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Trustee Q&A | Alumna Dana Jackson says Spalding’s mission mirrors her own

Steve Jones

Consultant and entrepreneur Dana Jackson has been a member of Spalding University’s Board of Trustees since 2004. Jackson, who received a master’s degree in psychology from Spalding, is the CEO of Dana Jackson Consulting, which focuses on results-based leadership development and organizational transformation. Jackson is also a partner with Better Together Strategies consulting firm, which specializes in leadership development, building public-private partnerships and working with nonprofit organizations on community change and economic development. She has also served as executive director of the Network Center for Community Change and in leadership roles for Kentucky’s Department of Community Based Services.

What’s it been like to be a longtime member of Spalding’s board, and what has it meant to you to serve in that role?

Spalding has a special place in my heart, not only because it’s where I got my master’s degree but because of the mission of Spalding. Spalding really is focused on a population that I care deeply about with folks who have often been disenfranchised. Spalding’s social justice focus is another thing that is really near and dear to my heart. I know for me, as a graduate student at Spalding, it was sort of a tough time in my life, and I really feel like if I had been at another institution, I maybe would have gotten lost. Some of the personal difficulties I was having, it was like a season of loss in my family. I lost a lot of people who were very dear to me during the time I was a student there. Had I been at a larger institution or an institution that was not so focused on student support and really getting to know students, I probably would have stepped away from my education. The faculty and staff at Spalding did not let that happen. They helped me change the narrative of my life, and I’m forever grateful for that.

How does the work you’re doing now and throughout your career align with the mission of Spalding to be a diverse community of learners and be grounded in compassion and social justice, and do you see Spalding carrying out that mission when you visit campus?

The mission of Spalding really in many ways is sort of my life’s mission. It’s of high importance to me. I’ve spent the majority of my working career really focused on equity, closing opportunity gaps and disparities, particularly around child well-being, community well-being and education. I really think that’s the work that Spalding does as well. I think the best way to do that work is with the understanding of equity, with a spirit of compassion and to do it with a lens and focus on social justice. That’s how Spalding does its work, and it holds education as the great equalizer. I think that shows up in the demographics of the student body. It’s all in the DNA of the leadership at Spalding, and it’s in the DNA of the offerings at the college.

Are there any programs or undertakings at Spalding that stand out to you that you consider a priority as a board member or hope to work on or have an impact on?

Continuing to hold on to and increase this notion of being a diverse community of learners. I’m really interested in the Muhammad Ali scholarship program (which gives $5,000 in need-based aid to first-year students and is renewable for up to four years), and I’m very much interested in the focus on restorative justice and restorative practices. … I don’t actually think you can talk about restorative justice without thinking about and being open to discussions about disproportionality and inequity, and I think that Spalding is well-positioned in the community – based on this notion of being a compassionate university and really embracing restorative practices and being a diverse community of learners – to really be a leader as our community continues to not only think about but take actions around more equitable outcomes in education.