Mrs. Jacqueline Certion, academic adviser and counselor to students. Photo by T’Keyah Jones.T’Keyah Jones
The University of Mississippi employs thousands of employees that assist in learning. Among the faculty is an Oxford native with a compassionate heart who offers encouragement to students.
Jacqueline Certion, the FASTrack coordinator for enrollment and advising and a University of Mississippi alumni, has an office on the third floor of Howry Hall.
This early riser awakens at 5:30 a.m. each morning. She takes a few minutes to sit down and prepare herself for the day by checking emails, voice messages, invitations and her calendar.
Then she gets ready for work, wakes her youngest son at 6:30 a.m. to get him ready for school and begins preparing breakfast, which includes a healthy smoothie.
Once breakfast has been fully cooked and set, she wakes her husband, and the family sits and talks sharing smiles before heading out into the world, leaving for work at 7:15 a.m. Her workday begins with appointments at 8 a.m.
On a typical day, Certion advises hundreds of students with various majors from 8 a.m. until 12:30 p.m., but she caters to each student, counseling them about the courses they should take, providing encouragement that the classes are manageable, and that students can achieve their goals.
To Certion, mental health is crucial. “It’s very important to take care of your mental health, because if you’re not together mentally, the physical doesn’t even matter,” she said. She encourages students to prioritize their lives.
Certion takes lunch at 12:30 p.m. and stays in her office. Former students often come by to visit her, keep her updated about their lives and check up on her.
“Even though I advise for a freshman program, I have students who have been a part of FASTrack their freshman year still come in and see me,” she said. “I advise freshman, but I interact with freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors.”
No matter what time of day, Certion offers wisdom that challenges students to take advantage of their resources and look at the future with optimism and hard work.
No matter what the situation is for the student, (e.g. personal, academics, work-related) her door is always open with tissues ready. Once students leave the office, they have a genuine smile ready to conquer what is next.
Certion also serves as a Freshman Year Experience (EDHE 105) instructor on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:30 a.m. until 10:45 p.m. in the morning. With each student who enters her office and classroom, she emphasizes that college is the first stepping stone into the real world.
“I often tell my students, life doesn’t stop happening just because you’re in college,” she said. “You have to find a way to push through and overcome obstacles.”
FASTrack students are encouraged to attend the Counselor Education Clinic for Outreach and Personal Enrichment (COPE), a counseling center that works with children, adolescents, students and adults in a safe, nonjudgmental atmosphere where students can express concerns to gain insight and make changes.
Along with COPE, the university’s counseling center serves as an area of communication where students can express themselves without fear of being judged and sessions stay confidential.
Student Armonti Johnson said working with Certion has been a life-changing experience that has encouraged her to take pride in herself. Seeing former students come in to visit Certion demonstrates how much she has impacted their lives.
Johnson describes the work environment as, “That home vibe with motherly guidance.”
After a busy day of advising and counseling, Certion returns home and cooks dinner for her family. When the table is set with the meal for the evening, they family says grace and begins talking about their day with active listening, sharing their insights about each other’s lives.
Once the kitchen is cleaned and leftovers are stored in the refrigerator, Certion takes downtime to unwind from the day completely, then heads to bed at 10 p.m., waking up the next day to start the cycle over.