Like many students, Courtney Jackson had switched his major a few times during his first few years at UTC and was unsure about what he would do in his future career.

All that changed the morning he learned that the older sister of his childhood best friend, Tasha, was murdered by her estranged husband in a parking lot outside of her workplace in September 2014. Tasha had recently filed for divorce and had a restraining order against her husband.

UTC Graduate Courtney Jackson

Courtney Jackson

Describing Tasha as “one of the great lights of my life,” Jackson became determined to make a difference in the lives of women in similar situations. He graduated this past weekend with a degree in Women’s Studies and plans attend law school next year. His ultimate goal is to become a Title IX coordinator for a university.

Title IX coordinators play an integral role at universities in ensuring safe, inclusive learning environments by overseeing compliance with Title IX, a federal law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex in any education program or activity.

“Tasha was like a big sister to me. She was such a burst of joy. So charismatic and spontaneous. I wouldn’t be honoring her memory if I didn’t do something to help other women,” says Jackson, who has a tattoo with the names of Tasha’s two daughters, Cyla and Calise, circling his right wrist.

Becoming better listeners

While in the Women’s Studies program, Jackson took such courses as ecofeminism, violence against women and more.

“Before I came to UTC, I never knew the extent of what women go through. From domestic violence to sexual harassment to unequal pay, there’s so much that needs to change in our culture,” he says.

Men need to become advocates for women, he says, and that starts by simply paying attention to what they’re saying.

“We all need to be better listeners,” Jackson says. “When women talk about these issues, it can fall on deaf ears. Instead, we need to tell women that their stories matter, that they matter.

“Men need to step up to the plate. When women suffer, we don’t win. Nobody wins.”

Tasha with her daughters

Tasha with her daughters

Support from UTC community

Jackson almost didn’t make it to graduation in May. After Tasha’s death, he took two weeks off from school and wasn’t sure he was going to come back to complete his studies.

“I was completely devastated. It was one of the most challenging times in my life,” Jackson remembers.

He credits the support from UTC’s staff, especially Tara Mathis, associate dean of students and director of the Multicultural Center, for helping him heal after Tasha’s death.

“Dean Mathis has my cell phone number. She would personally call me and ask if how I was doing, if I had had something to eat that day. I don’t know what I would have done without her,” Jackson said.

Whatever happens in the future, Jackson says Tasha’s daughters are one of his driving forces. Bright and funny, they remind him more and more of his late friend.

“They’re little firecrackers. I want to build a better world for them,” he said.

Media Relations Contacts: Email Shawn Ryan or call (423) 425-4363.

11 Comments » for In memory of: Women’s Studies graduate turns tragedy into action
  1. Courtney Jackson says:

    This is such an awesome endeavor and a beautiful way to honor Tasha’s legacy. I am truly proud to call this young man my son!

  2. Tonya Broome-Moore says:

    This was an amazing article and wonderful way to honor the memory of your friend.
    Thank you Courtney Jackson Jr. for taking the steps to become involved by educating yourself and others on women’s issues. The sky is the limit for you; so continue to reach for the stars young man!

  3. Valerie Hadley says:

    So proud of the man that my nephew is!

  4. Willie Simon says:

    Real men take challenges that are not initially taken by others without fear of rebuke. They move to change the world around them by becoming the voice of those who can’t speak for themselves. They defend humanity with humility. Thanks for yielding to purpose.

  5. Al & Gwendolyn Jordan says:

    This is such an honorable tribute to your friend. Courtney we are extremely proud of you and grateful that you are part of our extended family. Congratulations again on completing this chapter and your tenacity to make a difference. We love you!

  6. Sheree says:

    That is really cool and awesome. May God continue to bless and allow him to make a mark in this world for change.

  7. Pamela Steward says:

    Awesome article.!! So very proud of your accomplishment and your sharpened awareness and advocacy for women. .!!!

  8. Teresa says:

    This has set my heart anew the more knowing that you have taken on this endeavor to learn and fight for the rights of women. What an honor you are bestowing! May you continue to be leaded and guided into the greater. Walk in DESTINY!

  9. Rosite Delgado says:

    What an amazing young man!!! Courtney, I am extremely proud of you and so moved by your resolve to make such a dark moment set you on a path to shed light and bring justice to others who are hurting. We will certainly miss you on campus, but I’m so excited to see how you bring positive change to the world!

  10. Edmundo Delgado Jr says:

    Courtney is an amazing influence in and out of campus. Go get’em son! Making a difference is what it’s all about. Proud of you.

  11. Ericka Hill says:

    I am overjoyed to see that this young man has graduated and that he wants to give back to the community. I’m sure he will continue to do great things and make his family proud.