A young man named Jason Arday has been promoted to the rank of professorship in Cambridge University at the young age of 37 despite having reading challenges.
Jason Arday is Clapham, south-west London native who is a renowned Sociologist in the United States. He was diagnosed with global development delay and an autism spectrum disorder at the age of three.
This diagnosis caused him delay in his motor skills as a young child. He could not speak until he was 11 years old and could not read or write until he was 18 years old.
Jason said in an interview with BBC that he spent much of his young days with speech and language therapists. One of four children of his parent, he always wished to become a football player or a professional snooker player.
Jason added that if he was not going to be a sports personality, he plans to save the world as he has always been deeply moved by the suffering of others and has a strong compulsion to act.
“I remember thinking if I don’t make it as a football player or a professional snooker player, then I want to save the world,” he says.
Jason said growing up, watching videos of Nelson Mandela’s release from prison and South Africa’s historic victory in the 1995 Rugby World Cup inspired him to help make the world a better place despite his condition.
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He said his mother through music therapy played a critical role in helping him develop his self-confidence and skills. His mother introduced him to a wide range of music in the hope that it would aid his idea of language.
Jason further said that the various forms of music he listened to got him attracted to popular culture and created a lifelong interest that has characterized some of his research.
He stated that with the help of his mentor and college tutor Sandro Sandri, he eventually started to read and write in his late teens. Jason went on to the University of Surrey, United Kingdom where he earned a degree in Physical Education and Education Studies.
After earning his bachelor’s degree, Jason trained to be a Physical Education teacher and by the age of 22, he realized that he wanted to be an academic. He said pursuing a career in academia was not easy as he did not have anyone to guide him on how to go about it.
“Looking back, that was when I first really believed in myself. A lot of academics say they stumbled into this line of work, but from that moment I was determined and focused – I knew that this would be my goal,” he said.
But he persevered by working as a Physical Education lecturer at university during the day and studying sociology at night while drafting academic papers. Though his academic papers were rejected countless times, he did not give up.
“When I started writing academic papers, I had no idea what I was doing. I did not have a mentor and no one ever showed me how to write, Everything I submitted got violently rejected. The peer review process was so cruel, it was almost funny, but I treated it as a learning experience and, perversely, began to enjoy it,” Jason told BBC.
Jason did not allow his health condition to define him. He earned two master’s qualifications, and a doctorate degree in educational studies, and became a sociologist by 2015.
Three years after Jason bagged a sociology degree, he had his first paper published and became a senior lecturer at Roehampton University before he moved to Durham University, where he worked as an associate professor of sociology.
In 2021, Jason moved to the University of Glasgow’s School of Education working there as a professor of sociology of education. Now, he is a professor at Cambridge, with the goal that ethnic minorities are not underrepresented in higher education.
“Cambridge is already making significant changes and has achieved some notable gains in attempting to diversify the landscape, But there is so much more to be done here and across the sector,” he said.
Jason is joining Cambridge University as one of the five remaining professors at the University. He said he is happy to be fulfilling one of his dream in life as he had written “One day I will work at Oxford or Cambridge.” as one of his personal goals for the year.