Taylor Dorrough: Student finds Seminole spirit on smaller campus

Erica Martin

Taylor Dorrough thought she wanted the typical college experience at a major university, but she ultimately discovered a smaller campus was right for her. After attending the University of Kentucky for two years, she found the right fit with the Business Administration program at FSU Panama City.

“I had always deep down wanted to be a ’Nole,” she said.

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Dorrough had toured Florida State’s Tallahassee campus as a high school sophomore, but she went to the University of Kentucky because it was closer to her Dayton, Ohio, home. Two years later, she followed her parents to Destin, Fla., where the family sought a better education for her autistic brother, Hunter.

“I told my parents there was no way they were leaving me up north in the snow,” she said. “I could not imagine not being able to go home and visit on the weekends and only seeing my family on school holidays, so the college transfer search began.”

After touring FSU Panama City, she said the smaller classes, more personalized feel and waterfront view made the branch campus the right choice for her. Because of her “firecracker” personality, she was able to quickly make friends and campus connections.

“I was so convinced that I wanted to go to a big school to get the real college experience. Being on a big campus really keeps you busy, but I realized it was not for me,” she said. “Everyone at the FSUPC campus was so friendly and welcoming; it instantly felt like home.”

Because she was just shy of enough credits to be a junior when she transferred, Dorrough was grouped with the campus’s inaugural group of underclassmen. Together, they made history and many friends along the way.

During new student convocation in Tallahassee, Dorrough said she realized how important the group was to the campus.

“It really hit me hard that the group of kids I was sitting with was helping to change FSU for the better,” she said. “It was such a fun and exciting experience to grow and see the change with all of my peers and staff. It made us all close, which is something I would not change for the world.”

Despite credits that didn’t transfer and new prerequisites for FSU, Dorrough was determined to graduate on time, taking up to 18 credit hours a semester.

Because of Dorrough’s hour-plus commute to and from campus and the adjustment to a new campus, adviser Katherine Kamback cautioned against taking on too much.

“I didn’t want her to completely overwhelm herself,” Kamback said. “It’s an adjustment coming to a new university, driving from out of town each day and everything you have to deal with coming into a new situation: new friends, new professors, new surroundings.”

Dorrough proved herself. “I decided it was time to focus on school,” she said.

Her instructors saw her as a focused student who had dedication and determination.

“Taylor not only speaks well but she also listens, understands and then translates this understanding into meaningful conversations,” said Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies Barbara Robinson, who taught Dorrough in two humanities classes. “She has the motivation, dedication, drive and singleness of purpose to understand the necessity of working very hard for her degree.”

“The heavy course load is indicative of her ability to manage her time and is indicative of a well-organized individual,” said Associate Dean Gary Bliss, who also teaches business classes.

Dorrough credited her brother as her reason to succeed. “He has always been my motivation to work hard and be the best that I could be because I always felt I was working for both of us since he never had the opportunity,” she said.

With graduation nearing, Dorrough has turned her attention to her next goal: graduate school. Because she loves the campus, she has applied to the master’s program in Corporate and Public Communication at FSU Panama City.

“While Taylor certainly has the academic credentials to succeed in the degree program, she also has the interpersonal skills to become a great communicator,” Robinson wrote in a recommendation letter. “Her drive and ambition centers around helping people who truly could not exist without committed individuals working on their behalf in many ways including providing professional support and serving as a mediator with families, health care providers and others.”

A combination of business and communications is very desirable in the workforce, Bliss said. “These degrees, along with her positive attitude will take her far in her career.”

After completing her master’s degree, Dorrough hopes to start a non-profit organization for adults with autism to continue their education, learn a trade and build relationships.

“After they turn 22, their options are limited on what they can do post-school,” she noted. “I want to build an organization where the students feel like they belong to a group to make friends and continue learning.”