Andrew Jason

Student Info

Graduation Year:
2015

What made you decide to attend the RCAH?
When I was applying to MSU, I was not sure what major would fit me best. All of the majors felt like they would interest me, but would only be one small part of what interested me. I felt pressured to pick a major right then as I was applying, so I started to look at the websites of majors I did not recognize. Through that research, I found the RCAH which of course has so many different pathways and options within it. The RCAH major seemed like it was both large enough that I could explore my many interests, but small enough that I would feel part of a community.

Do you have any favorite memories?
I won’t talk about a full story of a memory, but some of the moments that stand out were: learning to talk about film in an academic way for the first time in Prof. Tama Hamilton-Wray’s class; Dean Steve teaching us how to cut and eat a mango in Mali; Walking back to my apartment after many classes with my roommate continuing the class discussion together; The first WNL listening to John Hunter discuss his World Peace Game; Philosophical discussions about Frog and Toad in the Donley Elementary classroom.

What were your academic interests in RCAH?
In the RCAH, I took many courses that were focused on youth and how students develop their own self efficacy and a civic identity. While in the RCAH, I also minored in Film Studies (theory) and Women and Gender Studies. I was drawn to discussions of modernity in cinema and cinema’s representation of the city as well as the interaction between gender, the body, and the screen.

What were your favorite aspects of the RCAH experience?
The community of learning helped me to grow tremendously. There were so many conversations that were unplanned that benefited me as a student, with a peer, staff, or faculty member. More than helping me grow in my learning, these conversations helped me feel connected and grounded to the university and helped me find meaning on the large campus.

Did you ever take part in Study Abroad/Study Away at MSU? If so, which programs?
I was able to participate in the 2014 Dialogue and Reconciliation trip to Mali in West Africa with Dean Steve. It feels cliche to say that a study abroad changed my life, but going on this trip truly changed my direction in a lot of ways. I gained a newfound hope in the power of community, in slow incremental changes, and intentional dialogue.

What have you done since graduating and where are you now?
For the past two and half years I have been based out of Newaygo County doing college access work, first as a college adviser with Americorps and now as an administrative assistant to our local career and college access network and our early college program. Newaygo County is a rural community who’s students face many challenges, due to poverty and isolation,  as they determine their steps after high school.

During my time in RCAH, through engagement and reflection, I was able to grow as a person and as a community member. It was evident however, that there were so many students who do not experience education as the RCAH was able to provide. Many students from the rural area where I grew up do not go on to college and are not able to explore the world as freely as I could. In my current role, I help to create and sustain systems that help more rural students discover and follow through on their educational and career goals. RCAH grew my passion for education and my ability to work in both a systems and community mindset.

Which RCAH experiences influenced the work you do today?
My civic engagement class with Donna Kaplowitz was all about social justice in education, and I think those conversations we had in class, plus my experiences in an elementary classroom helped me grow comfortable having difficult conversations with students and extending empathy to the students and families that we serve here in Newaygo County. On a somewhat meta level, the whole experience has influenced my work, because of what a valuable experience college was for me, I want others in a low-education area to see the value of a college experience.

Did you know while you were in college that you wanted to do the type of work you’re doing now?
No I did not! I was interested in education as a topic and took classes that had an education focus, but I did not know that I would end up working in the field of education doing college access.

How did RCAH prepare you for what you're doing now?
My position now requires collaborating constantly, listening carefully to what other people say, and being flexible. The RCAH classroom was designed to be a highly collaborative space where listening and considering different viewpoints was key and also allowed me to explore many interests providing a degree of flexible broad-based knowledge for different situations.

What do you enjoy most about your current job?
Every day is different, with different types of tasks, so I am always learning and growing through new challenges. Certainly keeps it interesting. I also have an incredibly supportive supervisor who acts as a mentor and helps me intentionally build new skills and grow my decision making ability, sometimes it feels like I am back in an RCAH classroom!

What are some of the challenges?
Being one of the youngest people on the team or in my organization is sometimes challenging, either because I am missing some time and experience in the community, or I myself am impatient with the speed that change is made. Change takes time and building the social and relational resources is probably the longest part of any community change effort. In my day to day, the hardest part is making a decision that you know will affect another person or multiple people in unpredictable ways, especially when talking to a student about a challenge they are experiencing or their future plans.   

What kind of hobbies do you have outside of work?
I run with some local runners in the area, rain, snow, or shine! Playing strategy board games with my friends and family. Taking time to enjoy the nearby Manistee National Forest or the Big Lake. And I am currently working on starting a podcast about Michigan/Midwest topics with another alum.

If you could plan an event for alumni in your area, what would you do?
Maybe an RCAH hike or Lake Michigan day that ends, as any good group of Michiganders might do, at a local brewery to talk with one another. It may also be interesting to try to find some way to do a long term civic engagement project locally that would keep us coming back together.

What words of wisdom do you have for current RCAH students?
The world around you may not have the mindset you have, and rightly so, you spent some time in a unique program and took time to develop your particular views. Extend grace and patience to others and believe in a person’s ability to learn, grow, and change.