Longtime educator has been game changer at Columbia State’s Williamson County campus


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – As the leader of Columbia State Community College’s Williamson County campus, Dr. Shanna Jackson wears many hats, ranging from contractor to accountant to sometimes even a security guard.

Looking over her resume, you’d think if anyone could do the job, it’s Jackson–her past as varied as her current role.

Her journey to Columbia State started years ago in Columbus, Ohio.

“When I was a little girl, I wanted to be the first person who looked like me to be president of the United States,” explained Dr. Jackson, Associate Vice President of Columbia State’s Williamson County campus.

After a high school internship, she said she learned otherwise.

“I quickly realized that is not what I wanted to do,” she recalled.

Instead, she studied business in college, got her MBA, and a new dream.

“Instead of being president of the United States, I wanted to be president of a Fortune 500 company,” she explained.

She was on her way, working for Pillsbury in Murfreesboro, when her husband was relocated to Knoxville for a job he couldn’t turn down.

For his career to prosper, she had to put hers on hold.

“So for the first time in my adult life, I didn’t have a job,” said Jackson.

Though she was unemployed, she wasn’t uninspired.

“I actually answered a paper ad to teach business courses at South College and I went in with the credentials, but no teaching experience and they took a chance on me and that really was one of those life-changing, life-defining moments,” said Jackson.

In the years since, she’s gotten her doctorate and worked her way up from teacher to campus leader. Now, she has another dream. “I would love to be a community college president,” said Jackson.

She’s nearly there.

“I’m responsible for students, the faculty, the staff, the safety and security of everyone here, and the strategic direction that this campus will go,” explained Jackson.

She also has a hand in where the county and Middle Tennessee is headed, with a seat at the table for economic development discussions.

“We become a part of that conversation because of course, we support the work force. As they’re looking to relocate, they need to make sure they have quality people to fill their jobs and that’s where the community college comes in.”

The Williamson County campus has added a hospitality and tourism program and has expanded its IT program under Jackson’s leadership.

“That’s brand new to Columbia State and that was a result of a workforce need,” she said.

Jackson told News 2 she’s proud of what she’s accomplished and honored to be recognized as a ‘Woman to Watch,’ crediting the first woman she looked up to for the success she’s had.

“I was fortunate to have a mother who instilled in me that I could be anything, I could do anything, but I was going to have to work hard to get there,” she said.

Dr. Jackson said she spends her free time volunteering. She also serves on several community boards and mentors other women.

Next on her agenda is increasing enrollment and breaking ground on the fourth building at Columbia State.

Dr. Jackson said her priority has always been her family.

She admits finding that balance between work and home is really hard and that she couldn’t do it all without her loving husband.Click here for more stories on Women 2 Watch.

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