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Summer Spotlight Series: Edward Waters College

Summer Spotlight Series: Edward Waters College

Welcome to the eighth and final week of our Summer Spotlight Series!

As the series comes to a close, we would like to thank all of those who have followed along with us this summer and we hope you have enjoyed getting to know our regional college and university partners better (we certainly have!).

Our last —but certainly not least— partner in the spotlight is: Edward Waters College.



Edward Waters College (EWC) is Florida's oldest independent institution of higher learning as well as the state's first institution established for the education of African Americans. The College was established in 1866. In 1979, EWC was accredited as a four-year institution by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) and began awarding bachelor's degrees. Today, the College offers bachelor's degrees in eight academic programs: Communications, Music, Psychology, Criminal Justice, Biology, Elementary Education, Mathematics, and Business Administration. 


For our final Q&A session, we had the pleasure of speaking to Dr. Eric Jackson, the Vice President for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management at Edward Waters College.



 Q: What is your hometown?

A: I am from High Point, North Carolina, the furniture capitol of the world! It’s also the home of Fantasia Barrino, one of the singers who won American Idol.


Q: What brought you to Northeast Florida?

A: Well, I got recruited to work here [at Edward Waters College] back in the early 2000s, by the then President, Dr. Jenkins. I worked in student affairs with him and we did a lot of good work here. I left for a few years, went off to graduate school, and worked in Mississippi and some other places in between, but I always wanted to come back to Northeast Florida. I liked it when I was here and when I got presented with the opportunity to come back to the area and to Edward Waters College, I took that opportunity!


Q: What is your alma mater and what was your experience there as a student?

A: I actually started school at Davidson Community College in Lexington, North Carolina, but I am a graduate of Barber-Scotia College, which is a small Presbyterian school that is very similar to Edward Waters College; the population was about 700 to 800 students. After that, I went to The Ohio State University for graduate school and that was a bit of a shock for me because it was just like a city in itself with all of the buildings!  And then I finished school and got my doctorate at Capella University in 2005.


Q: What drew you to Earn Up? What makes you excited to be a part of the collaboration?

A: I focus on student affairs and professional enrollment by choice. My first job out of graduate school was a recruiting job. So, I travelled around recruiting college students during my first 8 years in higher education. I was drawn to it, so much so that I was able to convince my four brothers to go to college; I really have a knack for seeing how education could change lives. And it changed all of our lives. So, [getting involved with] Earn Up was just a natural fit for me because I see firsthand how improving the number of graduates in a certain atmosphere—whether it’s  in a family, in a city, or in a state—improves that atmosphere.


Q: Why is college attainment important to you?

A: We know that if we increase the number of graduates in this city, it’ll improve the city. It also increases the level of people coming behind; children of college graduates become college graduates themselves. So it’s a win-win! And that’s why Earn Up is so attractive; as we try to increase the number of graduates in this city, we can improve the city in multiple ways.


Q: What are some of EWC’s initiatives and current focuses right now?

A: We have several major focuses right now. We have a great Criminal Justice program here that we are really pushing; it’s a partnership with Florida State College at Jacksonville.  Our students that graduate from the Criminal Justice program can leave here as certified police officers. So, they go through the Academy and also get a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from here. It’s a great program and we are really excited about that!

One of our new programs, through a partnership with Duval County Public Schools, is called “Call Me MISTER”. We are working with DCPS to increase the number of African American males who are actually going and teaching in the elementary schools. We think that will have a big impact on younger African American males in school because they will be able to see someone  keeping them motivated to do well in school— someone who looks like them and has had similar experiences as them. 

And, of course, we have some award-winning programs here at EWC as well! Our business program was voted as one of the top HBCU business programs in the county. So we have a lot of things to be excited about here!


Q: What sets EWC apart from other local universities and colleges in the region?

A: EWC is a full-service HBCU (Historical Black College/University), so we have all the bells and whistles that come with that. We are small by design because we want to do something with and for students that other schools just can’t do. We can take the time before students get here to find out what their dreams really are and then try to match them with what’s realistic for them—that’s important. A lot of students just come and say “I want to major in this” and they haven’t even had a chance to research it and see if it will be a good fit for them. We are able to sit down with each individual student, do a career inventory with them, and have them decide what they are best suited for. With our students, we really begin with the end in mind; we want to help them graduate with something they are really suited for. Along the way, we also work with our students to build their personal brand. As they go through school, they will learn what it takes to build that brand so that they will be very marketable when they get ready to leave the college.

We’ve also been able to create some great partnerships here within the city with some of the big names (JEA, JTA, CSX, etc.) and through those partnerships we can get our students opportunities to go and do internships so that they can see the light at the end of the tunnel. 


If you are interested in learning more about Edward Waters College and the programs offered, click here.