Former student comes back to Jackson College as an employee. His work is honored nationally.

Justin Gaeta is surrounded by data on a daily basis.

“We solve puzzles,” he said.

For five years at Jackson College his work in the Institutional Research and Effectiveness office as the department’s director which includes analysis to enhance the student experience led him to be recognized by the international college honor society, Phi Theta Kappa.

Recognition by Phi Theta Kappa

Gaeta is now a Distinguished College Administrator, one of 30 college administrators earning that distinction for their outstanding support of student success. He was chosen among thousands eligible across the United States.

“It was not expected,” he said.  “Afterwards, I kind of thought, ‘am I going to have to give a speech?’”

He was honored for his work assisting the Phi Theta Kappa Jackson Chapter with their annual research project.

Mental Health Study

It involved post pandemic mental health and understanding the current stigma around mental health. He assisted PTK with providing research conducted by the Higher Learning Commission around mental health. The team held several events and collected 150 individual responses.

This project lead to the creation of a resource coordinator position who would assist students with identifying and referring students to college, community and state resources. Gaeta says the work has been identified to increase student retention and completion as students can focus on their course work rather than their socioeconomic barriers.

“Very seldom are students given the opportunity to work with the Institutional Research person on campus, but when they do, they not only get the help they need to assess their projects, but they also learn valuable skills they will need in the workplace. I just adore that he opened his door to help these students do their projects and that says a lot about him and about Jackson College,” Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society President and CEO Lynn Tincher-Ladner said.

Coming Back Home

For Justin working at Jackson College is coming home. He was a student from 2009 to 2011.

“I came here after my tour in Iraq and I was looking into something with computer programming. I saw Jackson College had a programming degree and I joined up. It was really an amazing experience working with individuals in the field,” he said.

Coming back was a no-brainer.

“It was just a great experience and later in life with all my job positions working in quality improvement, finance and compliance reporting I saw a job opening at institutional research and I jumped at the chance,” he said.

He looked for positions closer to Jackson once he completed his Bachelor of Arts at Olivet College. He landed his first data analysis position in 2013 at the Center for Family Health and would go on to complete his master’s degree at Spring Arbor University by 2015.

Gaeta said he was able to rise through the ranks quickly at previous jobs and credits his education here for that ability. He started as a quality improvement specialist working with the multi-million dollar Substance Abuse and Mental Health Block grant.

“It’s been a rewarding experience,” he said.

Justin will be honored at Phi Theta Kappa’s annual convention from April 20-22 in Columbus, Ohio.