Profile on Jason Martin

The students at UMKC gaze toward the door as they converse amongst themselves and await the start of class. The professor walks in and goes straight toward the desk at the front of the Capstone class ready to unveil a new lesson.

It’s just another day of classes for Dr. Jason Martin.

At 39, the Kansas City resident is a professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, which he describes as an opportunity to prepare his students for life after college.

“College to me is not just taking classes, it’s about self-discovery,” Martin said. “It’s about making yourself a more well-rounded individual.”

As easy as it seems, it can be difficult at times.

“I can’t play on the youth factor any longer,” he says. “I still feel pretty youthful though. Getting old doesn’t bother me.”

Not that Martin doesn’t have plenty of experience to relate to his students.

Growing up, Martin went through the obstacles of reaching his dream of being a college professor. He got his B.S. in Communications and his Bachelors of Business Administration from the University of Kentucky.

“With those two degrees, I knew at the time that long term I wanted to be a college professor, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do immediately after graduation,” said Martin.

He moved to Atlanta to focus on making money and figuring out his next plan. After six months of working, he decided to go back to school and get his graduate degree.

Martin got his Master of Arts in Journalism and Communication at Ohio State University, but the job search upon graduating proved unsuccessful.

“I up and quit my job bartending, and spent months driving around the country,” said Martin. “Conclusion of the trip, I ended up landing a job in journalism in central Florida.”

But things never go as expected.

“Life took a turn,” said Martin. “I left my journalism job, and made career decisions based on my relationship. I placed that over my dreams.”

Martin ended up working in a professional job that he had no long-term interest in, but he learned something from the experience.

“It led me to getting my Ph.D. in Communications from the University of Kentucky in 2011,” said Martin. “I’ve been at UMKC since that year.”

He started off as an assistant teaching professor before moving into the tenure track for the assistant professor position. He currently teaches the Capstone class for communication students in their last year at UMKC.

“I’ve had a lot of ups and downs in my life — a lot of periods of uncertainty and periods of unemployment,” said Martin. “Some were self-chosen and some not, and that all led me here.”

He began to teach the Capstone class to help his students evolve as people. He places his own stamp on the class to ensure his students find the answers to things in other ways.

“I find the academic environment challenging, intriguing, and fulfilling, especially when it comes to student success,” said Martin. “I’m in the business of helping people not only earn their degree, but figure out what they want to do with their life, so there’s a lot of gratification.”

He gets the most out of his job through the success of his students. He gets to live vicariously through their success.

Being a professor is not the only thing Martin enjoys. He is also a Big Brother to two sixth graders in the Big Brother/Big Sister program and likes to travel.

“I’m a travel junkie. I’m passionate about cooking, outdoor activities, exercise, yoga, and I love to entertain,” said Martin. “I like to hang out with friends and family, try new things, and explore new cultures.”

But his main focus is teaching and more specifically, his Capstone class.

“It’s about connecting the dots in all aspects of life in and out of the classroom,” said Martin. “Even if you don’t take a Capstone class, these are things that we need to be able to talk about outside of class.”

He finds his greatest passion is making sure his students can utilize their collegiate experience to the fullest and preparing them for life.

You Will Be Missed

Ring, ring… Ring, ring… *Mom calling*

Me: Hello

Mom: Rahila, have you heard from Raheel?

Me: No… I haven’t talked to him in a couple weeks. Why?

Mom: He’s missing.

Almost four years ago, my life changed and it all started with a phone call.

I was sitting in a cubicle to fulfill my office hours for my sorority. Surrounded by the many notices of upcoming events, and continuously checking the time on my phone. Gosh, when will the hour be up? I was contemplating ways to get out of the sorority retreat that was occurring that weekend. That was my biggest issue and it felt like the biggest problem in my life. How would I explain to my conservative parents that my sister and I had to go to Topeka for the weekend with the sorority that they didn’t even want us a part of? All of those thoughts went away when my mom told me that my friend was missing.

She explained to me that he went jogging one afternoon and never returned. Her voice was filled with worry and anguish as if she could already tell that it wasn’t going to end well. Apparently, the police had been informed and his parents were worried out of their minds. She told me our community was setting up search parties and ended the call with a reminder to let her know if I heard from him.

I sat back and realized that I had found my reason to skip the retreat. Immediately, I felt horrible. My friend was missing and I was concerned with something so petty. My mind wandered to the last time that I had seen him. He had offered for me to join him and his friends because he saw that I was eating alone. I was still holding a grudge for his rude behavior at a previous event, so I accepted the offer, but I gave him curt responses and didn’t engage in any further conversation. I was so upset and it wasn’t even a big deal. I shouldn’t have been mean to him.

Fast forward to the search party; We had been searching for hours and found a playground. His little sister was in our group and she, as well as the rest of us, started playing like kids on the swing set and slide. We were joking aloud about how he would probably waltz back home without any idea of the craziness that he had left behind and we would throw the fliers in his face. His sister laughed along with us. We had no doubt that he would return.

We went back to his house to grab snacks and water before heading out again. His mom rushed inside with tears streaming down her face. She went to a friend of mine and questioned him on his absence on a pick up basketball game the previous day. It seemed as if she was blaming him. Why was she so upset? What had happened?

They had found Raheel’s body in the woods. He was dead.

My mind went blank. This couldn’t be happening. No, this wasn’t real. This was just a really horrible nightmare. I couldn’t stop the tears from falling down my face. I had to leave. I bumped into a friend outside and he grew concerned. That’s when I had to say it aloud, “Raheel’s gone.”

How could this have happened? Did someone hurt him? Did he accidentally take a wrong path during his jog? Did a vicious animal get him? What the hell happened? Why did you let this happen, God? Questions filled my head. I couldn’t make it stop. I sat on a step and cried. Him and I weren’t on good terms and now I could never take it back. I called my best friends and they could only offer condolences, but nobody could make the pain go away.

The feelings remained as I returned to school the following week. I had piles of papers and homework, but I couldn’t focus. I couldn’t sleep. I would stay up in fear of my thoughts and the reality of what had happened. I would pray that he would go to Heaven and the feelings would go away. I would cry in the library, on the bus, in class, everywhere… The sadness would temporarily dissipate with false words of him still being alive.

The funeral was held and I didn’t want to go, but my sister told me that it would be a good way to say goodbye to him. It was packed with people crying and showing their support for Raheel’s family. A custom in my culture is to take a walk around the casket as if to say your last words to the deceased. I saw him and I cried for the last time. The funeral services ended and I felt lighter. He was always so happy. Why did this have to happen to him? He wouldn’t want me to be crying. He was always smiling.

Eventually, the truth came out… He had committed suicide. I couldn’t believe it. Him? The happy go lucky guy that had never shown an ounce of sadness to anyone? It was ridiculous, but it got me thinking. Do I truly know how a person is feeling or thinking? Do I pay enough attention to the people around me? Did I miss a sign that could’ve saved him? I came up blank.

It took months for me to be able to think back on this tragic incident and not feel the grief from that day as if it were happening again. It was a long journey, but I’m okay now and I learned a few things along the way.

Be more aware of my surroundings. Don’t be so absorbed in my life. Be there for anyone that needs an ear or a shoulder to cry on. If ever times get rough, take a deep breath and be strong.

And most importantly, keep smiling. Without any knowledge of my horrid day, he always smiled at me and it always made me feel better. One smile could make a person’s day, or it could even save their life.

RIP Raheel.

You will truly be missed.