Dr. Jacqui Lowman is a professor at the University of Maine at Presque Isle. But they are unlike any other professor you may have met. This difference is not because of the wheelchair they use daily. Or because of their two service dogs, Saint and Dusty. Or because of their use of the plural pronouns –we, us, and our– which they use to include their extension of themselves: Saint and Dusty. Dr. J is unique because of their positive outlook on life and determination to fix what is not right. “We’re really good at encouraging people. We’re really good at helping people believe in themselves. And so that’s the thing we do,” Dr. J said. For a long time, Dr. J’s goal was to teach their students to achieve great things. Later on, the goals grew.
“We teach writing and speaking and that was always easy until we couldn’t talk anymore,” they said. In 2012, Dr. J experienced an abdominal aortic aneurysm. “That should have killed us and did not. And we lost our ability to speak, and we survived,” they said. Dr. J didn’t just survive but they also made a full recovery. “That was an incredible gift that was like having a second chance at life,” Dr. J said. This was a second chance that Dr. J was not planning to let go to waste. “Although we taught, it wasn’t enough. We needed to do something else,” they said.
Dr. J realized through their students that many people created false limitations for themselves. What was easy for Dr. J –such as schoolwork– seemed impossible to some students. Dr. J decided they needed to do something that was challenging for themselves to show their students that challenges should not be feared. This was the start of Dr. J’s organization BEYOND LIMITS: Awaken Your Potential (http://beyondlimitsawaken.org/). “It started in 2014 –not because we couldn’t walk or because of the abdominal aortic aneurysm— but we got the idea from our students,” Dr. J said. The organization BEYOND LIMITS had become a federally recognized nonprofit. Dr. J’s organization is used to inspire individuals to the possibilities beyond their perceived limits. “And at first, it was going to be called ‘No Limits.’ Then we decided on BEYOND LIMITS. Because people do have limits, but people can go beyond them,” Dr. J said.
Dr. J teaches people to go beyond their limits by example. “So, we thought we should do some things that are not easy for someone who is a paraplegic. At first, we learned how to ski. In 2015, we were part of a group and we climbed Katahdin. And then we hiked part of the Appalachian Trail,” Dr. J said. “But we had to do it with a big group of people. And people would see the team. And they’d be like, ‘Oh, and they’re taking care of you.’” But that wasn’t the point that Dr. J wanted people to get out of reading about their journeys.
Dr. J’s new goal was to prove that there is a way to do anything and travel anywhere. “In 2019, we drove to a conference that was in Denver and then we went from there to the West Coast. We went to Washington and Oregon and then we came back through Canada,” Dr. J said. Their time spent in Canada was a big eye-opener. “The world is really not accessible, and the United States has the Americans with Disabilities Act. But even in the U.S., there’s a lot that’s not accessible, let alone in a foreign country,” Dr. J said.