By: Rinjisha Roy, Bicentennial Intern, Class of 2018, SPEA, Bloomington
The impact of a university education in a student’s life is undeniably significant. Not only is it a platform which provides opportunities for professional and intellectual growth, but it is also a crucial period that tests resilience and one’s determination to succeed in a rigorous learning environment.
Jacqueline Kelly graduated from Indiana University Bloomington in June 1968 with a Bachelor of Science in Education. In 1970, she earned a Master’s of Science in Education at IU, and went on to receive M.B.A. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Missouri-Columbia. The following is the story of her academic and professional life.
Dr. Kelly was born in Louisville, Kentucky and is the eldest in a family of ten. At age six, her family moved south to Alabama where she was enrolled in the public school system. After graduation, she came to live with her aunt in Jeffersonville, Indiana where she stayed to establish residency in the state of Indiana.
She enrolled in IU Southeast part-time and worked part-time so she could save enough money to eventually attend IU Bloomington.
Click below to hear more about what brought Dr. Kelly to IU.
One of her part-time jobs before she came to IU was at a truck stop in Jeffersonville. There she worked at the kitchen as a dishwasher. “I hated that job. Just the idea of having to wear a white dress and a hair net was degrading to me,” she says. Yet, she continued working there as her parents could not afford to support her studies otherwise. “I stayed there because I knew I was working for a greater goal of getting my education at Bloomington,” reveals Dr. Kelly.
When she had saved enough, Dr. Kelly began her education full-time at Bloomington in the fall of 1965. As a resident at Briscoe Quad at IU, she recalls the tasty food they used to serve at the residence hall. “The food was wonderful. We ate fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans and homemade rolls. The best cooks in Bloomington were at Briscoe Quad.”
She fondly recollects how she loved the city of Bloomington where she formed early connections with international students. “I met and interacted with international students a lot. At that time, international travel was only a dream of mine, but through my experiences at IU, I was later able to fulfill that dream. Ever since 1971, I have had the pleasure of visiting many countries.”
In addition to these happy memories, there were also many not-so-happy experiences. She shared the following incident that illustrates racial tensions at that time. In most of her classes, she was often the only person of color. And in one such class, where there were several hundreds of students, the professor suddenly called upon her specifically and asked, “How does it feel to be black?”
Click below to hear more about the classroom incident.
She also mentioned how students of color would gather downtown in a place called Hole in the Wall. “It was a dingy place, and one had to go down the steps to this little, narrow place. That’s where we went and that’s where I got to meet other students of color and people from the city of Bloomington.”
Unsurprisingly, she spoke about how the campus was minimally diverse during the years she attended at IU. “There was very little to almost no diversity on campus.
There weren’t many African American or international students back then. Many of the African American students lived at Briscoe Quad, and I think the reason for that was financial. However, in summer, we had more black students because IU partnered with historically black colleges and universities for mini university.”
Her experiences at IU paved the way for a range of professional experiences. After graduation, she went to Stanford, Connecticut and taught at a junior high school. Later, she was recruited by AT&T to work as an internal consultant in Kansas City.
She became an adjunct professor at Western University and Columbia College where she taught organizational development. Most recently, she worked 14 years as the Director for Minority Business Development at the University of Missouri-Columbia where she worked extensively with businesses.
When asked what IU meant to her, Dr. Kelly said “IU allowed me a richness of experiences that changed my life. I developed an appreciation for the arts, and international travel. My education provided me the foundation that allowed me to compete with the world outside. The classes that I took were a laboratory to develop cognitive and interpersonal skills that I needed to survive the world outside Indiana University. In addition, my education at IU corroborated my belief in higher education and its power to transform human beings.”
Reflecting on the particular classroom experience where she was singled out for being black, she said, “When the professor asked me how it felt to be black, he was preparing me for the world. And because of that I was better able to operate in a matured environment. So that was a very positive thing.”
Click below to hear Dr. Kelly’s advice for anyone reading or listening to her interview.
On behalf of Indiana University, I would sincerely like to thank Dr. Kelly for sharing her story.