In many ways, Deidra Roth, B.S. ’23, is not an exceptional Purdue University Fort Wayne success story, but she is an important one. She didn’t overcome a tragedy or huge physical limitation to succeed; instead, she’s going to help others overcome their challenges.
And yet, she almost missed making it into college.
Roth was a struggling high school student in her hometown of Monticello, so much so that she even needed to sweat out the posting of her final algebra 2 grade just to see if she qualified for graduation.
She’d taken an American Sign Language course that counted toward her foreign language requirement, and was fascinated when the school audiologist visited the class. Late that spring, Roth toured PFW and thought she knew what her plans would be, though she considered changing her major almost before she got started.
When Roth was in the fourth grade, she started developing balance issues and visited an ear, nose and throat specialist who diagnosed her with vertigo, something she continues to deal with.
“These crystals come loose in your semi-circular canals, and you have three of them—an X-axis, Y-axis, and Z-axis—and they get dislodged and go into the wrong tunnel,” Roth explained. “If you go see an audiologist, they will maneuver the ear crystals back into place.”
And that’s kind of how Roth started finding her goal in life, to become an audiologist who can help others. After graduating this spring with a communication sciences and disorders degree, Roth is heading to West Lafayette for a four-year clinical doctorate program in audiology.
“I think it’s so interesting to learn about my vertigo and know what causes it,” Roth said. “Everybody is going to have hearing issues in their life, everybody is going to get older and need certain devices and equipment to help them.”
If she looks down too long, Roth is susceptible to falling, though she’s learned to handle it well. Last year during a TRIO visit to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, she bent over to tie her shoe and needed to grab onto a friend to steady herself when her vertigo kicked in.
Roth credits her experience with TRIO Student Support Services for helping her and other first-generation students adjust to college.
“They broke me out of my shell, really,” Roth said. “I was super introverted when I came to campus, especially because my first-semester roommate left, and I had a whole apartment to myself, and I just stayed in. I would go eat a bunch of freezer food at home and be a hermit."
She made her first two lifelong college friends through TRIO. Roth met Abi Pease, B.A. ’23, because they were always hanging out in the TRIO resource room, and then she met Alyssa Sherman, B.A. ’23, because they were acquaintances who realized they both took part in TRIO events.
Now, Roth always advocates for TRIO and encourages others to join in.
“I really like TRIO, and I’m glad I got to be a part of it," Roth said. "Once my mom asked if I would have done anything different in high school. Maybe it could have gotten me into a different school, but sincerely, I don’t think I would have. I think I was meant to end up at PFW and become an audiologist. I think how far I’ve come has been completely dependent on my experiences and the people I’ve had behind me.”