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On the Verge of Failure, Grad Transforms at UST

Robert Jolly Robert Jolly III recalls his family saying he “failed them” and being “on me constantly.” He hated high school, made barely average grades and skipped classes whenever he liked. His trend for aimlessness continued as he floated in and out of minimum wage jobs and the few universities and trade schools that would accept him—before they put the subpar student on probation or outright asked him to leave.

Jolly said, “I wasn’t too happy with myself. Not at all.”

So how did Jolly transform himself from that lost young man to the knowledge-hungry honors student who will graduate from UST in December 2013 with a B.A. in psychology? The key, he will tell you, was the experience of his liberal arts education at UST. How he came to be there, however, remains one of those unexplainable “flukes.”

 “I had never heard of UST,” Jolly recalls. But because I hated working for minimum wage even more than I hated school, I was applying to universities again. And I just happened to notice the St. Thomas campus as I drove past. I stopped and applied and began classes there in the spring of 2011.”

Almost immediately, something was different. All of his classes actually engaged him and his scores reflected it. To his astonishment, previously incomprehensible math courses, such as calculus, now made sense.

“The professors are outstanding at working with students as individuals,” Jolly said. “If there is another way you need to hear the material or see it in order to learn it or get your assignment done, the professors here will make that happen.”

 The longtime learning laggard found himself so successful and turned on by the challenges of academics that he even became a St. Thomas tutor.

 “Again, it was about the professors,” Jolly said. They dragged me into topics that are so fascinating to me that they make me want to get up in the morning and keep problem-solving.”

One such problem was the question of whether control over one’s own life with regard to health is outside of or within oneself.

 “I attempted to create a means of measuring that,” Jolly said.

He finds himself attracted to the fields of economics as well as psychology. He is interested in something called the Decision Theory, which attempts to explain why and how humans make choices.

Thriving off of challenges, Jolly is applying to graduate programs in The Netherlands and Germany.

Meanwhile, he no longer hears that he is a disappointment to his mother and father.

“They are obscenely proud of me,” Jolly said.