A staff member whose dedication to students earned her the nickname “Mama Lisa” has received one of Clemson University’s 2023 Martin Luther King, Jr. Awards for Excellence in Service.
Lisa Jackson, associate director of PEER in Clemson University’s PEER & WISE program, received her award in a January 17 ceremony at the Brooks Center for the Performing Arts, where King’s sole grandchild, Yolanda Renee King, gave the keynote address.
“This award is a tremendous honor,” Jackson said. “To be nominated by my supervisor with letters of support from students blows my mind. And it is nothing short of amazing for the committee to have chosen me to receive this award on the shoulders of Martin Luther King, Jr., a man who opened many doors for us to have the opportunities and privileges we have today.”
Serita Acker, the director of PEER & WISE, said many students turn to Jackson to celebrate triumphs and to discuss strategies to rebound after setbacks. They confide in her on topics ranging from finances and family to school and their futures.
“All day her tiny office bursts with students talking, eating lunch, and soaking up quality time with a member of the Clemson Family,” Acker said. “Lisa creates an environment where students feel safe, welcomed, and cared for. She invests in her students with the tremendous gift of time and teaches students how to advocate for themselves as needed.”
When a student’s grandmother died, Jackson drove two hours to Columbia so the student could be with family.
She can also be tough. Students have said she asks hard questions when they stray from their studies.
Jackson’s office is in the PEER & WISE suite in Freeman Hall. The program aims to increase diversity in engineering and science by supporting students with a wide range of initiatives, including mentoring, counseling, tutoring, networking and career-development opportunities.
Jackson supervises 15 PEER student mentors who go on to support first-year underrepresented students. She also has primary responsibility for organizing the PEER and WISE Experience, a summer program for incoming students.
Jackson, who joined PEER & WISE in 2015, recently received her MBA from Clemson and graduated in the fall from the University’s CU Grow program. In Spring 2022, she was a finalist for a Remarkable Woman award from WSPA-TV’s “Your Carolina.”
“Lisa goes above and beyond to help students succeed and get the most out of their Clemson Experience,” said O. Thompson Mefford, associate dean for undergraduate studies in the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences. “She is key in our efforts to widen and diversify the talent pipeline. I congratulate Lisa on all her success and thank her for her service.”
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