Ericka M. Jackson
Senior Director of Undergraduate Admissions
Wayne State University (MI)
What drew you to the world of college admission counseling?
My first career was practicing law as an employment litigation attorney. After I realized that I did not enjoy arguing with people all day I returned to academia, working in development and then I transitioned to admissions with my first job as assistant dean of admissions at Wayne Law. I loved working in admissions and knew I found my purpose helping prospective and admitted students navigate the admissions and enrollment process.
After working in law school admissions for eight years I realized that there were so many students who I counseled, particularly underrepresented students, with aspirations of becoming lawyers, who needed to know much earlier on what they would need to be a competitive applicant. I knew that I needed to reach students earlier and that I wanted more opportunities to work with K-12 students to plant the seed about the benefits of higher education. Education changes lives, it changed the trajectory of my life and the life of my family. I love being part of the education ecosystem and shepherding students and their families through the application and enrollment process.
What is your favorite part of the job?
I love finding and removing barriers for students who are applying to and enrolling in college. Often it is a high school counselor, advocating on behalf of a student, who brings issues to our attention. It is so rewarding to be able to remove these obstacles and barriers and provide access to a valuable education. Our decisions are guided by what is in the best interest of the student. So, it doesn’t matter how long a policy has been in place. If it no longer makes sense or is creating a barrier, we remove it.
How has NACAC played a role in your career?
NACAC has been an invaluable resource for me. When I transitioned from law school to undergraduate admissions there was a lot to learn about the differences in the admissions process and the best way to serve students and high school counselors who are our valued partners in this work. Attending my first NACAC conference was the first time I found a sense of belonging in the profession. Representing my university at the Counselor College Fair quickly helped me understand what resources were needed to support the admissions counselors on our team and the high school counselors and families who need relevant and helpful information to help their students find the best fit for them when choosing a college. The NACAC conference was also a great way to network with other admissions professionals and high school counselors and get connected to MACAC, my local association.
NACAC was also pivotal in affording me opportunities to serve on committees and work groups. I felt encouraged to apply for volunteer opportunities and have been selected to serve on work groups and committees that are focused on the issues I care deeply about with amazing colleagues from across the country. As a result, I have prioritized professional development for me and my team and have participated as a speaker or panelist at national conferences and webinars. I attribute this to the encouragement from NACAC to get involved and to volunteer to serve. It has been both personally and professionally rewarding to do so!
What do you think is the biggest challenge facing our profession today?
I think there are multiple big challenges and it is hard for me to determine the “biggest challenge.” I work at a large public urban research university in the heart of Detroit, Michigan, which influences my response. The demographic changes are a big challenge. With fewer students graduating from high school and enrolling in college, our work is naturally more challenging. This coupled with continued education budget cuts and the impact of the pandemic with many higher ed professionals leaving academia, everyone is having to do more with a lot less people and fewer financial resources. However, I am encouraged. The challenging times have created opportunities for colleges and universities to be more creative, innovative, and flexible.
When you aren’t working, what do you like to do?
I love to dance! I take a hustle class on Friday evenings. It is a great workout and I am able to stay current with all the hustle dances at family reunions and parties!
If you could be any fictional character, who would it be and why?
Olivia Pope from Scandal. She liked to help people and she was hardworking, strong, loyal, and a fixer!