Q&A with Wanda Jackson

Wanda Jackson headshotName: Wanda Jackson

Title: Senior Vice President & Chief Talent Officer, National Urban League

What is your background and how did you find your way into this work?

My undergraduate degree is in Mass Communications. I thought I wanted to work in radio and television. I graduated during a recession and took the first job I was offered – a retail management training program at Macy’s. I worked as a merchant (department manager, assistant buyer, and group manager) for 4 years and then moved into Human Resources.

I have worked in all three sectors, starting with retail HR at Saks Fifth Avenue followed by a stint in New York City government before nonprofit. In addition to my day-to-day HR responsibilities, the National Urban League (NUL) has offered exposure to many corporate partners and the opportunity to help them find diverse talent.

What are you most proud of in the work the National Urban League does, and how it contributes to improving diversity and inclusion within the agriculture industry?

From its inception, the NUL has focused on finding jobs for our constituents. Together We Grow is another opportunity for us to support an industry by educating and exposing our members to agribusiness. From the students in our education programs, to our young professionals and individuals in our workforce programs, we believe there are career opportunities with Together We Grow and are excited to be a catalyst in helping open doors and improving diversity in agriculture.

What is the opportunity for the agriculture industry and the call for dismantling racism right now?

There is a heightened sensitivity to dismantling racism in the country right now. With its focus on diversity, agribusiness is in a position to define a future that will allow the industry to thrive by strategically identifying, developing, and promoting diverse talent. It will take commitment at the highest levels that should be reflected in the way leaders manage their teams and the reward systems designed to support these initiatives.

In your opinion, what are you most hopeful about for the future of this industry?

My hope for the industry resides in the commitment evidenced in Together We Grow. Clearly, leaders have identified the need for change. We all know that the talent pool is becoming more and more diverse. Our collective work through nonprofits, colleges, and universities, as well as key corporations will yield results that will be a shining example for other industries to follow.

What is your vision for the future of agriculture?

My vision is that through the work of Together We Grow the nation will have a better understanding of the career opportunities in agriculture. Individuals with interests in all areas, from finance, to STEM careers, to marketing and beyond will consider companies in this industry and know that it is one that is welcoming to everyone.

Is there anything else you would like people to know?

I must admit that I always leave Together We Grow gatherings with a level of excitement, energy, and hope. I look forward to the difference we will make together.

About Together We Grow

Together We Grow is an agribusiness consortium with members that include major agricultural commodities companies, educational institutions, government agencies, and others committed to improving and expanding diversity in agribusiness. The consortium sponsors research and provides a platform to share best practices for building future workforce capacity; it will have its permanent home at the Spur food and agriculture building (name TBA). For more information, visit twg.csusystem.edu.

About Spur: CSU System at the National Western Center

Coming in 2022: CSU System will open Spur, where innovative ideas and unforgettable experiences come to life at the National Western Center. Spur’s three buildings at the center of the landmark project in north Denver will ignite and fuel new ideas around water, food, and health and their impact on our lives and our world. Spur is where learning is open and accessible to all. Where researchers tackle the world’s most pressing problems around water, food, and health. Where art and culture challenge and surround you. Where rural and urban, local and global intersect. Learn more at csuspur.org.