By Emily Davis, Contributing Writer
Photo: Jason Finks
On any given weekday, M. Jason Finks can be found in his basement office on 121 Merrill Street working as McKendree University’s retention specialist. He helps the online students, the nursing students, the students at all the satellite campuses, and the McKendree main campus students to successfully continue their journey with McKendree. Finks’ main task is to sort out the root of the problems that cause students to reduce their credit hours or to drop out altogether. As he puts it “fix it for this time, fix it for next time.” In addition to assisting students, he also helps online professors sort out which textbooks they want to use. He has only been at McKendree for a short while, and there is a lot more of his story that has yet to be told.
His story begins in Sugar Grove, Ill. He spent his days playing in the sunshine and getting up to the average childhood shenanigans. When he finished high school, he immediately enlisted in the Marine corp. “I had to wait until next February (1995) to go to boot camp because I had to wait for a spot to open up at my MOS (military occupational specialty) school,” Finks said. Never one to be idle, Finks enrolled in classes at his local community college, Waubonsee CC, while he waited. After MOS school, Finks attended Intelligence Analyst school in Virginia Beach, Va. He then went on to be stationed at Marine Tactical Air Control, Squadron 48 in Chicago, Ill. A few years went by before he was reassigned to Headquarters Company, 24th Marine Regiment in Kansas City, Mo. This is where Finks closed the military chapter of his life after eight and one half years of service in the reserves.
While he was in the reserves, Finks was also a diligent college student. He said, “I finished all my Marine Corps training in December of 1995, which completed my active duty time. I then went into the reserves and attended Northern Illinois University during the spring of 1996 while stationed in Chicago.” Shortly after this he moved to Headquarters Company in Kansas City where he had already applied, and been accepted, to Kansas University (KU) for their fall 1996 term. Being trained by the military in computers and intelligence analysis, he naturally pursued a degree in Computer Science, right? Wrong. Finks graduated from KU with a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Biology. During this time is when Finks discovered his true passion: teaching. “I discovered teaching by accident,” he said, and the rest was history. In 2000, he began teaching classes part time at Lawrence Memorial Hospital, and by 2006, he was enrolled in EMT school. He is now a certified CPR instructor, and has taught many Anatomy and Physiology courses in local vocational schools. 2017 marks his first year since discovering teaching that he has not been employed as a teacher of some sort.
In 2006, while teaching classes in Saint Louis, Finks met his wife, Amanda. As love would have it, they were married in November of 2007. Fast forward a few years, and Finks went back to school and became a volunteer firefighter with the Lebanon Fire Department. In 2011 he completed an online master’s degree in education through American Intercontinental University, which was paid for by his then employer as part of his “compensation package.” 2012 brought him to McKendree for a specialist program, which is an intermediate degree between a masters and a doctorate, and he never left. He went on to begin his doctoral program here in January of 2015, and he is still currently working on his dissertation concerning how CPR is taught and the certification rules surrounding it.
Besides being extremely well rounded and highly educated, Finks is a dedicated husband and loving foster dad. His wife, Amanda, is a stay at home mom/savvy business woman. She is a dietician who runs her own recipe development business called “The Wholesome Dish” from their home. Finks and his wife enjoy trying new restaurants, and discovering new flavors. When asked about his hobbies, Finks simply said that between being a dad, a husband, a volunteer firefighter, and doctoral student with a fulltime job he doesn’t have much time for too many other things. This is no problem because one of his favorite things is spending time with 20-month-old daughter, Mila. He lovingly refers to her as “the kid” and speaks fondly of all the fun they have playing at the park to give mom some peace and quiet.
Finks greatly enjoys being a part of this small, caring community. The small-town feel gives him a sense of nostalgia for his country roots, and the close-knit ties that are formed here make it feel like home. Even without all of his titles and responsibilities, at his core, M. Jason Finks is a compassionate, energetic man with an indomitable spirit. He lives to help others, and his genuine passion for this is evident the moment you meet him. If you ever happen upon him at the library or in his office, say hi or ask for help. Your day will seem a little brighter and a little more manageable because of it.