English and Comparative Literature
College of Humanities and the Arts
Why did you choose your major?
I love English. I love critical thinking and literature, and I love me an Oxford comma! But I am also intrigued by all the excitement and opportunity the Bay Area offers in the Tech Industry. When I discovered that Professional and Technical Writing is an actual major concentration, it was a no-brainer for me.
What does receiving this particular award mean to you?
This award empowers me. I really struggled through school as an adolescent. I would dream about graduating with honors from an impressive school, but never thought of it as anything more than a dream. After my first failed attempt to attend college, I was certain that if I ever graduated college in the future, it would not be with honors—yet here I am.
Who has had the greatest influence or impact on your life? In addition, tell us about a SJSU faculty member who contributed to your academic success.
My faith and my family have been a major source of support, joy, and general chaos in my life.
My cousin Jordan, an SJSU English Alumni, spent many nights tutoring me and helping me hone in on my English skills. She has been very impactful toward my education. Professors Linda E. Mitchell and Mark Thompson have been heavily influential. Professor Mitchell exudes this fierce devotion to her studies and teaching that I greatly admire. Her prowess over the English language will forever intimidate me and be the rubric for my own use of it. Professor Thompson has taught so many invaluable skills that I already find myself using in my professional life. I am fortunate enough to have taken every Professional and Technical Writing course taught by him, and I know his curriculum will follow me throughout my future career.
Describe an experience that has shaped who you are today.
I had an excellent Professor at WVCC—Leigh Burrill. She ignited a fierce critical thinking capacity in me that I will never shake. Because of Professor Burrill's encouragement I published my very first essay in the WVCC Best Essays anthology. My essay analyzed post-colonial literature with my own experience as an inter-racial individual. Several students shared with me that they related to my own experiences and that really expanded my view on how powerful the written word can be. Being able to provide sanctuary or a voice to others was a very empowering moment, and since then I have been pursuing the amplification of stifled voices in what I write and do.
What would you say to other students to encourage or inspire them to attain academic excellence?
In the words of Walt Disney, "Keep moving forward, keep dreaming.” We are all capable of so much more than we give ourselves credit. We just have to learn to be fearless!
What makes you a Spartan?
I financed my education by working three jobs and not letting personal hardships get in the way of my goal of an education. I will be graduating debt-free and so much stronger an individual than I was when I started at SJSU. For that, I am a Spartan.
Nominated by Professor Allison Johnson
Assistant Professor, English
“Haley Jernigan regularly and enthusiastically contributes to class discussions and volunteers excellent and astute interpretations of texts."