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Jennifer Jackman Uses First-Hand Experience to Teach Future Generations of Advocates

A member of the Junior Naturalist program at the local museum in 7th grade, Jennifer Jackman was an advocate for animals, the environment, and civic engagement at a young age. Her love for animals was so deep that when a pair of domestic mice were set to become snake food at the museum, Jackman instead smuggled them home. “We lived in a very large renovated farmhouse with rooms that my parents rarely went into, so the mice came home with me and I took care of them for a number of months undetected,” she recalls. “One day they did find the mice and they were not happy about the situation, but generally other than that incident they were very supportive of my passion for animals and nature.”

Jackman’s parents were very politically engaged while she was growing up and also shared a love of animals and nature, in all of which they included the young girl. Activism was something that stuck with her, and while early on she thought she would become a veterinarian, ultimately Jackman immersed herself in advocacy for women’s rights. She took a year off from Smith College to work as a field organizer in the Equal Rights Amendment campaign and through that became very connected with feminist leaders both statewide and nationally. Those connections led to her election as president of the Massachusetts Chapter of the National Organization for Women and an 11-year stint in Washington, DC with the Feminist Majority, during which time she also finished her Brandeis PhD, met with then-President Bill Clinton and his administration as a part of the Feminist Majority’s campaign to aid women in Afghanistan, and drafted legislation, for starters.

Jackman worked with the Feminist Majority until 2004, when she decided to return to Massachusetts and to shift her focus to her other passion: animals. She discovered the Master of Science in Animals and Public Policy program (MAPP) at Cummings School and enrolled in 2005. “I ended up making a lateral shift in terms of public policy from women to animals, so I could use some of the same skills I already had,” she says. “I see the issues as not entirely separate—they come from the same place in terms of fighting against injustice and fighting against classifications that privilege one group over another.”

Before beginning the program, Jackman spent several months in Kabul with the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, helping to set up its research and policy unit. Then, after graduating from the MAPP program, she worked for two years with the Humane Society of the United States before joining the faculty of Salem State University’s Political Science department, where she is now a tenured associate professor. Since 2010, she has taught MAPP’s public policy analysis class each spring as an adjunct professor and mentored student research projects. “Because of my first-hand experience and my academic background, I’m able to make assignments very practical and teach the students skills that will be transferable in any career that they pursue,” she says.

Jackman learned early that being an active citizen can effect change and strives to empower students and others. “Public policy has such a profound impact on all of our lives and especially on animals’ lives,” she says. “It’s important for animal advocates to understand how policy works and to understand who opposes policies to protect animals, in order to develop strategies to try to improve the lives of animals.”