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 ‘Transformational experience’ at CSUB eventually led alum to Princeton

Jarrett Fisher at Princeton

Jarrett Fisher's official Princeton University portrait, taken outside his office in April 2017.

There’s a good chance Jarrett Fisher is helping shape future members of Congress, the judiciary, maybe even a president of the United States.

That’s because his job as associate dean of undergraduate students at Princeton University includes advising the American Whig-Cliosophic Society, the oldest collegiate literary, political and oratory society in the United States.

Alumni include two presidents, two vice presidents, several hundred congressmen, dozens of governors and scores of state and federal Supreme Court justices, according to its website.

The society recently celebrated its 250th anniversary, and is still going strong.

“They’ve invited phenomenal speakers as of late,” Jarrett said. “The U.S. treasurer has been one. They’ve also had the assistant secretary-general of the UN. Sen. Ted Cruz participated in a debate with the student leadership of the society just this past May.

“It’s amazing to watch them. I'm always impressed by the caliber of those the society has hosted, to speak and engage with students on a meaningful level.”

It’s just one aspect of Jarrett’s impressive position at Princeton, where he’s been for five years.

He started out directing things like convocations and commencement – which at Princeton is a multi-day affair full of rituals and traditions. Today he’s also charged with administrative oversight for free-speech initiatives, performing arts groups, student-run businesses, facilities, publications and a radio station.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Jarrett said. “No two days are ever the same.”

How did he make it from Bakersfield to Princeton?

Jarrett credits a supportive family, great colleagues at Pepperdine University, where he worked and earned his doctorate, and the place that steered him toward student service in the first place – CSUB.

At Pepperdine, Jarrett advised the student government, activities board, Greek life and other clubs, helping them engage as many students as possible and be part of the community.

He worked closely with student leaders to advocate for additional resources for student life from the administration, and they saw a big increase in that support, Jarrett said.

“More resources were made for more programs, more events, better events. Because of that, students started talking, there was a buzz throughout campus. They said, ‘Did you go to that event last Friday? Maybe we should go together to this next one.’”

Jarrett and Katie Fisher in Malibu

Jarrett Fisher and his wife, Katie, outside their home in Malibu in March 2008.

One event that really flourished during his tenure was Blue and Orange Madness, an annual celebration that now kicks off the basketball season and Pepperdine’s Homecoming Weekend. There’s a fair, scrimmage game, performances by cheer and dance teams and a halftime show that Jarrett calls “NBA quality.”

He was also involved in the inception, development and growth of Pepperdine’s ReelStories Film Fest, which gives student filmmakers a chance to instill change by creating films that challenge the audience, Jarrett said.

Pepperdine hosted lectures and assembled judging panels that included actor and director Ron Howard, screenwriter and director Randall Wallace, writer, director and producer Tom Shadyac, and actor, writer and producer Adam Sandler.

“I certainly can’t take credit for either program, but am honored and proud to have shepherded these student-led, campus-wide collaborations,” he said. “I consider myself fortunate to have worked with such incredibly passionate students and an equally talented, supportive team of colleagues.”

But it was while earning his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in public administration at CSUB that Jarrett realized he wanted to go into student service.

At first he saw himself going into politics or another form of what he saw as public service. But then he got involved in activities that opened his eyes to the importance of student engagement in improving the overall college experience.

Student government gave him a passion for leadership development, intramurals stoked an appreciation of healthy competition and a balanced lifestyle, and Greek life taught the value of lifelong friendships, he said.

One key lesson he learned from CSUB administrators was that student service is public service, Jarrett added.

“It was an absolutely transformational experience for me at CSUB,” Jarrett said. “So much so that I made a life out of it, a career. And I hope I’m giving back to students the way that others invested in and so freely gave of themselves to me.”

Read the sweet story of how Jarrett met his wife at CSUB, and how their family has grown.