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Self-awareness found at Furman was key to alumna’s success

Dorothy Freeman Self ’04 M’06

Last updated December 20, 2023

By Furman News

Dorothy Freeman Self ’04 M’06 admitted that she was not always “a numbers-minded businessperson.” Instead of economics or accounting courses at Furman, she focused on her philosophy major and interdisciplinary concentrations in women’s studies and classical studies, and on her graduate studies in early childhood development.

But the numbers eventually added up for Freeman Self, celebrating 10 years as the founder of DFS Creative Concepts, a marketing and digital advertising agency.

She was selected as one of 2017’s Best and Brightest 35 and Under by Greenville Business Magazine, and has served on the board of the Better Business Bureau of the Upstate and chairs the bureau’s Local Advertising Review Panel. Her growing company’s clients include dozens of prominent local, regional, national and international businesses and organizations. And she has her largely humanities-based Furman education to thank.

“If I truly had to boil it down, majoring in philosophy made me what I am today,” she said. “Furman encourages you to evaluate who you are and what you believe, and the key to understanding that was philosophy – learning how to articulate beliefs to different audiences.”

Although she had family connections to Furman – her father, Doug Freeman ’72, is a former member of the Board of Trustees, and her grandfather graduated from Furman in the 1940s – it wasn’t a foregone conclusion that she would attend Furman when she began her college search from her hometown of Jacksonville, Florida. But Furman’s “welcoming spirit” swayed her during a campus visit.

She soon found faculty mentors in English professor Butler Brewton and philosophy professors Sarah Worth ’92 and the late Thomas Buford.

“I think I took every class Dr. Worth taught,” she said. “She truly changed my life.”

“What I remember most about her was our conversations outside of class about life and growing and growing pains,” said Worth. “I knew she would fly, and it was great to see her do it.”

“She was an exceptional undergraduate and graduate student,” said another mentor, Scott Henderson, the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Education. “She was engaged, curious, compassionate, empathetic and creative. I could always count on her to make an insightful comment or raise an intriguing question.”

A member of the Alpha Delta Pi sorority, which she later served as an advisor, Freeman Self also discovered “the most amazing program I had ever heard of” – the Bridges to a Brighter Future college access and success program.

After Furman, Freeman Self taught for several years until around 2008, when her private school closed during the economic downturn.

“I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh, it’s time to figure out another life plan,’” she said. “So I got a job utilizing a different skill set.”

She began helping with marketing at an interior design firm, making connections that would lead her to work in special events, advertising, marketing, event planning and writing at The Greenville News and TALK Magazine. When she ultimately ventured out on her own, she kept those connections.

“And before I knew it, I had a bevy of clients that I was working with,” she said. “I just sort of fell into owning a business. I guess I didn’t really realize I owned a business until I was in it.”

Help in those early years came from a series of interns from Furman, whom Freeman Self has “truly loved,” she said, keeping up with about 30 over the years.

In 2014, her family established a few benefactions to Furman, including the Dorothy Jean Freeman Endowed Scholarship. The scholarship is intended to aid full-time Furman students who are alumni of the Bridges to a Brighter Future program in financial need.

Last August, Freeman Self and her team of about a dozen at DFS Creative Concepts celebrated a decade in business by moving into its own dedicated building in downtown Greenville. Looking back from what she calls “our big girl house,” the founder vividly recalls the campus where her journey began.

“Furman helped me understand who I was as a person,” she said. “And this was the key to my success in my leadership roles – my capacity for self-awareness.”

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