Alumni Spotlight

John Jackson ’12
Kindergarten Teacher
PR and Marketing Consultant
Shanghai, China

Major: Chinese

Minor: English Language & Literature

Activities: Track and Field; English and Chinese Honor Societies

What first attracted you to Whittier College? My brother, Bryan Atwater ’98, is a complete and successful man. Following in his footsteps was an easy decision.  

Why did you choose to study Chinese? It was either that or Chemistry. Whittier College requires all freshmen to take linked courses that are supposed to be chosen before their arrival. I procrastinated and was left with two choices: chemistry or Chinese. I chose Chinese because at that point chemistry had [seemed] to me more enigmatic than Chinese. After a semester, I was not convinced it would be anything more than a minor, but after I went on a school trip to Beijing and Shanghai, I absolutely knew I had to continue [studying Chinese further] and find my way back [to China].          

Describe your experience at Whittier College. Who were your favorite professor(s)? I can honestly say that almost every teacher I had played a considerable part in shaping me into the person I am right now; even the ones whose relationships never extended beyond instruction. All of them are dedicated people and all of them had more than a profound effect on me. However, Professor Lee and Professor Da Roza clearly changed the course of my life. That first year, Lee was my language teacher and Da Roza taught a cultural class. Lee believed in my ability to succeed, and I always felt the need to do my best for her. Da Roza is a person so full of life and that passion to share. Both pushed [me], believed [in me], and gave me the belief that I could succeed in Chinese. There is not a day that goes by where I do not remember what they have done for me, and not a day where I do not think that I have not done enough for them.

What was your most memorable moment at Whittier College? I remember calling my parents to tell them I had received a partial scholarship for a trip to China. The idea of going there was so foreign to me, and must have been completely bewildering to my parents. I was on the quad on my way back to Stauffer. I was nervous when the phone was ringing. I was proud of myself. I felt so thankful in that moment to my two professors. There are plenty of other perhaps more memorable moments, but in this bit of reflection, I have come to realize that that single moment may have been one of the most defining moments of my life so far.

Did you intern while at Whittier College? Where, and what was that experience like? I had a supply chain management internship at Goodrich Aerostructures for a few months one summer. It really opened my eyes to the business world, and eliminated some preconceptions I had about the dynamics of a desk job.

What was your first job after Whittier? What are you currently up to? How has your Whittier education benefitted you professionally? My first and current job after Whittier College is teaching at a kindergarten in Shanghai. On the side, I consult for a PR and marketing company, which has seen me do a variety of things including organizing events, translation, and pitching to prospective clients. Whittier College taught me how to think properly, and that has benefitted me in all aspects of my life. 

What advice would you give to future Chinese alumni when they graduate? Get to China.

Finish this sentence: I am a ‘Poet for Life’ because…I finally became me while I was at Whittier.

-Are you a graduate of the Department of Modern Languages and want to share your story? Contact the Office of Communications at therock@whittier.edu.