UAS hires new student services director

Posted: Sunday, September 06, 2009

When Dr. Jessie Grant was applying for jobs, he never imagined the one in Alaska would call him back.

The new Director of Student Services of the University of Alaska Southeast, who was taking care of his mother at the time, decided to apply for five jobs a day:

"I saw the posting (and thought), well all right. It's Alaska, they're not going to call me," Grant said. "Five jobs, I did my five. I did my commitment. Done.

"Then they called. (And I thought) well, it's just a phone conversation. I'm not the candidate. I can talk to you for half an hour, sure, not a problem."

Then they again called two days later and invited Grant to visit the campus, all expenses paid, for a full interview.

Grant decided to go, even while thinking "They're not going to hire me. No, not at all."

"When I got here, some people say it was the weather, but I fell in love with the place," Grant said. "I said 'I can see me out there, believe it or not. The people are nice and friendly. It's an institution. It's senior level. It's kind of all the things I wanted.'"

Still Grant said he believed UAS would go with the other candidate. "I was thinking I'm not going to Alaska. It's just not going to happen."

So when Bruce Gifford called on July 6, Grant told his mother, "'So here's the part where they're going to turn me down nicely.' So I put it on speakerphone. And so, my mother's real quiet. And he goes, 'We want to offer you a job' and I go 'I want to take a job.' And my mother was laughing hysterically in the phone. I look at her and I say 'I've got a job' and she says, 'Yeah, at a place you said you would never go.'"

The message Grant took from this: "Never say what you won't do because I said I will not go to Alaska and live. Look where I'm living."

Grant, called the "new Tish," is from Akron, Ohio. He did undergraduate studies at Ohio State and Kent State and received a bachelor's degree in sociology and ethnic studies from Kent State.

For his master's program, he said he applied to a bunch of colleges that accepted people mid-year. And since he didn't get the letter from Ohio State, where he really wanted to go, until after he'd already decided, he said:

"One of my professor's said something really crazy, and I said 'if it works for her it works for me'. What she did she said that she threw her acceptance letters over her shoulder and the one that went the furthest is where she decided she was going to go. And so, I threw 'em! And the one that went the furthest, no lie, was University of Iowa."

So Grant received a master's in counseling education from University of Iowa and later went on to earn his doctorate in educational leadership from Western Michigan University.

Since his college days, Grant has worked at many different colleges and universities in a variety of positions.

When asked what he loved about working at colleges and universities, Grant said, "It's where you really truly get to add to the initial part of a person's life, in a very critical part of their development as they are deciding and determining what they want to do, what they want to be, how all that stuff gels together from what you learned at home ... and how you get here. Being involved in that process is really exciting to me."

"I add a breadth, depth of the student affairs experience to the position," Grant said about what he would add to UAS. "The personal, real answer, I through my whole personal experience and journey, offer voice to a variety of communities who probably have not had a voice here before and do it in a way that people enjoy interacting with me ...I add a very unique way of delivering student services and a very unique way of engaging students and making them feel a part of the university, that's what I offer."

Grant's plans for student services is to engage students and work to improve satisfaction.

"I'm going to try to streamline services, make sure that our students are having the best quality experience that we can offer them here," he said. "I would like to be intricately involved in student culture and do whatever I can to have students say, whether it's right when they graduate or down the line, like I said when I was an undergraduate, I had so much fun when I was an undergraduate student."

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