By Carjamin Scott
NASHVILLE, TN — Dr. Shanna L. Jackson, the first black female president of Nashville State Community College, was the keynote speaker at the inaugural Black Women’s Empowerment Brunch hosted by the Equity Alliance.
Dr. Jackson is the product of two college-educated parents. Her mother instilled the importance of believing in God, and her father was the first in his family to graduate from college. Dr. Jackson mentioned that her father’s education was his gateway out of poverty. Her parents encouraged her to set big goals and never let gender or skin color stop her from reaching her dreams.
“At 5 years old, I told my parents that I want to become the first female President of the United States,” said Dr. Jackson.
Her education career began as an instructor at South College, this was the first time she experienced students that were not from two-parent households, students who were the first in their family to attend college, students who did not have a support system that encouraged them to attend school, students who had issues outside of school such as childcare needs, and students who grew up in a home where attending college was not expected.
“This is when I learned the difference between equality and equity. I was “woke,” I realized that my instructor job was not about me. I had a purpose to serve,” she said.
Dr. Jackson explained, “Education is the key to both economic and political empowerment. Education does not just prepare you for a job, it changes families.”
This experience changed Dr. Jackson’s childhood goal and the path to the presidency of a community college began.
Here are the steps Dr. Jackson took to become the first Black female president of Nashville State Community College:
First, she found a mentor, then she found a sponsor.
Dr. Jackson sought college leaders out, told them what she wanted to do, and asked them for feedback on how she can reach her goal. She learned the difference between mentors and sponsors.
“Mentors are great, but sponsors are better. Sponsors have the power to make things happen on your behalf,” explained Dr. Jackson.
She discussed the importance of creating relationships and surrounding yourself with people who are critical, open, and honest with you about your strengths and your shortcomings.
She printed community college president job descriptions.
She printed out community college president job descriptions to determine the strengths she had and the gaps she needed to fill before she could serve in the position. She began to apply and was interviewed for a position.
She persevered through adversity.
She was turned down for a college president position that a mentor told her to apply for. After the interview, she met with the mentor, they discussed what she needed to work on, and it helped her to prepare for her next interview opportunity.
She researched current community college presidents to learn their similarities.
She researched current community college presidents to learn their career background, education, and impact at the colleges they lead. She wrote down her strengths and what she needed to learn to become a community college president. “I created a plan to fill the gaps because I realized that I had a calling to fulfill,” she stated.
She furthered her education.
She enrolled at Tennessee State University and earned a Doctorate in Education degree while working and raising kids. Her husband supported her goals and she was able to complete the degree in three years.
She bloomed where she was planted.
After reaching a career ceiling, she began talking to the College President she worked for at the time, about how she wanted to move the college forward. Soon, a new position was created, she applied and interviewed. Then, she became the Executive Assistant to the President. Dr. Jackson explained, “This was a critical turning point in my career because it provided the breadth and depth I needed to reach my goal.”
On June 1, 2018, eleven years after earning her doctorate degree and after serving in other administrative positions, she became the first black female president of Nashville State Community College. Her next goal is to close the equity gap particularly for students of color.
She addressed the crowd, “What are your hopes and dreams?”
“We have a responsibility to make a difference” “Own your power, the time is now.”