Wes Jackson founded, produced, and marketed one of New York’s largest hip-hop cultural events, which featured artists like Kendrick Lamar and Jay-Z. Now, the college employed Jackson to direct business of creative enterprise majors to follow in his entrepreneurial footsteps.
Created in fall 2016, the business of creative enterprise degree aims to prepare students for careers as managers, executives, and innovators in creative businesses or projects. The program uses faculty and courses from multiple departments, including marketing communication, visual and media arts, performing arts, communication studies, and writing, literature and publishing.
Jackson’s career endeavors range from promoting his own record label, Seven Heads Entertainment, to starting the Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival. Jackson decided to step back from the music industry in 2008 and focus on education. He went back to school and obtained his master’s degree from The New School in Manhattan, and lectured at York College—part of the City University of New York public university system—for 10 years. He still remotely manages his online marketing agency, Bodega Agency.
After his entrepreneurship in New York, Jackson said he wanted a different challenge. He said that one of the biggest differences at Emerson compared to CUNY is the lack of diversity in the student population.
“I am a black man from New York and I’m not shy about it,” Jackson said. “I’m a voice, and I can be on committees and in meetings, and pushing the administration to be more diverse and then obviously speaking on real diversity in my classrooms.”
Business of creative enterprise professor Brenna McCormick and Director of Business Studies and entrepreneurship minor Lu Ann Reeb said Jackson was a strong candidate due to his strong background in entrepreneurship and teaching.
Reeb said because the business of creative enterprise program is only in its second year, Jackson will have the unique opportunity of shaping and influencing the program during its early stages. As director, he will also teach two sections of classes: Intro to Economy and Marketing Music in the Digital Age.
Reeb and writing, literature and publishing professor John Rodzvilla acted as co-directors of the business of creative enterprise program during the fall 2017 semester until the college found a permanent replacement for the position.
The search committee chose 12 candidates out of 35 applicants for a Skype interview.
Three applicants, including Jackson, moved to the second interview, which involved an entire day of back-to-back on-campus meetings and teaching one mock class composed of about 15 freshmen and sophomore business of creative enterprise majors. It took about three months for Jackson’s hiring from the posting of the position in September.
“We were really impressed with his immediate connection with students in the BCE,” Reeb said.
Reeb said that during the Skype interview, Jackson was one of the few candidates to express specific interest in students and what they wanted from the program. Reeb also said during the mock class, most candidates looked at the class as a whole, while Jackson paid attention to each individual student.
McCormick had the opportunity to see him teach when he spoke in one of her classes a few weeks ago.
“Based on seeing how engaging Wes is in terms of talking with students and sharing from his own experiences as well as really diving into current topics, I think that he will bring that to his teaching,” McCormick said. “That creates a really great classroom environment.”
Jackson said the ultimate goal is to give students the experience they need before they graduate.
“When I saw this posting, I said ‘this is a unique program.’ [It’s] one that I wish I had as an undergraduate,” Jackson said. “I fully believe the BCE program is training the next generation of executives that are gonna be intellectually curious, properly trained, and I want to be a part of that.”