Dr. Dionne Jackson, Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer, will be leaving Hendrix College after this spring. Dr. Jackson will be leaving in order to pursue a new career at AR Kids Read, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to promote reading proficiency in Arkansas children by the third grade. She will be the second executive director of AR Kids Read and will be following in the footsteps of the retiring executive director, who founded the organization.
“I’m excited about the work. What excites me about it is the fact that the governor coming into office again has really emphasized literacy as his second educational agenda. We, AR Kids Read, are one of the organizations that are serving as a community partner in thinking about how to move the state of Arkansas forward in thinking about literacy in elementary kids,” Dr. Jackson said.
AR Kids Read is located in Little Rock, Arkansas. Dr. Jackson has stated that the organization’s location in Little Rock is one of the many factors that attracted her to this new career, as she has had to make the commute from Little Rock to Conway for the past nine years. She will enjoy being able to work in the same city in which she lives and is looking forward to having a much shorter work commute.
Dr. Jackson officially starts working at AR Kids Read on May 13th. She will be strategically starting in mid-May because the organization’s board meeting is at the end of May. The board of AR Kids Read want Dr. Jackson to come in a couple weeks prior so that she can get things ready for the board meeting, as the organization looks towards the next fiscal year.
“One of the main reasons why they hired me is because they want someone who can handle fundraising. During my interviews, they were convinced that I could do this effectively. Much of fundraising is based on the relationships you have, whether that’s current relationships or ones that you plan to build,” Dr. Jackson said. “They really felt like I easily connected with people and were able to observe that.”
Dr. Jackson will be vetting potential donors, keeping current donors happy, and working with the operations and development department to seek new grant funding for the organization. In addition, she will be serving as a tutor herself. In the fall, she will tutor two kids at a local elementary school after undergoing training. Furthermore, Dr. Jackson will oversee operations, budgeting, and marketing aspects of AR Kids Read.
When asked what she will miss most about Hendrix, Dr. Jackson had difficulty providing just one answer. But she was quick to say that without a doubt, the students here at Hendrix are what she will miss most. So, she will be visiting Hendrix’s campus a few times every semester and attempting to get some Hendrix students to shadow or tutor through AR Kids Read.
“In the last nine years, I’ve had the opportunity to teach students, to provide academic advising, to counsel students, and to mentor students, whether formally or informally, which has been very important to me,” Dr. Jackson said. “I’ll also miss diversity work. I’ve enjoyed serving as the Chief Diversity Officer (CDO) and working with Ms. Jackson. As Jackson squared, we’ve been great partners in diversity work on campus. In general, I will miss the broader Hendrix community. And eating in the caf of course. This is a special place in my heart, as an alum and as someone who has worked here for years.”
Dr. Jackson has made a huge impact here on campus as CDO and Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion, with her diversity work and efforts. She will be missed by many, and her absence will be felt. President Tsutsui will name an interim CDO once Dr. Jackson leaves in May, until Hendrix conducts a national search in the fall for a new CDO.
“I hope to help the interim transition into the position smoothly. If President Tsutsui wants me to do onboarding with the new CDO, even if it’s a year from now, I’m happy to do that. When you have the opportunity serve as an inaugural of anything, you want to see it go on and be better than how it was when you left it. I really am hopefully that someone who plans to take the diversity work to the next level will be selected,” Dr. Jackson said.
There is still much diversity work to be done at Hendrix. Dr. Jackson stated that she hopes to see greater faculty diversity, a greater lens on policy and procedure and how diversity impacts that, and continued consideration for the foundational programs for low income and first-generation students in the years to come.
“It’s just been a pleasure to work in this role. I never thought I would be back at Hendrix after graduating. I remember the first time I sat in my faculty office after becoming a faculty member, I called my mother in tears. I couldn’t believe that I was going to be teaching at an institution that very much prepared me for life after Hendrix. I’m grateful to Hendrix for the opportunities that I’ve had. And as an alum, I will still give to the institution, both financially and with my time, because I think that it’s important to give back,” Dr. Jackson said. “I’m not leaving, I’m just saying see you later.”