Javon Dobbs, a Thurgood Marshall Fellow in the School of Public Affairs and Administration, serves as a Program Assistant for the Michigan Campus Compact in the Division of Multicultural Affairs at WMU. His service assignment is a natural fit with his program of study, the Master’s of Public Administration focusing on Nonprofit Leadership and Administration. Javon's favorite activities revolve around spending time with his wife, family and friends. A self-proclaimed gummi bear aficionado, he likes to try different flavors and brands from all over the world.
From an early age, Javon’s grandmother wisely cultivated his interest in leadership. “Since childhood, I have been on a quest to find my identity in the midst of difficult circumstances. I was born to teen parents; my father is African-American and my mother was born in Puerto Rico. My paternal grandmother, as a single mother raised me since I was 11 months old. It was always stressed to me growing up that I should be a leader and not a follower. This philosophy proved to be true. In my environment, as many of those around me succumbed to the influence of gangs, drugs and other life-altering pressures, I figured if I did everything differently than those around me, I would get different results. This turned out to be an understatement.”
Javon arrived at WMU as a freshman in the fall of 2009 and hit the ground running. He spent time learning about his Hispanic heritage and joined the Latino Student Alliance (LSA) as a double major in Spanish and Journalism. He was elected president of the Latin Student Organization during his senior year, and added a royal appointment to his presidency when he was elected WMU Homecoming King.
During his senior year he had the opportunity to study Spanish language and culture abroad. “My experience in Buenos Aires opened my eyes to a world bigger than what I imagined and gave me a thirst for global engagement and service. During my study abroad experience, I studied intensive Spanish language and culture and took the initiative to volunteer and gain professional experience. I volunteered with the local Ronald McDonald House housing ill children and their families from throughout South America. I was able to learn from a non-governmental organization (NGO) in a cross-cultural context which sparked my interest in the nonprofit sector. This motivation led me to pursue graduate study in Public Administration.”
After graduation, Javon continued a tradition of volunteering. After his eye-opening experience abroad, he served a year as an AmeriCorps volunteer, combating poverty through a pre-college program which promotes college access and success for high school students. He is now the program assistant for Michigan Campus Compact, a tutoring program partnered with Kalamazoo Public Schools, placing and training service learners and facilitating evaluation focus groups.
Javon credits his experience working in the School of Public Affairs and Administration with helping him grow and giving him a greater connection to WMU. His thesis, titled “Basic Education and Beyond: The Role of NGOs in Educational Access and Preparation”, was developed with his committee chair, Dr. Matthew S. Mingus. After graduation in August 2016 Javon plans to work for a community or private foundation in Southwest Michigan community development, donor relations and grant development, especially in the interest of youth and education. His MPA has equipped him with the skills and knowledge to be an effective administrator and innovator in the nonprofit sector, with its complex problems and diverse environments.
Javon Dobbs, MPA, has big plans for the future, including "working for a foundation, working internationally (Latin American and the Caribbean), going to seminary school, being a missionary in the Dominican Republic, entrepreneurship (properties and small businesses), starting my own NGO or foundation to support underrepresented youth, learning multiple languages, and finally, owning a boat”.
Using his life experiences comes naturally to Javon, who says “I have had many experiences that have been both challenging and rewarding. In my program, I have not only learned a lot about my field but also about life. I have learned that I am able to do a lot more than I could have imagined, I have learned the stories and experiences from many different walks of life, and I have learned to be a servant leader, seeking others' interests before mine.” When life gets choppy, Javon draws strength from his faith and the support of his family, friends and colleagues at Western Michigan University. The Graduate College wishes Javon Dobbs the best as he steps out of the academy back into the real world. He brings a wealth of attributes that will stand him in good stead throughout his life and career.