Lexi Jackson, a sophomore at Washington University in St. Louis, already knows that the only way to affect change is to engage – and wow – has she engaged! She was recently chosen to participate in a Washington University student panel providing commentary of the State of the Union Address on ABC News. She was poised, articulate, and on message throughout Before the President’s Address began, she shared her concerns on how the tax bill undermines the Affordable Care Act. She hoped President Trump would address the issue and follow up with a plan to navigate the elimination of the tax penalty and how to keep health care premiums down, mitigating costs for families who are impacted.
As if that weren’t impressive enough for the young business strategy/political science student, ABC News followed up the next day saying that the executive producers were impressed and invited Lexi to write a SOTU response column for their website the day after the address. “I considered it a blessing from God, to have the opportunity to share my remarks on a national forum and transparently discuss my family’s story,” she said.
Her commitment to keeping health care costs affordable isn’t just an issue for Lexi, it’s personal. As she wrote, “Five years ago, I awoke to the news that my father had been in a severe car accident. He had experienced significant physical injuries and nerve damage. Ultimately, the accident would render him disabled, eligible for disability payments and Medicare coverage. My family’s journey since that day has been filled with more unpredictability and change than we could have ever imagined. Life sped up significantly and we began to understand the importance of immediacy and efficiency — both in the context of my father’s care and in the government processes in which we were now compulsory participants. Ultimately, we realized that there are some things for which you have absolutely no time to wait.”
Her recognition that time is of the essence goes far beyond her father’s story, and Lexi sees a number of issues in the world today that also need to be addressed NOW. That’s in part why she stays so busy. On campus, Lexi is the Director of the Olin School of Business’ first Diversity and Inclusion Summit, the Incoming Director of the student-run strategy firm Bear Studios, and an orientation leader. She’s passionate about the intersectionality of business and politics and the social impact that can be generated from strengthening principal-agent relationships whether they occur between legislators and constituents or companies and customers.
The Diversity and Inclusion Summit, which happened on February 9, was quite an impressive undertaking, especially as it was the University’s first. She, along with two other sophomores, realized that the issues of diversity and inclusion hadn’t been thoroughly addressed in a summit setting, and they set their sights on creating an incredible event. With a keynote panel including Arvetta Powell, Director of Diversity and Associate Experience from Build-A-Bear Workshop; Emily Pitts, Principal of Inclusion and Diversity, Edward Jones; Susan Stith, Vice President of Express Scripts; Adita Akbani, Senior Principal Scientist, Pfizer; and Kim Hawkins, Multicultural Talent Acquisition Recruiter, US Bank, attendees were able to learn a lot about issues in the workplace from the best and brightest in the industry.
The keynote panel was followed by break-out sessions, and “Navigating Microagressions in the Workplace” was led by Keisha Mabry, Adjunct Lecturer at Washington University and “Friendworking” Expert. The “Women in Tech” session was led by Kelly Lee, Business Program Manager on the Infastructure Team at Facebook, and Kirsten Miller, Compliance Manager with Uber.
“These issues really spoke to me, and to the two other students I planned the summit with,” Lexi said. “To me this isn’t political, this is a business and a human issue. I’m so glad we tackled this and had these discussions at Wash U.”
Lexi brings a fresh perspective to her work and her studies at Washington University, and stays involved to include that perspective in the overall narrative. “If you are passive about an issue or disaffected by your current situation, then you will never be able to change things. If you are holding out and waiting to get involved until you feel 100% equipped to do so, you will never be able to make an impact.”
“I’m engaged and keep myself busy. I think I’ve always seen each stage of my life as an opportunity to be involved,” Lexi said. “I feel that you should always take the resources available and see what you can do to assist others and actively make the decision to affect change and get involved.”
Lexi has always been surrounded by strong women, and they have admittedly served as an inspiration to her. Her grandmother, Dianne Elizabeth Osis, founded “Springfield Business Journal” at a time when the field was considered a boy’s club and women weren’t necessarily welcomed. Her mother, Jennifer Jackson, followed in her mother’s footsteps, and has not only continued the work her mother started, but successfully navigated the publication through a changing media landscape and grew the company in the digital realm. Since taking over, she also started a communications company.
“I didn’t realize how much my grandmother had done until her retirement party. She accomplished so much while raising her children as a single mother. Her story is so empowering and made me realize that I can be successful in business and politics,” Lexi said. “And then there’s my mom, who took SBJ in a different direction, integrated a digital platform, and started a new company while dealing with the financial and emotional strain from my dad’s car accident. I’ve never been more amazed by someone handling all of that than I am by my mom.”
With the groundswell of women of every generation speaking, and working together to bring about change, Lexi has great hope for her generation, and the mark they will leave. “I think my generation will elect the first woman president, and that is not an inherent women’s issue, but it is a symbolic gesture that will solve some of the disparities we see today.”
“I also think we are going to see a massive shift in corporate culture,” Lexi added. “Family leave will be normalized, because we’re seeing innovators in that space – in all sectors – and these innovators are developing maternity and paternity leave. I think that will lead to more gender equality in the workplace, and that people will realize that women can be mothers and have successful careers.”
As Lexi wrote on Facebook, she responded to the State of the Union Address in hopes that one day she’ll give a State of the Union address of her own. Today, looking at the unique pressures that her generation faces, Lexi feels it is more important than ever to engage. “I think that it’s important to make a difference no matter who or where you are. If there weren’t challenges, there wouldn’t be the incentive to speak out. I have a voice, and I plan to use it.”
We look forward to listening. Watching Lexi take her first steps as a strong woman to impact change is inspiring. Women who make a difference are driven by passion and Lexi is already demonstrating that she has what it takes to change history and maybe even one day, deliver her own State of the Union Address.