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Jennifer Wilcox
A photo of Jennifer Wilcox when she was 18-months-old.

Editors note: This story was edited as of Oct. 7, 2023 to correct Jennifer Wilcox’s birth year

Jennifer Wilcox, adjunct instructor at Weber State University, shares her passion for teaching after receiving her fourth college degree since turning 50.

“If I was going to do it, I was gonna do it,” Wilcox said, “I wasn’t gonna stop until I was finished.”

Wilcox was born in 1953 in Hammond, Indiana. At 6 years old, her parents moved their family back to Utah, where she completed her high school education and planned to begin her college journey.

Life, however, found a way to disrupt that plan. One year after finishing high school, Wilcox married her husband of over 50 years. Various illnesses and multiple moves across the country prevented her from attending college. She returned to college at age 50 after her boss convinced her to attend.

Wilcox received her Bachelor’s of Science in business from the University of Phoenix in 2005. Somewhere along the way, however, her true passion for teaching was ignited. She began by teaching at a community college in a small town in Colorado. Just two weeks after graduating with her bachelors, she began her masters program in education.

“I said I would never start over again,” Wilcox said, “I just decided I wasn’t gonna stop until I was done.”

And she didn’t. Eighteen months after beginning her master’s program, she received her masters degree with a 4.0 GPA. Less than three months later, she began her seven-year journey to complete her doctorate so she could pursue a full time teaching career.

Throughout her journey, Wilcox learned a lot about how to set her students up for success. The way that she cares for her students is unsurpassed, according to Meltia Hickman, WSU student and learning assistant for Wilcox.

“She genuinely wants every student to succeed and she’s willing to go above and beyond,” Hickman said.

Hickman said she has seen first-hand the effect that Wilcox has on students. She said in the three semesters she has been working with Wilcox, she has never seen a student fail the class, and most students average between a B+ and an A-.

Wilcox’s passion does not go unnoticed by the faculty of WSU. Kathryn Van Wagoner, director of Developmental Mathematics, said she sees how much Wilcox has accomplished, and how much she cares for the students.

“She’s overcome a lot, she just perseveres. She’s very, very kind,” Wagoner said.

Wilcox credits her upbringing for her perseverance and passion for learning. She said her father always carried the mindset that “it was never if you go to college, but when you go to college.” This mindset not only paved the way for her success, but also for her children and grandchildren as they all carry on a drive for knowledge.

Tyson Wilcox, Jennifer Wilcox’s youngest son, said he also wants to foster a growth mindset in his family.

“I’m trying to instill the same mentality in my children. If you think something’s hard, it’s just because you haven’t done it before,” Tyson Wilcox said.

It was also her son, Tyson, who pushed Jennifer Wilcox to pursue her fourth and most recent degree in Information Systems.

“He kept saying, ‘Mom, you can do this! You can do this!’” Wilcox said.

Hickman said she has never seen a more hands-on professor, and she has seen students who come back and tell her how much they appreciate what they learned.

Wilcox hopes that by bringing care and compassion to her students, that it will empower them to pay it forward one day.

“I’m not the one that makes them successful, it’s the choices they make,” Wilcox said, “I just try to be the cheerleader that says, ‘Come on, you can do this, I’m not going to let you fail.’”

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