I was extremely lucky to have a mom who encouraged me to stay in college and to take courses that I was passionate about. She maintained that if I loved something enough the right job would come,” states Dr Jan L. Jones.
Jan has been a professor for almost 15 years. She discovered her passion once she started to study Sociology and International Development. She credits past professors, Dr Henry Veltmeyer and Dr Jim Sacouman, who sparked her desire to study international tourism development and ultimately pursue a PhD in the United States.
Based on their encouragement, she participated in a two-week course in Cuba. While there, Jan fell in love with education and cultural travel. She eventually gravitated towards teaching, which allowed her to continue learning about topics that she was passionate about. Teaching provided her with an environment to share and nurture those passions in others.
You have travelled extensively as an educator; tell us a bit about two of those experiences.
I believe strongly that my teaching improved after every trip I took abroad. Three places that profoundly changed my life and worldview are Cuba, Jordan and Jamaica. Traveling to Cuba improved my confidence and gave me a feeling of independence. It ignited my love for learning about other cultures.
I took a solo trip to Jordan to conduct research with people I had never met in person. It was overwhelming because the reactions of most people about my trip were mostly negative and extremely cautionary. I soon realised that most people didn’t know anything about Jordan. I chose to and rely on information and advice from people who had actually been there several times. After just my first day in Jordan, I knew that I would love it there. My favourite part of the trip was hiking in Petra and traveling to 13 smaller communities with my outstanding colleague and now close friend. It is a truly different experience to travel with someone who grew up in that culture. It surprised me to discover the similarities we shared with many core beliefs and life aspirations.
My trip to Kingston, Jamaica also elicited negative responses. I was warned not to leave the resort. I flew directly to Kingston and opted not to stay in a resort. For many years, I had studied the tourism development issues in Jamaica. It was quite another thing to travel there, live with local people and hear about their daily challenges. I was fortunate to stay with Ashley Hyde who owns Touch the Road. In Jamaica, I became distinctly aware that kindness and a smile go a very long way. Our culture conditions us not to talk to or connect with strangers. We should be doing the opposite. The beaches in Jamaica are beautiful, however, the people and food really stood out to me. The entrepreneurial spirit and passion of the young people that I met was inspirational. Everyone should experience the local fried chicken and Rastafarian food!
What would you say made the biggest impression on you professionally and personally throughout your travels?
As professors, our research defines us. We are convinced that we are more important if we publish articles and books. Many spend countless hours applying for grants and developing projects in hopes of building a name for themselves. I gradually realised that I cared less about making a name for myself. I was more interested in the personal connections and the growth I experienced through travel. Over time, I began sharing more of the life lessons I experienced in hopes of inspiring my students to travel and explore the world in more culturally sensitive and locally beneficial ways. While I still have a profound respect for academia, I think that we sometimes stray too far away from what is really important.
What are two fun things that you like to do?
I am a very social person. In my free time, I like to stay connected to my friends and family around the world. I enjoy inspiring people to live healthy and active lives. My absolute favourite thing to do is to go on little adventures with my husband and kids.
Educators are often painted as being overworked and tired throughout the academic school year. Is this an accurate representation? What are 3 things that can improve work-life balance?
First, there are so many different kinds of educators. I knew that I would not be a good fit in an 8:00am-3:00pm classroom environment. Being a professor was a perfect fit for me because it fits my personality.
I also believe that many educators are over-worked and tired. There is a desire to standardise and test student- learning outcomes for everything. I agree that there needs to be consistency in what we teach. However, I often found myself frustrated with the focus on standardised tools. I have seen excellent teachers leave academia and teaching because they felt like their jobs had become more about testing than teaching. I encourage my friends in teacher training to remember to have a life beyond their careers. If you don’t look after yourself and your loved ones, you will eventually get burnt out in any career.
Here are three things that I recommend teachers work on:
- Volunteer your time for projects/ committees that you love. Learn to say no to “busy” work. When I served on a committee, I always attended the meetings and was actively involved in the work. I had no desire to simply have my name associated with a bunch of committees that did nothing.
- Look after yourself mentally and physically. Carve out free time for yourself to do something each day that allows you to relax. I personally love to exercise and try new recreational activities. I always feel rejuvenated and more productive when I do so.
- Create a world beyond your work that you also nurture. I have realised this past year that I was not always the best at appreciating what was right in front of me. It can be hard to do this when you are always working and/or traveling. Spend time with your family and friends. Find something to be passionate about that has nothing to do with your career.
You recently started your own tourism education consultancy. What are some of the services that you will be offering?
I have been developing a tourism education consultancy with a colleague. In my experience, I often saw international students struggle with cultural acclimation, networking and professional career decisions when studying abroad. Having worked as a career and academic advisor for over 15 years, I developed a series of college success and professional development workshops for students planning to study abroad.
I have also seen countless international students fall through the cracks due to frustration with the recruiting process at their institutions. While the International Offices are often well equipped to help international students, other administrative offices are not often well educated about their needs. I would like to assist schools and colleges assess the strengths and weaknesses of their current international recruiting and admissions efforts. I can help them identify areas and strategies for improvement. The best place to start is to assess the experiences of current international students and then build on their knowledge to develop creative and interactive cultural tourism recruiting programs.
Despite having a solid educational focus, your articles often reflect the ‘heart’ that goes into being an educator. What is the motivation behind this?
Having studied for 12 years in higher education in both Canada and the United States, I had the opportunity to learn and grow from a variety of teaching methods and styles. The professors who truly impacted my life were those with heart. Those professors who truly cared about my success beyond the classroom are the ones that I will always cherish and remember.
My proudest teaching moment was when a student came up with a slogan that she felt represented me as a teacher – “Travel with an open mind and a kind heart.”
Share one thing about you that would surprise your colleagues.
Not many people know that I have a black belt in karate and have won several national and international point fighting competitions.
How can others contact you – social media, email, etc.?
Please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can check out my LinkedIn profile at https://www.linkedin.com/in/janlouisejones
Live, laugh, love, travel – Dr. Jones.
By Carolyn Lee