The Valley Academic Mentors  

Bio: Ken Jacobson

Ken Jacobson and friends.I was born in 1943, at the height of World War II. Being just ahead on the baby boomers has been a positive in my life. I grew up in Brookline Massachusetts in a family environment in which reading, thinking, and arguing were expected. In school, those skills were not necessarily discouraged, although I suspect even then and there I was a bit precocious. The Brookline of my youth was mostly Eastern European Jewish, second and third generation Irish, and WASP (they lived in big homes out near The Country Club). Aside from the WASPs and a smattering of doctors and lawyers, Brookline was a lower middle/middle class town. Crime was minimal, doors were seldom locked. Most moms were home after school. It seems like I always had to work for spending money.

When it came time for college, I attended UMass-Amherst (class of ’65). I received an outstanding education, majoring in history and being graduated with honors. I was part of an experimental program that today has become the Commonwealth College. Even though I was at the library until closing time many nights, I managed to have an active social life.  (UMass had only 8,000 students, but was undergoing a rapid expansion in anticipation of those behind me. I benefited from small class with outstanding young scholars.)

Student Testimonial for Ken JacobsonAfter I was graduated, I went to work in a series of jobs, one of which was running a small newspaper called Boston After Dark (BAD). Feeling threatened by a competing paper, the Phoenix, BAD absorbed our competition. The ownership of BAD changed, and I was out of a job. I found another renting apartments; and that summer, at age 23, I was married. Soon after, basically on a fluke, I was hired to teach journalism  at Emerson College in Boston. Soon I was teaching English as well. Serendipitously, I had found my calling.

Alas, family obligations forced me to stop pursuing my academic career and take over the family plumbing and heating supply business. Children followed, much later a divorce (and primary responsibility for my two sons, then nine and twelve). Soon I was in real estate full time, mostly small scale condominium developments. Then, at age 50, with my younger son off to college, I entered graduate school to again pursue my calling, college teaching. Over a nine year period I earned an MA in anthropology and an MS in Neuroscience at Brandeis, and a PhD in anthropology from UMass-Amherst. (Who says you can’t ever go back?) My PhD research is the only cross-cultural study of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder so far undertaken.

After a series of adjunct teaching assignments, I was appointed to a research relationship at Boston University. Recently, I have been appointed to an adjunct position at UMass-Amherst. I, like Doug, am very active as an anthropologist, pursuing my research, giving papers at meetings, submitting papers to journals, and writing a book.

One of my major motivations in co-founding The Valley Academic Mentors with Doug Raybeck is to have the opportunity to more regularly mentor young people. (Better that, than feel frustrated that the academy does not afford many opportunities for highly motivated, highly skilled PhDs who happen to come to teaching as second or third careers.) A second major motivation will be found in our Philosophy: the vast majority of the students I have taught initially did not feel comfortable thinking things through for themselves. I hope to help those I teach as a Valley Academic Mentor overcome their trepidations.

Student Testimonials


"I just wanted to write you (after the final grade was posted in order to make sure it didn't sound like I was trying to get extra points!) to thank you for a great semester. I left the class with several very important concepts stuck in my head… I can honestly say that this class made me a better person, and for that I am very grateful. I regret the fact that you are not tenured full- time at Bridgewater: the College could sure use more people like you… Best wishes, and I hope you continue the excellent work."

"I took your Physical Anthropology class last spring. I just found your email address still in my address book, and I just wanted to write and say that even though I was terrified of you during the semester, I've never forgotten your class. I learned a lot, and not just about anthropology, but about how to think, observe, and analyze. You're probably one of the best teachers I've ever had... All I was scared of was how you made us think. I mean, you really did force us to use our minds, to question things. It was just my freshman year in college, and up until then, all through high school, I was so used to teachers just telling us what to think, what we had to know. I'd never been forced to mentally participate in a class before and I was terrified I wouldn't stand up to task. So don't ever change that!"

"Thanks Prof. J, You are too cool. Even though I give you a hard time (too).
I took your class because your spirit sparked my interest... thanks for making it a great class... even if you make me think! And even if I get really, really frustrated. I haven't forgotten the "ah ha" moment I had in your office the last time I came to visit. SO thanks for knowing I have the potential in me. You are right…very few professors at Brown are like you. I treasure it."


Download Ken Jacobson's Curriculum Vitae...
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