Honors College Leadership Series
Honors College Scholar Taylor Jackson: Balancing Brilliance on the Court and in the Lab
Taylor Jackson, Honors College Scholar, SOU Beach Volleyball Athlete, and SOU scholarship recipient, is an exceptional student whose SOU journey exemplifies a commitment to societal betterment, academic excellence, and athletic skill. Taylor is a senior studying biochemistry with a minor in biology, and she hopes to enter the world of medicine and ultimately, would like to become a physician.
Taylor’s first encounter with SOU was not through a typical campus tour, but rather a unique exploration during a 7th-grade class trip to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. As her literature class was studying Shakespeare at the time, the class traveled to the SOU campus, lived in the dorms for a week, and attended plays at the festival. During this time, Taylor got a sense of what the SOU campus was like. This initial spark would ignite a passion for SOU—on the court and in the classroom—in the years to come.
As Taylor navigated high school, her athleticism garnered the attention of SOU’s volleyball program. The alignment of her academic aspirations, particularly in biochemistry, with the university’s offerings solidified her decision. The generous scholarship and inclusion in the Honors College marked the beginning of Taylor’s journey to SOU.
Taylor’s own family’s accomplishments and shared passions also partially influenced her decision to attend SOU. Her father, a physician, inspired her foray into the sciences and fueled her ambition to become a doctor. Her older brother, also a college athlete, has gone on to pursue African American Studies at the University of Puget Sound. Taylor’s mother, an educator and former principal, has dedicated her life to teaching and contributing to nonprofits.
Excellence in Academics & Community
Taylor transitioned to college in 2020 during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, and while the transition was challenging, Taylor found comfort in the camaraderie of her volleyball team. The team’s unity and shared commitment provided a support system and also furthered the development of invaluable leadership skills.
“Volleyball played a pivotal role in connecting me with amazing friends and fostering a sense of belonging, especially during the challenging transition to college during COVID. The team helped me to build lasting friendships and prevented isolation.”
Taylor’s commitment to community extends beyond the campus, with volunteer work in the emergency room at Providence Hospital in Medford. She also volunteers at the SOU Farm and coaches volleyball. She’s coached both indoor and beach clinics, and she’s a volleyball coach in the Rogue Valley volleyball clubs. She also works as a PEAK STEM tutor. Taylor says, “The PEAK role allows me to nurture my own leadership and management skills but also provides a meaningful opportunity to support fellow students facing challenges in STEM coursework.”
Taylor knows the benefits of medicine first hand. When she was 13, she underwent a major surgery to correct her scoliosis. Because she was an athlete and needed optimal function in her back, the surgery was life changing. Taylor says, “I want to have the same impact that doctor had on me for as many people as I can.” She’s interested in either surgery or becoming an anesthesiologist as part of the surgical team.
A Commitment to Volleyball
Taylor’s athletic commitment is inspiring. The intensity of indoor volleyball, marked by frequent travel and challenging schedules, honed Taylor’s time management skills. Her dedication and resilience led the indoor team to nationals in Iowa during her junior year. Switching gears to beach volleyball brought a whole new set of challenges, from playing in diverse weather conditions like rain and snow to adapting to a two-player dynamic on the court. This shift emphasized the importance of strong bonds with a single teammate, understanding their nuances, and navigating adversity together.
Taylor reflects strongly on the training she’s had in academics at SOU. Taylor’s experience in the biochemistry curriculum has been exceptional, with access to a variety of medical instrumentation, particularly the NMR, providing hands-on learning not commonly found in larger institutions. The advantage of small class sizes in the science department allows for more personalized interaction and in-depth learning. Taylor appreciates that SOU offers specific classes dedicated to learning about these instruments, in particular, two chemistry course titled Instrumental Analysis and Organic Spectroscopy.
Since the summer of 2023, Taylor has been working with the new anatomy and physiology professor Olivia Boyd on dissecting cadavers that are used as educational tools for the anatomy lab. Taylor says, “This has been invaluable to me as a pre-med student because I have been able to delve deeper into understanding anatomy and it has been a great precursor for me going into medical school.”
Taylor is the recipient of Debra Lee and Peter Sage Honors College Scholarship, the Julian Battaile Chemistry Scholarship, and the Department of Chemistry Alumni/Faculty Scholarship among many other awards. She is an NAIA Scholar Athlete and has made the Provost and President’s List several academic terms and years in a row. In 2023, she received the Outstanding Achievement in Calculus-Based Physics.
The Impact of the Honors College
In the Honors College, Taylor has honed her leadership skills through “Take the Lead” projects spanning her entire four years. A standout project involved organizing ACS General Chemistry Workshops to aid students in chemistry in preparing for crucial final exams. Another impactful project, undertaken with a friend from the soccer team, was the initiation of a student athlete and mentor program within Honors, offering support to fellow student-athletes navigating the challenges of academics and sports commitments.
Taylor’s substantive educational experience in Honors also involved shadowing doctors in the Operating Room (OR) and Emergency Room (ER), providing insight into various medical specialties—a crucial step toward her goal of entering the field of medicine in the future.
The Honors College has challenged Taylor academically with intellectually enriching courses. The 250-sequence, notably with Prakash Chenjeri, stood out as an impactful experience, focusing on argumentation and fallacy awareness—an education that transcends disciplines and is applicable to various facets of life. Taylor appreciates the practicality of such courses, acknowledging their relevance not only in the sciences but also in everyday conversations, be it in politics or general discourse.
For Taylor, the Honors College serves as a platform to complement her specialized studies in biochemistry and biology, promoting a holistic and well-rounded approach to education. She says, “The Honors College has been instrumental in honing my leadership skills. Their commitment to developing lifelong learners aligns with my academic pursuits.”
As Taylor continues to balance her ambitions in biochemistry, volleyball, and community service, she embodies the SOU ethos of leadership, resilience, and academic excellence. About SOU she says,
“SOU has truly been a holistic journey, shaping not only my academic endeavors but also enriching my social and leadership skills.”
View the ways to give to SOU Scholarships here.