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The Joneses were sent to the West African country of Gabon
The Joneses were sent to the West African country of Gabon
Staff profile: Jim Jones
Jim Jones, who is in his fourth month as director of the Katie School of Insurance and Financial Services in the College of Business, caught the teaching bug in Africa. In the Gabonese Republic, to be specific.
Jones enjoyed being an insurance claims adjuster in the St. Louis area during the 1980s, but eventually he and his wife came to the proverbial two paths in the wood. ‘She and I had reached that point in life where you start thinking about starting a family and buying a house,’ Jones recalled, knowing that both decisions suggest putting down roots. ‘We’d always talked about going into the Peace Corps, so at the ages of 28, we did it.’
The Joneses were sent to the West African country of Gabon. After six weeks of intensive French language training in Zaire, also known as the Congo, (although Gabonese people conduct daily business in their tribal languages, French is the official language of the former French colony), they spent another six weeks in Gabon’s capitol city, Libreville, a coastal city that practically sits on the Equator, being trained as teachers.
‘Gabon hired instructors from other countries because it didn’t have an education program for math, science or English teachers,’ Jones said. ‘During the first year, I taught mathematics to kids from about 15 to 22 years old. The second year I was selected to be a model professor and helped teach the new Peace Corps volunteers coming in.
‘That’s where I got my strong interest in teaching, because the Peace Corps really did a good job of teaching you how to teach,’ he said. ‘Since we were not as skilled at the language as the native speakers, we learned how to get students to do at least 50 percent of the talking, to engage them in the subject. There is a French phrase, tirer la reponse, meaning to ‘pull out the answer’ from the student. It’s a Socratic approach which I used later when I started doing instruction for the insurance folks.’
After the two-year Peace Corps commitment ended, followed by three months of sightseeing throughout Africa and Europe, Jones and his wife returned to the U.S. in 1990. Literally at the airport in St. Louis, Jones learned that his old company was offering him a position as an examiner. It was the position he would have risen to if he had not left for the Peace Corps, so he started the following Monday.
But it was a new and improved Jim Jones that returned to St. Louis. In short order he earned an MBA from St. Louis University (his bachelor’s degree is from the University of Missouri-Columbia) and in 1996 moved to Philadelphia to become program director for the Insurance Institute of America (IIA).
‘The African experience had really whetted my appetite to be involved in education,’ he said. ‘The Insurance Institute of America is a professional development organization that serves the insurance industry. I felt that I could take the teaching style we used in the classroom in Gabon and use it in insurance textbooks.’ Jones is the author of ‘The Principles of Workers Compensation’ and ‘Liability Claim Practices’ in addition to several research articles.
In 1999, Jones was named director of the IIA’s Center for Performance Improvement and Innovation, where he would identify and, in publications, write about companies whose business practices have led to long-standing business success. When Jones saw the Katie Insurance School post advertised, he thought it would be the best of all possible worlds - insurance, education and closer to family in St. Louis.
‘While I was at the Center, I noticed statistics showing that a lot of people in the insurance industry are getting close to retirement age,’ he said. ‘I realized that we have to start developing professionals today, at the college level, to be part of the insurance industry. Within the Katie Insurance School, I am working with students who will become part of the industry, and I’m also working in professional development ‘ executive education ‘ for those already in the insurance industry.’
Jones feels the future of the Katie School includes expanding the executive education program, continuing involvement in research that helps the industry, reaching out more aggressively to graduates of the Katie School and continuing to provide talented people to the industry.
Employers, he said, are impressed that Katie Insurance School graduates are hired into their new positions with the equivalent of a year or two of experience. Jones said that is the result of the academic program, the industry conferences students attend, the number of professionals who are guest speakers on campus, internships and job shadowing programs.
‘The Katie Insurance School experience, both in and out of the classroom,’ he said, ‘is unique, and gives students an great foundation for entering the insurance industry.’
When this story was prepared, here was the front page of PCOL magazine:
This Month's Issue: August 2004
Teresa Heinz Kerry celebrates the Peace Corps Volunteer as one of the best faces America has ever projected in a speech to the Democratic Convention. The National Review disagreed and said that Heinz's celebration of the PCV was "truly offensive." What's your opinion and who can come up with the funniest caption for our Current Events Funny?
Exclusive: Director Vasquez speaks out in an op-ed published exclusively on the web by Peace Corps Online saying the Dayton Daily News' portrayal of Peace Corps "doesn't jibe with facts."
In other news, the NPCA makes the case for improving governance and explains the challenges facing the organization, RPCV Bob Shaconis says Peace Corps has been a "sacred cow", RPCV Shaun McNally picks up support for his Aug 10 primary and has a plan to win in Connecticut, and the movie "Open Water" based on the negligent deaths of two RPCVs in Australia opens August 6. Op-ed's by RPCVs: Cops of the World is not a good goal and Peace Corps must emphasize community development.
Read the stories and leave your comments.