Journey from reluctant student to doctorate - External Relations
Journey from reluctant student to doctorate
May 20, 2020
VINCENNES, Ind. – Dr. Jeffrey Taylor thought college wasn’t for him
until he arrived at Vincennes University, and the experience led the
way to his extraordinary career in education.
Jeffrey Taylor, 1992 VU graduate
“VU made me college and career ready,” Taylor said. “I brought the
drive and VU provided the opportunity. There was so much support at VU.”
Faculty play an instrumental role in student success. Taylor found
support from several faculty members. One, in particular, stands out:
Joan Puckett. She was his English Composition I professor in 1990. She
is now the Dean of VU’s College of Humanities. Taylor was a struggling
student in Puckett’s English class when she provided additional help,
stoking Taylor’s success and making a lasting impact.
“For the first time in my life, I did not just give up the first time
the door shut,” he said. “I actually went forward. I think it is
because the opportunity was available and the professor availed
herself to me.”
Taylor thrived at VU and graduated with an associate degree in
Secondary Education in 1992. He transferred to Ball State and earned a
bachelor’s degree in Social Studies Teaching. He went on to earn a
Master of Education in School Counseling and Ph.D. in Education
Administration from the University of Southern Mississippi. He is
currently the high school counseling manager for Shelby County Schools
in Memphis, Tennessee.
Taylor is an inspiration to all and the embodiment of the Trailblazer
spirit, blazing a unique trail to reach his dreams.
Joan Puckett, VU Dean of Humanities
“Dr. Jeffrey Taylor is a great example of what a start at VU can lead
to,” Puckett said. “He did not enter VU as the most stellar student,
but he certainly turned into one through his desire and enthusiasm to
learn, to teach, and to succeed. The call to teach is a strong one,
and Jeff heard that calling. That calling led him from VU to Ball
State to the Mississippi Delta, where he found his first teaching
position in an alternative school. He continued his education and
earned his M.Ed. and then Ph.D. His beginning at VU set the stage for
The seed of teaching was planted in Taylor when he was growing up in
“I always wanted to be a teacher and I said that all the way until I
got to high school when it started to hit me that I was going to have
to go to college for this,” he said. “College costs money and it was
going to be more time in school, which I didn’t like. I said, ‘How are
you going to be a teacher and you don’t even like going to school.”
As he put it, he divorced the idea.
Taylor had no intention of attending college. Instead, he focused on
finding a job. He hoped to get hired in a car plant, work 25 years,
and retire. It didn’t happen. He became a certified nursing assistant
and discovered that wasn’t what he wanted to do.
“I had so many jobs that were unstable,” he said. “I could never get
full-time employment. They never lasted very long. I was one year out
of high school and between jobs when one of my friends said he was
going to Vincennes University to look into broadcasting. I was so
bored that I said, ‘I’ll ride down with you.”
Attending VU produced the best of days of his life, according to
Taylor. He volunteered at a middle school. He also served as a tutor.
“Everyone has a purpose and it is your job as a human to find out
what the purpose is, and then to pursue it,” he said. “Once you get
what that purpose is Vincennes University may be the outlet for you to
get what you need towards fulfilling that purpose.”
Taylor credits VU for helping him take advantage of what life has to
offer, and that has led to an impressive career.
Ann Herman, VU Education Department Chair
“His experience truly illustrates how important it is to make
personal connections in the world of education. His quote, ‘Anyone who
has a high school diploma who wants to be successful in terms of
career can find success at VU’, is such an important point to make.
Vincennes University offers that personal touch because we truly care
about the success of our students,” said VU Education Department Chair
and Associate Professor of Education Ann Herman.
He is giving the same support back into the world that he received.
Taylor encourages students to enroll in college at the minimal cost
possible and to stay local where they have support and opportunity.
“Throughout his career, Jeff, like all those in education, has had
the opportunity to positively impact the lives of the students he has
touched,” Puckett said. “His work with challenging student populations
has provided an even greater opportunity to inspire both students and
those he now supervises.”