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Inspired by his professors, grad says York College prepared him for PhD

July 26, 2018
Clinton Jenkins, Class of 2012

Clinton Jenkins has spent much of the past 10 years of his life in a college classroom.

It took hard work and dedication to get him through first his undergrad at York College of Pennsylvania, then his masters at The George Washington University.

But this August, the culmination of all those years of work in college classrooms will pay off when he receives his PhD in Political Science from GW.

Then, it’s on to the next chapter of his life, the beginning of a new career and a new adventure — in yet another college classroom.

The day after he earns his PhD, Clinton will start his new job as an assistant professor at Birmingham-Southern College.

Finding inspiration in the classroom

He didn’t always want to be an educator.

When Clinton started as a freshman at York College, he thought he’d be a lawyer.

It was his professors at York College who inspired him to follow in their footsteps.

“I also learned that being a lawyer might be boring for me,” he says.

At York College, Clinton remembers his professors as focused on their students and always available to help.

“I hope to be that sort of professor,” he says.

It wasn’t just the faculty that cared though at York College, though.

Staff, administrators, librarians, everyone just really wanted to help students succeed, he says.

As an assistant undergraduate advisor for the political science department at George Washington, he says he’s already trying to adopt that approach.

“I’ve taken that to heart and help students get through the bureaucracy of the school,” he says.

Preparing for higher education

“York College gave me a solid foundation professionally and personally,” Clinton says.

He’s living in D.C. now, but many of his closest friends are still people he met in undergrad.

Because of the small class sizes at York College, Clinton says he was more comfortable working closely with professors than some of his classmates at grad school.

He also improved his writing at York College and was able to express his opinion and form an argument on paper. He credits his history classes, especially for focusing not just on the content of papers but how persuasive they were.

And he had a good understanding of research methods he’d be using in grad school, he says.

Learning lessons to carry on

Clinton’s professors at York College challenged him to engage with academic literature — and to discuss and debate with their classmates.

“It was definitely formative when I was a student and one of the things that made me want to go into higher education,” Clinton says.

Working in political science is like trying to figure out the answers to a bunch of puzzles, he says.

He enjoys coming up with a theory, then exploring the evidence to see if it’s there to support the theory. But his research isn’t just theoretical.

“The things we study matter and have impact,” Clinton says. “They affect everyday lives.”

Passing the torch

After 10 years as a student, Clinton is ready to be the one helping others learn.

It’s a bit daunting, being the person in front of the classroom.

But, he’s looking forward to reversing his role. He knows what it takes to be a good educator.

And maybe, someday, he’ll turn an aspiring lawyer into a political science professor, too.

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