Don Jacobson teaches microbiology at Sheridan College, an adjunct position. There are 29 students, nine in his class. After a successful career as an educator, consultant and entrepreneur, he’s back in an environment that he loves — teaching — and in a place that values education.
“It’s a helluva good school.”
Jacobson, 66, should know. He has the appreciation of experience and perspective. He has advanced degrees in biology and a Ph.D of instructional technology from the University of Nebraska in Lincoln. (And yes, he pulls for those Cornhuskers.) He taught microbiology and Advanced Placement biology at Millard South High School, one of the largest schools in Nebraska. While earning a master’s degree and doctorate, he received National Science Foundation fellowships to three top research universities. He studied the ecosystems of major western rivers, noting their effect on climatology.
“I love teaching. I love the classroom. I love the kids.”
While living there, and supplementing a teacher’s income, he began life as an entrepreneur with computer networking and cybersecurity which led to a contractor’s position with Dell. There was a triangular travel pattern for eight years — Omaha, Austin, Sheridan — before he and his wife, Debbie, a registered nurse, decided to “retire” for good. Sort of.
“We came here, and we won’t leave. We love it here.”
At first, he was a guest lecturer at Sheridan College for three semesters. This led to the adjunct position.
“The freshmen and sophomores here at Sheridan College are exposed to the very best, equipment and a learning environment that’s five stars.”
The equipment, Jacobson notes, draws a comparison with the schools he was affiliated with in his fellowship years, including Princeton and Stanford. “There are centrifuges, microscopes and tools as good as I’ve seen anywhere,” he added.
Moreover, he continues, the SC students he connects with, those in the dental hygienist and nursing programs, are “motivated, ready to learn and focused. They are encouraged by their futures. Not a lot kids are drawn to the sciences, math and technologies. They’re hard. Sheridan College provides the facilities and atmosphere and these students want to learn.”
(The U.S. is ranked 35th and 27th in the world in math and sciences, according to the Program for International Student Assessment, PISA, from a report by the Pew Research Center. Hong Kong and Singapore are ranked 1-2 in the studies.)
Jacobson believes, too, that having this equipment, nationally-recognized faculty and ongoing building and renovation of facilities is necessary and useful in recruiting. His students (two classes, one lab) hail from South Dakota, Montana, Colorado and Wyoming. He noted the SC residence halls, the student union, the common areas which enhance student interactivity, are a draw to students and parents. He also sees faculty as advocates, “getting out into the field,” in contacting high school guidance counselors and teachers who will sing the praises of higher education at Sheridan College. SC’s enrollment has steadily increased in recent years, whereas other two-year schools in Wyoming have declined.
“This ain’t no juco,” he says, referencing a term for junior colleges. “There is much to be impressed with here.”