Tiffany Jackson of Butte, Montana says key to student success is involvement – Montana State University Leadership Institute
Like many freshmen, Tiffany Jackson of Butte looked forward to the freedom that college would bring, but instead she found her transition to Montana State University and her first year at college to be daunting. Distant from friends and family, and confused about her direction in life, Jackson recalls that she felt lost and somewhat lonely. Until she got involved.
"I tell new students to be aware of their surroundings, to go out and attend things that interest them," Jackson said. "There’s great things out there for them that will add to their personal and career goals."
Jackson is a great example. In four years she went from shy freshmen to campus leader and the recipient of the most recent MSU Rotary Student of the Month award honoring her activities, her leadership in her graphics art major as well as a 3.72 grade point average.
Jackson’s involvement culminated in her selection as senior fellow for the MSU Leadership Institute http://www.montana.edu/leadership . The active campus group has brought such speakers to MSU as Booker Prize winning author Salman Rushdie and Dr. Ken Kamler, who lectured on surviving in extreme environments. In addition, the institute hosts films, open forum discussions, and student leadership-training seminars.
"Over her three years at the MSU Leadership Institute, Tiffany has grown each year, taken more responsibility, mentored others and evolved from a staff member to staff leader and role model," said Carmen McSpadden, director of the MSU Leadership Institute.
"Tiffany’s a great inspiration," says fellow Leadership Institute member Rachel Hofacker, a junior majoring in business from Colstrip. "Her mentorship of others helps build the overall organizational culture, which is based on personal relationships and trust."
Jackson’s life was quite different her first year, she said.
"I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life and I did a lot of soul-searching," she recalls.
Jackson said a scholarship for high-achieving in-state students brought her to MSU. Her friends had gone to other campuses and her close family, although less than 100 miles away, seemed agonizingly far away. And, while always passionate in art, she didn’t know it was offered at Montana State.
Jackson opted to enroll in MSU’s general studies curriculum and was introduced to several majors. She also took tests that gauged her interests and abilities.
"And I found that I had missed having art in my life," Jackson said. She also discovered the graphics design, which she said was a great fit from the start.
Jackson also discovered the Leadership Institute, nearly by accident. While attending MSU full time, she worked two part-time jobs. So when she walked into Leadership Institute, and successfully applied for a work-study position, her life improved dramatically.
"I knew from the beginning that this is where I wanted to be," Jackson recalled. "(The institute) has been a great thing for people like me to go there and develop my leadership skills. My life became 100 times better."
Jackson’s excellence has earned her spots in the select Mortar Board Honorary, The Golden Key Society and National Society for Collegiate Scholars. Recently, she was a part of a group of seniors from the graphic design program that toured Portland, Ore., networking with graphic arts firms in that area that are among the top design and advertising firms in the country.
"I’m thinking that I would like to work in Portland or San Francisco for awhile after graduating in May," Jackson said. Her eventual plans are to return to Montana, and perhaps Butte, and begin her own firm.
"When you’re in high school you can’t wait to leave your hometown, and now I realize how it is a major part of who I am," she said. "I love Butte."
Jackson said she feels confident that the academic and leadership skills she has developed will stand her in good stead in the marketplace.
"Now as I look back, I can’t believe how fast those four years have gone," Jackson said.
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by Carol Schmidt, MSU News Service
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