Saint Mary’s Center for Women and Gender Equity Director Sharon Sobotta shares details related to the upcoming “Student to Professor” speaker event featuring Saint Mary’s alum Dr. Nicole Jackson. Dr. Jackson offers readers some details about her journey from Saint Mary’s to Bowling Green University.
By Evan Rodrigues
Located next to the CARE center beneath Augustine residence hall, the Center for Women and Gender Equity offers a space for the college community to learn, heal and connect. The CWGE plans programs with intersectionality being a focus. Director Sobotta explains that teaching about sexism needs to be accompanied with lessons on racism. The Center’s ideals are represented in the work they do, offering programs that are also listed on the 44 Days events page.
The planning committee, Director Sobotta reports, is composed of individuals from the College Committee on Inclusive Excellence sub-committee on Gender Equity, as well as the CWGE student team. The committee sees a need for programming relating to representation, given the lack of women and people of color currently represented in the academic world. This focus on representation contributed to the formation of the “Student to Professor '' event, featuring former Saint Mary’s student Dr. Nicole M. Jackson.
Jackson is an Assistant Professor of History at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, as well as a contributing writer for the African American Intellectual History Society blog Black Perspectives. She graduated from Saint Mary’s in 2005, going on to earn both her M.A. and Ph.D from the Ohio State University in 2009 and 2012.
“I’m a social and cultural historian of the modern Black diaspora with an emphasis on social movements, women’s activism and migration.” says Dr. Jackson, “Much of my work focuses on post-World War II England and Afro-Caribbean social movements.”
Connecting her current work with her time at Saint Mary’s, Dr. Jackson talks about an experience that sparked interest:
“I stumbled on this topic while at SMC. I took a study abroad trip through Michigan State University, encouraged by Denise Witzig, Myrna Santiago and the larger SMC Women’s Studies Department. My research project in that class was about Black British Feminism, which became part of my application to graduate school and later my PhD dissertation.”
Next, Dr. Jackson talks about some of her favorite parts of the job, saying “I like working one-on-one with students. I also love traveling for research and spending time in archives.”
The “Student to Professor” event will not only give attendees insight into where Dr. Jackson is in life currently, but it will also focus on her journey from undergrad to graduate school and beyond. Alluding to the challenges of this journey, Jackson shares:
“I’m from a working class background. I was raised by a single mother who never went to college. I spent a considerable amount of time in college and graduate school worrying – as many students do – about money and navigating the college campus while feeling as if I didn’t belong. However, I’ve also been incredibly lucky to find people who were willing to help me find my way through, beginning at SMC.”
Taking it further, Dr. Jackson conveys how her experience with intersecting identities has shaped her interests as well as the goals she has for her classroom environment:
“I’m a Black woman whose primary area of research is Black people, especially Black women. I want to know more about people of African descent each day.” explains Jackson, “It’s hard to figure out exactly how my race and gender shape my teaching for a variety of reasons, but I want to create classrooms that are, as much as is possible, safe spaces for Black students and other students of color, first-generation and working class college students and students of all genders to take ownership of their ideas and ask questions that matter to them.”
Concluding with words of wisdom for anyone in school, Dr. Jackson expresses, “Your peace and happiness are more important than the degree.”
Make sure to add the February 26th “Student to Professor” event at 4 PM to your calendar so you can hear more about Dr. Jackson’s journey from Saint Mary’s College to the larger community of academia.
Special thanks to Dr. Nicole Jackson and Director Sharon Sobotta for participating in this article.
Victoria Vidales '21,