Student Spotlight

Finding the perfect path

Jakhari Gordon in the Terry College Coca Cola Plaza. (Photo by Chamberlain Smith/UGA)

Third-year student finds opportunity, community on campus

Jakhari Gordon visited nearly a dozen college campuses during his senior year of high school. His last visit was to the University of Georgia.

“When I got to the hotel that night, I didn’t think, ‘Could I go here?’ I thought of me riding the buses, going to classes,” Gordon said. “I could see myself there, and that stuck with me.”

After that, things fell into place.

Gordon was accepted to UGA, and one week later he received the prestigious Gates Scholarship, which covers the full cost of attendance to any four-year degree program in the country. His decision was made—he was going to UGA.

The transition had its challenges, however. Moving from his family home in the DMV (D.C., Maryland and Virginia) area meant moving away from loved ones and finding his place in a new community. But Gordon also saw it as an opportunity for personal growth.

“Obviously my parents are very supportive of me, and they are my reason for doing this,” he said. “I wanted to show them that all of those years of my mom and godmother sacrificing and making me the best person I could be … that I could become the man they always wanted me to be.”

He quickly excelled and became involved around campus. As a student in the Georgia African American Male Experience (GAAME) Scholars Program, he has not only received support but also gives back to younger students.

Jakhari Gordon is chapter president of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., the oldest intercollegiate Greek-letter fraternity established for African American men. (Photo by Chamberlain Smith).

He also participates in the UGA Mentor Program, which connected him with faculty, staff and alumni in the UGA community, and is chapter president of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., the oldest intercollegiate Greek-letter fraternity established for African American men.

“Those organizations and opportunities have gone on to shape who I am in college,” Gordon said. “I don’t think I would be the man I am today without joining my fraternity and being able to interact with so many influential, important and goal-driven Black men.”

The encouragement of those around him, from his fraternity to mentors to faculty advisors, also led Gordon to find his own path. He started at UGA as a computer systems engineering major and found success through his classes and external opportunities, including the Amazon Future Engineer Scholarship. But he eventually realized that an engineering course load did not totally fit with his goals for experiences outside of the classroom.

So he consulted his advisor and his family, and he combined his passion for technology with his love for business, shifting to a risk management and insurance major.

“In some ways, my educational journey has been a whirlwind,” he said. “But I am glad to say that I will be graduating within the next year. It might not be the degree that I initially came into college thinking I was going to have, but it’s a degree that I love, that I’ll be happy with, and that I’ll have a great job one day with.”

Even as a Terry College of Business student, he connects to his engineering passion through the National Society of Black Engineers, working with local elementary schools to teach students about STEM subjects. But his new major also allowed Gordon to invest in other passions, including a photography business.

He started the business in March 2023 and has enjoyed building the creative venture. And his passion for business and precision continue to come through.

“I switched from the engineering program to Terry because I wanted more of that intersection where tech and business meet,” he said. “It all comes together because, at the end of the day, my job is to make sure that not only I put my best foot forward, but that I create a product that my client loves and enjoys. That’s my No. 1 goal.”

Looking back on his photos from even a year ago, Gordon mainly reflects on his growth and path forward. As he looks toward his fourth year at UGA and graduation, he’s ready to take on whatever is next.

“I told my mother when I was in elementary school that I was going to be valedictorian in my class, that I was going to go to college for free, and that I was going to retire my mother,” Gordon said. “I’ve done two out of three goals so far, and I’m working on the third one.”