Rotary scholar reaches across boundaries

Rose Jackson '06As a child, Rose Jackson ’06 saw the impact of poverty firsthand.

Her father, a professor of comparative religion, conducted his research in India, and the family lived among the local people. As a result, Jackson studied the culture through the eyes of a child— playing in villages with local children, bathing in buckets and sleeping on straw-stuffed mats. The experience has had a lasting impact, influencing her studies at Wheaton and her work.

Now she is heading off to Nairobi, having won a Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial Scholarship. The $30,000 award will allow her to pursue graduate study and work to strengthen constitutional democracy in the region.

Jackson first focused on Africa’s political and cultural struggles as an international relations major at Wheaton.

“During my junior year, I traveled to Durban, South Africa, for a study abroad program focusing on reconciliation and development after apartheid. While there I conducted research for my honors thesis on how HIV and AIDS policy affects women in sub-Saharan Africa. I fell in love with the country’s cultural and natural beauty, and I was entranced by its complex history and politics,” she said.

The Indiana native’s undergraduate studies formed the foundation for her work with political and nonprofit organizations following graduation. Most recently, she served as program officer for the Southern and East Africa team at the National Democratic Institute (NDI) in Washington, D.C. Working with governments and grassroots organizations, she improved women’s political participation in Uganda, strengthened political parties in Kenya, and provided leadership training to politically active youth across the east Africa region.

While at Wheaton, Jackson was engaged in several student-led initiatives, including the Student Government Association, the Wheatones, the Student Executive Board and the President’s Budget Committee. She also played lacrosse, and competed at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) tournament.

The Rotary scholarship will allow Jackson to enroll at the University of Nairobi or the United States International University in Nairobi and pursue a master’s degree in comparative politics. During her time in Nairobi, she plans to work with political parties and civil society organizations monitoring the election. Until her departure, she serves as campaign manager for former Providence city solicitor Joe Fernandez in his bid to be elected attorney general of Rhode Island.

The purpose of the Ambassadorial Scholarships program is to further international understanding and friendly relations among people of different countries. While abroad, scholars serve as ambassadors of goodwill to the people of the host country and give presentations about their homelands to Rotary clubs and other groups.

“In doing the Rotary program, I am hoping to enhance my understanding of the African political context, particularly how identity politics affects voting patterns. I am also excited to continue the work I was doing at NDI, at a higher level, in the field, directly supporting political activists making a difference in their own country. I believe strongly in the role that good systems, institutions and governance play in supporting sustainable development and can think of no better way to improve my ability to support the betterment of such institutions,” she said.

Jackson’s journey from a city in Indiana to the vast continent of Africa seemed destined from the start. “My childhood was an education in crossing boundaries and serving as an ambassador between diverse groups and people. I have fallen in love with east Africa and am excited to immerse myself in the culture and community there. I look forward to sharing my passion for the region with my Rotary supporters and providing a link between two very different worlds.” Q