Isaac James – Student’s journey leads from refugee camp to plans for MBA

Isaac James came to Jackson State as a basketball standout without much educational ambition, but now he plans to leave with his sights on a master’s degree in business administration.

His life’s journey began in a Kenyan refugee camp where his mother landed after fleeing war-torn Sudan, and it may one day see him return to Africa to help his extended family. He immigrated to the United States in 2001 and grew up in Memphis, attending Evangelical Christian School where he honed his athletic abilities.

“I came to Jackson State to play basketball,” he said. “I began to love the school more than athletics, and I began to understand what the school has to offer.”

James is on track to earn his associate degree in May. He plans to transfer to a four-year college to complete his bachelor’s degree requirements and then pursue his master’s degree.

At Jackson State, James is serving as the 2016-2017 president of the Student Government Association, a role that places him as a liaison between students and the administration and faculty. He also served as a student representative on the presidential search advisory committee, which helped identify candidates for Jackson State’s new president — a position recently filled by Dr. Allana Hamilton.

“It was a great experience,” James said. “It was an opportunity to get to meet some individuals who were very influential in our community.”

Jackson State helped James develop confidence and motivated him to aspire to higher educational goals. He said the school is a good value, and he advises new students to get involved and get connected with new people on campus.

“At Jackson State, I got faculty and staff that really invested in me and encouraged me and continued to work with me as a person and a student,” he said. “I strongly believe that our faculty and staff are among the greatest in West Tennessee and Tennessee in general.”

He’s interested in a career in accounting. He also wants to travel back to Sudan to help his relatives’ communities learn about business and discover new economic opportunities. His mother and siblings live in the United States, but he still has extended family in the third-world country whom he wants to help elevate out of poverty.

“In America, the greatest thing you get is the opportunity to get educated,” James said. “And if I get the opportunity to go back, I want to share with them the economics of free trade and how businesses should function.”