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SXU Alumna Honored with Inspire Award


During Women's History Month, Saint Xavier University (SXU) alumna Jacki Black '05, Ph.D., was honored by Marquette University's Institute for Women's Leadership with the Inspire Award, which celebrates a faculty/staff member whose transformational leadership has improved the lives and careers of women on campus and in the community.

"This award is incredibly meaningful to me. I could easily think of dozens of women on Marquette's campus who inspire me every day – women who go above and beyond, day in and day out, to transform our institution and transform the lives of our students. These are the people I go to for guidance and whom I know I can count on to roll up their sleeves and get the job done," said Black.

Black currently serves as Marquette's director of Hispanic Initiatives and Diversity and Inclusion Educational Programming. She leads the university's Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) initiative, which seeks to provide greater access and support to Latinx and other underrepresented students, and provides strategic leadership and learning opportunities for faculty, staff and students.

What Black loves most about her role is the students, faculty and staff with whom she works. She finds them to be talented, hardworking, authentic, and dedicated to making their institution and world a better place.

"I derive great satisfaction from knowing I am playing at least a small part in supporting my students and colleagues and creating the conditions necessary for them to thrive," said Black. "One of the best parts about my job is being able to collaborate with other equity-minded professionals to create strong pathways for students. One of the greatest honors of my higher ed career is to be the founding chairperson of the Hispanic-Serving Institution Network of Wisconsin (HSI-NOW), which has members from 13 college campuses in the state," said Black. 

As chair of the HSI Steering Committee, Black leads Marquette's Hispanic-Serving Institution Initiative, which launched in 2016 with goals to foster stronger connections to their local Latinx community, high schools and alumni; engage more intentionally with Spanish-speaking families through admission, financial aid, and student and family programs; improve campus climate and the student experience through direct support services, co-curricular programming, and educational opportunities; support efforts to diversify faculty and staff; and support Latinx-centered academic programs.

"In the first five years of the HSI initiative, we grew from less than 10% of our undergraduate student body identifying as Hispanic to over 15%. We're definitely still a work in progress, but there's so much to be proud of in terms of how far we've come," said Black.

Black is proud to have attended Saint Xavier, which has been a designated Hispanic-Serving Institution since 2014, but she knows there is still much work to be done.

"I am incredibly encouraged that the percentage of underrepresented minority and first-generation college students continues to increase across the country. I am concerned about some of the trends I've been seeing, however, in terms of pushback against programs aimed at making higher educational spaces more diverse and inclusive. We are far from a level playing field in our country or on our college campuses, and I've seen firsthand the impact that these programs can have in the trajectories of underrepresented students' lives. It is alarming to see how they are being systematically dismantled in some areas. But all that does for me personally is reinforces my resolve, as it proves how much work there is still yet to do," said Black.

Before her work at Marquette, Black devoted 15 years to teaching, mentoring, coaching and advising in Chicago and Milwaukee schools, most notably spending 10 years at Marquette University High School, where she taught honors Spanish for native speakers, advised the Orgullo Latino student organization, and served as the Latino family liaison.

Black's career has been impactful, and she got started by studying psychology for her undergraduate career before heading to Saint Xavier to pursue a master's degree in education. Black believes in the power of education as a path to upward mobility, and she's been an educator for as long as she can remember, starting from a young age when she assumed the role of "mother hen" in her family of seven children.

"My childhood experiences growing up in poverty also imprinted upon me a deep sense of the injustice of our social order and propelled me into studying psychology, and eventually education, as a profession. I have a passion for equity work and like to think I play a small part in creating the conditions necessary for students to thrive. Education is an act of hope – an undying belief in the potential that lies within each human life," said Black.

When Black began her master's program at SXU, she had already been teaching for a couple years in a charter school, but she found that she was solely underprepared, as she hadn't taken education classes as an undergraduate and was learning how to be a good teacher as she went. At Saint Xavier, she gained invaluable pedagogical tools that she still uses to this day.

"One of the most useful classes I took was one on accommodating different learning needs. What I realized throughout the class is that many of the techniques we were learning would be just as beneficial for students with IEPs or 504s but could also be useful for scaffolding learning for all students. It was my first glimpse into the idea of universal design, which is something I've carried with me throughout my educational career," said Black.

Black holds many fond memories from her time at SXU, especially going through classes as a cohort.

"We were predominantly women either already in our careers or working toward a second career, and we were very focused and driven to do well. The program was focused primarily on honing our teaching craft and I loved learning from the experienced instructors as well as from my peers in the program!" said Black.

Black's family members are her biggest cheerleaders. She is grateful for her husband, Luke, who she believes has been a pillar of strength and support since the day they got together. Without his unquestioning support and equal labor in their home, she would not be able to do all that she does. She is also proud of her children, Alonzo, who is studying exercise sports science, and Emma, a future woman leader who already exhibits executive leadership skills in spades.

As Black looks to the future, she plans to continue the movement toward programs that utilize restorative practices and promote intergroup dialogue at Marquette. Having just defended her dissertation in February, she is turning her attention to writing articles from that research project so the findings can be disseminated more widely and useful to other higher ed practitioners.