you that you weren't included?

 

Hm, I think I would feel pretty sad, um, marginalized. Like I couldn't achieve my goals. That's how I would feel. So I'm from Indianapolis, born and raised. and I grew up on the East Side. So it's a -- and if you go to Indianapolis and say you grew up on the East Side, that has all kinds of, draws all kinds of images. But I went to Arlington High School, so the high school was predominantly black. So when I was at drum major camp, of all things, I was the only black person at the camp. It was definitely an experience where I felt excluded. It was in a very rural part of Indiana, and my father drove me there in his Oldsmobile and drove away because it was an overnight camp and I tried very hard to focus on the commonalities that we had, as opposed to the differences. And I think, by the end of the camp, I made some very good friends, learned a lot of lessons, and I learned how to direct the Star Spangled Banner. Personally, my son goes here. He's a senior. He's a six-foot-two, 300-pound left guard. So if you're familiar with football, that's a big dude that blocks. And so when he came to IU, I was a little nervous as a parent. The good news is IU has a love affair with Benjamin, and Benjamin has a love affair with IU. And it has been just a tremendous experience not only for him but for me, for his dad and his siblings. It's been the best experience of his life. He's grown so much. The campus and the community have been, have just been completely accepting of him. And I'm going to get emotional because, as a parent, that's all you can wish for. You want them to be happy, to be successful. And he is. And I thank IU for that. Alright. Am I okay? I'm flushed, but I'm all right. I am so proud to work here. Every day. Every year, it just gets better and better. What's behind the curtain is a group of committed professionals who really care about what happens to our students, what happens to our young people. And it's just an amazing experience, and I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world.

Paying it forward: The late Lawrence Hanks helped Marsha see that there were no barriers and anything in life was attainable. She helps her students do the same.

Marsha soon became director of IUPUI's Nina Scholars Program, which provides academic support and resources to students who traditionally have difficulty gaining access to higher education. She then served as director of student services for the IU Center on Philanthropy, while also holding a position as an adjunct faculty member in the Kelley School of Business in Indianapolis.

In 2012, Marsha was appointed director of the prestigious Herman C. Hudson & James P. Holland Scholars Program on the IU Bloomington campus. The program works to recruit, retain and graduate students—many of whom are first- and second-generation college students—with outstanding records of academic achievement, strong leadership experiences and a commitment to social justice.

I run the largest scholarship program at Indiana University, and every time I think about that, I think, 'Wow, that is just extra crazy.' Because it shows the university's commitment to diversity - not just saying it, but putting resources and dollars behind it.