Jillian Jacobs ’16

As a special education teacher, Jillian Jacobs ’16 works with severely traumatized students. It was her Colby-Sawyer experience as a business major that prepared her for this tough job.

What are you doing these days?

I’m currently a special education teacher for teenagers with emotional/behavioral disabilities at a special purpose private school in rural Maine. It really is a lot more fun than it sounds! I basically teach kids who got expelled from high school because of their behaviors (usually due to traumatic experiences and/or mental health challenges). I’ll be running my own classroom for the rest of the school year, which is exciting.

How did a business degree take you here?

Being a special ed teacher was definitely not something I set out to do. When I first applied to Colby-Sawyer, I knew I wanted to be a Business Management major because I felt it would always be relevant to anything I decided to do. That didn’t change during my four years of college, and it’s proven true now that I’ve graduated. I wanted to be a business major because knowing how to be a professional adult who can work effectively with people/groups and understand big picture organizational goals are skills that are applicable to every field. And that turned out to be accurate even for a special ed teacher.

Do you think Colby-Sawyer prepared you well for your job?

Absolutely. I (arguably) have one of the hardest jobs in the country. I spend every single day working with kids who have such severe and complex trauma that public high schools have deemed them too unsafe to attend. You can imagine how difficult that might be, but I can do it mostly because of the skills I learned at Colby-Sawyer. My college experiences (not always in the classroom) taught me how to work with people coming from all different backgrounds and perspectives, how to accept failure and learn from it, and how to navigate the professional world as an adult. With these skills I’ve earned two promotions in less than a year at my current job, and I’m currently supervising three people who are all at least twice my age. I definitely wouldn’t be comfortable with that if I hadn’t gone through Colby-Sawyer’s Business capstone.

Any favorite memories of Colby-Sawyer?

I always loved bonding with my OB (Organizational Behavior) and Capstone groups. We all had a lot of fun getting work done because everyone had a great sense of humor, and then we would usually hang out other times because we became friends. I had a lot of good times at the Lodge and Peter Christian’s with my fellow Business majors.

Which staff or faculty member inspired you most?

So many people made my college experience successful, enjoyable and relatively painless, it's hard to pick just one. But if I had to, it would probably be Caren Baldwin-DiMeo, the director of the SLC (Student Learning Collaborative). I took her Writers and Their Texts honors class freshman year and learned a TON about pedagogy and academia. After that semester, Caren hired me as a peer educator at the SLC and she's been a huge supporter, confidant and friend to me ever since. Sounds corny, but she's basically the reason I decided to become a teacher myself. And she's gracious enough to still give me advice whenever I need it to this day, which is awesome. Caren taught me so much about challenging myself, maintaining a good attitude, and using empathy to be a better, kinder person -- I can't thank her enough.

Any suggestions to current seniors for their capstones?

Realize that you will make it through if you put in the effort, and the effort is worth it because you’ll probably learn a lot during the experience. For business majors, I would add that your capstone isn’t that bad as long as you’re willing to do the work. Listen carefully to expectations, take the time to bond with your teammates, view your failures as opportunities to get better, and you’ll be fine.

How about advice on finding a job after graduation?

Be patient. Don't be afraid to do something that will just pay the bills while you're figuring out your career. Remember you're only 21 or 22 -- you've got plenty of time to learn more about how the world works and what you want to get out of life. Take your time with it, and don't compare your place in life to where other people happen to be at the time. That's a really "kumbaya" type of answer, but I think it's important to take some pressure off yourself in terms of finding the "perfect" job right out of college. And don’t feel like you need to find a career in the field of your major – most of the things you learn in college can apply to basically any job. Try stuff out and figure out what you actually like without worrying about the words on your degree. Your experiences are usually more important anyway.