Jackson Cooper

China and Latin America Course Director

B.A. Magna Cum Laude, Anthropology, Columbia University

Jackson was born in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado, where he developed an innate love for the outdoors, great heights, desert rocks, and the smell of pinyon in the sun. He grew up hiking through the beauty of this place and learned the joy of exploration. After graduating from Boulder High School, Jackson took a gap year to work, volunteer, and travel in South America and western Europe. During that time, he honed his Spanish skills and learned Portuguese and French as well. He also discovered the joys of farming and rock-climbing and the thrill of the open road.

At Columbia University, Jackson majored in sociocultural anthropology, focusing his studies on traditional forms of agriculture and how to use these practices to improve modern, sustainable food cultivation. He also took on a new linguistic challenge studying Mandarin Chinese, while still keeping up with his Romance languages. He spent his summers working on farms in Costa Rica and Colorado, as well as one summer on an archaeological dig in China. In all his travels and studies, Jackson has been fascinated by how people and land interact and he has learned so much from the different peoples and lands that he has encountered.

Climbing, cooking with fresh vegetables, and writing are Jackson’s favorite activities, and he has always loved to share these with others. In college, he managed Columbia’s on-campus organic garden, teaching peers and community members how to grow healthy food. He also organized and led outdoor rock-climbing trips for the Columbia Rock Climbing Club and worked as a writing tutor for high-school students and an English-language tutor for ESL students of all ages. After graduating from Columbia, Jackson worked as a middle school English teacher on the Navajo Nation in New Mexico, after which he joined Dragons, beginning as an instructor in China. Since then, he has led programs in China, Peru, and Bolivia, as well as assisting in various roles administratively.

Jackson has always approached travel as an educational experience and found it to be at least as valuable as his formal education. His goal is to help each one of his students learn as much as possible from their travels as they discover a new culture, a new land, and perhaps even a new self.