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Brian-Keith Jennings '19, MBL '22

Whitworth degrees open opportunities for social services professional and father

In 2019, Brian-Keith Jennings became the first member of his family to earn a college degree when he completed a B.A. in public service administration through the Whitworth School of Continuing Studies. At Whitworth's commencement this May, Jennings is celebrating yet another first: earning a master's degree.

Jennings, a director for Lakeland Village, a state-operated facility for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, recently finished his Master of Business Leadership degree through the Whitworth School of Business.

"My greatest motivation to earn my degrees was my family," Jennings says. "Growing up in a life of poverty, I wanted more. I wanted more for my kids, and I also wanted to show them that we can do anything we put our minds to. Through hard work and dedication, you can rise above challenges and obstacles in life."

Jennings says his degrees have led to immediate promotional opportunities and have provided financial stability for his family. "Being able to take what I learned in class each night in the MBL program and apply it directly to my career the next day was truly valuable," he says.

In his job as an Intermediate Care Facility program area team director, Jennings oversees program operations at Lakeland Village and leads a staff of hundreds of employees. Outside of work, he serves on the board of directors for The Isaac Foundation, a local nonprofit that provides services to families and individuals affected by autism.

"I am passionate about serving others and have been in the social services field for over 20 years," Jennings says. “During this time, my youngest son was diagnosed with autism. He drives me to provide the best service that I can to others."

When Jennings decided it was time to earn his bachelor's degree, choosing Whitworth was a "no-brainer."

"When I was in high school, I attend Youth Leadership Spokane, and sessions were held at Whitworth," he says. "It was then when I knew I wanted to attend Whitworth; however, as life took many twists and turns, I did not attend right out of high school. I believe God provided me the opportunity to make my dream come true and attend Whitworth."

As Jennings reached the home stretch of his bachelor's degree program, he experienced a series of personal hardships. His brother was hospitalized, and soon after Jennings was injured in a car accident.

"During this time, Whitworth was incredibly supportive," Jennings says. "Professors worked with me and provided me the opportunity to get my assignments in. It was their grace and understanding that provided me with an opportunity to finish the program."

The support and care he received, as well as the high-quality education, made it easy for Jennings to choose Whitworth again for his master's degree.

While Jennings is the first college graduate in his family, he won't be the only one for long. Now that he has finished his education, he is focused on supporting his wife, Maria Jennings '27, who enrolled in Whitworth's B.A. in human services program this year.