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Exploration Drives MLA Studentís International Studies

Jay DeckerPractically on the eve of departure for his new job teaching English to oil and gas engineers in Saudi Arabia, Joseph “Jay” Decker reflected on his path to and through the University of St. Thomas Master in Liberal Arts Program with a concentration in international studies.  

Growing up in Katy, Texas, Decker always loved history and geography.

“I was curious about the world and had a passion for travel and exploring,” Decker remembered.

Undergraduate studies took him to Spain, which sparked his drive to experience more. Upon graduation, he earned certification to teach English internationally and then spent three years performing that job in rural Japan.

“It was an awesome experience for multiple reasons,” Decker said. “Because it was rural Japan, I was exposed to very traditional culture. And because they promoted me to be a traveling manager, I saw different parts of the country.”

Though the experience fed his desire to keep moving, he also felt a tug to reconnect with his family and enhance his career with a master’s degree. He returned to Houston, spoke with some professors from UST’s International Studies Department and began considering a career in diplomacy with the State Department, which gave way to thoughts of international business.

“With the MLA program I learned about social entrepreneurship and ethical business development instead of just business management,” Decker said. “Professor Rogelio Garcia-Contreras was a powerful influence in this area. Dr. Hans Stockton gave me better insight into the international markets, particularly East Asia, where I would like to work one day.”  

While pursing his MLA for two years, Decker taught full-time at an ELS school not far from the UST campus. Work-study-life balance was a challenge.

“It was hard. I had a lot of late nights, but I seem to have benefitted from exposure to the Japanese work ethic for discipline and time management. It’s as if having a lot on my plate actually helps me now to get things done faster and not procrastinate.”

Regardless, Decker is in no rush to make a firm career commitment. The MLA he earned in December 2012 widens his career choices and is the reason he was awarded his new contract in the Middle East. At present, he is considering a future that would plant him knee deep in academic learning again.

“I like sharing knowledge, so it’s possible that being a university professor would be right for me,” Decker said. “I am thinking of earning a doctorate down the road.”

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The University of St. Thomas, dedicated to educating leaders of faith and character, is a private institution committed to the liberal arts and to the religious, ethical and intellectual tradition of Catholic higher education. St. Thomas is Houston’s only Catholic University and was founded by the Basilian Fathers in 1947.


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