Photographer: Ben Siegel
Jan 11, 2013
By Kelee Riesbeck
When Jenny Hall-Jones landed in Athens as an Ohio University freshman in 1991, she never dreamed she would one day be the University's interim associate vice president of student affairs and dean of students.
"I started out as a forensic chemistry major," Hall-Jones said. "I spent almost all of my time in the lab, not necessarily with people."
Hall-Jones manages, mentors and guides students in her professional role. But equally important to her is to give financial support for students during times of crisis, something she witnessed first-hand as a sophomore at OHIO.
Just as the thrill of lab work began to wane for her during her freshman year, Hall-Jones, who paid for her own education, was looking for ways to make paying for college more affordable. She became interested in the work of a resident assistant (RA) - a paraprofessional student who serves as a role model for other students, coordinates educational programs, fosters a sense of community in students, and administers University policies. Because RAs received half off the room cost and a small stipend, she decided to give it a try her sophomore year.
"I knew I liked people, and I needed to cut my costs any way I could. I thought being an RA meant I would really just be helping first-years find their classes and creating bulletin boards," laughs Hall-Jones, a 1995 sociology/criminology graduate who also earned a master's degree in education in 1997 and a doctorate in higher education in 2011, all at Ohio University.
Hall-Jones quickly realized there was much more to college student personnel work than met the eye. This became painfully true when tragedy struck. When a student fell to her death from a window in Crawford Hall where Hall-Jones worked, the instant and overwhelming outpouring of concern and care from the administration made a career-changing impression on Hall-Jones, she said.
"The dean of students and other university administrators wrapped their arms around all of the students and residence life staff affected. They came together to help us get through our grief and shock," Hall-Jones remembers. "That was the turning point for me. I knew I wanted to be like those administrators and serve students to that degree."
Today, Hall-Jones supports the OHIO Parents and Family Endowment through employee payroll deduction. The endowment, created in 2012 by the Ohio Parents Advisory Council, supports student health and wellness and also offers a critical financial safety net for students in times of need. Money from the endowment has helped feed students who couldn't afford meals, covered airfare so students can return home in a family emergency, and provided Bobcat Cash for off-campus students facing a housing crisis.
The endowment, currently at $30,000, has grown quickly, thanks to regular contributions from staff like Hall-Jones and from donations by OHIO parents and friends. Each year, 4 percent of the endowment's value is made available for spending by the dean of students.
"I give to this endowment because it has an immediate impact on the student in need. If I could give some of the students that come to us my own money, I would, so why not put it in this fund and have it be ready for any need?" Hall-Jones said. "The fund is flexible and is immediately accessible."
"Because I was a student without means, giving to this endowment is somewhat personal," Hall-Jones added. "Giving to this endowment means I'm able to provide immediate relief to OHIO students."
Ohio University's current capital campaign, The Promise Lives Campaign, has raised more than $413 million toward its goal of $450 million by June, 2015 in support of students, faculty, programs, facilities and community partnerships.