Joelle Jacobs, Social Work

Campus in fall with foliage

Students walk to class in front of Withers and Daniels Hall. PHOTO BY ROGER WINSTEAD

Joelle JacobsJoelle Jacobs will be graduating in May with her Bachelor’s degree in social work. Her path to this point has been anything but ordinary. Currently an intern in the Office for Institutional Equity and Diversity, Joelle also helped start the BackTrackers student organization on campus.

Where are you from, what is your educational background, and what is your field of study?

I was born and raised in Raleigh, North Carolina. I graduated from Apex High School in 2007 and moved to Wilmington, North Carolina with no intention of continuing my education. After taking some time away from academics, I enrolled at Cape Fear Community College for an Associate in Arts degree. I graduated from CFCC in 2013 and transferred to NC State to pursue an undergraduate degree in social work. I will be graduating in May 2016 with my BSW and plan on seeking a Master’s degree in social work.

What activities and initiatives have you been involved in at NC State?

I helped start a student organization on campus, the BackTrackers, under Lorrinda Janik, the founder and president. The organization gears towards non-traditional students with the goal to provide these students with resources and support to help their success at NC State. When I first started at NC State, I felt very isolated and alone due to my “non-traditional” status. This organization not only connected me with academic support but provided me with a sense of community on campus.

What have been some of your most impactful experiences in your life relating to equity and/or diversity?

My first social work class required a 40-hour volunteer component. I decided to volunteer as a tutor for the YLearning program within the Alexander Family YMCA of Raleigh. At the time, I did not realize that this was a complimentary afterschool program at a low-income elementary charter school in Raleigh. My first day was rather eye-opening. The school itself seemed to lack the resources each student needed and deserved. I also noticed the students struggled with academics appropriate for their age/grade level. Many of them struggled with behavioral problems as well. I found it difficult to keep them focused and driven to complete their homework. At other times, I found them getting frustrated with their work because they were not receiving an adequate education. In my opinion, this all seemed to be an issue of finances. The school was short-staffed, run down and poorly run. I felt that something needed to be done to help the faculty, staff and students but did not know how to go about it. This experience had me question: if kids less than two miles from my campus are having educational difficulties, how many other places around me and throughout the world experience this or have nothing at all? I really value a solid foundation in academics and education and feel that everyone (especially kids who have no choice but to attend school) should be granted the proper resources and support needed to be successful.

Why do you feel a diversity is important at NC State?

Diversity is important to understand and accept not only at NC State but off-campus as well. Each and every person on campus came from somewhere different and experienced things in a different way. No one’s story is the same; therefore, we should respect the differences that exist between us. I also encourage others (myself included) to be curious rather than ignorant when experiencing diversity. Ask questions… you never know whose story or knowledge will shape your future endeavors and experiences.

What do you hope to achieve personally and professionally in both the short and long term?

Not to be cliché, but my goal both personally and professionally, short- and long-term, is to be happy. I measure my personal success by my happiness and I can honestly say I am right where I need to be in my life. The one thing that has contributed immensely to who I am and where I’m going is my education. I am not sure what path my life might have taken without it. My short-term goal will be accomplished in May when I graduate with my undergrad degree. I hope my long-term goals of attending the Master’s program and securing a job will happen in my future. In addition to education, travel has been a goal of mine since before I can remember. I hope that whatever job or degree I seek next will allow me to travel to new places both in and outside of the country. In the meantime, I will keep working on what makes me happy from the time I wake up until the time I go to sleep.