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Black History Spotlight: Linda Jackson Blazing a Trail of Perseverance and Success

Photo of Bryant & Stratton Dean of Instruction Linda Jackson

Linda Jackson Ph.D. is no stranger to adversity.

When she enrolled at Old Trail, a private school in Bath, Ohio, she was the first African American student to step foot on the campus. The moment sparked a determination in the young girl to succeed no matter the odds.

It is a passion that she now passes to Bryant & Stratton students each day.

“When I look at the experiences in my life, the ‘ands’ in my life, I would tell anyone, African American or any race or gender, that life is doable if you do it. You just have to do it,” she said.

Jackson said on that first day at Old Trail she faced a lot of assumptions and stereotyping by administrators. On her last day, she walked the stage as valedictorian.

Since then, she has earned her bachelor’s degree in political science and economics, a master’s degree in public administration and her Ph.D. in education. Her work in the community as an ordained evangelist has also earned her accolades. She was recently named as one of the Outstanding Women in the Greater Cleveland Area, published in the 4th edition of Who’s Who in Black Cleveland, and received a commendation by Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones.

Now, as the Dean of Instruction for Bryant & Stratton’s Akron and Parma campuses, Jackson says that early experience was uncomfortable but helped prepare her for academia where she has worked to help change antiquated mindsets that try to stifle the potential of women and minorities.

Limits based on gender or race have no place in academia, or any workplace, she says.

“There are a lot of people who think there should be a ceiling. But I don't see a ceiling, I don't feel like I have a box. I refuse to be put into a box or have a ceiling,” she said.

"At Bryant & Stratton, fortunately, I haven't had to deal with some of the things I dealt with in some other arenas. They've (B&SC) been more inclusive of women and more accepting of women in roles of leadership."

Recently, more African American women have entered academia, a moment that she says is “overdue.”

"It is refreshing that African American females finally have the courage to excel and go after their dreams,” she says. “Academia is a wonderful place to mold minds and mold lives, and I'm glad to see it because there are more young girls now who have role models that look like them."

Role models who represent a wide berth of experiences are important to Jackson. Her favorite historical figure within the African American community, Harriet Tubman, is one who can connect with modern students not just because of how she appeared but how she rewrote her own story.

“She did not accept what everyone would've said was to be her plight in life. She decided, no, it's not. And she did something about it," Jackson says.

When Harriett Tubman finally found her freedom, she went back and helped others do the same. That, Jackson says, is her enduring legacy and one that modern women can learn from.

“That this whole thing about life is bigger than just me or you. That we have an obligation to not only succeed but to help others succeed,” Jackson says.

That modern equivalent, she says, is a dedication to mentorship. When African American women succeed in academia or any other profession it is critical that they too reach back and help others do the same.

"We have to pour into the future so that we continue to progress, and people don't have to start from ground zero over and over and over again," she says.

At Bryant & Stratton, it is easy for Jackson to be that sort of mentor. The college promises to prepare students to leave ready and able to succeed professionally. Jackson takes personal responsibility for helping to deliver that promise.

“We are truly empowering and equipping our students not just to be graduates, but to become premier professionals. We don't want them to have a piece of paper and not a job,” she says. “So, I have to make sure that they're being treated fairly. That they're experiencing the promise that Bryant & Stratton has made that we will help them persist to graduation despite whatever else they have in life."

Outside of the classroom Jackson continues to lead and raise up her community. She is an ordained evangelist, missionary, and Christian education department superintendent recognized by International Bible Way Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Inc. and the state of Ohio. She speaks and conducts workshops and seminars locally, statewide, nationally and internationally.

When she speaks, she reminds her students and her community that “life happens” but with the right mindset, you can overcome any challenge.

“There has to be something inside of you that says, ‘I will not be denied.’

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