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Playing his chords right: Clayton State Student Veteran to represent university at USG 2024 Academic Recognition Day

(April 9, 2024) - Some may not initially think that there are many comparisons between the studies of music and chemistry, but double major Michael D. Jones II will always argue otherwise.

Former U.S. Marine Michael D. Jones II now studies full time at Clayton State University as a double major in Music and Chemistry

“They’re just inherently tied together, in my opinion,” Jones said. “Music is just sound waves that we find pleasing to our ears. There is a whole science as to why that is! In the physics, chemistry, and anatomy classes I've taken ... if you really look, the connections are there as to why music works as a science and an art form, and I find it very interesting.”

Double majoring in both Music and Chemistry, the Clayton State junior’s evident passion for learning recently earned him the nod to represent the university at the University System of Georgia’s 2024 Academic Recognition Day on Wednesday, April 10.

Although he now carries a near-perfect 4.0 GPA, a published paper in “Connections: Guide to First Year Writing, 10th ed.,” and other impressive academic achievements, Jones reflected briefly on a time when his schoolwork wasn’t always as impressive.

“I went to high school here at Stockbridge High and graduated in 2013,” Jones said. “In my senior year, I knew I wasn’t going to get any scholarships because I was quite lazy and my grades suffered.”

With college not in his immediate interests at that time, Jones turned his attention to a life much different than the one he knew – a life in the U.S. Marine Corps.

“My dad said, ‘maybe you should join JROTC and do a year,’ and I was, like, ‘I guess I should,’” Jones said. “So, I took a trip to Paris Island and fell in love at first sight. I loved something about the discipline, the order, the drill.”

For eight years, Jones proudly served as a Marine, but decided it wasn’t a career he wanted to make lifelong when stationed in Okinawa, Japan.

With a wife and daughter to take care of, and knowing he couldn’t “flip burgers” to pay the bills, Jones set his sights back on earning his education.

“I thought long and hard about what I wanted to do with my life,” Jones said. “My dad was a family practice doctor and my mom was a nurse. I have a lot of family in the medical industry and was pushing myself away from that field for a while. Then I kind of just gave in and said, ‘you know what, that's what I want to do.’”

With his mindset trending toward joining the civilian sector again, Jones’ decision to leave the military soon wasn’t just based on his professional aspirations, but on his physical health, as well.

“The arthritis they found in my back and knees, and the herniated discs, kind of set it in stone that this was not going to be a viable career option anymore,” Jones said. “So, they medically retired me. I went back to Camp Lejeune and started going to college at Clayton State online, at first.”

Once separated, Jones moved back home with his family to Locust Grove, Georgia, where he then became a full-time student on campus at Clayton State University.

Both a degree and career in the field of chemistry soon became goals for the newly minted veteran, leading to his first choice of major.

But it wouldn’t be long before his love of music soon further directed him on his current academic path.

“All throughout my life, I’ve been pursuing music as a side hobby,” Jones said. “I just never really knew where to go with it. When I reached out to join the chorus, they said you have to be pursuing the minor in order to do that. I said to myself, ‘what if I just went for the major instead?’”

While Jones does admit that it has been occasionally hard to balance out his schedule between the two majors, he still says it’s completely worth it.

“The music department and chemistry department have been extremely open to working around my schedule,” Jones said. “It’s very conducive to a dual major environment.”

In addition to his studies, Jones also serves as an officer in the Delta Psi Chapter of Mu Phi Epsilon as well as the university's American Medical Student Association (AMSA) Chapter.

Something else he’s grateful to the university for is its additional persistence to help him balance his classes so he can still maintain time for his family – something Jones said he didn’t have much of during his days in the Marines.

Jones says that when he is recognized on behalf of Clayton State University in front of the University System of Georgia, the celebration is not solely for himself.

Jones says it’s the celebration of his family he’s looking forward to the most, and more than anything, it’s what he wants his wife and daughter to take away from Academic Recognition Day 2024.

“I may be the one being recognized and my name may be on the paper, but it’s really them that got me there – their sacrifices,” Jones said. “They led me to where I am today. I hope my daughter takes away that, seeing my wife, Mackenzie, in her pre-nursing program and seeing me go through this, knowledge is power. You’ve got to do the homework and put in time, but the rewards will very much outweigh the work that it takes to get there.”

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