Kirsten Jackson '18 Receives University's Award for Excellence in Graduate Diversity

Kirsten Jackson

Kirsten Jackson '18 "strengthened our community in fundamental ways and raised the level of understanding about the ways in which inequality persists," one nominator said.

April 20, 2017

University of Virginia School of Law student Kirsten Jackson '18 received the University's Award for Excellence in Graduate Diversity last week.

The award recognizes the service of a student who has gone above and beyond the requirements of their graduate program, in an effort to improve their community, field and society.

Jackson has "chosen to apply her talents to the areas where she sees society hurting the most," said Senior Assistant Dean for Career Services Kevin Donovan, one of several community members who nominated her for the award. "Through her actions and her programs, she has strengthened our community in fundamental ways and raised the level of understanding about the ways in which inequality persists."

At the Law School, Jackson has served as co-chair of the Admitted Students Open House Cabinet, a founding member of the new student group Minority Rights Coalition, and treasurer of the Black Graduate and Professional Students Organization. As a Peer Advisor, Jackson helped guide first-year students through the challenges of law school.

Through her work as social action chair of the Black Law Students Association, Jackson organized events with a goal of addressing issues facing underrepresented groups and to encourage students, faculty and administrators to work together. 

"It can be challenging to enter a new environment, even UVA Law," Jackson said. "I recognized this was something many of my peers struggled with as well, and I wanted to do something to change this."

She planned a series of programs for non-member supporters, or allies, of affinity groups like BLSA. One event, held in October, focused on how non-black allies could amplify messages of support to black classmates. "Black Lawyers Matter" shirts distributed to event participants are still seen regularly around the Law School.

In their nomination letters, Donovan, Joe Charlet '18 and Michael Dooley '18 praised Jackson's approach to creating a more meaningfully diverse and inclusive community, and her efforts in reaching out to others, as among her greatest accomplishments.

"Outside of her formal roles, Kirsten continues to work to improve life at the Law School by constantly making herself available to students and working to address their concerns on their behalf," Dooley said.

This year, Jackson started a book club focused on being black in America. The group included faculty, administrators and students, who read "The Warmth of Other Suns" by Isabel Wilkerson and "Between the World and Me" by Ta-Nehisi Coates. They concluded with a dinner and roundtable discussion about allyship at Professor Anne Coughlin's home, Jackson said.

For the Student Bar Association's Diversity Week, Jackson organized the event "The Legacy of Thomas Jefferson," featuring a panel of experts from the University and Monticello, who discussed the changing and complex nature of Jefferson's legacy. Working with the Office of Student Affairs, she help arranged a town hall meeting on police brutality.

"With the support and encouragement of students, faculty and administrators, we've been able to create a platform to have those important conversations," Jackson said. "We are identifying ways to improve on making sure students feel accepted here. We've made UVA feel more like home."

Jackson, who hails from Lexington, Kentucky, holds bachelor's degrees in political science and international commerce from the University of Kentucky.

Founded in 1819, the University of Virginia School of Law is the second-oldest continuously operating law school in the nation. Consistently ranked among the top law schools, Virginia is a world-renowned training ground for distinguished lawyers and public servants, instilling in them a commitment to leadership, integrity and community service.

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