Faculty spotlight: Christine Jackson

Effective educators know how to connect with their students.

Like many of her students at Wayne State University, Professor of Management Christine Jackson was among the first generation in her family to attend college, so she understands the difficulties of working and going to school simultaneously. The Waterford, Mich., native began her teaching appointment with the Mike Ilitch School of Business in fall 2015, and one of her top priorities is figuring out what works for WSU’s population.

Reaching students

"Love and excitement for teaching is contagious," Jackson said.  "If you’re bored, then your students will be bored. I think there’s a lot to say about loving what you do."

Last fall, Jackson taught Ph.D. seminar in Teams and Leadership. She will be teaching Leading in Organizations this winter. She said she enjoys teaching undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students.

"Undergrads deserve more attention, and I am the type of person that always goes to those in need," she said. "They need resources to reach their potential."

Jackson said incorporating a consulting project into her organizational behavior class is crucial to helping students learn. The project pushes students to go beyond memorization, apply what they are learning, and truly figure out how to use the material in the real world.

"It gets really messy. You have these nice clear guidelines that you learn in the classroom, but it doesn’t end up working so well in reality," she said.

Jackson finds it useful to focus on nonprofits for the consulting project because students cannot fall back on the easy answers of employers increasing salaries or hiring more people. 

The power of mentorship

Before joining the Ilitch School faculty, Jackson spent 11 years at Purdue University, where she founded and directed the Krannert Leadership Development Program.  She started the program because she noticed a number of management students were switching majors. Jackson said it wasn’t due to the difficulty of the courses, but rather because students figured out the program was not for them, and she believes mentorship could have guided them to the right major earlier.

In addition, she said, "Many very good students, academically, were prepared to go into the job market, but professionally they were not," she said, "whether they were shy, intimidated, overwhelmed or just didn’t understand the importance of preparation outside of the classroom. They got a slow start and then felt like they were late to the game and that they couldn’t do anything. They felt stuck."

Jackson said she didn’t have a mentor until graduate school, so she experienced that lack as an undergraduate.

"I was someone who could have used a mentor as a first-generation college student," she said. "I struggled with transitioning."

She said it made a big difference to actually have a mentor later in her academic career and that’s one of the reasons she puts a lot of effort into reaching students early on.

"I love mentoring," Jackson said. "I think it’s very powerful, especially if you combine mentoring with coaching."

Jackson also encourages students to make sure their career is the right fit for them and that they are well matched with the organization they choose to work for.

Jackson was recognized by College Mentors for Kids, a national organization that partners college students with grade-school children to show them what college is about and get them thinking about college. She is working to set up a chapter at Wayne State.

Her research focuses on justice and fairness in the workplace. She earned her bachelor’s in psychology from Michigan State University and her Ph.D. from University of Florida in 2004, with concentrations in organizational behavior and human resource management.

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