Hannah Fleck, PE, LEED AP BD+C | Civil Engineer & Sustainability Lead
An Interview with our CEO, Jarvis Jointer
Jarvis wants me to know that he is no Barack Obama. I’m only slightly disappointed, because in preparation for our interview I had listened to vulnerability-guru Brene Brown interview our 44th president. 2020 had also brought the words of Ibram X. Kendi to my shore and one of the points Kendi makes is that not one person is responsible for speaking for their entire race. I repeat something like this to Jarvis and it seems to put him at ease. The following is a summary of our conversation we had on December 21, 2020.
I asked Jarvis to begin by telling us about his company, JQOL – Quality of Life, of which I am an employee, and his role on the Purdue Lyles School of Engineering admissions task force. He started JQOL in January of 2019 and it was just himself and a computer. JQOL is one of three African American owned civil engineering firms in the State of Indiana and one of the few new engineering firms started in the last 10 years. It’s a fact that is getting him noticed in spite of being shy to declare himself a leader in our industry.
The Purdue admissions task force is working towards understanding what barriers are preventing minority students from seeking an engineering degree at Purdue and what opportunities can be created to increase those numbers. The task force met from March to November on a weekly basis to develop recommendations based from a data driven approach. Historical data from Purdue and other similar universities was used to develop preliminary recommendations.
A big barrier to pursuing an engineering education is financial support targeted towards minority students. Another one is if an applicant doesn’t meet the November 1st early decision deadline they can hurt their chances of getting admitted. Then there is the matter of standardized testing which historically African American students under perform in, but admissions and scholarships are heavily geared towards.
Jarvis, a Purdue graduate himself, credits his high school education at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School as the means in which he was able to perform at a level that gained him admission to Purdue. Brebeuf was in sharp contrast to John Marshall middle school that he attended previously. Jarvis admitted that on his first day at Brebeuf it was a culture shock, where at John Marshall black students were the majority and at Brebeuf black students were the minority. Jarvis’s credits his mother, Lieutenant Kimberly Young of IMPD, as the single most influential person in his life and providing the support and motivation he needed through all the tough times.
Part of the task force recommendations include expanding the criteria for admissions to weigh other factors besides test scores and grade point averages. Making room for students who might not be acclimated to the standardized test method. Other recommendations include partnerships with technical high schools that could fast track admissions for high achieving students. For those minority students that have been admitted it is important to make sure they are supported to see their dreams come to reality.
As a business owner who is black he feels he has the ability to influence direct change and opportunities that may not happened if he didn’t start JQOL. As a co-chair on the task force he personally was able to challenge the admissions committee to be accountable to their goals. True to engineering form: does their work mean anything at all if it can’t be quantified?
I asked Jarvis about what his vision is for our shared profession. He hopes that it becomes more diverse and less profit driven. One of the reasons he wanted to start his own company was to create a work place atmosphere where people could be ambitious in their careers and be comfortable in their home life. Too often designers are weighed down by deadlines and profit margins, and we don’t take time to appreciate the impact we have on the lives of other people. As Jarvis’ business model suggests, civil engineering is ever present in our lives and unnoticed until it goes awry. He hopes that his business can help change the perception of engineers as pocket protector carrying nerds. His friends even call his business “Jcool”.
When asked what keeps him motivated and inspired the answer is simple – being surrounded by people who are also learning and growing in their careers. He has been humbled by the amount of support that people have shown him in his business venture. He lives his life by the golden rule to treat others how he wants to be treated. It’s a vision that is uncomplicated yet very needed inside and outside of our industry.
Click here to learn more about the task force.