In celebration of Native American Heritage Month, Nebraska Today spoke to freshman Derek Branch, a member of the Osage Nation, business administration major and Husker Football player from Lincoln, Nebraska. Off the field, he’s working hard so he can accomplish a lifetime goal: building a business that leaves a lasting impact on his community.
In high school, you were involved in DECA and FBLA and participated in Nebraska’s Future Builders Challenge. What draws you to business?
For me, business was one of the first things that ever got me excited to do school. I felt like it got my brain clicking in a way that no other subject could. It was also a place where I really felt like I could let my creativity show which always excited me.
Talk a little more about your experience with the Future Builders Challenge.
The Future Builders Challenge was what first got me into business. Being surrounded by people who were so like-minded was a first for me. I learned so much about my strengths throughout my entire journey and that helped me understand myself so much more. I also learned first-hand the behind-the-scenes of what it takes to organize and run a successful business. My favorite part of it all was to see all the moving parts in place. We worked as a true team, every group relying on each other to do their job correctly for the betterment of the team. Because we took this approach is why I think we were so successful.
You are also part of the Inclusive Business Leaders program. Is there anything from the program you’ll take with you when you graduate?
The lessons I’ve learned even in the short time I’ve been in the program are invaluable. We can have such open discussions that it gives me a brand new perspective on how fortunate I really am, even though it doesn’t always feel like that. One of the major takeaways I had recently was after taking the Intercultural Development Inventory assessment. This allowed me to take a long hard look at myself and realize that there is a disconnect between how inclusive I believe I am, as compared to the action steps I take. That is something that I am looking to improve on because I think it is essential to be inclusive in any environment that I’m in.
Talk about your experience coming to Nebraska as a walk-on. What has motivated you in that?
Ever since I was little it was my dream to play college football. I love everything about the game and being out there with my teammates. When workouts or practice gets hard, I think about the feeling of playing in front of 90,000 people in my hometown.
What do you hope to accomplish in your lifetime?
I want to start a family and be able to provide for them. Also, I want to build a business that leaves a lasting impact on my community.
Who inspires you?
My dad inspires me (His father is former Husker Troy Branch from Camden, New Jersey, a 1993 history undergraduate who earned his law degree in 1997). Getting to see where he grew up was shocking. Hearing the stories about him growing up with just his mom, not having heat in his house sometimes was extremely humbling. Knowing the struggle he went through over the course of his life and seeing where he is now makes me believe anything is possible. It is also a great reminder how humble he stays after coming so far.
What is your advice to other students looking to make an impact or accomplish their dreams?
My best advice to anyone that is looking to make an impact is to find something that you’re truly passionate about and give everything you possibly have. You can’t just dip your toe into something when you’re trying to reach your goals. You have to go all in and make it happen.