Recent graduate, activist reflects on time at Penn State

Jessica Lawson
November 05, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — During her time at Penn State, Jasmine Jackson, a 2019 economics and African studies alumna, inspired activism and change around campus. A queer, African American woman, Jackson embraces her identity and wants to share it and encourage others to be their authentic selves. In May, she graduated with two degrees as well as two minors in African American studies and women’s studies.

Since graduating, Jackson has been working as an analyst for Third Bridge Group Limited in Manhattan. There, she conducts research for unique human insight to help assist institutional investors with their market and industry due diligence. Jackson helps clients to better understand specific market spaces and industries. Instead of conducting a general search, institutional investors come to the company for more specific insights from experts in the specific industry.

Though Jackson is now located in Manhattan, she won’t be gone from Penn State for much longer. In the fall of 2020, Jackson will return to University Park to begin the Smeal College of Business’ Master of Professional Studies in Management and Organizational Leadership Program. She is excited to work with Queer and Trans People of Color (QTPOC) and Undergraduate Admissions again and looks forward to getting involved in graduate-level organizations supporting LGBTQ+ students.

Jasmine Jackson headshot

Jasmine Jackson, a 2019 Penn State alumna, earned degrees in economics and African studies from the College of the Liberal Arts.

IMAGE: Provided by Jasmine Jackson

As a student, Jackson joined and became a leader in multiple organizations on campus. She served as the president of QTPOC and as the treasurer of the Student Minority Advisory and Recruitment Team (SMART). She also participated as a general member in the Penn State Economics Association.

“QTPOC has been a major part of my life and college experience since early on. Feeling a little intimidated by new surroundings, QTPOC opened itself up to be a family and a consistent space where I could find love, acceptance, open discussion and interesting events. It’s been like another family ever since. SMART came into my life by recommendation,” said Jackson. “I had friends already in the org who told me I had the personality for recruitment. I was flattered and looked more into what they do and how they work with admissions. I loved it.”

Jackson was the student intern for the Department of Multicultural Outreach in Penn State’s Undergraduate Admissions office. The internship grew from her work with SMART, where she discovered how much she enjoys diversity and inclusion work.

“Our numbers will always remain low as long as people don’t think they have a place here. This is what really makes me gravitate toward recruitment work specifically in diversity and inclusion,” said Jackson. “I firmly believe that so many qualified people shy away from this school because they believe they don’t have the space to thrive and be happy given their identities, and I want to counteract that mentality.”            

Jackson describes Penn State as a “predominantly white institution” due to its racial and ethnic statistics. This was not satisfactory for Jackson, however, and she knew she had to do her part in diversifying the campus and showing underrepresented students that they can find a home at Penn State.

Through her activism, Jackson hoped to accomplish three main goals. The first was to increase the recruitment of underrepresented identities at Penn State. She hoped to create a mutually beneficial relationship between these students and the institution, working to see that Penn State provides, and students are aware of, the incentives and resources needed for students to thrive.

Jasmine Jackson at the Involvement Fair at the QTPOC table

Jasmine Jackson served as president of Queer and Trans People of Color (QTPOC) while she was an undergraduate student at Penn State. Here, Jackson represents QTPOC at the Involvement Fair at University Park. 

IMAGE: Provided by Jasmine Jackson

Jackson’s second goal was to help Penn State recruit from a broader swath of demographics. Once on campus, Jackson worked on her goal, as she said, "to have students be heard and validated.”

Finally, her third goal was to add an intersectional lens to every space possible. Intersectionality for Jackson refers to looking at the way in which multiple identities and backgrounds interact to shape individuals and environments.

“This doesn’t mean implementing stereotypes or preconceived ideas to make judgments, but more so having an open mind and holistic way of approaching people or situations,” Jackson said.

Jackson said that none of this would be possible without her family.

“They have taught me so much about strength, work ethic, being outspoken and proud. I credit them with giving me the foundation that allows me to be where I am today and where I can go in the future. It is their continued love and support that keeps me motivated, and I am so thankful,” said Jackson.

Thus far, Jackson has many fond memories of opportunities she earned through her activism. Some of her most memorable experiences include meeting activists Kimberly Crenshaw and Angela Davis, then hearing them speak. In addition to that, she has spoken about diversity and inclusion to members of the Penn State Board of Trustees. On campus, she joined Vice President for Student Affairs Damon Sims for a radio interview, where she shared information about student activism and being a QTPOC student at Penn State.

To students at Penn State, Jackson’s main advice is to “be authentic.”

“I think there is a lot of pressure to conform, so much so that people erase or diminish parts of themselves in order to assimilate or be more palatable to the space,” said Jackson. “I used to get nervous about wearing men’s professional clothing — I love fashion and dressing up — as a cisgender woman to events, but I had to realize that you can be respected, professional, hirable and likable while still being genuine and yourself. To go along with that, protect your mental health. College can be very stressful and it can feel like a million things are going on and half of those things could be going wrong, so remember to breath, utilize the resources around campus that are designed to make your life easier, find healthy coping mechanisms that work best for you — mine are listening to music and yoga, and don’t be afraid to reach out for help and be honest with those around you.”  

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Last Updated November 05, 2019