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The Scarlet & Black

Sophie Jackson

Photo by Isabel Torrence.

For Sophie Jackson `22, the memories, lessons and perspectives she has developed as a student at Grinnell are inextricable from her adventures during her time off campus.

Originally from Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, Jackson fell in love with Grinnell during her overnight student visit, when her host invited her for midnight snacks at Spanish House (chips, salsa and crepes, to be specific). Jackson was “blown away” by the vibrancy of the Grinnell student body, which convinced her that Grinnell was the place to spend her college years.

Over the past four years, Jackson has certainly contributed to the community she was impressed by as a high school senior. She has both served the community and helped others take part in service initiatives — leading Student Animal Volunteer Ensemble (SAVE), a student group working in local animal shelters, working with Crisis Intervention Services in Oskaloosa and with the Grinnell Advocates on campus. Day to day, you may have spotted Jackson welcoming prospective students and their families as a tour guide and senior interviewer.

As an independent major studying International Relations (IR), Jackson has crafted a unique path through Grinnell’s curriculum. While she started at Grinnell with interests in political science and history, she honed in on pursuing IR as a major after taking Professor Wayne Moyer’s politics of international relations course in her first year. Advised by a “dream team” of Professor John Garrison, English, and Moyer, political science, Jackson chopped and braised her way through Professor Todd Armstrong’s “Comrades in the Kitchen” class on Soviet food culture and analyzed Queen Elizabeth I’s Golden Speech to Parliament for an English and Peace and Conflict Studies MAP with Professor Garrison — two highlights of her academic tenure.

Jackson’s experience at Grinnell has also been defined by her time off campus, due to both the COVID-19 pandemic and her year spent in Europe. Although the pandemic forced her to alter her plans several times (two attempts to spend a semester in Moscow never panned out, given public health and political circumstances that lead to program cancellations), Jackson spent six weeks in Copenhagen, Denmark in spring 2021, and the fall 2021 semester in Kyiv, Ukraine.

During her six weeks in Copenhagen, Jackson had the chance to apply and further develop her skills in geopolitics, focusing on terrorism and counterterrorism. Her second period of off-campus study, spent in Kyiv, was “radically different” from her time in Copenhagen. Studying in Russian, living with a host family in a Soviet apartment and traveling throughout Eastern Europe offered a wholly immersive linguistic and cultural experience. She reflected fondly on conversations with her host dad that lasted late into the night. Their discussions challenged each of them to further examine their own worldviews, while developing a “better sense of where the other was coming from.”

Questions and debates about identity were also at the forefront of Jackson’s academic pursuits in Ukraine: her courses focused on questions of identity and conflict in the post-Soviet space. Her time in the area has garnered further relevance following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Having “experienced a world that doesn’t exist in the same way anymore,” Jackson said she is still in touch with her host family and community via Facebook, who have remained safe throughout the tumult.

[I] experienced a world that doesn’t exist in the same way anymore -Sophie Jackson `22

After graduation, Jackson is headed to Washington, DC, where she will work as a paralegal in the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. In the legal sphere, she will draw upon her experience with Keep Tucson Together, an Arizona organization that provides pro-bono legal counseling for immigrants at the U.S.-Mexico border.


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