Michael L. Jackson

Emeritus Vice President for Student Affairs
University of Southern California

Dr. Michael L. Jackson served as vice president for student affairs and professor of higher education at the University of Southern California (USC) for 18 years before stepping down in 2013.  He was recruited by USC after a 15-year career at Stanford University where he served in a number of key leadership roles, including dean of students, and assistant to the provost and vice president for academic affairs. Prior to his work at Stanford he served as a staff associate to the vice chancellor and provost at the University of Massachusetts Amherst where he oversaw institutional multicultural academic and social support enrichment programs.

During his career at USC, Dr. Jackson provided leadership for the Division of Student Affairs and its comprehensive student life program for 38,000 students, 300 professional and support staff, and over 600 student employees. He spearheaded the construction of two residential colleges housing 700 students, one focusing on arts and humanities and the other on international issues. He led the construction and fundraising for the state-of-the-art campus center and a new student health center. Under his leadership, centers were established to support lesbian, gay, transgendered, and veteran students. Residence hall themed floors exploring and celebrating African American and Latinx history and culture were initiated and student organization numbers rose from 350 to over 600 along with the establishment of a large-scale arts and culture program. He spearheaded fundraising in the division of student affairs that raised over $60M to support programs and building projects, including a $10.5M gift to establish and endow the Kortschak Center for Learning and Creativity, a program designed to support students with dyslexia, ADHD, and other learning differences.

During his 45-year career Michael mentored generations of student affairs leaders in the same way his Stanford colleagues, especially Jim Lyons, former dean of student affairs at Stanford University, mentored him. Many of his staff members earned masters and doctoral degrees while working under his leadership. His support and development of colleagues helped many of them, especially women, become senior student affairs officers, deans of students, and directors at top colleges and universities across the country.

His passion for education is further evidenced through his teaching of student development theory and management in higher education at the USC Rossier School of Education. He has authored and co-authored numerous articles on management in higher education, the handling of institutional crises and individual crisis intervention, fundraising, working with parents of college students, and forming effective collaborations between colleges and universities and surrounding communities.

In conjunction with his time at USC, Dr. Jackson has been a dedicated NASPA volunteer since 1980. He is a past NASPA president (now known as board chair) and regional vice president (now known as regional director) for NASPA VI. Michael served on the 1996 Annual Conference planning committee and chaired the major speakers committee. He was awarded NASPA’s highest honor, the Scott Goodnight Award for Outstanding Performance as a Dean.

Before retiring from USC, Michael served as a commissioner of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) and has served on sixteen college and university accreditation teams in California and Hawai’i.  He was also on student affairs review teams for the University of Rochester, the California Institute of Technology, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Maryland, and National University.

Following his retirement from USC, he was asked to take over the presidency of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Monterey County. He guided the organization which serves over 600 children daily through program reorganization, while raising funds to support its $5M annual budget and the successful transition to a new president and CEO.

Serving his community is equally important to Michael as he was the chief financial officer and member of the Board of Directors of the USC Good Neighbors Program (GNC). GNC is a non-profit which supports programs that puts children on the pathway to college by improving local elementary, junior high, and high schools. GNC is making streets safer for families by offering activities and programs to improve the health and well-being of youth and elderly residents in the neighborhoods surrounding USC’s main campus and in east Los Angeles. Michael is also a trustee and member of the executive committee of his high school alma mater, the Robert Louis Stevenson School in Pebble Beach. He received a scholarship to become the first African American student to integrate the school in 1964.

During his career Michael has received many honors and awards for outstanding service from the Los Angeles City Council, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, the Mayor of Los Angeles, the 33rd U.S. Congressional District, the Governor of California, and the California State Assembly. He also received the Merle Greene Robertson Alumni Association Award for Service to Society from his high school alma mater. Finally, he was named administrator of the year by the USC Student Senate three times during his tenure and received the Barbara Solomon Faculty Staff Award from the USC Black Alumni Association.

Michael received his bachelor’s degree, with distinction, in anthropology from Stanford University and his master’s degree and doctorate in educational administration from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He is married to the Rev. Dr. Diana D. Akiyama, an Episcopal priest. Diana is Vicar of St. Augustine’s Church in Kapaa’au, Hawaii and serves as dean of the school for formation for the Episcopal Church in Hawaii.

Thanks to his mentorship and commitment to the field, countless students have found their home at USC, professionals have developed into strong leaders, and NASPA has been able to better support our members. Dr. Jackson is an exemplarily example of what it means to be a distinguished pillar of the profession.