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Shirley Jackson In Celebration of Women's History Month

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"Shirley Jackson is the embodiment of a woman of courage and determination. The first of eight siblings to receive a B.S. degree (Geology, 2013, York College) at age 53 and an M.S. degree [Sustainability, 2017], from City College at age 57. This was no small accomplishment for a high school dropout (the only one of her siblings not to graduate from high school), that lives with the daily challenges of a painful and permanent disability.

After years of various jobs and standup comedy, Ms. Jackson got re-energized and decided to re-invent herself. In 2009, she made a tsunamic, 720-degree shift by enrolling at York College, to pursue her love of science. Not only did she succeed in her educational endeavors, but she smashed many expectations and fallacies, regarding older women, the disabled, persons with a GED and women in general. Throughout her life, Jackson has lived the “it takes a village” concept by helping to empower others and being a part of the process. She brought this same ideology while working on her degrees, and quickly became a ‘VIS’ (Very Involved Student).

During her tenure at York and City College, respectively, Shirley kept remarkably busy. She was President of Student Government, member of a Varsity team, and won the first runner- up for campus Queen. Academically, she participated in study-abroad and research projects in Argentina, Hawaii, and Senegal. The driven student was also awarded City Council Citations, Chancellor Awards, prestigious scholarships for leadership and mentoring, and was a featured speaker at her commencement at York College.

Aside from managing the challenges of her disability, Shirley had to navigate many obstacles and hardships. They included the passing of her father, the intersectionality of sexism, ableism, sizeism, ageism, and the untimely death of her mother during [Jackson’s] Junior year. None of her accomplishments would have been possible without a strong support system and village. Currently, she is on the Executive Board of ‘AWG (Association for Women Geoscientists), actively working on diversity and inclusion in the ‘Geosciences’, and a board member of the York College chapter of PSC-CUNY (union). 

Jackson is now an adjunct faculty member in the Earth and Physical Sciences Department. She teaches Geology with the same energy and drive she had as a student. Jackson is always willing to go “up and beyond” for her students to become successful in their academic and professional aspirations. For her, Women’s History Month is about being proud of your accomplishments, doing “you” at every step of your journey and “owning it,” stepping outside of your comfort zone, and always helping to empower others!


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