Motivational speaker’s life takes him from Chicago to the U

Jermaine Davis will come to the U for the fourth time to speak for first-year students.

For the last three years Jermaine Davis has been the friendly face motivating first year students at the University of Minnesota. With his âÄúenthuuuusiasm âÄù and the âÄúGood JobâÄù song, Davis aims to gets students excited about their first years of college. Davis has spoken at New Student Weekend for two years, and now is returning for the second time at Welcome Week in the beginning of September. Davis is a motivational speaker, a communications professor, a CEO of two companies and an author of 10 books. Davis, 37, grew up in inner- city Chicago in a single-parent home. Six of his family members were murdered in Chicago because of street violence. âÄúAlong with teaching at the school and having family members murdered,âÄù he said, âÄúsomething inside of me said I got to go out and speak.âÄù After he got his masters in speech communication, he started his career working as the district sales marketing manager at Frito-Lay North America, Inc. Unhappy with his job there, Davis spent a year figuring out what he wanted to do with his life. Friends of Davis encouraged him to become a teacher, but that wasnâÄôt what he had in mind at the time. âÄúGrowing up in inner-city Chicago and not having a lot of money, I wanted to make money,âÄù Davis said. But he decided to try teaching anyway, teaching fifth and sixth grade to homeless students in downtown Minneapolis. âÄúThat was the best decision ever that IâÄôve made at that period in my life,âÄù he said. âÄúI didnâÄôt make as much money âÄî as a matter of fact, I took a significant pay decrease, but my life changed.âÄù It was then that he started speaking for high schools, youth retreats, battered women shelters and social service agencies. Sometimes he would even speak for free. Now Davis has 85 business clients and 73 academic clients, according to his Web site. Besides motivating audiences through presentations, Davis also teaches communications classes at Century College. âÄúWe just think heâÄôs a huge asset to the college,âÄù Nancy Livingston , director of community relations and outreach at Century College, said. Davis inspires not only his students, but everyone at the college, Livingston said. âÄúThereâÄôs no notes and heâÄôs so prepared that it seems like heâÄôs talking from his heart,âÄù she said. Even now Davis said he gets nervous before a speech presentation. âÄúEvery time before a speech I always have a little anxiety because I want to do well,âÄù he said. Kayla Traut , a sophomore child psychology student who saw DavisâÄô performance last year, said his speeches âÄújust make you happy.âÄù âÄúI really liked his âÄòGood JobâÄô song, that was great,” she said. “It got everyone excited, everyone was up, heâÄôs of course always energetic.âÄù When heâÄôs not speaking, teaching or writing books, Davis likes to spend time with his friends and enjoys live comedy. Davis said watching live comedy can also be a learning experience since stand-up comedy is a form of public speaking. âÄúI love comedy, so when IâÄôm on the road, every city I go to, if I have time, I always find a local comedy club so I can go and laugh,âÄù he said. The Orientation and First-Year Programs office said it enjoys having Davis speak for students. âÄúHeâÄôs a great person to work with and we always look forward to having him motivate our students and leaders,âÄù Jennifer Porter , associate department director of OFYP, said. Porter met Davis at a personal leadership workshop that she was facilitating in 2006. âÄúI was surprised to see Jermaine there because usually itâÄôs mostly students,âÄù she said. âÄúSo it was kind of funny that he was at a workshop that I was facilitating when he really knew a lot more about leadership.âÄù Davis continually attends workshops, among other things, because he values âÄúlifelong learning.âÄù âÄúI still go to workshops, I still go to seminars, I still buy books,âÄù he said. âÄúIâÄôm always growing and developing.âÄù