Jason Nichols: Coming full circle

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Clinical Associate Professor Jason Nichols grew up among the pines, redwoods, and fir trees of northwest Oregon. He attended the University of Oregon as an undergraduate, majoring in computer science, with a minor in business.

“While I was there, I got to know a supply chain professor really well. He knew some folks here at ASU that had a need for some software to be built, and they brought me in to help. He ended up moving to ASU and loving it. He urged me to come to Arizona, and said I should consider going to grad school out here,” says Jason. “So I followed his advice and came to Arizona.”

“At first I thought we weren’t going to like it here, but things started click soon after,” he says. After a stressful trip, driving one U-Haul, two cats, and his wife cross-country in mid-August — only to move into partially refurbished former military housing that served as family housing — Jason was rethinking this plan. But shortly after the stress of moving, Jason found himself settling into Valley life and enjoying the Grand Canyon State.

Jason graduated from W. P. Carey with a dual MBA and an MSIM degree in 2003.

“I did well in school, and I decided I didn’t want to stop quite yet,” says Jason. So he applied to the Information Systems PhD program.

“I said I’m going take a shot at it. And the program here at W. P. Carey was amazing. I had a blast in my PhD. The faculty were phenomenal,” says Jason.

After graduating with his PhD, Jason took a position at Oklahoma State University and worked there for a decade.

“We kept waiting for the Midwest to feel like home, like we’ll settle in any day now, and it didn’t really happen. So when we had the chance to come back to Arizona, we were super stoked.”

“It’s amazing to work with people who were professors back when I was a student. It’s like a time machine. I moved back into my old house. We have the same friends. Got a little gray in my beard now, though,” he laughs.

Although Jason has both Sun Devil banner and a Ducks banner hanging on the wall of his office, it’s Arizona he considers his true home. “The opportunity to come back and re-immerse ourselves in Valley life is amazing. It’s almost as if we never left.”

Jason came back in time to teach the fall 2018 semester. And so far, he’s been blown away by W. P. Carey students.

“Students seems happy to be here, to learn. If they don’t have enough to do, they’ll come to you and pitch extra projects. In my class, everyone comes to the table ready to work. And they work together really well. They just dive right in. That’s unique and kind of awesome,” he says.

Jason has taught everything from introductory information systems classes to mobile app development. In his capstone course, students have the opportunity to get hands-on experience working on solving real problems for financial institution USAA and exposure to the reality of what it’s like working in this field.

“A lot of students are scared of programming, but if you can get them confident enough, it’s amazing what they can accomplish,” says Jason.

It’s not only the students that have made happy about returning to ASU.

“The faculty are very welcoming. They emphasize being a team player, and provide you with the support that you need. A lot of places, there are egos at play, and it can be difficult to get anything done. Here, it’s very much about the community,” says Jason. “I’m also really privileged that I was one of the faculty invited to work on the curriculum for the Cognizant Digital Business Analyst Certificate Program.”

Jason feels fortunate to have had many excellent mentors throughout his journey who’ve helped contribute to his success, some of whom are right here at ASU.  He hopes to carry forward what he has learned from them and apply it to his engagements with his students.

“These folks have influenced my life in the most profound ways, and have no doubt shaped the course of my career, but have managed to do so in a way that preserves joy in discovery, satisfaction in accomplishment, and ownership of outcomes,” says Jason.

“Advice is safe. You tell someone what to do, they do it or they don’t. Lift someone up, though, and create space for them to explore; now that’s a mentor with some skin in the game. That’s an investment. I can’t think of a better way to embody the personal side of business.”

When he’s not busy teaching CIS students, Jason enjoys hiking and playing ukulele around a campfire.  

Professional

What do you like about your job?
I’ve been really impressed with the students I get to work with at W. P. Carey. They have an extra level of motivation and a high a degree of professionalism. They’re sharp go-getters. It’s refreshing to see. 

What’s your favorite W. P. Carey School event?
Haven’t been to enough of them yet to decide, but I’ve heard some interesting things about the Holiday Party Lip Sync Battle.

Do you have any advice to offer?
Many times people create their own self-imposed barriers to achievement. We think we’re not qualified enough or smart enough and we get in our own way. No path is obstacle-free, but it’s just a matter of mindset and effort. For example, I’ve heard it said that it takes a certain type of personality to be able to pursue a PhD, but if I had listened to that tale, I wouldn’t be where I’m at now. If there’s something you really want to do as a career, you’ll develop that skillset along the way. If you’re willing to put the work in, it’s attainable.

Where is your “never fail” lunch spot on or near campus and what’s your favorite menu item?
Coming from a tiny school in the Midwest, where the lunch options were slim and not always the healthiest, and then coming here and being able to pop into the MU and grab sushi or salad in under three minutes is awesome.

What was your first job and what did it teach you?
I worked for the Camelot Music store at the mall during junior and senior year of high school. It was a great way to meet and get to know people. Plus I loved listening to all the music.

Personal

If you could be in any other career, what would it be?
For a brief — very brief — moment in high school, I considered being a professional athlete. It would be fun to play ball in the NBA.

What was your best vacation or your most favorite place to travel?
I love to explore national parks with wife and cat, especially since we’ve bought a fifth wheel RV. My favorite places have been the Grand Tetons, Golden Gate Canyon State Park, and Yellowstone.

What movie can you watch over and over?
Into the Wild.

What was your favorite television show growing up and now?
I really enjoyed Sons of Anarchy. I’m also absolutely obsessed with Black Mirror. Back in the day, I was a huge Thundercats fan.

Where is your hometown and what is it best known for?
Beaverton, Oregon: It’s best known for being stuck in the 90s.

Preferences

Salty or sweet? Salty
Coffee or tea? Coffee
Soda or energy drink? Neither
Cat or dog? Cat
Truck or car? Truck
Board games or video games? Both
Fiction or non-fiction? Fiction
Facebook or face-to-face? Both
Breakfast or lunch? Lunch
Morning person or night owl? Morning person