Jamie H. Shushan is the Associate Director of the Crimson Summer Academy (CSA) at Harvard University where she works to increase access to higher education for students from disadvantaged backgrounds and helps them succeed once they arrive on campus. In her work at CSA and beyond, she teaches numerous classes focused on college success, engages students in career exploration fieldwork, and serves as an advisor and advocate for students at colleges and universities throughout the United States. Jamie is the author of A Pocket Guide to College Success.
Tell us about one initiative you are currently working on that you are really excited about.
I have been working on creating an alumni network of first generation college graduates from my program who can serve as mentors and advisors to our younger students from similar backgrounds who are both applying to college and who are in college. There is such power in learning from the experiences of others, especially from those who really understand where you come from and what challenges you may face.
What motivates you to work in college success?
All students, no matter their background, deserve college success and yet not all students have the information that can truly help them achieve college success. In my work, I have recognized the power of information, i.e. sharing basic and sophisticated knowledge about college—from what to expect on campus to how to study effectively—and everything in between. With this knowledge, students are better able to achieve their goals and can make the most out of their precious time in college.
What advice would you have given to your younger self as you embarked on your first year in college?
That getting help in college is a noble act, not something to shy away from or be ashamed of. In fact, building a strong support system early in college is as important as working hard in class.
What are some trends and developments you are currently seeing in the college success/FYE course?
There is a great emphasis on helping students understand their motivation for going to college as well as what will motivate them to pursue their academic and career goals. This is really important so that when obstacles and challenges present themselves, students have already determined what can help them persevere rather than giving up.
What did you enjoy the most about writing A Pocket Guide to College Success?
I enjoyed articulating the importance of critical thinking in a way that I hope is more understandable and tangible for students. There is so much talk about needing to be a “critical thinker” in college and yet students often have no idea what to do practically to help push their thinking in this way.
And on a personal note…
What book has influenced you the most?
Lincoln by David Herbert Donald. Abraham Lincoln has always been an inspiration to me. He persevered in the face of such adversity and continued fighting for what he believed to be right against all odds.
What is something you want to learn in the next year (related to higher education or otherwise)?
I hope to learn more about the power of mindfulness and meditation in relieving anxiety and stress. The pressures of today, especially with technology being a constant presence in our lives, can be quite challenging, and I hope to understand more about these two areas to offer additional strategies for students who are dealing with anxiety and trying to better manage their stress levels.
If you hadn't pursued your current career, what do you think you would have done?
I would have pursued a career path that involved working with students in the Deaf community be becoming fluent in American Sign Language and finding ways to help educate the general population about the Deaf culture.
What is your ideal vacation?
Sitting on a remote beach with sun, sand, water and lots of good books.
Tell us an interesting fact about yourself that not many people may know.
I love to sing, act and dance (tap dancing is my favorite) and plan to get involved in community theater when my children are older and I have a few more minutes to myself!