Jessica Kennedy Vickers is an alumna of a historically black college and university (HBCU). Below are excerpts from an interview with USBE on why she chose an HBCU, a science, technology, engineering, and major (STEM) major, and why she continues to support her alma mater.
My father, Jerry L. Kennedy, is a finance and accounting graduate of Jackson State University and my mother, Joyce E. Kennedy, a chemistry graduate of Alcorn State University. HBCU pride was instilled in me. (T)hey inspired my siblings and me and encouraged us to pursue science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) careers.
My siblings and I all attended Jackson State University (JSU) on full scholarships, and we are products of the College of Science, Engineering, and Technology.
James, now the owner of BlueVision, LLC and software consultant, majored in computer science. Tamala also majored in computer science. She is a lead network specialist and operations manager, and Tiffany, a registered nurse, will soon be a nurse practitioner.
At JSU, I was not only taught how to be an engineer. I was surrounded by professors and mentors that cared about my well-being and wanted me and my classmates to not only succeed but to be prominent, respectable members of the Black community.
My husband, Charles W. Vickers, Jr.—a systems engineer and a graduate of Alcorn State University—and I have relocated several times in our career, but one thing that still brings me joy is finding an HBCU tag in a new city.
Attending an HBCU gives you an extended family no matter how far away from home you go, and that type of genuine love and support is unmatched.
I give back to Jackson State University for several reasons, but it begins with my father. He began a legacy when he walked across the stage in 1980.
On the floor of a JSU basketball game during my senior year of college, my father made a promise to repay Jackson State for every dollar they gave me in scholarship money. I didn’t know in advance that he was going to do it, but that type of commitment gave me a sense of pride. Because of the standard he and my mother set, I will always give back to JSU. It is the least that I can do to repay the school that has given and continues to give, my family so much.
Attending JSU afforded me the opportunity to be taught by some of the world’s best, surrounded by faces that looked like mine. At HBCUs, you are not simply a number. You have built-in ‘mothers,’ ‘fathers,’ ‘aunts,’ and ‘uncles’ on campus that will remind you that you are here for a reason. I was able to walk into my chair or dean’s office without notice, and they never turned me away. Even now, I maintain relationships with my former chair and several of my former professors.
My husband also regularly donates back to Alcorn State University. He and I are committed to financially supporting our institutions. Neither of our universities has alumni chapters in our current city, but we donate directly to our university and our departments.