Mad River Union
HUMBOLDT STATE – Humboldt State’s new president, Tom Jackson Jr., already has a couple of “firsts” to take credit for. He will be the university’s first African American president in its 106 years.
And according to Loren J. Blanchard, California State University executive vice chancellor for academic and student affairs, Jackson is the first person ever in the CSU system to be on campus the same day as the announcement for a president’s position.
In an address in the Nordstrom lobby on HSU’s campus last week, Jackson said he wanted to be here to show a commitment to the community and to welcome conversation.
“Both my wife and I really enjoy college life,” Jackson said to the crowd of faculty, students and community members. “As we go through this process, please take the time to stop me as we cross campus and let’s chat.”
Jackson, 59, was born and raised in Seattle, Washington and served in the Army National Guard, as well as the U.S. Coast Guard Reserves and the Texas and Indiana State Guards.
He is coming to HSU from Black Hills State University in Spearfish, South Dakota where he served as president since 2014. In his past, Jackson worked at the University of Louisville and Texas A&M University-Kingsville where he was vice president of student affairs. Jackson said that he wants to have a big focus on strengthening relations between the university and the community
“We’ve existed together since 1913 and there’s a passion between the two,” Jackson told the Union. “I see my role as continuing to broker that passion in the best way possible. We want to bring the community members that are not working at the university into the university, and help us evolve programs and mentor students.”
One of the students that attended the event is Alejandro Zepeda. Zepeda said he has been attending HSU on and off since 2011 and Jackson is the first president that he ever met. Jackson’s past as a veteran and president at another university are a few things Zepeda said he likes about the new president.
“I really like that he is available and talking to the students on his first day,” Zepeda said. “I remember as a freshman that the president was so hard to get a hold of that the Lumberjack had a running joke section called Where’s Rollin? I hope that he will have better ongoing relations with the students than the outgoing president.”
Zepeda went on say that he hopes Jackson will be able to figure out the budget issues and possibly reinstate some programs that have been cut.
Jackson said he is well aware of the budget issues and said he will take a close look solidifying some of the feedback that was received by those affected by some of the cuts.
“Many universities across the United States, including Humboldt State, are constantly trying to find ways to lower costs to the students and to find new revenues for the institution,” Jackson said. “Those revenues ultimately go back into the communities through services.”
Jackson went on to say that he wants to be more transparent when it comes to budget issues and expressing some of the challenges that need to be addressed. Jackson also recognized the need to build better student relations and to address some of the housing issues in the area.
“Students chose this university for an assortment of very positive reasons, and providing the most meaningful and positive experience for them is really what my number one goal is,” Jackson said. “Spending time with the students, giving them the opportunities to engage on the campus and asking them how they are doing are critical things that everyone on this campus, and in the community, can do.”