Lisle, Illinois ~ Jason Ferguson came to Benedictine University because he wanted more than a career – he wanted to make an impact.
Since graduating in 2000 with a Bachelor of Science in Health Science and a Master of Public Health in 2003, the product of Chicago’s West Side has surpassed this goal as an emergency management professional, serving people living with HIV/AIDS, conducting prostate cancer research and promoting safe and healthy communities on college campuses and throughout Chicago.
In his most recent venture as deputy director of Training and Exercise for the nonprofit Team Rubicon, Ferguson helps prepare veterans and volunteers across the country to respond and assist in medical and recovery efforts immediately following natural disasters.
Since Team Rubicon was founded by two Marines following the devastating 2010 Haiti earthquake, the organization has conducted more than 100 disaster response operations. Some recent domestic responses include providing aid in the aftermath of the 2016 Great Smoky Mountains wildfires, Hurricane Matthew and the Flint, Mich., water crisis.
The organization has also deployed to disaster zones around the globe, such as Sierra Leone to combat the Ebola epidemic, the refugee crisis in Greece and the 2015 Nepal earthquake.
“To date, I am most proud of the work I have done while at Team Rubicon to lead the development of a fully functioning, robust and nationally reaching training program,” Ferguson said. “In less than four years, my team and I have established a best-in-class training and exercise program, which continues to develop and grow in scope and capacity.”
Ferguson came to Benedictine as a recipient of the Hughes Scholarship program and spent his freshman and sophomore years as part of a small group of students that studied together and took the same classes.
“That program was really helpful in facilitating my transition from high school to college life, both from an academic and community perspective,” Ferguson recalled. “I learned pretty quickly that I was comfortable assuming positions of leadership and serving as an advocate for others.”
At Benedictine, Ferguson did not shy away from involving himself in a number of student organizations. He joined the Student Senate and was active in the Gospel Choir, the Black Student Union and the Pan-African Student Youth Movement. In his spare time, he played intramural basketball in the Rice Center.
“The small campus community at BenU was a safe haven that provided a growth-rich environment for getting involved, learning more about myself within the context of a diverse community and establishing a palette for actively influencing community wellness,” Ferguson said.
During his junior and senior years, he enhanced his leadership skills as a resident assistant (RA). In his last year as an undergraduate, he served as an intern at Loyola University Medical Center, where he supported two prostate cancer research projects and received a job offer from his internship supervisor.
In his first job, he enrolled research study participants and managed files for Institutional Review Board reporting. During this time, he became a certified phlebotomist and collected, processed and stored biological specimens.
After a year of working in research, Ferguson decided to pursue a Master of Public Health (M.P.H.) and sought out Benedictine’s program to help expand his career opportunities.
“Benedictine has a stellar program with a schedule that supports working adults, so it was at the top of my list,” Ferguson said. “I also learned during this time that the University was seeking to hire a few graduate assistants to manage teams of RAs. Given that I had already served as an RA and had established great working relationships with the Student Life staff, I saw the opportunity as the perfect alignment of stars and dropped my name in the hat. I was accepted in the program and also hired as a resident hall director, which allowed me to study, work and live on campus.”
“I thoroughly enjoyed the M.P.H. program,” Ferguson added. “I attended classes led by professors who worked in their respective fields of study, so their knowledge was not only theoretical but also experience-based. This sharpened my ability to work alongside professionals from diverse backgrounds with varying levels of experience.”
After graduating from the M.P.H. program, Ferguson worked as a case manager for Southside AIDS Venture, providing medication, transportation and housing to support people living with HIV/AIDS in Pittsylvania County, Va. He eventually returned to Chicago and worked as a coordinator of Residence Life at Columbia College Chicago and coordinator of Student Relations.
He then became an emergency response coordinator for the Cook County Department of Public Health, working alongside 28 municipalities in the southwest region of suburban Cook County to develop, test and update emergency operations plans.
Since joining Team Rubicon, Ferguson has helped dozens of veterans develop new skills and regain a sense of purpose as they reintegrate into civilian life. To date, the organization has more than 52,000 members (roughly 70 percent military veterans and 30 percent first responders and civilian volunteers) and is growing by an average of 200 new registrations every week.
Ferguson has also been deployed to disaster areas to support operations on the ground following a series of tornadoes that ripped through Blanchard, Okla., in 2015, flooding in Lyons and Longmont, Colo., and after Typhoon Haiyan smashed into the Philippines in 2013.
This year, Benedictine recognized his exceptional work by bestowing him with a “Rising Star” award, which recognizes alumni who have made a considerable impact in their respective career fields in a short amount of time.
Outside of his work and family life as a husband and father of five children, Ferguson enjoys creating music and performing. He recently released a hip-hop/soul album, “Tribune.” The album “celebrates the good of Chicago and offers a positive perspective in contrast to seemingly endless negative media attention,” he said.
Benedictine University is located in Lisle, Illinois, just 25 miles west of Chicago, and has branch campuses in Springfield, Illinois, and Mesa, Arizona. Founded as a Catholic university in 1887, Benedictine enrolls nearly 9,000 students in 56 undergraduate and 21 graduate programs. Forbes magazine named Benedictine among "America's Top Colleges" for the sixth consecutive year in 2016. Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (hlcommission.org). For more information, contact (630) 829-6300, firstname.lastname@example.org or visit ben.edu.