Last week, USM held its annual awards ceremony where students of various rankings, majors and accomplishments were recognized. A familiar face at this ceremony was USM senior Jaylen Hackett, who will graduate this May with a double major in political science and economics. Recently, we sat down to reflect on his time at his home away from home.
Growing up in Mobile, Hackett never gave much thought to USM throughout high school. “It’s funny actually,” Hackett said. “I had the USM hoodie and everyone would ask me if I was going to USM.I would always respond with no.” That all changed when he attended his high school’s college fair and checked out the USM booth.
“I talked to a guy from Ole Miss and Mississippi State and something was off,” Hackett said. “Then I walked up to the USM booth, and he was so excited and happy and welcoming. It really made me think, ‘This is where I want to go.’ Then I toured campus and everyone here was just like that [recruiter].”
Hackett found his place and has soared to the top ever since. That is not to say that he has not struggled along the way. It’s been a journey about finding out how best to reach his goal in life.
“I really want to help people,” and the people he’s surrounded himself with have allowed him to find his best way to reach that goal. Hackett entered USM his freshman year as a broadcast journalism major. He switched to economics, and later added the political science double major.
He’s made the most not only of the resources here on campus, but also the links these resources can provide him. Hackett interned last summer at Princeton where he was able to study the causes and effects of healthcare programs in Georgia. It was during this internship Jaylen decided he would pursue a Master’s in public policy with a dual degree in law from Princeton soon after leaving USM. However, he’s not studying for the GRE just yet. Following his graduation on May 12 (which he is very excited about), Hackett tentatively plans to move to Charlotte, North Carolina to teach ninth grade math through Teach For America.
Speaking with Hackett, you soon figure out the things he is passionate for, and how those things direct his life. In striving to make a difference, Hackett has participated in GEWW Crew for the past three years, been named a Truman Scholar finalist, and holds several offices and responsibilities within his fraternity Alpha Phi Alpha. He was recently inducted into the Student Hall of Fame and selected as Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges. He was even able to participate in his favorite USM activity, homecoming, as Mr. USM.
Hackett projects a love for USM and the students here that’s contagious. He strives to be the best version of himself, and carries a few of the lucky ones along with him. He not only affects others for the better through his actions, but also inspires the actions of others to do the same. Hackett calls it like he sees it – reveling in the good and striving to change the bad.
When asked what he will miss the most, the first thing that comes to mind for Hackett is the people.
“Whenever we come together, we come together,” Hackett said. “We’re there for each other.”
But ever the realist, he’s not afraid to point out our shortcomings either.
“Even though we are close, at times there is still a divide.”
Hackett has done his best to leave USM better than he found it.
“I’ve really struggled with what I want to be in life,” Hackett said. “I just knew I wanted to be great – the best.”