Smith Jackson named 2017 Civic Engagement Professional of the Year

Elon's vice president for student life and dean of students is being recognized by North Carolina Campus Compact for his efforts to create a vision of service, support the engagement of faculty and students and form innovative campus-community partnerships.

North Carolina Campus Compact, a coalition of public and private colleges and universities, has named Elon’s G. Smith Jackson its 2017 Civic Engagement Professional of the Year.

G. Smith Jackson, vice president for student life and dean of students
The award recognizes one staff person in the state for efforts to institutionalize a campus-wide vision of service, support the engagement of faculty and students, and form innovative campus-community partnerships.

Jackson, vice president for student life and dean of students at Elon, has been a champion of civic and community engagement at Elon for more than 20 years, and his thoughtful advocacy and administrative acumen have helped make Elon a national leader in engaged learning. A committee of former honorees was unanimous in its selection of Jackson for the award.

​At Elon, Jackson has helped build a broad foundation for engagement. He secured resources to establish a center for service-learning and later worked to endow it as the Kernodle Center for Service Learning and Community Engagement. Jackson supported the creation of a service-learning residential community, a leadership program based on the Social Change model, and an experiential learning transcript. To encourage cooperation among various departments and programs, he organized a campus-wide Council on Civic Engagement.

​Jackson has also nurtured Elon’s connections to Alamance County and beyond. He worked to establish the Downtown/East Burlington route of Elon’s BioBus, which provides free public transportation for students and residents and links the campus with 32 community partner sites. He supported the Downtown Center for Community Engagement, which has space for service activities and meetings with community partners, and is available for local non-profits to use.

Putting his values into practice, Jackson has supported a campus Habitat for Humanity chapter that has built 25 homes in Alamance County, and he’s served alongside students in Elon’s Campus Kitchen hunger relief program. Jackson was among the first team of Elon students, faculty and staff to travel to the Gulf in the days after Hurricane Katrina and with his support, the alternative break program continues this commitment. Elon has sent 36 service trips to Louisiana since the storm.

Jackson has also been a vital ally of North Carolina Campus Compact. Working with Elon President Leo M. Lambert, Jackson helped establish the statewide network and Elon as its host campus. He has advised all of the Compact’s executive directors, and he serves as an ex officio member of the group’s executive board.

“Without Dr. Jackson’s partnership and contributions, North Carolina Campus Compact would not be where it is today,” says Lisa Keyne, a former director of the network.

​Colleagues and students praise Jackson’s leadership. A student nominator says Jackson treats students with “compassion and respect” and helps them “focus on the ‘why’ of their actions.”

Current Compact director Leslie Garvin says Jackson “asks just the right question at just the right time, letting you lead the process, but guiding you to find the best approach.”

Founding Compact director John Barnhill says Jackson’s “greatest legacy” may be the Elon alumni who have benefited from his “steadfast belief they would be better citizens of the world if they had these deep learning experiences.”  

Jackson will step down as vice president of student life and dean of students at the end of this academic year after 24 years of service to the university.

The Compact is recognizing Jackson at its annual Presidents Forum, hosted by N.C. A&T State University on Feb. 8. More than 35 presidents and chancellors will attend, along with other higher education administrators. The event will focus on strategies to improve student success and equity, and will feature presentations by national experts and North Carolina presidents and chancellors.

Jackson is the second Elon professional to be honored since the award was first presented in 2006. Mary Morrison, director of the Kernodle Center, was recognized in 2011.

North Carolina Campus Compact is a statewide coalition of public, private, and community colleges and universities that share a commitment to civic and community engagement. The network was founded in 2002 and is hosted by Elon University. North Carolina Campus Compact is an affiliate of the national Campus Compact organization, which claims 1,000 member schools representing nearly 2 million college students.