By: Tedi Rountree
May 5, 2015

John Jackson

Number 18, May 5, 2015

John Jackson ’15 (A.S. Pre-Engineering) is excited about his future. Eleven years ago, when he graduated from high school in Charlotte, North Carolina, he found a job working at a boys’ home and later in road construction. He wasn’t afraid of hard work, but after nine years of physical labor, he recognized he would need to go back in order to move ahead. His grandfather offered him the opportunity, pledging his support.

Worried about study skills after being out of school for so many years, he audited a math class at the College of Coastal Georgia and discovered he was not only good at math, but also he enjoyed applying it.  He began charting his course for a college degree, armed with hard-won maturity and a set of goals.

At Coastal Georgia, he found three instructors to further motivate him: Dr. Ntungwa Maasha, Professor of Physics and Geology; Dr. Jamil Mortada, Assistant Professor of Mathematics; and Dr. German Vargas, Associate Professor of Mathematics and Department Chair.

“Dr. Vargas was my professor for the three semesters of calculus required for my program. During this time there wasn’t a single question I asked that he wasn’t able to answer. Most he knew off the top of his head, but for a few he applied his knowledge of mathematics and science to obtain an answer.  As a student, being able to watch as a solution takes shape using nothing but math theorems and physical laws is really incredible. His teaching style is unique and he urges us as students to not memorize formulas but to use our skills to derive these formulas on our own. Dr. Vargas’s personal confidence in his ability to apply his trade instills confidence in us as students,” Jackson said. “Dr. Mortada has this incredible ability to present mathematics in a very formal structure. He really focuses on understanding the rules of which equations and numbers follow. When you learn these things, math can become very orderly and concise. I really like the order that can be found in math; it is very calming and reassuring when you begin to see it this way.  And Dr. Maasha has an amazing personal history that inspired me. It was Dr. Maasha who suggested I check out the University of Oklahoma.”

Graduating with his associate degree in pre-engineering and a 3.94 GPA after two years, Jackson is transferring to the Mewbourne College of Earth and Energy at the University of Oklahoma, awarded with an academic distinction scholarship,  to pursue a degree in petroleum engineering. He anticipates the degree will require another three years to achieve.

“Oklahoma provides immediate interaction and involvement with the energy industry. Internships are required as a regular part of our studies and the laboratories at the school have the same high tech equipment that the industry uses,” he said, explaining his choice. “Energy has a huge impact on the future of this planet. Petroleum engineering professionals are in high demand and, with the energy crisis and environmental issues involved, this offers a career where the opportunity to really make a difference is abundantly present. Each drilling location is different. I’ll have opportunities for international travel, often to remote areas. The sites can be dangerous, not only geopolitically, but also because of the mechanics of drilling.”

He hopes his friends and the faculty at Coastal Georgia will remember him as a hard-working student and a good buddy. “I’ve developed close relationships with the faculty and other math students,” he concluded. “There’s a friendly competition in our math community that pushes us to work harder and learn more. It’s been a great two years.”