When she talks about her passion for science and medicine, Jordan Mister is pretty frank.
“I’ve been a nerd since I was little,” she says.
She slept with a children’s dictionary under her pillow.
She read the book, “The Big Book of What, How and Why,” so much the spine fell away.
She fell asleep in her bed with the book, “I Wonder Why … My Body Needs Sleep,” across her lap. Her mom still has that photo.
Then, when she was about 6, riding somewhere with her grandmother, Mister pronounced from the back seat, “I want to know everything one day.”
Mister, a junior majoring in exercise physiology and pre-physician assistant studies, is HPU’s Extraordinary Leader for the month of January.
Mister captured the coveted award at High Point University for a variety of reasons. She is a Presidential Scholar, a Leadership Fellow, and a maker of the dean’s list every semester.
She works as an assistant resident director over four residence halls. College officials knew she could take on such a big job after a presentation in which she equated creating community to enzyme regulation.
“I’m really passionate about science,” she told the group.
She is. But that’s just the beginning.
The Allure of a “God, Family, Country” School
Mister is related to a pirate, and his name was Marmaduke Mister.
During the Revolutionary War, Marmaduke prowled the waters of the Chesapeake Bay. According to The New York Times, Mister had an agreement with the residents of Smith Island: Feed me, and I won’t bother you.
Marmaduke is part of Jordan Mister’ recently discovered family tree. But her family tree has many branches that stretch back for generations in Maryland.
She grew up in Calvert County, an area beside the Bay that is shaped like a banana. Her parents, Dawn and Mark, were high school sweethearts, and they both were raised on tobacco farms.
Dawn and Mark now work for the county, and they have two children. Jordan, their oldest child, is their only daughter. Her brother, Cody, is 15.
She came of age in Huntingtown, Maryland, a town with less than 4,000 residents that’s a short drive from nearly two dozen of Mister’s relatives. It’s a place where her ancestors helped start the Huntingtown United Methodist Church, her second home.
She sang in the choir, participated in youth group and helped teach in the church’s Vacation Bible School.
She also raised goats and hogs for 4-H projects. In the summers, she worked at her Uncle Mark’s produce stand beside a highway. Every Christmas, she and her relatives made wreaths out of garland vine and tobacco sticks.
Some of those makeshift wreaths were placed on the graves of her ancestors.
So, when Mister visited colleges and heard HPU’s President Dr. Nido Qubein talk about how HPU was a “God, family, country” school, she knew HPU was for her.
“I knew college would bring a lot of change and growing up, and I wanted to focus on who I wanted to be and still be rooted in the United Methodist church,” she says. “And with HPU, I knew it would not take away from who I am. It would only reinforce it.”
Since middle school, Mister has seen herself as a leader.
She was president of her schools’ student governments, and she helped lead leadership workshops for teenagers from across Maryland. When she came to HPU, she found more leadership opportunities.
In her freshman year, Mister tutored students in human physiology, rushed the sorority, Sigma Sigma Sigma, got inducted into the Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society and joined the Pre-Physician Assistant Club.
After her first meeting, she called her mom.
“I want to be a PA,” she told her. “I can’t wait!”
Mister also volunteered at Community Christmas, passing out bags of food at the Holly Jolly Hot Dog Shoppe inside the Millis Center. Since then, she has volunteered every year at Community Christmas.
She volunteers because of her own Christmas memories, of three generations of her family gathering for dinner or visiting Santa Claus in the back of a neighborhood grocery beside a slushie machine.
Mister has always had confidence in herself. But it really didn’t really set in until the summer after her freshman year.
For the first time in her life, she lived on her own the farthest away from her home. She moved eight hours away from Huntingtown and helped build homes in the mountains of southwest Virginia.
There, she grew up.
The Opportune Campus of HPU
Mister worked as the materials coordinator for a county served by the Appalachia Service Project, a Christian ministry that builds homes for low-income families, and she came to a corner of Virginia where nearly a quarter of its residents lived in poverty.
For 11 weeks, she worked 18-hour days and helped at least 100 volunteers every week get what they needed to bring security, safety and hope to local residents.
Mister broke down once. Her job was a lot of work and stretched her organizational skills so much she once took notes on a 2-by-4 on a Saturday afternoon to remember everything. But she persevered and came back to campus two years ago more purposeful than ever before.
“It intensified me,” Mister says of her work with Appalachia Service Project.
It helped her become a better resident assistant – and more.
Mister became the RA for North Residence Hall and helped coordinate an Angel Tree project in which she and her residents created a Christmas for a 9-year-old High Point girl named Hannah.
By the year’s end, she was named RA Rookie of the Year.
“I always thought college was going to class and taking exams and growing up, but at High Point, you get pushed outside your box, outside your major, outside of what is required,” she says. “It makes you.”
Last fall, because of new requirements, she had to make a presentation in front of a panel from the Office of Student Life to become an RA once again. So, she did.
She gave the panel a lesson about an allosteric activator. An allosteric activator is like a cheerleader that helps enzymes get the job done; a good returning RA is a team leader who encourages people to work together.
That presentation impressed the panel. Elizabeth Hinson, HPU’s resident director, heard about it in a text.
“Jordan Mister. Wow,” said the text from a panel member. “She is incredible.”
“When I think of Jordan, I think of creativity,” Hinson says today. “I’ll ask her for an activity for a workshop, and she’ll give me a five-page proposal. She always goes above and beyond with everything she does.”
Finding You, Finding God
Last summer, Mister commuted nearly an hour three days a week to assist patients and doctors at a surgical center beside Washington, D.C. There, she put her certification as a certified nursing assistant to work.
She now is the president of HPU’s Pre-Physician Assistant Club and works as an assistant resident director at the Women’s Complex, the quartet of residence halls known as North, Yadkin, Wesley and McEwen with 341 young women, most of whom are first-year students.
Mister is one of HPU’s 10 assistant resident directors, one of the biggest leadership roles on campus. They work with 130 RAs. Together, they help students navigate their college life. In doing so, they navigate their own.
Mister is learning how to do that by taking care of herself. But it’s hard. She’s always busy. But she finds peace when she studies alone on the third floor in the Smith Library. When she does, she discovers more things she never knew.
Like the nephrons in the kidneys.
“They look like little squiggles, and it’s so beautiful,” she says. “Only God can think of the little part of a little part of little beings like us and make it so beautiful.”