As advising season begins, many students feel the stress of signing up for classes and the possible dread of changing majors. The rush to schedule advising meetings and ensure that holds are removed can make any student nervous.
Many of these anxieties about the future are laid to rest in Howry 308, where Jackie Certion, assistant director for the FASTrack program, can be found amid the constant ringing of phones and keyboard clicks.
FASTrack is a program for first-year students that provides smaller class sizes and individualized advising to members to help them transition from high school to college.
Certion is constantly busy during advising season. The gold and royal blue decorations in her office create a warm atmosphere that eases the minds of the dozens of skittish students who enter daily.
Advising may be a stressor to some, but to Certion, advising is a time to get to know students and help push them beyond their goals while attending the University of Mississippi.
“It can be hectic because I try to have as many students as possible before the registration window,” she said. “Getting them in before the window opens can be sometimes tedious.”
Certion added that students also come to her when the path to graduation seems uncertain or bleak.
“I love helping students through those decision-making processes when they come in a certain major and letting them know that it is completely okay to change their major,” she said. “Because at 17 or 18 years old, do you really know what you want to do with your life? Probably not.”
Though her job consists of teaching EDHE courses and guiding students down their academic paths, she said her joy stems from being a person that students can rely on at any time.
“I would like to think that I have a great relationship with students,” Certion said. “I love having students that are sophomores, juniors and seniors who still come to me not just for academic advising but just to talk about life. Having them feel like I am a confidante, an advocate and a resource that they can use beyond their freshman year means the world to me.”
Outside of her office, students view Certion as a motherly figure who gives advice in times of need.
Certion recently received the Black Student Union’s Guiding Light Award. This award is given to a faculty or staff member who not only helps students on campus achieve their goals in and out of the classroom but also guides them to greatness after graduation.
Certion also serves as an adviser for UM ESTEEM, the Alpha Beta chapter of Omega Phi Alpha and the Xi Zeta chapter of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc.
Candace Bolden, a sophomore biochemical engineering major, said her experiences with Certion have always been positive.
“Mrs. Jackie started her influence in my life as a FASTrack adviser,” Bolden said. “I had an extremely hard freshman year, and she would always give me encouraging words.”
Bolden referred to Certion as a “second mom.”
“I talk to her about anything. She corrects me when I need correcting,” Bolden added. “Then she focuses on teaching me how to celebrate myself, which is one thing black women — sometimes women, in general — struggle with throughout life. She is teaching me how to go after everything with the attitude of royalty and humility.”
Certion has also impacted the lives of students outside of FASTrack.
Christilian Turner, a senior psychology and social work major and fundraising chair of Omega Phi Alpha, has known Certion for three years.
“Mrs. Jackie has become my safe place on campus,” Turner said. “I can go to her office when I don’t need anything and come out in a better mood, and my life is a little more together. She is that aunt who does not mind putting you in check when need be but also has plenty of love and charisma that’ll turn any terrible day upside down.”