In Conversation with Dr. Shanna Jackson

Dr. Shanna Jackson has devoted her career to advancing the lives of others through higher education. Now, as a Second Harvest Board Member, she is advancing the conversation about food insecurity and the access to educational opportunities.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I originally moved to Tennessee to work for the Pillsbury company and didn’t have any interest in being in higher education, but I always cared about the community I lived in. I stumbled into Higher Ed by teaching a course in Knoxville and it really changed the course of my life. It was one of those life defining moments when you realize how important and powerful education really is.

I moved to Nashville in 2000 to work for Volunteer State and that is where I realized that I wanted to be a college president. So, I went back to school and got my doctorate. I then went on to Columbia State, and then came to Nashville State in 2018.

What is your organziation?

Nashville State is a very complex organization. We serve seven counties, and many are in the Second Harvest service area. Davidson County is where most of our students come from. We serve urban, suburban, and rural communities.

We are an open-door access institution; we don’t sort students out. Unlike other universities that have specific requirements for G.P.A. and test scores, we are here with our doors open to anyone in the communities we serve. That brings about challenges because not everyone is prepared for college-level work, so that is an area of focus for us. We are the bridge to get students from where they are to where they want to be.

How did you first become involved with Second Harvest?

Most of my career has been spent growing and establishing relationships in the community. Through this I met members of Second Harvest’s leadership team and their board, and we recognized the common thread between a need to higher education and a need for good nutrition.

Through this relationship, the NSCC’s Campus Cupboard program was established. We now have food pantries at each of our seven locations, providing food to students and their families who are facing hunger. This program has been widely successful and has served as a great resource to our student body – especially during the pandemic.

How does your expertise help advance Second Harvest’s mission?

As a member of Board’s Engagement Committee, I am always thinking about building connections with other organizations because we know that it is not just an issue of hunger. When you think about addressing poverty, generational poverty, situational poverty, we need to approach this from all different angles – food access, education, housing, and much more. I believe there is a connection with the people we serve at Second Harvest, providing them with the food they need as well as connecting them to education and training. My goal is to continue to advance that conversation.

What has been one of your favorite memories during your time serving on the board?

One of my favorite memories is from Second Harvest’s annual Thanksgiving meal for staff members. It was incredible to be able to sit down, talk, and share a meal with the people that work at Second Harvest. Having that moment to thank them for what they do was wonderful. That sticks out to me, that as a board member I had the chance to thank the very folks who are making this all happen.

Why should someone become involved with Second Harvest, whether volunteering or becoming a donor?

The one thing I see about Second Harvest that is different from other organizations is that you can really see, quickly, what your investment and your time is going to yield. You are touching real people and you can make a real difference. This is a way to really give back to your community.

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