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USCU FALL15 Magazine Online

2015 Distinguished Alumna of the Year Jackson Named BY MEG HUNT Criteria for the University of South Carolina Upstate Distinguished Alumni of the Year Award includes that “all nominees must be outstanding in one or more of the following areas: career accomplishments, civic service within their local community, and service to the University.” To say that this year’s recipient more than qualifies would be an understatement. Tracey L. Jackson ’90, this year’s Distinguished Alumna of the Year recipient, is the executive director of Piedmont Care, Inc., a non-profit organization providing HIV/AIDS care, prevention and advocacy in Spartanburg, Cherokee and Union Counties. Since its founding in the mid-1990s, the mission of Piedmont Care has been to coordinate and provide medical, social and psychological services for individuals and families affected by or at risk for HIV. Since becoming the organization’s first – and only – executive director in 1998, Jackson has not only kept focus on that mission, she’s helped steer advocacy to a new level and, in some ways, redefined the conversation so it’s about caring for people not stereotyping a disease. After graduating from Upstate with a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science, Jackson earned her Masters of Public Administration degree from the University of South Carolina and Clemson University. She also is a graduate of the Management Academy of Public Health at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. Always fascinated with politics and how individuals interact with government, she worked on different political campaigns before deciding to explore other opportunities. She learned of the opening at Piedmont Care and applied. “It was the only job I interviewed for,” Jackson said. “I did think about the limitations it might bring to my personal life, but I felt very strongly that it was the right place for me. Someone had to knock on the door so people would be willing to have that conversation.” Of course, 17 years ago the conversations she had about HIV/ AIDS were very different than the ones she has today. “In my first year (as executive director), I was chased to my car, had things thrown at me, had people curse me and had to have security walk me to my care more than once,” reflects Jackson. “All of that, however, did nothing but solidify the fact that I was supposed to be in this job.” Despite the challenges in those early days of being a one-woman organization, working with data from four cardboard boxes provided by the Spartanburg County Health Department and praying that the three-legged desk she was given as her office furniture would not fall, Jackson remained committed to tackling this most provocative subject and all the related, some might even say taboo, aspects associated with it. “Tracey has an extraordinary way of being able to influence others by giving knowledge-based facts about HIV/AIDS,” said Jonathan Walker, Piedmont Care board president. “Her years of experience as a leader in her discipline give Tracey L. Jackson ’90 Piedmont Care expertise and enables the agency to be a dynamic service provider for our clients and community.” Developing classes for the public that help eliminate fears and misconceptions has paved the way for many to be able to understand this disease with factual information, he added. “Public health should never be controversial,” stressed Jackson. “HIV/AIDS can happen to anyone, and all the stereotyping and stigma is not the way to go about addressing a public health issue.” Fall 2015 Upstate Magazine Magazine 16  16


USCU FALL15 Magazine Online
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