Smith Jackson

Major(s), Concentration(s): BS- Psychology (experiential and learning foci); MA- Counseling and Higher Education; Doctorate of Education- College Student Personnel with cognate areas of social psychology and anthropology
Year at Elon: Faculty/staff

1. Other than class assignments, what kinds of things do you write or have you written?
I routinely write speeches and do presentations for campus events (most recent one is for the dedication of McBride Gathering Room in Numen-Lumen Pavilion), have written several professional articles , was the chief author/editor of the Student Life Five Year Plan, 2010-2015 ; write many letters of recommendations for students and staff applying for graduate schools or jobs each year; have written occasional editorials (such as the Juicy Campus); write many proposals for improvements on the campus in terms of space, facilities, staffing and priorities; write many reports on goals and objectives; write emails to send students on campus alerts, and institutional events/happening; and occasionally tweet.

2. What piece of writing are you most proud of?
My dissertation, for which I was a finalist for the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators’ Dissertation of the Year Award, and an article I wrote and which was published early in my career entitled, “Behavioral zoning for stimulation seekers.”  I wrote this article with my mentor, Charles Schroeder, one of the preeminent chief student affairs officers and national leaders in higher education; it was a cutting edge piece on how to design spaces based on perceptual and environmental psychology.

3. Where is your favorite place to write?
When I and my family moved to Burlington, we built in what was an attic at the time a bedroom with vaulted ceilings, skylights, and angular features.  As my kids grew up and left, I took this space over as an office. It feels remote and high up, high above the sprawling metropolis of Burlington, and is a great place to think and write. I have it set up with a desk, couch, bookcases, computer, printer, music, pictures and art (much from my immediate family over the years), etc. The room is spacious and airy, and is outfitted with a great sound system

4. Do you have any interesting quirks and/or routines you follow when writing or when you are preparing to write? What are they?
I tend to gather a lot of information before I write. So I immerse myself in reading, and getting into a subject. I rarely develop an outline, but instead mull information over until it comes together in an intuitive way before I start writing. Then I write all my ideas down, and then shape/edit/reduce my words into a piece that has a flow. As for quirks, I know that late at night I am most creative, so that is when I develop the ideas, but not work so much on an actual writing product. I am more expansive and conceptual at night. In the mornings, I am more concise and tasky, so that is when I like to hone my writing, especially after sleeping on my work from the night before.

5. Who is your favorite writer? Why? 
Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., a 20th Century American writer artist, secular humanist, pacifist and political critic. Some of his most well-known books are  Cat's Cradle, Slaughterhouse-Five (1969), and Breakfast of Champions,  which blend satire,  humor, and science fiction. He wrote in a colorful, sometimes far-out, imaginative way that is really engaging. He was influenced by Hermann Hess, a Swiss writer form the late 19th and early 20th century, who wrote Siddhartha, the book I am holding for my National Library Week READ poster. Vonnegut, like Hess, was a fierce defender of individual freedom and both of these writers’ works had undertones of Jungian psychology which deals with the workings of the unconscious, including the collective unconscious, philosophy, and spirituality, and overcoming obstacles along life’s paths as one moves toward higher levels of consciousness. Pretty heavy but enlightening stuff, but in contexts that are inspiring. Vonnegut is the more entertaining author, but Hess, who is a Pulitzer Prize winner, is the more substantive writer.

6. What was the best writing experience of your life?
No one time stands out, but it is those times when I write with others, such as an article or proposal for a presentation at a conference.  An odd, but recent example was writing with Brooke- Barnett and Ann Cahill, among several others, Elon’s new policies and procedures regarding harassment and discrimination.  This collaborative project had meaning and it is fun to have deadlines, craft words into very intentional language, and do this under fierce deadlines. The three of us actually worked several hours on this document on New Year’s Day. But the intellectual exchange and editing/revising of words to reflect values and practices is my favorite part of writing, and what I am best at.

7. What would you most like to improve about your writing?
Always to express with more clarity and in interesting ways my thoughts, but to do so in as few words as possible So I seek to improve my writing to be succinct but illuminating.

8. What advice do you have for other Elon writers?
Just do it. It is hard, but rewarding.  Participating in the “I Write Campaign” has motivated me to want to write and publish another article. There are few things more rewarding than to see something you wrote in print, as it can be a contribution to one’s field or provide someone with insights.  Sometimes it is years later that others will pick up something you wrote, and that lasting potential for something you wrote to benefit others is pleasing.

9. What else (if anything) would you like to say?
Thank you for inviting me to participate in this worthy project. Writing is beneficial to both the writer and the reader, and we need to emphasize, as you are doing, its importance as a life skill. Writing will always be relevant in our lives as a form of reflection and expression.