When Jason Walker began working toward his degree in industrial engineering technology three semesters ago, he was focused on improving the skills he had already been using for more than 17 years.

A non-traditional student, Walker previously earned his bachelor’s of science in natural resource management from Lincoln University and is currently an operations partner for Amcor in Joplin.

“As I’ve gotten older, I’ve wanted to be more involved in planning and trying to improve things,” said Walker.

That focus hasn’t been lessened as he undergoes treatment for cancer for the second time in two years.

“I was diagnosed at the end of March in 2021,” he says. “I’m 47 and work on my feet all day, and I thought I had pulled something. It turned out to be lymphoma. It was very diffuse … it had spread over the majority of my body when they found it.”

He responded well to chemotherapy and radiation treatment, which he wrapped up last fall.

“Everything looked good then,” Walker says. “I thought we had it whooped.”

A follow-up scan in February found the cancer had returned, however; this time in his spleen and the lobes of his lungs. As he undergoes another round of aggressive treatment, he says his studies are helping him get him through.

“It’s nice to have something to keep your mind off things,” Walker says. “I’m too sick to work right now, so it’s either sit around and watch television all day or do something to improve myself. I want to keep going so that when I beat cancer, I’ll have something to show for it.”

His wife, Danya, recent shared a photo of her husband on social media, working on trigonometry homework while undergoing treatment.

Walker says Amcor – a global packaging company – is helping to pay for his studies at MSSU with the future in mind.

“The plan is for me to continue to work for them in an engineering capacity after I graduate,” he says.

Dr. Elke Howe, an engineering technology professor and Walker’s adviser, says Walker is the kind of student she loves to have in class.

“He’s able to relay everything we teach back to his company on a daily basis,” she says. “And you wouldn’t know by the quality of his work (that anything is wrong). That’s his personality. He comes across so positive and is just a pleasure to work with.”

Howe is also thankful for Amcor for their investment in Walker and other MSSU students.

“They’re a wonderful company,” she says. “Their human resources manager is teaching a class for us right now, and they have scholarships our students can apply for.”

Walker credits his professors for helping him succeed in the classroom as he undergoes treatment again.

“They’re helping me keep up with the content and keeping my grades up,” he says. “My goal is to get through the semester.”