Humanities at Play: Dr. Jeremy Taylor

When Northwest Ohio’s Defiance College established an Institute for Career Readiness and Lifelong Learning, it tapped Dr. Jeremy Taylor to lead the institute as dean. Taylor is a tenured history professor who holds bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees in history—and who has compiled an armful of awards in his career across Texas, Arkansas and Ohio. Now, Taylor has helped create and implement Jacket Journey (named after Defiance’s mascot, the yellow jacket), an innovative, interactive career readiness program in which students participate throughout college. Here, the husband and father of two young adults, who serves on the Ohio Humanities Board of Directors, talks about the value of a liberal arts education, an ancestor’s inspiring evolution from slave to business owner and more. 

What lights you up? 

As an educator, I am passionate about seeing students transform from first-year students into professionals. It inspires me to see them learn, question and grow throughout their four undergraduate years. 

What frustrates you? 

It frustrates me when people lack compassion. Many people today get caught up in ideological beliefs without taking the time to understand others’ perspectives. Rather than jumping to conclusions about one’s circumstances, I wish people would start from a place of understanding and compassion. 

What makes you laugh? 

I love slapstick comedies. I grew up watching Airplane, Police Academy, Spaceballs and many others. I’m really easily entertained. 

What professional mission are you on? 

I want every student in America to know that college can be an option for them. There is a common misconception that college—particularly small, liberal arts colleges—are too expensive and not worth the investment. A college degree is one of the best drivers for social and economic mobility. Also, students gain invaluable skills that employers often identify as desirable: critical and creative thinking, oral and written communication, problem solving and many more.   

What personal mission or journey are you on? 

My personal mission is to simply be kind. I try to put others before myself and do a little bit of good every day. 

“Education is the key to solving many of the world’s problems.”

Jeremy Taylor

Why is human connection so important? 

Human connection is important because we, as a species, are not meant to live in isolation. We need to speak, talk, touch and interact with other humans. Human connection allows one to move beyond themself and learn from others. 

What is a memorable moment from your childhood—and why was it defining? 

My most memorable moment from childhood was when I read my first book by myself. I can remember the feeling of accomplishment that I had. This was defining because reading opened up the world to me. 

Who made a powerful mark on your life, and how? 

I have never met the person that made the most powerful mark on my life. His name is Sip Mills, and he was my great, great, great grandfather. He was born into slavery but managed to become a land and business owner in segregated, 19th-century Alabama. His ability to adapt and overcome enormous odds has always been an inspiration to me. 

What project or work that you’ve done are you most passionate about, and why? 

I had the pleasure of helping to create and implement the Jacket Journey program at Defiance College. This is a required, four-year career-readiness program designed to help students find their calling and prepare for their career. Jacket Journey is fun, interactive and embedded into the curriculum. It was great to work with stakeholders from across campus and the community to develop the program. 

Who do you love to learn from? 

I love learning from my students. Although I don’t teach as much as I used to, I generally learn just as much from my students as they do from me. 

Why do you love Ohio? 

I love Ohio because of the people. I moved to Ohio from the great state of Texas (by way of Arkansas) about 10 years ago, and I have developed great friendships with people from all walks of life. Ohio is a great place to live. 

What one story or person do you wish every Ohioan knew? 

I did my dissertation research on the relationship between Johnson’s Island Confederate prison camp in Lake Erie and the city of Sandusky during the Civil War. This is a fascinating tale of civil-military relations and is full of interesting, relatively unknown characters. 

What are you certain is true? 

I have the best job in the world. 

If there is a single mission you could mobilize people around, what would it be? 

I would mobilize people to help improve educational opportunities for all students. Education is the key to solving many of the world’s problems. 

If people defined you with one word, what do you hope that word is?