Sarah Beth Huntley
There are two things that stuck out to me when interviewing Loveis Jackson, a senior and president of Vanderbilt’s Black Student Association (BSA). The first was a quote I couldn’t help thinking of as she spoke, “Nevertheless, she persisted,” which I find fitting when it comes to describing her, for her journey to and at Vanderbilt is proof of her resiliency and resolve to accomplish all her goals. The second was the meaning behind her full name, Loveis Agape, which means “Love is Unconditional.” Her work with BSA as well as her goals for the future show the true spirit of love and giving within her heart, especially when it comes to people of color.
Loveis grew up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. While in high school, she worried about where she would go to school, as well as scholarships. Luckily, she used Questbridge and was matched with Vanderbilt early, easing her stress. “Vanderbilt chose me,” she says of the memory, grateful. “I’ve been able to have a lot of good opportunities here and meet a lot of great people, so I’ve enjoyed my time here so far.” One of the biggest reasons for her positive experiences has been her involvement with BSA. Loveis first forged a connection with Black students on campus the summer before her first year while in a group chat with some of the Black students in her class. Upon coming to campus, she then went to BSA’s annual back-to-school carnival (canceled this year due to COVID-19) and knew this was a program and a community she wanted to be a part of. “Going to their events is one of the ways that I’ve been able to be involved in BSA freshman year and just to get to know people and make connections with the people I was able to meet,” she says.
Since then, Loveis has been continually involved in BSA, serving on the executive board since her first year and now serving as president in order to help foster these same positive experiences for other Black students on campus. BSA has especially been prioritizing this mission during the COVID-19 pandemic through their events. “We hosted a lot of giveaways...like freshman care packages that we gave away that had, like, face masks, Covid-type masks, some candy, and things like that in it just to kind of give them something to destress and look forward to,” she says. They have provided career panels, food giveaways, virtual painting sessions, general body meetings, and other events. Loveis also works to foster relationships with other organizations on campus. Recently, BSA partnered with the Asian American Student Association during Asian Pacific Heritage Month to make care packages for Vanderbilt Medical Center and other Vanderbilt staff members, as well as hosted a panel with them and the Association of Latin American Students about being a minority in a COVID-19 America. BSA has also been partnering with the Black Cultural Center and Fisk University for Black History Month events. In order to keep students connected, Loveis has also worked to utilize social media, posting for and about Black students to “create a sense of community on campus.”
While finding community on campus through BSA and other resources, Loveis has also dealt with struggles. As a Black woman studying Medicine, Health, and Society on the pre-med track, she recounts how, “as a black woman, you may be one of the only, if not the only Black people in your classes.” She’s dealt with negative experiences mostly in her science and lab classes. “I’ll say the answer and provide an explanation...and the group members who aren’t Black -- and like I said, I don’t know if this is intentional or unintentional -- they’ll question the answer. But if somebody else, for example a white male, says the answer, everybody’s just writing it down,” she recounts. She says she has dealt with these situations several times, with one specific time leading her to ask why an answer was correct and being dismissed by her fellow group members. Loveis also talked about specific struggles she encountered during her sophomore year, when she was taking eighteen credit hours and working three jobs simultaneously, and discussed how she neglected to take better care of herself during this period. Nevertheless, Loveis learned from her struggles and overcame them by surrounding herself with the right people, such as her roommate, Jadah Keith, who she says specifically impacted her by being “encouraging and inspiring.” “We’ve been friends since our sophomore year of school and I feel like she’s been very impactful in my life and my development at Vanderbilt,” Loeveis says fondly. “You definitely have to find a group of friends to keep you motivated and to keep you grounded.” Loveis provided further advice to those on campus who might be struggling. First, she offers encouragement, telling them, “It gets better...once you become sure of yourself, it gets better.” She also references her own struggles with self-care with her next piece of advice: “Take time for yourself.” Finally, she encourages everyone to “…take advantage of the resources Vanderbilt has to offer,” by reaching out to professors. She says, “Never be scared to ask for help...or to advocate for yourself...don’t struggle in silence.”
Loveis’ character shines through in everything she does and will continue to as she prepares to take a gap year to work on medical school applications and move closer towards her dream of being a pediatrician; in doing so, she hopes to “advocate on behalf of Black people,” with her biggest passion being the ability to “help try to combat...medical racism and to provide quality care for Black patients.” Loveis truly lives up to the legacy bestowed upon her through her name, and her work to help students of color on campus proves true how “love is unconditional,” because it is shown through her life. She will continue to love, give, and persist merely because that is the person she is, and we are all lucky for it.