Colby Dorcely is graduating on Friday—something he wouldn’t have thought possible six years ago when his family was caught in the midst of a devastating earthquake in their home community of Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
Dorcely is graduating from UT’s Haslam College of Business with a major in supply chain management. He will participate in the undergraduate commencement ceremony at 4 p.m. on Friday in Thompson-Boling Arena.
Although the 2010 Haiti earthquake lasted for only 28 seconds—which seemed endless at the time, Dorcely remembers—it crippled much of the island country. Buildings were reduced to rubble and nearly 230,000 Haitians were killed, including several of Dorcely’s friends, a pastor from his church, and his teacher.
“The earthquake left a tremendous devastation in the country and in the community where I was living,” said Dorcely, whose own home was shaken but intact.
“The earthquake exacerbated the poverty in the country,” Dorcely said. “But what was most dangerous to me was the deep sense of hopelessness that the community felt. I thought it was the end of the world.”
Following the earthquake, Dorcely was working as a translator between victims and volunteers when he met Todd and Kristi Stewart, two pastors from Knoxville’s Grace Baptist Church. The Stewarts helped him get a student visa to come to the United States for college.
“When Mr. Stewart talked to me about the opportunity to come to America to attend college I was quite emotional,” Dorcely said. “When I was little, my dad had that vision for me, though it was unimaginable at that time. But my dad would always say we live by faith.”
Mark and Criston Bishop have served as Dorcely’s host family while he attended college.
“They have been a great support to me and have treated me like their own son,” he said.
Dorcely attended Pellissippi State Community College for two years before transferring to UT in 2014.
He declared a major in supply chain management with the Haslam College of Business after his first semester.
“The professors taught with so much passion and enthusiasm,” he said. “I felt convinced that it was the college I wanted to pursue my degree in.”
Dorcely spent a great deal of the last two years in the library and TRECs but found a true passion in Bridges International, a Christian organization on campus.
“We serve international students by facilitating their transition to campus and creating a community for them to feel loved and appreciated,” he said. “Being an international student myself, I understand how hard and overwhelming the transition can be, so I have been absolutely privileged to serve with Bridges International in that capacity.”
Dorcely is now considering graduate school to pursue a master’s degree in economics or law school. Eventually he hopes to return to Haiti and engage in community development through job creation, education, and vocational training.
“My motto is that life on earth is ephemeral—it is crucial that I live it for something durable, eternal, something bigger than my short existence on this earth,” he said.
Dorcely’s parents and siblings still live in Haiti. His father works in building construction and his mother stays at home with his siblings.
His father and uncle will attend Friday’s commencement.
Read more about Dorcely in the Haslam College of Business October newsletter.
C O N T A C T:
Amy Blakely (firstname.lastname@example.org, 865-974-5034)