A Profile View: Dr. Jeffrey Youngquist
by Matthew E. Semrau
ROCHESTER, Mich. — As human beings, we tend to think of unintended consequences as bad things, but that is not always the case. Sometimes they are what drives us to where we belong. This is the case for Jeffrey Youngquist, Ph.D. an associate professor of communication at Oakland University.
Just a few weeks ago, Youngquist gave me the opportunity to speak with him about how the events and decisions in his life brought him from across the country to a profession he had never intended to pursue.
It was 5:30pm as we sat down in his office, a small, but comfortable room. A single window faced Walton Boulevard. It was one of those rare Michigan winter days where the sun was out after what felt like months of darkness. Youngquist was in a t-shirt and khakis — a reminder that he was on sabbatical.
With such passion for teaching, it may come as a surprise he never intended to pursue that role.“I have never had any point taken steps on my own to become a teacher. It just kind of happened.”
Recalling back to his childhood, Youngquist told how his fourth-grade physical education teacher had planted the seeds. “He was a very good-natured guy. He was my role-model. I was fairly introverted, and he pushed me into leadership positions.”
Going to college, it was this that inspired him to pursue a job as a physical education major. “Growing up, they looked like guys who just played around and had a lot of fun. After two years, though, I realized these guys do a lot more than just play.” He chose instead to major in communications.
He completed his bachelor’s from the University of Wyoming in 1992 and moved to New Mexico to pursue a career as a ski instructor.
“It was kind of funny. At the time it was my plan to continue there, and make a career out of it. After a couple of years, I realized that it wasn’t what I wanted to do. But, I didn’t know where I wanted to go or what I wanted to do.”
He returned to Communications.
“I sent out for information from probably a hundred different schools about their graduate programs. I was flooded by promotional items. I had a little 4-by-4 inch post office box. The post office would leave notes telling me to pickup my mail at the front desk. They’d give me my stack of mail probably 3 feet high.”
Youngquist chose Central Michigan University. It was at CMU that he met his future wife. “I met Debbie in grad school. We both started the program at the same time, took a lot of the same classes. We married a couple of years after finishing our coursework.”
Again, he hadn’t planned on teaching, but after being approached by several faculty, he changed his mind. “I guess when three or four people approach you on the same day that’s kind of a sign. Eventually, I realized I enjoyed teaching.”
He graduated with his master’s in 2000, and then from Wayne State in 2007 with his Ph.D..
Youngquist elaborated on how he came to work at OU, “It just happened to come up, and it was perfect. I live just 15 miles away. The job opportunities at any one institution don’t come up as much as you would like. Especially not one that fits with your areas of expertise.” He pounced on it.
When asked about future goals, he replied, “Keep moving as long as possible.” He paused, “There’s deeper meaning there. I think I’m at one of those thinking stages. Which, I think, is a lot about what a sabbatical is about. You realize ‘I’ve achieved a lot of what I’ve wanted to achieve.’ Now you’re at this transition point. ‘I have this behind me. Now, I need to really figure out what’s ahead of me.’ I’m still working through that.”
Youngquist enjoys traveling with his wife. They hope to see as much of the world as possible. He also likes following professional soccer and performing home improvements.
Word Count: 688
News Values: As a member of our campus community, and a role-model to students his insight life and how college and decisions can take you to great places is an encouraging story.
Audience: Students, General
Curriculum Vitae from Dr. Youngquist
1 hour, 10 minutes of interview recording
Personal experience; took classes with both him and his wife.