Class of 2021: Jordan Davis
Jordan Davis’ inspirational nature and entrepreneurial spirit gave birth to his own professional public-speaking business, JD Speaks, while still a student at McDaniel. The Communication major – who was strong safety on the Green Terror football team, drummer for the Gospel Choir, and keynote speaker for the college’s My Design class – is off to Georgetown University in pursuit of his Master’s in Learning, Design, and Technology while continuing to publicly speak to students and educators at all levels about topics in education that he’s passionate about, including social justice-centered learning, student achievement and leadership, and the use of education technology.
Jordan Davis is a Communication major from Randallstown, Maryland.
When I took my first step on the Hill, I was: a 17-year-old, first-generation college student with a huge chip on my shoulder. I wanted to prove myself in everything that I did, whether that was on the football field, in the classroom, or on the speaking stage. I took my first step on the Hill as a Biology major, having no idea of the twists and turns – academic and personal – that awaited.
The me who will ring the Old Main bell on Commencement Day is: happier, wiser, and humbler than the me who entered through the arch in August of 2017. I am also much more aware of how my race, gender, and sexuality, as well as my hardships and privileges have impacted my experiences in college. The me who will ring out on May 21 is anxious, but optimistic about creating a more equitable and inclusive society through the tools that I’ve gained in college.
Real world experiences: I’ve had many internships, most of which were marketing related. But my favorite was documenting my study abroad experience in Budapest, Hungary, as a vlogger for the CEO office. Every day was an adventure.
Aha moment: While studying abroad, realizing that I felt more comfortable walking the streets of a foreign, Central European city than I do walking the streets of Baltimore. There are many reasons to explain why this is so, but that experience in and of itself was a revelation.
Footprints I’m leaving on the Hill: I believe that I will be most remembered for my inspirational nature and entrepreneurial spirit, both of which helped birth the JD Speaks brands. If anything, the footprints that I leave are evidence that students can blaze their own trail by starting a successful business as a current student, and that they can reach their professional goals through unconventional pathways while uplifting other students in the process. I started a professional public speaking brand, which although has not brought me exorbitant wealth, has afforded me numerous opportunities for professional growth.
JD Speaks is a brand that I started back in 2017, shortly after I became one of the top youth public speakers in the country, placing 1st in Maryland and 7th out of 150 national competitors in a public speaking competition through Future Business Leaders of America. Since then, I’ve spoken at high schools, middle schools, colleges, conferences, and even at a TEDx event about topics in education such as student achievement and leadership, social justice in education, and my personal testimony about the power of educational involvement/enrichment. My goal is to continue to speak about these topics, but to also expand my speaking expertise to include the content that I learn from my program at Georgetown. Learn all about JDSpeaks at my website www.jdspeaks.com.
Professor who most influenced who I have become: Dr. Erin Watley. I took four courses with Dr. Watley, and each brought me life-changing revelations and forced me to challenge what I thought I knew about certain topics. Her courses have given me the confidence needed to have difficult conversations about social identities and their role in our experiences as people, which has been crucial to my personal development. Aside from what I’ve learned from Dr. Wately through coursework, she is a role model for me: her work as a professor and a professional development educator revolves around decolonizing the curriculum, which is work that I hope to engage in during my higher ed career. This means ensuring that there is not one dominant perspective through which content is being taught in today's classrooms. Traditionally, in U.S. education systems, school content is delivered through the context of whiteness, maleness, and heterosexuality, and those who determine what is taught usually share these same identities. To decolonize means to not only include a variety of perspectives, stories, and cultures, but to also ensure that those who are minoritized have access to these teachings, and that this way of teaching is adopted across all areas of study, not just the social sciences.
My mentor. For life.: Dr. Robert Trader, Communication professor. Our sometimes 2-hour-long conversations after class have helped chart my career path, and almost always made me laugh. He was my academic advisor during my time at McDaniel. He’s not only a life-long mentor, but a life-long friend.
Best class ever: “Teach and Learn in a Diverse Society” taught by Dr. Ochieng’ K’Olewe, endearingly known around campus as “Dr. O.” The course re-ignited the passion that I have for improving the experiences of students in the American Education system. It introduced the psychological and cultural factors that affect the learning process for K-12 students. It was also inspiring to see Dr. O., the only Black male professor that I’ve had at McDaniel, teach with such exuberance.
Took me totally by surprise: The physical and ideological influence of U.S. culture around the world, and the vast difference between U.S. culture and those native to other countries. I didn’t realize how “Americanized” my upbringing was until I studied abroad in a world capital and engaged with students from all over the world. I was amazed to see hints of American culture present throughout Budapest, while also being able to fully see and engage with the city’s native culture.
My favorite spot on campus: Alumni Hall. Alumni Hall was home to so many memorable moments over my four years, including when I spoke in front of 500 first-year students in January of 2020 as the keynote speaker of the My Design Jan Term course. This is where I also performed as the drummer for the McDaniel Gospel Choir during our final semester performances. The venue brings significance to me as an audience member as well: I’ve had the privilege of hearing amazing speakers such as Dr. Cornel West, and many others through our SMARTTalk series.
Most mind-boggling idea I learned at McDaniel: Critical Race Theory. How widely applicable the theory is in dismantling systems of oppression, but also its inability to aid the full liberation of Black and brown people in the U.S.
My capstone: “Developing a New Model for Public Speaking Instruction: The Writing, Design, and Performance Model”
What it’s about: Public speaking is a commonly used and sought-after skill, but the model for teaching public speaking to high school and college students is outdated and does not encapsulate the many types of public speech. I used my experience as a professional public speaker to create an instructional model that includes the writing, design, and performance processes of speaking to be used across various levels of formal education. The study (two 3-week courses where I taught a small group of students using each model) revealed that my model is just as effective as the traditional model, but further research proves that my model could potentially be more effective long-term because it accommodates different types of speech, future changes to technology, and the various mediums through which speakers present.
Capstone translated: Determining the best way to teach public speaking to high school and college students so that the next generation can become better communicators.
What’s next: I will be attending Georgetown University to pursue my M.A. in Learning, Design, and Technology starting Fall 2021. I will also be joining the Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship (CNDLS) at Georgetown working as a graduate associate. In addition to starting my journey at GU, I hope to continue to publicly speak about the topics that were listed earlier, but also newer topics that I am intrigued by, like the effect that learning analytics have on minoritized groups. I love speaking, and it is something that I plan to do on the side while I pursue a full-time career in either higher education administration or education consulting.
Name: Jordan Davis
Class of 2021