Student Story

Ifill Scholar Kaycee Jackson '23 Focuses on Race and Politics

Why did you choose to attend Simmons?

I transferred to Simmons from another institution. I was interested in being challenged academically, and when I looked at the courses in the political science program at Simmons, I thought this will help me become a better scholar.

Even though I just transferred to Simmons last semester, I feel like I've been adopted into the Simmons family. My peers and faculty members have been very welcoming and helpful. After transitioning from a big state school, at Simmons I feel like faculty can relate to me as a student and as a person. They see what I'm doing as a scholar individually, not just in class.

Also, Boston feels like an entirely different world for me, compared to where I grew up in Mississippi. I've learned to ride the bus! And I can walk to places in Boston — back home, you need a car to go anywhere. To me, Boston still feels like a vacation. Over spring break I spent time walking around my neighborhood.

What professors have helped you reach your goals?

I have a double major at Simmons: Political Science and Africana Studies. At first I transfered to Simmons only majoring in Political Science. With the help of my first political science professor, Assistant Professor Abel Amado, I have felt welcome to my department and he has been a great mentor to me. Also, I took my first Africana Studies class [Black Cultures in Society] with Assistant Professor Tatiana Cruz, and since I enjoyed the class so much, she encouraged me to take up Africana Studies as another major! In Africana Studies, Professor Dawna Thomas is my mentor and she has pushed for me to go further with my studies and attend graduate school. These professors have fostered me academically and allowed me to become a better scholar.

What does the Ifill Scholarship mean to you?

I was really surprised to receive the scholarship! I'm really thankful to be backed by faculty and people in the field for the work I was doing in the classroom. It has helped me to push myself, and to make sure my work is always at a certain standard. Being acknowledged as an Ifill scholar is the first step to being part of Gwen Ifill's legacy. It's empowering to be recognized for my work in this way. 

As you look to the future, how do you hope to connect your passion to a lifelong purpose?

I want to understand how race and politics really operate within American society, and I want to share that understanding with others. I can see how politics and race influence each other, and I'm working with my mentors and advisors to develop this understanding. We do readings on the subject in class, and my professors often recommend outside reading because they know I want to further my knowledge. This has led to my research project that was selected for SURPASs [The Summer Undergraduate Research Program at Simmons] that focuses on legislation banning ‘Critical Race Theory' that was recently passed in my home state, Mississippi. I desire to become a professional researcher and create more projects like this.

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