2021 Commencement Speaker:

Carolyn Jefferson-Jenkins

Jefferson-Jenkins, a 1974 Western College for Women graduate, was elected as the 15th national president of the League of Women Voters in 1998, serving two terms and also chairing the League of Women Voters Education Fund. She was the first woman of color to be elected president.
Under her leadership, the league helped pass the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA), which closed the most significant loopholes in campaign finance regulation at the time. She also led a charge to focus on local elections while increasing the number of voters who participated in all elections.

“Throughout her illustrious career, Dr. Jefferson-Jenkins has dedicated herself to affirming and upholding our country’s democracy,” Crawford said. “Time and again she has used her voice and her platform to protect and expand voting rights, encouraging all to participate in the electoral process. Through her example, our graduates will be inspired to use their Miami education to serve, lead, and build a better future for all.”

After graduating from Western College, Jefferson-Jenkins started her career as a public school teacher and administrator. She earned a master’s degree in education from John Carroll University, an educational specialist degree from Kent State University and a doctoral degree from Cleveland State University.

“Western College prepared us for life, not just a career,” Jefferson-Jenkins said. “While teaching was my vocation, my calling was always community-based activism. I grew up and came of age during the Civil Rights Movement. There was never a time I was not active or not calling for change, not calling for progress.”

Jefferson-Jenkins continues to be an advocate and activist for civil rights, social justice, educational excellence, and stronger citizen participation in the electoral process for underrepresented populations. She actively serves on numerous boards and advises community-based organizations. She is currently an adjunct assistant professor in the School of Education at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.