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A fall sunset from the west side of Ford Center for the Fine Arts

Darin Dunphy ’04

Colona, Illinois

Sociology Major, Creative Writing Minor

Darin Dunphy is currently pursuing a doctorate in education in organizational justice, equity, and inclusion in higher education.

Darin Dunphy '04

Darin Dunphy ’04 is currently pursuing a doctorate of education in organizational justice, equity, and inclusion in higher education—something that wasn’t on his radar in 1990 when he dropped out of Galesburg High School.

“I messed up early on, but was provided with some opportunities to turn things around and did so,” Dunphy said. “Knox was a big part of that, so I am grateful.”

His unique route to a bachelor’s degree at Knox is a tribute to his deep commitment to education. As an academic advisor at Black Hawk College’s Quad City campus, Dunphy provides students with practical and academic advice.

When he was younger, Dunphy had more responsibilities than most high school students. He helped care for his brother, Bryan, who lives with cerebral palsy. He wasn’t interested in the general education classes that he was required to take. That meant he often skipped class and hung out at a local Hardee’s, reading the Chicago Tribune. He eventually dropped out of school, though he completed his GED soon after.

For a time, he traveled around the country following the Grateful Dead, before returning to Galesburg, pushing the floor scrubber at Hy-Vee at 3 a.m.

“I realized I needed something different,” Dunphy said. “That’s when I got a bit more serious and went back to Carl Sandburg College.” He started off slowly, taking one sociology course over the summer, taught by an adjunct Knox faculty member, Wendell Hunigan.

“Hunigan really turned it around for me,” he said. “I took two classes, then four classes, and continued from there.”

After a couple of years at Sandburg, he decided to finish his degree at Knox, where he majored in sociology and minored in creative writing. “I always enjoyed writing, so I took a beginning fiction workshop with Nick Regiacorte,” Dunphy said. “He thought I might be able to do more with it. That was the first time I had gotten that kind of feedback. I had not received a lot of encouragement from a professor before.”

Regiacorte, now the director of the Program in Creative Writing, and Robin Metz, co-founder of the program and Philip Sidney Post Professor of English, provided Dunphy with exposure to writing he had never encountered before—more modern work by writers from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, for example.  

“I didn’t know that people were writing like that,” Dunphy said. “I tried to emulate it a bit to learn that style.”

As a non-traditional student at Knox, Dunphy was almost 10 years older than most of the students in his classes. He lived off campus, but connected with some students in the gaming and information network clubs.

He graduated in 2004 and pursued a master’s degree in creative writing at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville. But he put his degree on hold to return to Galesburg to care for his ailing mother.

He talked to an advisor at Western Illinois University in the Quad Cities and understood that many of his credits wouldn’t transfer, so he decided to choose a master’s that would be advantageous to his career. He started a master’s in college student personnel higher education leadership, which had a weekend academy, making it possible for him to work at Black Hawk and pursue his degree.

He graduated with a master’s in 2019 and is now in a Ed.D. program at Western. His research focuses on physically disabled college students and their experiences transferring from community colleges to four-year colleges.

“I was talking to a student recently about how Knox challenged me in ways I hadn’t been challenged before,” he said. “Graduate school has been relatively easy after my three years at Knox. Knox academics prepared me for every academic challenge I’ve had since then.”

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Printed on Thursday, April 25, 2024