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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Chicago recruiter was essential to student life

By Jumi Bello

For most Chicago-bred Grinnellians, their journey to Grinnell usually begins the same way—Marlene Jacks. It starts with a high school college fair but after a few phone calls from Jacks, most current Chicagoan students would find themselves on a bus on their way to Grinnell College. Though Jacks oversaw the admissions process for many students, keeping in contact with them throughout their Grinnell careers, Grinnell students now feel her absence on campus acutely. Through a string of rumors that led to an emergency CBS meeting with the administration, the news was released that Jacks was recently let go from the admissions staff.

Jerl Fields ’11, Jeremy Johnson ’11 and Victor Golden ’13 were all recruited by Jacks in their senior year of high school in the suburbs of Chicago. Through the persistence of Jacks, all attended the Chicago bus tour to Grinnell, which ultimately resulted in their decision to attend the school. “If it weren’t Marlene Jacks, I probably wouldn’t be at Grinnell,” Fields said.

Throughout their three years at Grinnell, Johnson and Fields both frequented the John Chrystal Center to simply talk with her. “She was authentic. Every aspect of her,” Johnson said. “She’d tell us about her family, about her kids[…]. It felt very natural, I think. Almost like a mother figure. Which I think for people coming from a huge city, like Chicago, going to a small town like Grinnell, it really felt good to see that someone had your back.”

Jacks’ involvement with Grinnell students extended far beyond her as admissions counselor—she also took on the role as of the CBS sponsor. Charisma Montfort ’11 encountered Jacks on an entirely different path than most of Jacks’ mentees: she sought out Jacks to be the CBS leader during her first year. Jacks lived over two hours away from campus but whenever Montfort called her, Jacks would come. “We developed a friendship, a mentorship. I remember at times we sat down and she would say, ‘tell me what you want to do with your life. talk about your career path,’” Montfort said. “She actually sat down with me and my resume before and said, ‘okay, if this is what you want to do, you’re lacking in this area.’ So I just felt that she was that person. One of the few on campus that I could just go to and say, ‘okay, I need this.’”

Montfort wasn’t the only student Jacks advised over her time at Grinnell. According to Golden, Jacks was spotted time and time again in the dining hall, having lunch with a student to simply find out what was happening in their lives and of course, to check up on their academic progress. “Marlene is always at lunch with someone, always bringing in new students and so much,” Golden said.

The news of Jacks’ removal began as a rumor, according to Monfort. She then went to a number of different college officials before she received confirmation from the Admissions Office. “I felt like we deserved to know. I want to know who’s going to fill in that gap,” Montfort said. “No, we don’t have to be guided and have somebody to hold our hands but somebody to understand that sometimes Grinnell really is an uncomfortable place.”

With Jacks’ absence this semester, students are beginning to realize the repercussions of no longer having her at Grinnell. “Where do all the students of color go to? That’s a big deal. I have no one to go to now,” Golden said. “If I needed help, who do I go to? I don’t know anyone from administration or anything. Marlene was my person I go to, the only person I confided to so well at this campus. So, who do I go to now?”

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