Whitney Jackson ’17 and Seqouia Smith ’17 earn Juris Doctors from the University of Mississippi School of Law

Two products of Alcorn State University made giant leaps on their path to becoming legal professionals with their recent accomplishments.

Whitney Jackson ’17, a Natchez, Mississippi native and former Miss Alcorn State University, and Seqouia Smith ’17, an Edwards, Mississippi native, earned Juris Doctor degrees from the University of Mississippi’s School of Law in May.

Earning this degree is a significant milestone for Jackson. She appreciates the path that led her to this point.

“It is an indescribable feeling,” said Jackson. “The past three years have been challenging. They were filled with wins and losses, but to seal it by earning this degree with honors means a lot to me.”

Being the first person in her immediate family to earn a Juris Doctor gives Smith pride and accomplishment. She looks forward to using her newfound credential to serve and honor those who have empowered her throughout her life.

“It feels surreal,” said Smith. "The feeling of being able to give back to my supportive family and community means the world to me. My great grandmother, Mrs. Ida G. Harris, helped raise me. She produced so many professionals while only having an eighth-grade education. This degree is as much as hers as it is mine.”

Law school presented challenges that helped Jackson and Smith see the world from a different perspective. Both reflected on transitioning from Alcorn to the University of Mississippi and how they overcame obstacles along the way.

“It was challenging,” said Jackson. “The transition from Alcorn to the University of Mississippi was different. However, it was enlightening. I got to see the world in a new light. Learning about the structure of our legal system intrigued me. I also gained skills that will be invaluable to my professional and personal lives. I enjoyed my experience of learning.”

“I never thought I would end up at the University of Mississippi School of Law, but it turned out to be what I needed and more,” said Smith. “I had some caring advisors that made a stressful situation bearable. I also established life-long friendships that offered necessary distractions. Overall, law school humbled me.”

One of the challenges that Jackson and Smith had to overcome was doubt. The Alcornites revisited overcoming those obstacles by realizing their hard work, accepting life lessons, and consulting leadership from others.

“My mind was my greatest asset, but at times it was my greatest enemy," said Jackson. "Some days, I felt like I could conquer the world. At other times, I didn’t feel good enough and tended to overthink. As a Black woman, you deal with the feeling of being underestimated while also being expected to be perfect. I often struggled with granting myself leniency and being okay with not being perfect. I had to learn to be kinder to myself, to embrace my failures as stepping stones, and to celebrate myself in my wins.”

“One of my biggest challenges was self-doubt," said Smith. "It was easy to feel that I wasn’t smart enough, doing enough, or inadequacy. That wasn’t true. I had to realize that I worked hard to get there, and I was working twice as hard to stay there. I also aligned myself with mentors who consistently kept me mentally focused.”

Alcorn provided a foundation for Jackson and Smith to succeed. They cherish the experiences the University offered them.

“The chemistry department at Alcorn prepared me for law school,” said Jackson. “I know that majoring in chemistry is not the traditional route for pursuing law school, but it helped build the mindset I needed for law school. Law school trains you to think of different perspectives and possibilities when assessing issues, which is pretty much the same training I gained throughout my lab courses at Alcorn. In labs, if one procedure did not work or if certain equipment was not available, we had to think around it to obtain the results we needed. That training coincided well with law school.”

“Alcorn molded the person I am today,” said Smith. “The atmosphere at Alcorn is like no other and will remain my home away from home. I continuously enhanced academically. My professors in the criminal justice department at Alcorn provided me with extensive guidance and support. Because of their leadership, I was prepared to pursue law school.”

Jackson is studying for the Mississippi Bar Exam. She will be joining Wise Child & Caraway, P.A., in Jackson, Mississippi, as an associate attorney. Smith will begin her legal career in August at the Mississippi Court of Appeals, also located in Jackson.