By David Morrison
University of Missouri–St. Louis alumna Andrea Jackson-Jennings is uniquely attuned to the needs of some of the region’s most vulnerable populations.
For the past 10 years, she served as the director of the St. Louis County Department of Human Services. This September, she took on a new role as the managing director of the COVID-19 Regional Response Team, a group of local organizations that is creating and maintaining a centralized response network to help meet the social needs of residents who have been most affected by the pandemic in the St. Louis region.
In both her previous and current posts, Jackson-Jennings has played a leading role in coordinating support and community-based resources for residents who need them.
“We have been leading the humanitarian effort as it relates to the food insecurity needs, the digital divide and ensuring that seniors and homebound individuals get the medical assistance and meals that they need,” Jackson-Jennings said. “We want to make sure that residents receive the appropriate services that they need.”
Jackson-Jennings was appointed to lead the county’s Department of Human Services by then-County Executive Charlie Dooley in 2011. Prior to that, she worked at UMSL, starting in the cashier’s office and advancing to associate director of financial aid while earning her BGS in 2004 and an MEd in 2007 from the university.
She is continuing in the College of Education as a doctoral student in educational practice with an anticipated graduation date of December 2022.
Throughout her course of study, Jackson-Jennings has been inspired by educators such as Professor E. Paulette Isaac-Savage and Theresa Coble, the E. Desmond Lee Endowed Professor of Experiential and Family Education.
“I’m a lifelong learner,” said Jackson-Jennings, who earned her master’s degree in higher education with an emphasis in adult education. “The university has provided me the analytical skills necessary to be successful beyond my chosen discipline. With UMSL being a pillar in the community, the university has been instrumental to the success of the region. That has helped me tremendously in my career.”
Jackson-Jennings said she plans to use the knowledge gained in the pursuit of her doctorate to help deepen her understanding of the community she serves, as well as strengthen relationships with key partners.
She said she recently received a call from a former superintendent in the region seeking housing help for a family in his district. Jackson-Jennings and her Human Services team connected the family with resources for short-term housing, as well as starting on a strategy for a long-term solution.
“I truly believe in UMSL’s mission, that they transform lives,” Jackson-Jennings said. “That has been my mission in any and everything that I do: to make this place a better place than it was when I found it. I want to be in a position to influence policy through social justice and have a voice at the table for those who are voiceless.”