Student Success Story: Scholarship Winner Jaykob Wood Is Set on Becoming a UNESCO Field Investigator

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Jakob cares deeply about both cultural and natural heritage. Although the odds were often against him, he worked hard toward his dreams whatever the cost. He got in at a top World Heritage Management & Conservation Programme in Ireland and convinced us to support him to become a UNESCO field investigator.

Jaykob dedicated his life to exploring and protecting cultural and natural heritage. He believes in UNESCO’s vision that heritage is a “peacekeeping mission” that builds connections between people and bridges between nations.

“It’s a broad brush we paint with when we talk about heritage because it can mean a lot: language, traditions, recipes, songs, dance, music, and all of these. And it can also mean places of power or special places that we venerate and hold dear. All these things are still very much alive today.”

Studyportals Scholarship Winner, Jaykob Wood

He dreams of working as a field investigator at UNESCO, where he would be part of a team of experts who visit and evaluate which heritage sites are of the greatest importance to humanity worldwide.

Jaykob pinned this to the front of his mind a while back and started investing effort in it. He recently managed to get into one of the best Master’s Programmes there are in his area of expertise: the World Heritage Management and Conservation programmes at the University College Dublin.

Lacking the funds, he looked for scholarships, which is how he applied for our Studyportals International Distinctions Award, where he won the second prize of EUR 5,000.

“I always had to work to make my dreams happen”

Jaykob grew up with limited means in a Northern Michigan (USA) community with little economic mobility. He excelled in school, supported himself with several jobs through university, and secured research opportunities and scholarships throughout his education.

“We weren’t wealthy, and there was always a sense that I would work towards making my dreams happen. There was also the implicit understanding that, because we didn’t have a lot of money, I had to make some concessions”

Studyportals Scholarship Awards Winner 2022, Jaykob Wood together with his friends on a hike

He worked as an Interpretive Park Ranger for the US National Park Service, where he welcomed visitors and helped them discover the amazing nature around them. 

“I was that guy with a big hat, telling tourists why that place they visited was important. I loved watching people’s eyes light up when they made a connection they didn’t have before. I knew they walked in thinking they were just on vacation, but I would always fool them into learning and feeling something by the end of it. I got attached to that and never want to give it up.” 

Being surrounded by nature, he spent many of his days swimming, boating, and taking in the beauty of the Great Lakes.

Studyportals Scholarship Awards Winner 2022, Jaykob Wood

Became a museum manager, 5,000 km away from home

When Covid started, lost his job and became unemployed. He remembers sitting on his couch a lot, looking for jobs without much hope.

Then he stumbled upon this: the Tilma County Pioneer Museum in Coastal Oregon was looking for an executive director. "What’s the worst that could happen", he thought, then clicked ‘Send’ to the application. The job was 5000 kilometres and 3 time zones away from home.

He got it! He got the job, and by age 27, Jaykob became the executive director of a museum!

‘I was fascinated! I got to make decisions every day to the direction the museum was going, and connect the community”

Studyportals Scholarship Winner, Jaykob Wood

He gave his best to bring more stories forward. Connect people to their heritage. The museum is about pioneers  Jaykob gave it a try with another angle and encouraged cooperation with indigenous people so that their side of the story was also present. 

“I reached out to the local tribes to better tell their stories, better represent them. This also meant convincing the descendants of pioneers, that I’m not changing the story; I’m just adding more to it, and that’s a good thing. I told them it’s good to have more perspectives than just [that of] your great grandparents” 

But history is always changing and is as much alive as heritage is. It defines who we are, and that’s why it’s worth protecting. Joykob gets that. It was mid-2021 when he realized he had to go back to school again.

“I loved my job, wanted to be better at it but I needed more skills for this.”

Grew up in a family of storytellers

Family-wise, his great-grandparents inspired Jaykob the most. He was born to young people; they were born to young people, so Jaykob was fortunate enough to meet his great-grandparents and be raised around them.

“They were born in the 1920s and 1930s, and they had such a depth of knowledge and understanding of history because they have lived it.”

Studyportals Scholarship Winner, Jaykob Wood

They shaped his vision from a very young age through their love of history and telling stories, but another key figure in his life is his uncle. Jaykob fondly remembers an event in elementary school where he had to present a family member, and he chose his uncle, bragging about him and letting everyone know he was going to follow in his footsteps and become an archaeologist. “My uncle was an inspiration as a kid because I really wanted to be like him. I remember coming from college and talking about the classes I took, and he would light up and talk about his days in college and what he had studied.

Because he did it, he got an Anthropology Bachelor’s with a focus on Archaeology. Not on a safe, dream-wrecking path of concessions.

Next stop, UNESCO

He’s on that train now, heading towards his goals with the speed of his ambition. Jaykob dedicated his life to exploring and protecting what he believes defines us all: cultural and natural heritage. With the help of the Studyportals International Distinction Awards Scholarship, he can hone his passion and feed his ambition to achieve that. As one of the winners of our 2022 Studyportals Scholarship – International Distinction Awards, he won EUR 5,000 to pay for his World Heritage Management & Conservation Master’s Programme, at University College Dublin, Ireland.

Studyportals Scholarship Awards Winner 2022, Jaykob Wood

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