PETRINA D. JACKSON (MA ’94 English) loves Parks Library, her favorite spot on campus, because it’s the center of student life. She was lured back to Iowa State – and the library – in 2016 after two decades in the field of library sciences and archives, where she directed the Special Collections and University Archives until 2019. As of 2020, Petrina Jackson is the Director of the Special Collections Research Center at Syracuse University Libraries.
Jackson’s interest is in primary source instruction and archival outreach to underdocumented and underrepresented communities. She was intrigued by the opportunity to lead the department for a number of reasons, among them the ability to share her interest in archives and teaching.
“I was born in Cleveland and raised in northeast Ohio,” she said. “I am a child of the rustbelt and have seen the area struggle because of industry and jobs leaving the area and economic hard times.”
“More importantly, I have witnessed northeast Ohioans’ continued determination to transform and reinvent this region in the face of hard times and the, sometimes, unfavorable views of people who have never lived in the region. This lesson of determination lives within me.”
The youngest of two children, Jackson said her parents never doubted that their children would go to college. “They grew up in the American South during Jim Crow, and they were determined that my brother and I would go to college. For them, education was the pathway to success. They reared us to believe that college was a natural transition from high school, and for that, and their endless support and belief in me, I am grateful.”
Prior to coming to ISU, Jackson taught English for seven years at Elgin Community College in Illinois, earned her Master of Library and Information Science from the University of Pittsburgh in 2002, and served as senior assistant archivist at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. She also led instruction and outreach at the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville.
She said her student experience at Iowa State helped her become a critical thinker.
“ISU’s English department faculty pushed me to dig deeper and challenge myself more,” she said. “At times, I felt out-of-place or like an impostor, but learning and growing is often uncomfortable. Through this discomfort, I became a much better, prepared, and confident student.”
Previously, Jackson served on the board of the Iowa Historical Records and always enjoys learning about African American history, especially from documentary films. Her personal philosophy is to “think big, be grateful, practice kindness, and live life fully and fearlessly.”
Dean of Library Services, Beth McNeil (2016): Petrina Jackson studied English at Iowa State, left for a career in teaching and archives, returning more than two decades later to head the Library’s Special Collections and University Archives Department in 2016.