Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Insider: Jackie Jenkins-Scott, President of Wheelock College

Our latest Insider, Jackie Jenkins-Scott, is on a mission to improve the lives of children and families as the President of Wheelock College, a private institution in Boston that has grown to become a national and world leader in higher education, preparing early childhood educators.

Since her appointment as president in 2004, Jenkins-Scott has strengthened the College's core undergraduate and graduate academic programs, enhanced the undergraduate experience, and expanded the College’s reach internationally. She has been a passionate advocate in fulfilling the unique and compelling mission of the College.

Jenkins-Scott’s strong belief in international engagement and civic involvement led to the establishment of the highly successful International Visiting Scholars program which brings to campus scholars from all over the world, and the International Service Learning Program which provides Wheelock Students with opportunities for short-term international service experiences. A new civic engagement focus created a ten-year commitment to rebuilding New Orleans that includes twice annual trips of students and faculty to the city.

In November 2011, the College announced an 80 million dollar capital campaign, the largest capital fundraiser in the school’s history.

Jenkins-Scott has served on many professional, civic, and community boards. She currently serves on the board of directors of The Boston Foundation, The Kennedy Library Foundation and Museum, Schott Foundation, Tufts Health Plan, and Century Bank.

Read on to learn more about the College’s capital campaign, how Wheelock College supports Boston youth and first-generation college students and her greatest career lesson.

Hometown: Damascus, Arkansas

Education:  BS, Eastern Michigan University; Masters of Social Work, Boston University School of Social Work; and completed a Post Graduate Research Fellowship at Radcliffe College. Received an Honorary Doctorate Degree in Education from Wheelock College in 2003 and holds Honorary Doctorate Degrees from Suffolk University, Northeastern University, Bentley College, and Mount Ida College.

Last year you announced Wheelock College's 80 million capital campaign, the largest capital fundraising initiative in the school's history. What are your plans to achieve this milestone?

Our goal for this comprehensive campaign is to increase our annual giving and receive special gifts. We also plan to expand our funding from foundations and corporations.

With the campaign, we are introducing the Five Transformational Firsts: the first scholarship endowment; the first endowed professorships to support ongoing development of our professors; the first endowed fund for innovation; the first endowed fund for technology enhancement and innovation, and the first fund for facilities and a sustainable campus environment. To date we have raised $53 million toward our capital campaign.

It is impossible for any institution to remain competitive without technology. We are doing the things that an institution, in a very competitive Boston environment, needs to do to remain in the forefront.

Your website states that 51% of the class of 2013 is the first in their families to attend college. What special support do you provide these students to ensure they complete their education?

Students come with complex issues. We continually assess how we are utilizing all of our resources to advance our students both academically and socially. With the awareness that the first two years of college are critical to a student’s success, we track the GPA’s of our freshmen. This helps us identify potentially at risk students. They attend a one-on-one academic counseling meeting to help us identify areas where they may need additional support. We offer a bridge program, essentially a nine-week academic boot camp that provides assistance in the areas where the student may be struggling. The program has been so successful that we have extended it to second year college students as well. We are seeing great results with the high rate of graduating students.

Jenkins-Scott (center) with Harvard Law School Professor Charles J. Ogletree, Jr. and actor and author Hill Harper at a Wheelock College Youth Symposium, October 2010.

Please share more about Wheelock College’s Youth Symposium for middle and high school age youth. Why is it important to host this event?

The Youth Symposium represents a natural complement to Wheelock's core mission “to improve the lives of children and families.” Several years ago, as a part of that mission, we established an office of Pre-Collegiate and College Access Programs to assist urban youth with achieving college access and success. Our work is part of a national movement toward widening college access, and more importantly, ensuring that students who enter college also graduate - prepared for both further study and fulfilling careers.

Wheelock College presented its first Youth Symposium in 2007. The symposium featured Bishop Desmond Tutu, and focused on Forgiveness and Reconciliation. After the event, a number of participants started a group called SPARK the Truth, dedicated to nonviolent, peaceful coexistence for young people in Boston. With the help of that group and the Pre-Collegiate Office, nearly 5000 young people have attended subsequent events on the Wheelock campus focused on leadership development, mentoring, social justice, academic support, coursework and college success planning.

What are the biggest lessons you've learned in your career?

I have to say that the most important lesson I have learned throughout my career is to surround myself with the best talent I can possibly find and trust my instincts.

Anything else you'd like to share?

More than a century ago, Lucy Wheelock dared to open a new school in Boston in 1888 to prepare young women to teach kindergarten – a revolutionary educational idea at the time. She believed that the best way to improve the lives of children and families was through education. As Wheelock College approaches its 125th anniversary in 2013, we have many accomplishments to celebrate.

We offer a strong human services and child life program, juvenile justice, and policy – in all 18,000 graduates dedicated to making a difference in the world. All of our programs are based around the lens of impact to children and families including our new communications and global political science program.

What makes Wheelock special is that everyone who comes here is committed to the mission of improving the lives of children and families. The mission is very clear throughout the institution. Students come here committed to change. While the mission is specific, it is also very broad as to where the students’ passions will lead them. We help them uncover their true passions. Their passion can take them to be leaders of nonprofit organizations, being involved in social work, social justice, policy work, etc. Whatever they choose, they leave this College on a professional track.

Visit the Wheelock College website at

Photo credits:; Wikipedia

No comments: