JeShaune Jackson, who just graduated from Case Western Reserve with a master's degree in biotechnology and an MBA in design and innovation, wasn't always a good student, which makes his accomplishments at CWRU all the more remarkable.
"I joke that I had a 2-point-low GPA," he says in reference to his high school grades. But after a shadow internship with South Pointe Hospital's Dr. Charles Webb turned into a research position, Jackson started taking studying more seriously and began to think that he had the skills to become a scientist. Like many college students, he'd finally found a calling. And like many college students, he had a hell of a time figuring that out, both financially and academically.
"That was the first step that turned me around," he says. "Now, I want to give more exposure to young black males. We're very impressionable. Wherever the money is going, that's where we're going. Just look at all the rappers who are out there."
He's currently part of a $200 million venture fund out of Cleveland Clinic Innovation that provides support to some 66 companies. A year ago, he started his own company, BioComm, a biotech consulting firm that works to move biomedical research from campuses to the marketplace. And he also runs a scholarship for young black men with low grades. That's right: low grades. Everyone needs help, right? And not everyone's a star with the books. That doesn't mean they don't deserve a chance to succeed.
"You have to have above a 2.5 but below a 3.25," he says, adding that students with high grades usually already have scholarship money. His scholarship recipients and runners-up will have the chance to tour CWRU and the Cleveland Clinic, where they'll meet African-American surgeons, physicians and researchers. So what's next?
"I have my startup companies but I want to work for another one that's more established," he says. "I want to learn the ins and outs of a small startup. I'm looking to Silicon Valley to move to next. I want to work there now, and then come back to Cleveland in a couple of years and start my own company." And yes, he has seen Silicon Valley, the HBO comedy about a group of nerdy guys who struggle to get their startup off the ground. "That's the life I live," he says with a laugh. After all, a struggle's not something he's not familiar with.