Alumni of Color Association Honors Debora Jackson
With an understanding that a diverse university community facilitates intellectual engagement, collaborative citizenship, and enhanced cognitive skills, a group of determined WPI alumni formed WPI’s inaugural Alumni of Color Association (ACA).
Co-founders Veda Booth ’18 and Lailah Thompson ’16 launched the ACA in fall 2020 as a direct response to the racial injustices witnessed around the country over the previous summer. From scholarship and grant funding for students, to leveraging networking opportunities and connections for alumni, the association established three pillars professional development, advocacy, and philanthropy—to help ensure continuous sources of support for WPI students and alumni of color.
The ACA’s first order of business was to establish an endowed fund to support students of color. Recognizing Dean Debora Jackson’s work with WPI’s Black and Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) community, the association established the Dr. Debora Jackson Endowment for BIPOC Students in her honor. As one of the first women of color members of the WPI Board of Trustees, a 2019 Hall of Luminaries Inductee, current dean of The Business School, and a double-degreed alumna (ME ’00, MS ’89), Jackson was the perfect embodiment of the ACA’s legacy at WPI. Although the fund is not yet fully endowed, ACA co-president Booth, a marketer with Goldman Sachs, looks forward to a day when the fund can support every BIPOC student who attends WPI.
As BIPOC students are included and we invest in them with the distinctive education that WPI has to offer, we will change the world for the better.Dean Debora Jackson ME ’00, MS ’89
When asked about learning of the proposed endowed fund, Jackson says, “When Lailah told me the ACA wanted to name the new endowment fund after me, I was stunned and completely humbled. It is still stunning and humbling. My desire is to make a difference in the lives of others and add value. I do not think about taking credit, preferring to celebrate the accomplishment of others. But to have recent alums look at me and my work as something to lift and recognize still leaves me without words.”
Jackson is committed to the ACA, saying, “Alumni of color understand the unique challenges at WPI, where there is an underrepresentation of diverse voices, experiences, and opinions. The ACA is positioned to advocate for current students because they understand the difficulties that students of color must navigate at WPI. They are also effective advocates for promoting the need for BIPOC faculty and staff, because students need to see leaders who look like them in the classroom and on campus.”
As WPI continues to transform lives, confront global challenges, and turn knowledge into positive impact, university leaders are prioritizing building an inclusive and supportive community where all members feel a strong sense of belonging. Through Beyond These Towers: The Campaign for WPI, the university will double down on its efforts to prepare strategic thinkers and build an inclusive, supportive, and welcoming community. The aim is to create a campus community where prospective and current students, faculty, and staff see themselves—where everyone feels a strong sense of belonging and has opportunities to achieve their full potential. Both the ACA and the Dr. Debora Jackson Endowment for BIPOC Students are in alignment with these commitments.
In closing Jackson offers, “I want to see students from all ethnicities and backgrounds come to WPI and find a home on The Hill that is a place of welcome. I want our students to thrive in an environment where their talents, gifts, and abilities are celebrated. And I do not want financial need to be a burden. We can make equity and inclusion a reality if we make supporting this endowment and other similar vehicles designed to meet need a priority.”
To help support the Dr. Debora Jackson Endowment for BIPOC Students, visit support.wpi.edu/campaigns/dr-debora-jackson-scholarship.