When asked for his definition of civic engagement, Dr. Michael Jones’ answer was both deeply personal to his position and broadly applicable to the goals of the Gephardt Institute for Civic and Community Engagement: “To me, civic engagement means viewing yourself in relation to everyone in the world around you. It means feeling a sense of responsibility to correct injustices and make the world a better place. If that’s your attitude, you’re more apt to put your stamp on change.”
The institute welcomes a true change agent in Michael (Mike) Jones, our Student Engagement and Service Manager. Originally from St. Louis, Mike studied Sociology, Theology, and African American Studies before earning his Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration from Saint Louis University. Before joining the institute, he worked in student affairs at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and Mississippi College.
The role of the Student Engagement and Service Manager is to cultivate student leadership and learning through community service opportunities that foster thriving communities and a life-long ethic of civic engagement. This includes managing the K-12 & Youth Initiatives that partner with local schools and organizations to mobilize college student volunteers, tutors, and leaders in the community. One of the largest programs housed under the K-12 & Youth Initiatives is Each One Teach One, WashU’s signature tutoring initiative. Each One Teach One trains college students and places them in local schools as effective mentors to K-12 students. The newest K-12 program, Hawthorn InvestiGirls, seeks to empower local young women by providing tutoring and enrichment experiences to the students of Hawthorn Leadership School for Girls. Additionally, K-12 Connections links the WashU community with local schools by facilitating field trips to campus and hosting events in the schools. Mike oversees these programs in addition to assisting other on-campus community service organizations in their efforts.
Mike’s commitment to serving students and the greater St. Louis area was impossible to mistake in his excitement to discuss his plans, goals, and priorities for the coming semester. When asked about his motivations for applying for the position, he said, “I wanted the opportunity to combine my love for the St. Louis community with my passion for working with college students.”
Throughout his career, Mike’s work has centered on students and his belief that young people have great power to change social currents. Mike laughs that college students keep him young. More earnestly, he says, “Students are in this space of learning and ambition that brings excitement to the job. They see the world beyond their classroom.” Part of his role at the institute will be to enable students in new ways to see and engage with this broader world.
When discussing his views on community engagement and his advice for students seeking to make a greater impact, Mike emphasized openness to the lessons that others can teach. Mike believes that service involves “getting as much as giving,” and to miss that truth would be to miss the opportunity to grow and learn alongside the communities being served. He urges students and partners with the desire to get involved in the institute’s K-12 & Youth Initiatives to listen actively and to be open to having their preconceived notions changed.
Mike Jones: A Closer Look
What’s your favorite place to eat in St. Louis? It depends on the day, but the place I could eat at every single day is De Palm Tree authentic Jamaican restaurant in University City!
Do you have a secret talent? I can play the Tuba.
If your life was a book, what would the current chapter be called? I would just be starting chapter 4. The first three chapters had a heavy influence on experiences with schooling, life as a newlywed, and being a first time father. I was in a training ground phase. Chapter 4 is about putting all those years of training into action! Wait until you see chapter 5 though; the best years are yet ahead.