Age: 37, Associate Dean of Academic Affairs and Diversity
Princeton University, The Graduate School, Princeton, N.J.
From the age of 12, Karen Jackson-Weaver planned to “go to Princeton University, Harvard Law School and then become the first female African-American Supreme Court Justice.” An in-class meeting with the late A. Leon Higginbotham Jr., chief judge emeritus of the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals and a professor at Harvard, erased that plan. Jackson-Weaver decided to obtain a Ph.D. in history, as her mentor suggested. “[It was] one of the best decisions I ever made in my life. It set the stage for me to do amazing things very early in my professional career.”
Jackson-Weaver received her bachelor’s degree from Princeton, a master’s degree from Harvard and a doctorate in history from Columbia University. She is associate dean of academic affairs and diversity at Princeton University’s Graduate School and specializes in African-American religious history. “My current research explores the connections between Black women leaders from the Civil Rights Movement and women prophets in the Holy Bible,” she says. “Unfortunately, the historiography and literature of the movement is only now beginning to highlight their significant contributions to the world in a scholarly and critical way.”
Jackson-Weaver is the former executive director of the New Jersey Amistad Commission. Under her leadership, the commission was recognized for its innovative approach to integrating African-American history into the curriculum of New Jersey’s public schools. A scholar, mentor and teacher, she also carves out time to advise Strivy.com, a Web site and learning portal that her son and daughter created. Her days are demanding, but Jackson-Weaver finds fulfillment in working with her students and colleagues and relies on prayer to keep her grounded.
“[My children say] I’m loving, intelligent and beautiful — truly words of wisdom from the best kids in the world,” she says.
Dish you cook best: Four-cheese spinach rigatoni
What actress should play you in a movie: Sanaa Lathan
Favorite comedian: Bill Cosby
What artist would you go on tour with: Kurt Carr
Last movie: Avatar