Gregory Jackson fought for the rights of United States citizens, as a member of the Marine Corps. Today, the Highland Park native continues to fight for the rights of others – just from his office as CEO of the Illinois Center for Violence Prevention based in Chicago. The organization “addresses the systematic issues associated with interpersonal violence at all stages of life – from child abuse to elder abuse,” Jackson said. “I consider myself extremely fortunate to lead a team dedicated to the prevention of violence throughout the state of Illinois.” Higher education played a pivotal role in Jackson’s professional life. Following his time with the Marine Corps, Jackson began taking courses part-time at Triton College in 1991, at the age of 29. Four years later, he graduated with an associate’s degree in political science, before transferring to Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago, where he received the Frederick Welty Award in political science and graduated Summa Cum Laude with a bachelor of arts in 1999. His educational pursuits didn’t stop there. He received his Master of Public Administration degree from Roosevelt University, also in Chicago, and is currently pursuing his doctorate in Public Policy and Administration at Walden University.
Today, Jackson sits on the boards of the Illinois Partners for Human Services Public Policy Committee and the Illinois Channel Advisory Committee for Non-Profits and serves as president-elect for the Chicago Chapter of the American Society for Public Administration.
What have been some obstacles you’ve had to overcome in pursuit of your educational and career goals?The one obstacle I think every working adult has to overcome is time management. As I continue my educational journey, I still wrestle with little time and numerous priorities. My advanced research methods professor and I were discussing the road that was ahead in completing my dissertation. She said, “You can have everything you want, you just may not be able to have it all at the same time.” Trust me; the sacrifice is well worth the reward. Many things can come and go but your education – well, that belongs to you and it’s forever.
What have been some sources of inspiration both in your career and in your life?I believe everyone needs a cheerleader, and for me, my cheerleader has always been my wife. I remember sitting on my sofa in Elmwood Park when I looked at my wife and said that after completing my military service, I wish I had gone to college. She suggested I enroll, to which I responded – with what I am certain was a head shaking side-to-side in the negative – that if I started I would be 40 before I graduated. That is when she informed me, profoundly, that I was going to be 40 anyway. There are others who’ve given so much of themselves that have also served as sources of inspiration: King, the Kennedy brothers, Malcolm X, Mandela, Rigoberta Menchu, our military and their families.
What would you describe as your strong suit?There was only one time when I thought I was going to quit school. It was when I realized that I had to take a communication/public speaking course at Triton. Nothing struck greater fear into my heart. Now, I consider myself a strong, confident and inspirational public speaker. Though I consider myself an accomplished leader and scholar practitioner, I feel my communication skills are my strong suit… Thank you, Triton.
How has Triton College impacted your life?Triton College is where the rest of my life started. The seed was planted at Triton College and dare I say something beautiful blossomed and continues to bloom. I am a richer person. I am a better person. I am what I had hoped to be, so far.
What advice would you give to someone who would like to pursue a career in your field?There is no greater calling than serving one’s fellow man. I have seen those who saw public service as a way to enrich themselves and question how they sleep at night. Be idealistic. Enrich not yourself, but others. Be pragmatic, but never compromise your core values – those fundamental values that are part of the DNA of a truly good and honorable person. Finally, never turn your back to injustice – no matter the sacrifice, no matter the consequences.
What are your words of wisdom for current Triton students?Every day the light at the end of tunnel gets brighter. And believe it or not, it is not that proverbial oncoming train… What truly is a little time now will provide you with knowledge and rich experiences that will last a lifetime. Always take a breath and never give up – dreams can be realized.
What are your plans for the future?First, I want to complete my dissertation, become Dr. Jackson, and continue to contribute to my field through research and writing. Second, I would love to complete and publish the book I have been working on over the past couple of years. 2012 is looking promising! Third, I would like to start my own NGO responding to social and political justice issues in the United States and abroad. At some point, I will retire and move to the south of France part-time – I promised my wife.
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