Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Alumni Spotlight: Jason Dutton

By Jason Dutton, class of 2005, Creative Writing and Political Science major; AU MFA 2012

I work for the federal government. I always start there when people ask about my job, because it sounds very cool. I work for the Defense Logistics Agency as a customer account specialist, which means I provide customer service for the military. But if you’d told me nine years ago that I would be doing this job, I’m not sure I’d be thrilled. I would have preferred to hear that I would make a living writing books.

Nine years ago, I would have recently earned my BA in creative writing and political science from Ashland University. I chose Ashland because it was one of two universities in Ohio with a creative writing program, and after I met with Dr. Joe Mackall when I toured AU, he became another major reason I enrolled. Joe was my advisor for four years, as well as my thesis advisor when I returned to AU in 2010 for the graduate creative writing program, and I now consider him a dear friend. Joe was honest and direct with me from the beginning, and three things became very clear to me: Joe cared about my education, he cared about my development as a person, and he believed the former was very important to the latter.

That sort of thinking is what I value most about my time in the AU English department. I read a lot of books and wrote a lot of papers and listened to a lot of lectures, but my education with Joe and with others often seemed more like a conversation. My teachers clearly believed study wasn’t just important to attain a degree, but because reading the work of others and learning to effectively communicate were skills that would serve me well regardless of the direction my life took. I remember being especially impressed a few days after I’d written a column for the Collegian about how so many of us students never really stop to think about why and what we’re learning. After reading my column, Dr. Dan Lehman took time out of his class to explain why what he was teaching us was worthwhile. My education and my opinion never felt more valued and important than they did in that classroom.

So if you’d told me nine years ago that I would be working for the military, having applied for the job because I needed one, I wouldn’t be pleased. But then you’d explain to me that it’s a great and important job, one that provides good pay and benefits, one that I couldn’t have gotten without my degree, and you’d have my attention. And when you told me that my college education enabled me to be a valued employee, one that communicates well and seeks to understand others and still strives to learn every day, then I would be as grateful and happy to have attended AU as I am right now. Especially when I use my spare time to write those books.