NDSU education helps graduate start a new life
Published August 4, 2016
Scot Jones started a new career and a new life on June 6. He spent the last six years at NDSU earning a bachelor’s and then a master’s degree in statistics and gaining skills that helped him secure a job at Lamb Weston in Park Rapids, Minnesota.
Before he came to NDSU, few people believed he was college material. He dropped out of school in eighth grade and ran away from home. He was a street smart, scrappy kid who lied about his age to get a construction job. Later, when he was an adult and had a family of his own, he worked as a machinist.
Then he had a work accident. His shirt sleeve got caught in a lathe. As the shirt was pulled over his head, his ponytail got caught, and his scalp was ripped from his head. The injury required 17 surgeries to repair. He was not able to do his old job while the injury healed.
During conversations with his former employer and its legal team, Jones expressed interest in going to vocational school to learn another trade. They said he wasn’t capable, that he wouldn’t succeed.
Land-grant universities like NDSU were created to give people access to higher education, so they can improve their lives and help the country thrive. Scot Jones was a junior-high dropout and runaway who has changed his life by earning an education at NDSU.
Their response fired him up. “It motivated me to prove everyone wrong,” he said.
In 2004, Jones moved to northwestern Minnesota. His dad, who had died, had spent time there in a rented lake cabin. Jones went to the lake, too, to make peace with the past and move on with his life.
During that time, Jones made the acquaintance of a rehabilitation counselor who encouraged him to go back to school. The counselor asked what interested him. “I like numbers,” Jones said. “Numbers always made sense to me. I just didn’t know what it was called.” The counselor helped him find the word: statistics.
Jones came to NDSU determined to succeed. He recognized he had the opportunity to change his life and planned to make the most of it.
Hard work, success in his classes and positive relationships with faculty members and peers slowly built his confidence. “I’ve never been treated with such dignity and respect,” he said. “I felt like I was important.”
Being welcomed and accepted helped him learn soft skills, such as how to keep his cool in stressful situations and how to interact in professional settings.
He was a teaching assistant as a graduate student and realized how his past helped him empathize and reach students who were scared of failing.
In February, he received the email he had spent a long time dreaming about. He passed the comprehensive exam required to earn his master’s degree. Less than a month later, he accepted his job as production supervisor where he uses his statistics education.
The boy who dropped out of school and ran away from home proved them all wrong. Jones graduated from NDSU on May 14 and went to work in a new career a few weeks later.
“Don’t ever let someone tell you what you can and cannot do,” he said.