As Director of Inclusion and Equity Strategies at UChicago Medicine, Jackson aims to use his policy degree to enact real, positive change in Chicago.
Headshot of Joel Jackson
Joel Jackson

Joel Jackson, a current Evening Master’s Program (EMP) student, is the Director of Inclusion and Equity Strategies at UChicago Medicine (UCM). Working at UChicago, he first became familiar with the Harris School of Public Policy when he began facilitating the Diversity and Inclusion portion of Orientation for students. Jackson decided to enroll as an EMP student so he could continue his work while gaining “the educational experience of creating policy."

Jackson primarily focuses his work and studies on the intersection of health and social policy. At Harris, he says he aims to learn skills that will enable him to “analyze data and use evidence to make recommendations to improve health outcomes and further meet the needs of patients.” He is also excited to gain more hands-on experience as a fellow with the Harris Community Action Fellowship 2023.

Jackson’s parents became involved in the Church upon his birth, and his grandmother named him Joel after the inclusive prophet in the Bible. He spent his childhood in the Pittsburgh area, moving from a predominantly white suburban neighborhood to the inner-city when he was around seven years old. Jackson and his family later moved to St. Louis, where he was the salutatorian of his high school class. When Jackson began college, he  found that he wasn’t as “well prepared” as many of his peers. “It was an uphill battle,” he said.

Despite those initial challenges, Jackson graduated in 2000 as the first man to major in Women’s Studies at Washington University. He said he “enjoyed the Women Studies department because [he] learned so much about sexism” and saw parallels between what women experience and his own experience as a “young Black man in the Church, who, at the time, didn't know [he] was gay."

Throughout his career, Jackson has done extensive work as a counselor, coordinator, and consultant for AIDS/HIV resources, knowledge, and elimination, in addition to many volunteer roles. In St. Louis, Jackson worked at Project ARK, led a support group for young gay Black men, and joined the Council of Inclusion and Diversity at St. Louis Children's Hospital. After moving to Chicago, Jackson was recognized for his service to the Chicago community and received UChicago’s Staff Diversity Leadership Award in 2020. His extracurricular activities include serving on the board of Lorde, Rustin and Bates, an organization seeking to address systemic barriers impacting the LGBTQ+ community of color in Chicago, serving as Midwest leader of the House of Balmain, an international LGBTQ organization, and serving as Co-Chair of the Southside Health Advocacy Resource Partnership.

Prior to joining UCM, Jackson received training on compassion fatigue at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and became a Compassion Fatigue Facilitator. With this expertise, Jackson is helping to build a “resilience-based care framework” and cultural competence training at UCM.

"Seeing how many marginalized communities don't have the same positive health outcomes as their counterparts, I recognized health policy is social policy. I want to improve health outcomes for larger communities, and I believe Harris and the EMP will give me the skills to enact real, positive change in Chicago."