Marshall University students were encouraged to take control of their lives and overcome society’s labels Tuesday during “Against All Odds,” a Black History Month event hosted by Black United Students.
Brandi Jacobs-Jones, senior vice president of operations at Marshall, was the guest speaker for the event. Jacobs-Jones told students personal stories of the challenges she has faced in life, such as being bi-racial and growing up with an alcoholic father, and how she pushed past these challenges to find success.
“There are aspects of our lives, either situations that we are born into or situations we find ourselves in, that we don’t have control over,” Jacobs-Jones said. “We can’t use those as crutches, we have to use them as opportunities to spring forward and be successful.”
BUS president Alexis Tyson said she invited Jacobs-Jones, a Marshall alumna, to speak because of her ability to relate to students and be honest about what it took to translate hardships into motivation.
“When you hear a title like VP of Operations or Chief of Staff at Marshall University, that’s a big title,” Tyson said. “When people see that that face is someone who possibly looks just like them, they say ‘I can be like her one day.’”
During her speech, Jacobs-Jones encouraged students to be in control of all aspects of their lives and what kind of person they want to be. She also told students they control the ways that stereotypes affect them and they have the power to fight back against oppressive labels.
“We want our students to know that they are empowered,” Jacobs-Jones said. “They are empowered to dictate what their future is going to be like.”
Jacobs-Jones also made a point to say that stereotypes come in various forms, from racially driven stereotypes to stereotypes against college students. She said everyone faces stereotypes, no matter their gender, race or ethnicity.
Students who attended the speech, such as sophomore psychology major Clarice Stradwick, said they felt inspired by Jacobs-Jones’ stories.
“I’ve been kind of struggling this semester and its just kind of motivating to hear how she had to work past those boundaries that were set for her,” Stradwick said. “Those stereotypes that people hold to you, don’t let those hold you back.”
Jacobs-Jones and Tyson said they hope students left the presentation with a newfound sense of confidence and drive to achieve success on their own terms.
Ryan Murphy can be contacted at [email protected]