Jackie Jenkins-Scott discovered her destiny wasn’t hiding in a classroom her senior year of high school. After working with a slew of eighth graders, she convinced herself teaching wouldn’t be the career path she’d be traveling down–or so she thought. After all, her teenage self couldn’t have predicted she would be welcomed in as Wheelock College’s president in 2004.
“When I was in college, I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do,” she says. What she did know, however, was that she wanted to make an impact.
Jenkins-Scott first moved to the city to attend graduate school at Boston University, where she was able to immerse herself in healthcare and public policy. Upon receiving her master’s degree in social work, she was hired by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, holding several different positions before becoming the president and CEO of Roxbury’s Dimock Community Health Center.
Jenkins-Scott is now nationally known as a community leader and public health advocate, with nearly 30 years experience in the field. Yet, after those 30 years, Jenkins-Scott decided she needed one thing: change.
“I felt like I had made a good contribution in the position I had been in, but it was time to do something different,” she says. “I wanted to be in a mission-driven environment–an environment I could make a difference in and would be a challenge for me.”
So, she stepped back into academia, this time in a different role. Instead of working in an eighth grade classroom, she chose to help those who had that their dream prepare.
“In some ways, I have come full circle,” she says, admitting one of the most important things anyone can do as they advance in their career is try to hone their skills and make sure they’re able to use those skills in different settings.
“When I left healthcare to come into higher education, I thought about the skills I developed and how they were relatable and transferable,” Jenkins-Scott says. “That’s one thing we’re learning about the workforce today. … When I was in college, you went into your profession and you worked your entire professional career in the same job. People now find themselves in a job for two or three years, and they move on and build those skills.”
At Wheelock, the goal isn’t to then prepare students for their first job, but for their second, third and fourth job, by teaching them communication and analytical skills, as well as what it takes to be a team member.
If Jenkins-Scott was to give advice to her high school self now, she would tell her not to take things so personally or be afraid of taking risks.
“If we’re open to learning and growing and experiencing things differently,” she says, “if we’re open to the challenges of a new environment, if we can come in with fewer preconceived ideas of what’s good or not good, then I think that’s the best opportunity for success.”