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 further accomplishments.”

The seed of teaching was planted in Taylor when he was growing up in Muncie, Indiana.

“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.”

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