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ASU student discovers passion for service, direction for future

March 29, 2013

Marcus Jones II says the opportunity to study at Arizona State University has changed his life. The Compton, Calif., native didn’t know when he first arrived on ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus in the fall of 2009 that he would end up majoring in public service and public policy and pursuing a career working with college students as his life’s work.

“What I did know is that I was expected to go to college, and that paying for school would be mostly my responsibility,” said Jones, who will become the first in his family to earn a college degree when he graduates from ASU this May.

Given his financial circumstances, Jones figured attending a university close to home would be the optimal path for reaching his goal, so he accepted an offer to attend California State University, Fullerton. But only weeks before the fall term was to begin, Jones was notified that his funding package would be reduced due to state budget cuts impacting the California State University system.

“I had to re-think my options in a hurry,” Jones said. ASU had been on his short-list of choice schools and he decided to follow-up.

“I was offered a revised funding package, which included a grant specifically for California residents that would cover my first two years at ASU,” he said. “A few weeks later, I was on campus.”

As a freshly minted Sun Devil with an affinity for writing, Jones selected journalism as his major. It was only a few months in, however, that he recognized today’s 24-hour news cycles, blogs, wikis and social media channels weren’t for him.

“I always enjoyed analysis and writing in long form. I quickly realized journalism wasn’t what I was looking for,” he said.

Jones began investigating majors leading to careers that would allow him to make the most of his strong communications, analytical and problem-solving skills, and more importantly, he says, help people.

High on his list was everything from majors in communication to nonprofit leadership and management. And then there was the public service and public policy major offered by the School of Public Affairs, within the College of Public Programs. Jones said the collegial nature of the faculty and staff, and of a curriculum that places a concentrated emphasis on leadership and public service, clicked into place for him.

“I knew this was where I wanted to be,” Jones said. He changed his major with the start of the spring semester of his freshman year and hasn’t looked back.

Jones thrived in the management and leadership classes offered through his program of study and complemented his coursework with active participation in a range of clubs and organizations on ASU’s Downtown Phoenix and Tempe campuses, and through student employment opportunities with the Office of Educational Outreach and Student Services.

Through ASU’s education partnership initiatives, Jones coordinated outreach activities at local high schools, many of them serving students and families from low-income communities. Last fall, he joined the College of Public Programs as a peer advisor, assisting students with making the transition to college smooth and enjoyable.  

“I like the impact these programs make in the lives of students,” he said.

At the same time, Jones has become a consistently visible and committed presence in the student leadership arena at ASU, working in highly-responsible student positions and volunteering his time and talents to support a host of university groups and causes.

Through his work experiences and community engagement, Jones says he discovered the field of higher education administration and student affairs, and his passion for managing operations and logistics. “That’s what I’m good at,” he said.

His current role as building operations manager with The Student Center @ the Post Office on ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus was a perfect fit for Jones. In this position, he oversees 20 student employees and handles all reservations and meeting coordination at the center located at 522 N. Central Ave., Phoenix.

On March 5 Jones joined ASU President Michael M. Crow, civic officials, community members, and many ASU students for an opening celebration and ribbon-cutting ceremony to commemorate the addition of the 24,000-square-foot facility that features an array of amenities, meeting rooms and open space.

The $4.7 million renovation was funded through a student government-endorsed fee of $75 per semester. In 2011, Jones was recruited to serve as the student representative for the project – providing a voice for the 13,000-plus students for whom the center was created.

It was Jones’ job to listen to his peers, advocate for and relay to a team of architects the students’ wishes regarding how the investment should be used to create the space and services students need.

He listened well.

“We needed a place to recharge our laptops in between classes, a place to meet casually and grab a quick bite to eat, a place to lounge with our friends, and watch and cheer for our Sun Devils while on the road,” Jones explained. “We needed a place for student organizations to meet, a place for our student government to operate and a place for our Programming and Activities Board to plan events for us.

“As ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus continues to grow, we now have the space that we needed – where a student can be a student.”    

After completing his bachelor’s degree this May, Jones plans to enter the master of higher education program at ASU before embarking on a path in pursuit of his “dream job” to one day become the executive director of University Unions with The University of Texas at Austin.

“Marcus Jones, by every account, has excelled during his four years in the School of Public Affairs, earning the respect of instructors and fellow students while honing his leadership skills through his coursework and involvement in the ASU and surrounding community,” said Jonathan Koppell, dean of the College of Public Programs and director of the School of Public Affairs. “I have no doubt that his boundless energy and passion to help people and organizations move to new and higher levels will ensure his success wherever his career takes him.”