Lakeland University Blog

Lakeland alumna’s journey to helping others

Lakeland alumna’s journey to helping others


Lakeland alumna’s journey to helping others

Lakeland University student, Bree Arsenault, wrote the following story as part of her advanced composition class this spring. Arsenault, the Outstanding Student in English award winner, is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Middle and High School English Language Arts.

Since graduating from Lakeland University in 2019, Miranda Jacobson has lived a life of adventure going wherever the wind takes her.

But the small-town values that were instilled in Jacobson from an early age growing up in a rural community in the heart of Michigan’s secluded Upper Peninsula have always brought her back to Lakeland.

Living in a small-town, Jacobson says, “Your parents were like ‘We’re gonna go help this person today’, and then you never question it. That’s just what you do. That’s just what Lakeland does.”

From her first visit to campus, Jacobson knew Lakeland would become her home away from home. While taking her campus tour, the family atmosphere was clear. Her tour guide knew almost everyone they passed by name and vice versa.

During her time at Lakeland, Jacobson was a standout on the basketball court. Not only did she become the 13th player to score 1,000 career points for the Muskies, she also helped lead her team to win the 2017 Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference Tournament and an NCAA Tournament berth. On top of those impressive accomplishments, she is also on record for getting the only two triple-doubles in the program’s history.

Jacobson reflects on how playing college basketball helped to transform her as a person: “It helped me grow a lot. I used to be a very shy person who barely liked to talk or interact with anyone.” She goes on to say, “I made a goal. I was going to say ‘hi’ to every person I walked by whether I knew them or not.”

When Jacobson came to Lakeland in 2015, she knew she would play basketball, but had no idea what she wanted to study and remained undecided in her major until the second semester of her sophomore year. This all changed after meeting with Mary Jo Jetzer, an academic and advising coordinator at Lakeland. Although Jacobson was not one of her advisees at the time, from the moment she stepped in Jetzer’s office, Jacobson quickly became one and was welcomed with open arms.

“My interaction with Mary Jo was amazing,” Jacobson said.

Jetzer helped Jacobson explore routes she could take as a business major. Her parents own a logging company in her hometown of Felch, Mich., so to Jacobson, majoring in business made sense.

“I was like, okay, this feels right,” Jacobson said. “Then I started taking the business classes and they were common sense to me. This is what I am supposed to do.”

Jacobson graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business management with an emphasis in hospitality, but after graduation she wasn’t 100% sure what she wanted to do with her life.

She moved back home and started working as a bookkeeper at a restaurant where she did all the paperwork and invoicing, but she didn’t love it.

“I needed to find myself away from back home,” Jacobson said. “I randomly applied for a seasonal job because I was like ‘Well, I don’t really like where I’m at right now, so might as well change it all up.’”

Jacobson took a chance and applied for a position as front desk associate at Hotel Vista Del Mar located on Santa Catalina Island, a small island off the coast of southern California. “I honestly did it as a joke, but I ended up getting an interview and got the job,” she said.

When Jacobson decided to make the move to the island, she was nervous, but once she was on the island and settled in, she made friends right away. The hotel provided its staff with a communal living area, so she shared a room with three other women.

She applied her experience playing basketball at Lakeland to her new life circumstances,

“Once again, like basketball, I made instant friends,” Jacobson said. “I understand that kind of living environment, so I can make friends with people I just met. The only difference is now we were all adults-ish.”

After working and living in California from 2020 to 2021, Jacobson ultimately made her way back to her Midwest roots to once again become a Muskie.

“After doing some soul searching,” she laughs, “I knew that I wanted to help people and I knew I wanted to get my masters. I really loved the way that Mary Jo made me feel when I was going through my higher education.”

Reflecting on this experience, Jacobson knew she wanted to work in higher education as an academic advisor so that she could provide people with the same support she received.

As this was all going through her head, she got a text from Lakeland’s head women’s basketball coach at the time, Amber Peterson, about an open graduate assistant (GA) position on her coaching staff.

Initially, Jacobson said she would love to come back and be the GA, but she second-guessed herself and declined the job. But instantly after saying no, Jacobson got a pit in her stomach. She felt guilty saying no.

“I knew I made the wrong choice, because I had never felt that way in my entire life,” Jacobson said.

Jacobson ultimately accepted the offer and the uncertainty she was originally filled with disappeared when she returned to Lakeland.

“After [Coach Amber] gave me a second chance, now I believe in second chances,” she said.

During her return to Lakeland, Jacobson earned a master’s degree in counseling while also helping guide young women in basketball. Not only was she able to use her knowledge of the sport to help her players, but she was also able to use her experience to help them navigate their education journey.

Peterson enthusiastically explained why she wanted Jacobson to serve as her graduate assistant.

“I had the privilege of coaching her for four years and got an up-close view of her integrity, her work ethic and her love for our Muskie women’s basketball family,” said Peterson, who is now an assistant basketball coach at Augustana University in Sioux Falls, S.D.

“She also had a strong foundation of basketball knowledge and fit perfectly within the staff we already had in place. It was a no-brainer to hire Coach Miranda.”

Jacobson currently works at Lakeshore Technical College an adult education and English Language Learner counselor. She guides native and non-native English-speaking adults who make the decision to go back to school through their college journey to better themselves and their future.

Jacobson is still navigating what she wants to do with the rest of her life, but she says, “There’s bad days, but those bad days give you experience, and you learn what not to do next time.”

There have been times in her life when Jacobson has felt lost, much like the students she helps, whether that be not knowing what to study in college or working a job a long way from home that she was not passionate about. Those experiences have guided her to know what she wants in life.

From an early age, Jacobson was taught to help others, and that is what she wants her career in higher education to help her accomplish.

Miranda wants to be someone’s Mary Jo.

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