Like most athletes at some point in their careers, Rasul Jackson is no stranger to losing. As a first-year student and guard on the Wilson College (Pennsylvania) basketball team, he and his teammates finished the season 3-19. As a sophomore, he followed his coach to JSC, where the team got off to a rocky, 0-11 start. But the Badgers rebounded, transforming their season and making it to the NAC semifinals. They ended up losing — in overtime — by just four points.
“It was a great turnaround,” says Rasul, a business major from Philadelphia and the first in his family to attend college. “It was heartbreaking to lose in the semifinals. But we can only get better.”
Rasul applies that philosophy to life too — and makes things better. He netted a 2.3 GPA his first semester at Johnson, then dug deep. Aided by a study partner, he studied more, got help from his professors, and finished his second semester on the Dean’s List with a 3.68 GPA.
Rasul was introduced to JSC by fellow Philadelphia native and former Wilson coach Miles Smith Jr. — himself a JSC graduate (class of 2009) — who brought Rasul and two other Wilson players with him when he became the Badgers’ head basketball coach in 2015.
“He’s like a father figure to me,” Rasul says of his coach, “so wherever he was going, I was going with him.”
While basketball may have brought him to Johnson State College, Rasul’s personal turnaround has been sparked by far more than the game. Among the highlights of his first year at JSC he lists supportive faculty — and loyal basketball fans — along with helpful career guidance and lots of friends. “It just feels like family here,” says Rasul, who shares his enthusiasm for Johnson as an Admissions tour guide.
“Transferring to JSC was the best decision of my life.”
One of his most inspiring professors at JSC has been Jim Black, who taught Rasul’s social entrepreneurship class. Noting Rasul’s drive and determination, Dr. Black has encouraged Rasul to consider a career in law. But there are many things one can do with a business degree, and Rasul is keeping his options open. Coaching and earning a master’s degree in sport management are both at the top of his list.
“I want to stay around basketball, and coaching is the best opportunity. I love being around kids. I love teaching, and I love learning from people as well,” he says. “I could follow Miles’s footsteps and be the head coach at a college one day.”
He’s grown fond of Vermont as well. “I can see myself living here when I graduate. It’s a quiet environment, nothing like Philadelphia,” Rasul says. “I feel like the farther away from home I get, the more successful I become. It’s teaching me how to be on my own.”
His advice for new Johnson students on their own for the first time is simple: “Use your resources. Don’t be afraid to get a tutor. In my first semester, I was one of those guys who was too proud to get a tutor, and my grades showed it.”
Self-motivation is key as well, he adds. “College is about how bad you want it. What are you going to do to succeed? How far will you go to be successful?”
As he weighs internship possibilities for the coming year, Rasul offers that he’s willing to do “any task that’s necessary. I want to be prepared for whatever life throws at me, whatever the job description is. Whatever I decide to do, I want people to say, ‘Rasul Jackson is my guy.’”