Author & Alumna Tamika Jacques Has an Empowering Message for Suffolk’s MLK, Jr. Celebration
In today’s challenging employment landscape, it’s vital to have someone in your corner to give expert advice, seasoned perspective, and simple encouragement. Dr. Tamika Jacques, BS ’97, is that person—and she’s here for the entire Suffolk University community on January 28 when she will offer the keynote address at the annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Celebration, kicking off the University’s annual Ram Inclusion Week.
Where Education Meets Career
Dr. Jacques is a highly sought-after motivational speaker with decades of experience in higher education and workforce development. She is the author of A Brown Girls Guide to Employment and Networking, named a Best Book for Networking by Forbes in 2019 and a number-one seller on Amazon.com in the vocational education category. This month, she released A Brown Parents Guide: Preparing Our Children for Employment in the 21st Century. Her coaching and consulting firm, Fruitful Vision Enterprises, focuses on career development as well as diversity, equity, and inclusion programs in workplaces. With a career spanning college student enrichment as well as employment preparation and training, she has seen the journey from student to employee from all angles.
A “Cheerleader” for a Diverse Workforce
Dr. Jacques spent her undergraduate years at Suffolk heavily involved in student activities, from the Program Council to the Black Student Union to the Rams cheerleading squad. After receiving her undergraduate degree from Suffolk, Dr. Jacques went on to earn both master’s and doctoral degrees in higher education leadership, ultimately steering her career towards workforce development and training. What motivated her to build a career in helping people build their own careers? She was inspired by her parents, who, despite growing up in poverty themselves, were committed to helping their daughter achieve all she could.
“I'm helping other people because I had a chance,” Dr. Jacques says. “And it's for me to let other people know that they also have a chance. Helping people is my passion.”
Many people have a clear need of her kind of help, particularly in an employment and hiring landscape that struggles with unconscious bias, often on the basis of skin color.
“Do you see people that look like you?” she asks, of a person trying to find work in an industry where they are underrepresented. “Who's telling you that you can do it, who's discouraging you in that process?”
This is one of the reasons Dr. Jacques wrote A Brown Girls Guide to Employment and Networking. It covers job-search topics like mastering interview tactics and nurturing professional networks, but also provides encouragement to its audience. That emotional factor makes a difference, she says.
“You just need that someone to be your cheerleader, in any part of your life. Depending on your environment, we don't all have those opportunities.”
Dr. Jacques’ new book, A Brown Parents Guide: Preparing Our Children for Employment in the 21st Century, shares more of her insights, this time geared toward diverse parents and families. It tackles the vital subject of preparing children for employment in a world that often judges their abilities and fitness for the job based on their skin color.
She explains that it’s important for her to identify and connect with readers of color, whether students, job-seekers, or parents.
“I'm a brown parent,” she says, "so it's written from my perspective. I want other brown parents to be able to say, 'oh, my gosh, I didn't know that someone else was going through this.’”
Throughout both books, Dr. Jacques’ trademark encouragement shines through.
“It’s a shout-out to the brown people, to let them know, 'you can do this. People might be looking at you because of your skin color, but you can do it.’”
Dr. Jacques plans to bring this blend of insight and encouragement to the entire Suffolk community during her address at the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration during a time that is particularly challenging for all students. Among his other gifts, she says, Dr. King had an ability to sustain hope through great adversity.
“If you look at Martin Luther King's speeches, he mentions hope quite a few times,” she points out. “That's what kept him going. The thing with hope is, you can't see it. I can't hold it in my hand. But I can envision what it looks like, and then try to do things that that will shape up that hope so it becomes a reality.”
The Suffolk University community can participate in this year’s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Celebration online. In addition to Dr. Jacques’ remarks, the event will feature the annual presentation of Suffolk’s Creating the Dream Award honoring the continuing dream of racial equity and collective liberation Dr. King spoke of in his "I Have a Dream" speech in 1963. The award recognizes the efforts of individuals, organizations, or departments within the University that work toward creating an inclusive, respectful, and safe climate for members of the University community, with a sustained and tangible impact on Suffolk’s communities of color. The honorees this year are Law student Alexis Soares, undergraduate student Mardochee Sylvestre, and Counseling Health & Wellness psychologist Natasha Torkelson, PhD.