Graduating Greyhounds 2014: Jason Brown, M.A. in Liberal Studies

Jason Brown will graduate on Saturday with his master’s in liberal studies and plans to publish his memoir

By Matthew D. Kudler, '06

Jason Brown spent the years of his early adult life in and out of prison and the probation system.

A few years ago he moved to Baltimore hoping for a fresh start, not only for himself but also for his young family.

He was soon introduced to Loyola and the liberal studies program, which he credits with helping to rebuild his vocational and family life.

Jason will graduate on Saturday with his master’s degree and is on the verge of becoming a published author. He recently shared his transformational story with Loyola magazine…

Photo submitted by Jason Brown

Photo submitted by Jason Brown

You have an inspirational story about redemption. Can you share some of your personal story prior to coming to Loyola?

When I moved to Baltimore in 2011 (to be with my daughter and her mother), it was the first time in almost twelve years that I was not entangled in the legal system somehow. I was coming from Delaware, where I had just spent the previous four years either in jail or on some form of probation. My most recent trouble had stemmed from selling prescription drugs illegally, which tarnished my record with its first felony conviction. Being a fist-time felon trying to start over is never easy.

How did you arrive at Loyola, and why did you choose the Master of Arts in liberal studies program?

When I arrived in Baltimore, my daughter’s mother (Elizabeth) was already attending Loyola. She was in the process of finishing her Master of Arts in teaching.

Elizabeth introduced me to the beautiful world of Loyola and encouraged me to join her in this process of self-fulfillment through education.

I looked through the course catalog and found the master’s in liberal studies to be the most appealing program to me. I had studied literature and writing in my undergraduate at Shepherd University, and I thought that this program would be the most fitting, considering my previous education.

I came to Loyola looking to change my life through educating my mind, spirit, and body. Through the liberal studies program, I found all of this possible.

You have said that education has helped repair your life. How has the classroom and community experience in the liberal studies program aided in your transformation? Has the Jesuit experience had any effect on you?

I found the classroom discussions in liberal studies to be catalysts in developing new patterns of thinking. I was encouraged to question what had been generally accepted by most people, and fundamentally examine the basis for human interactions.

This analysis sent me on a search to find a whole new philosophy of life, one that could explain my existence to myself and (hopefully) to others.

The theory I have arrived at encompasses the Jesuit traditions in a modern manner that reflects the tremendous impact that this magnificent setting has had upon my education and my spiritual renewal.

Students may complete a capstone project, which results in a sustained composition and presentation, to conclude their liberal studies coursework. For your project you chose to write a confessional memoir. Can you tell us about the writing process and what you learned from it?

The liberal studies program presents students with the option to complete six credits as a capstone project. The first part is called the pre-capstone. It involves heavy reading and research.

For this phase I immersed myself in memoir theory and examples of memoir. I used three of these works: Confessions by St. Augustine, Confessions by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Confessions of an English Opium-Eater by Thomas De Quincey to craft a 35-page paper on confessional narrative. In this paper, I argue that when one names the author’s pastspecifically through confession—they free themselves to take ownership over their actions and, therefore, are able to better dictate their future.

As an example of taking such control over one’s own existence through confessional narrative, I completed the capstone project by writing four confessional short narratives of my own. I hope to add a few more and publish the works as a collection of shorts confessions that add up to the story of my own transformation, which is ongoing.

Do you have any future academic plans as you work to publish your memoir?

In addition to pursuing publication over the next year, I plan to apply to the doctorate of liberal studies program offered at Georgetown University.

I hope to continue the work I began in my capstone there, if accepted.

What advice do you have for someone else to overcome the personal challenges you have faced and move forward?

I would say to be ready for challenges. The key to bettering one’s self through learning is to be willing to accept these challenges head-on, rather than to seek to escape through evasion.

Education leads us to confront that which is often times difficult for us to face. It is facing these challenges (and many times, they are problems that have haunted us our whole lives) that help us overcome. Only then can we grow into who we most desire to become.

Through the art of confessional narrative, this process is working for me.

Jason continues to work on publishing his confessional memoir in advance of graduating from Loyola and enrolling in a doctoral program for liberal studies. Jason and Elizabeth VanderVeen, M.A.T. ’13, live in Baltimore with their daughters, Lucy and Lola VanderVeen.

To read more stories about this year’s Graduating Greyhounds, visit our 2014 Commencement page.

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