As Mark Jacobs prepares to wrap up nearly 20 years of service to Arizona State University, his influence as dean of Barrett, The Honors College is apparent.
Jacobs, who became dean in 2003 and led the honors college’s physical growth and expansion on all four ASU campuses, announced his retirement last fall. He plans to step down in May.
As a member of the committee that helped design the Barrett Tempe complex that opened in 2009, he advocated for a dining hall where students, faculty and staff could gather to build strong connections over food, with a refectory modeled after the one at New College Oxford in England.
He made sure residence halls were equipped with amenities students wanted, and that classrooms, as well as honors faculty, staff and administration offices, were on-site, so students could live and learn in a top-tier, four-year undergraduate honors community.
Recognizing the value of global connections, he helped implement Barrett’s global programs that bring noted global leaders to campus and provide opportunities for students to study and serve others throughout the world.
He worked closely with honors college administrators, faculty and staff to build a top public university honors college that has been a model for other honors colleges throughout the United States.
While Jacobs will be leaving his post soon, he intends to continue helping honors students fulfill their potential.
He has established the Mark Jacobs Scholarship Endowment. Craig and Barbara Barrett, after whom Barrett Honors College is named, have agreed to match up to $50,000 in contributions made to the Mark Jacobs Scholarship.
Perhaps Jacobs’ greatest impact has been on the students who have taken his courses, sought his advice and depended on his mentorship.
We asked several Barrett Honors College students and alumni to share their thoughts on Jacobs’ retirement and what impact he made on them and the honors college.
Here is what they had to say:
Parth Bhangale, a computer science major who plans to graduate in 2025, took the fall 2021 Barrett Leadership course taught by Jacobs and Vice Dean Kristen Hermann that brings business and community leaders to the honors college to share their experiences.
“Since I was a part of his class, I had the opportunity to see him as a teacher and not just a dean. He is a great teacher, and he has taught me a lot about leadership,” Bhangale said.
“Dean Jacobs has good intrapersonal communication skills and is there for you whenever you need him. These (attributes) make him a really good leader,” he added.
Brinlee Kidd, a first-year student majoring in informatics with a minor in film and media production and a student in the Barrett Leadership class, said, “Dean Jacob’s style is based on accessibility. He is always willing to say ‘hi’ and have a conversation about how we’re doing in general and how we’re doing as Barrett students. He has a true interest in student success and fulfillment.”
“He has built Barrett Honors College as a progressive and open place where students can have many opportunities,” she added.
Michael Galibov graduated from ASU with bachelor’s degrees in biological sciences and global health with honors from Barrett in 2017. He is now a medical resident at Clarion Hospital in Glendale, Arizona.
Galibov said he took Jacobs’ History of Food course, where class discussions centered on the history of food and culture, diverse cuisines and the role food played in the development and advancement of the human species.
“I remember for our 'final' for that food course, we all attended a large banquet at Dean Jacobs’ home, where we ate with his family and just had fun. That encompasses his legacy in my eyes — impactful and light-hearted appreciation of those around you,” Galibov said.
Galibov chose an anthropologic honors thesis topic focused on the emergence of human bipedalism, and Jacobs served as one of his thesis mentors.
“Besides the direct role he played in helping me understand the aims of my thesis project, his leadership and approachability within Barrett made me feel proud to be a member of the community, eager to work hard and learn as much as I could in college, where I had a blast,” Galibov said.
Jacobs also helped Galibov through a stressful time when he was completing his honors thesis and applying to medical school.
“Throughout it all, his mentorship allowed me to decompress and accomplish what I sought to do in a way that I could be proud of," Galibov said. "Nowadays, eight months into my residency experience, I still remember how he carried himself, which I hope to emulate with my patients. I’m very grateful that I had a chance to learn from him.”
Michael Devine, a first-year Barrett student majoring in business (public service and public policy), took the Barrett Leadership course and interviewed Jacobs about his career in higher education, particularly collegiate administration.
“Personally, I saw Dean Jacobs as a role model and mentor. Knowing that he had been with Barrett for many years, I could see the amazing work he had done around the honors campus. This furthered a previous interest I had in working as a college administrator,” Devine said. "I reached out to him and (Barrett) Vice Dean Hermann, and they greeted me with open arms, ready to teach me about what they do.
"Dean Jacobs has shown me how large of an impact someone in his position can have on students and a community, and his mentorship has gotten me closer to, hopefully, one day doing the same thing he has done.”
Devine said he appreciates Jacobs’ care for students.
“There are numerous traits that make Dean Jacobs an amazing leader," Devine said. "For one, he is open-minded and listens to students. Although he is in a position of power, I, and many other students, never felt shy to speak to him and ask him questions. He always spoke to his students with absolute respect and made sure he was answering any questions they had.”
Thomas “Taxi” Wilson received his undergraduate degree in finance with honors from Barrett in 2012.
After graduating from ASU, he spent two years in South Korea on a Fulbright Scholarship. He graduated from Yale Law School in 2017 and is now Alabama's deputy solicitor general.
“Dean Jacobs realized a revolutionary concept: a world-class liberal arts college within a major research university. The impact of Dean Jacobs' leadership and vision are felt especially strongly by students who, like me, would not have been able to afford tuition at a traditional liberal arts school but nevertheless thrived in smaller, seminar-styled courses,” Wilson said. “To this day, many of the most impressive people I have ever met came from Barrett. The exceptional students he recruited made the honors college a vibrant and intellectual place, and thanks to Dean Jacobs, every student will carry these experiences forward.”
Virgilia Pruthi, who received a bachelor’s degree in political science with a biology minor in 2007, said Jacobs was the first person from ASU she met with when deciding where to go to university.
“I was a 15-year-old incoming freshman. My academic understanding was high, however, my social/emotional awareness was low. Dean Jacobs helped guide me towards finding the right challenges and most impactful opportunities given my passions,” she said.
“He became a mentor to me from day one, and helped make the decision to attend ASU and Barrett Honors College so much easier. He even helped me get my first job with Ambassador Barbara Barrett upon graduation,” said Pruthi, who now works as a principal product manager at Microsoft.
March 17 is Sun Devil Giving Day, when members of the ASU community — from undergrads to alums, staff, faculty, families and others — contribute to help advance causes they’re passionate about.
Learn how you can make a difference on Sun Devil Giving Day and support Barrett students by contributing to the Mark Jacobs Scholarship Endowment.
More University news
ASU and Governor's Office co-create programs for substance-abuse prevention, job training
Arizonans will have better access to substance-use prevention programs and job training thanks in part to a pair of…
College of Health Solutions scholarship honors speech and hearing professor
James Case loved teaching. Specifically, he loved helping develop future practitioners and teachers in the field of speech-…
ASU professor earns Outstanding Postdoctoral Mentor Award
Arvind Varsani, professor in the School of Life Sciences, the Center for Evolution and Medicine and the Biodesign Center for…