Interview: Shirley A. Jackson (2003)
Interviewee: Shirley A. Jackson
Interviewer: Clarence G. Williams
Date: November 22, 2003
About the Interviewee
Shirley Ann Jackson '68, PhD '73 of Washington, D.C. was one of the first black women to earn a Bachelor's degree and the first to earn a PhD from MIT. During her undergraduate and graduate years at the Institute, Jackson advocated for the recruitment and retainment of black students. Her efforts included co-founding the Black Students' Union in 1968 and working with the Administration to advance racial equity at the Institute. Since 1999, Jackson has served as the 18th president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and is a permanent member of the MIT Corporation.
Career: research physicist, Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, 1973-74; European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), Geneva, Switzerland, 1974-75; and Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, 1975-76; member of technical staff (MTS), AT&T Bell Laboratories, 1976-91; professor of physics, Rutgers University, 1991-95; and chair, US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, 1995-99.
The Bridge Leadership Program
The Bridge Leadership Program was developed by Clarence G. Williams at MIT.
This program provides perspectives and developments of new insights based on the concept “Bridge Leadership” that emerged in Technology and the Dream: Reflections on the Black Experience at MIT, 1941-1999 (MIT Press, 2001). The concept developed from the investigator’s view as an important element in the educational experiences of black students and faculty members at MIT. It defined a small core of mostly non-black faculty and administrators who worked diligently, along with the limited number of underrepresented faculty and students, to bridge divisions at the university based on race. While this book focused on the black experience, a new phase of the “bridge leadership” concept was broadened over the past nine years to include not only race but culture and ethnicity as well. The project has developed through interaction beyond MIT with over sixty former and current presidents, senior faculty and administrators at 17 major universities and educational institutions. What has surfaced from interviews and fact findings from these institutions (see lists of “bridge leaders” and “bridge leader targets”) is a core of identifiable characteristics associated with “bridge leader” professionals, both faculty and administrators who work to transform their campuses into a more welcoming, nurturing environment for minorities and other individuals from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds.