Alumni Profile: Jessica Wilson-Jones
Through transformational student programs at Tisch College and Tufts, Jessica Wilson-Jones, A14, FG15, laid the groundwork for a career for the public good. Now at the U.S. State Department, she’s helping to shape the future of US-Middle East relations.
Jessica Wilson-Jones was recently named by the Middle East Policy Council as one of its "40 under 40” policy leaders. As a Foreign Affairs Officer in Near Eastern Affairs in the State Department, Wilson-Jones works on stabilization assistance coordination in Syria with a focus on programming that engages Syrian civilians. Prior to this role, Wilson-Jones worked in the State Department’s Educational Division on the Fulbright Program in southern and central Asia, connecting students with their educational institutions and programs in the United States.
Wilson-Jones’s path to the State Department began before she was a student Tufts. Her lifelong interest in international affairs and world cultures was inspired by her experiences as an Egyptian-American, moving from Cairo to the United States at ten years old. Following a chance meeting with Tufts Admissions Counselor Denny Paredes, now Director of Strategic Planning at Tufts Undergraduate Admissions, in her high school parking lot, Wilson-Jones was drawn to the university’s commitment to active and engaged citizenship. For her, the answer to “why Tufts?” is simple: the university’s commitment to working with students and “allowing people to be creative and innovative,” asking “how do we move the needle forward to bring good” whether that’s in a local community like Somerville or Medford or across the world.
At Tufts, Wilson-Jones majored in International Relations and Arabic and participated in groups and programs at Tisch College and at the Institute for Global Leadership and Muslim Student Association. She became a resident assistant, and a part of Emerging Black Leaders in the Africana Center for three years. These experiences, and the friendships she formed, helped her build a community as a Black Muslim woman in the Boston area for the first time. As a senior, Wilson-Jones was awarded the Wendell Phillips award and spoke at the senior Baccalaureate service. She continued her education by receiving a M.A. in International Business from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.
Throughout her years at Tufts, Wilson-Jones sought out opportunities to engage and connect with the university’s mission. She credits Mindy Nierenberg, who was then the Senior Director of Programs at Tisch College, with shaping her Tufts journey. "It all comes down to educators such as Mindy Nierenberg that can, and in most cases do, change the trajectory of a student's life at an academic institution. Selfless individuals who know how to teach, connect and make a difference in the life of a student to ensure their time is valued and a personal success during their academic career, and beyond."
Nierenberg introduced Wilson-Jones to the Tisch Summer Fellows (TSF) program. TSF connects Tufts students from across the university with community-based and national organizations, providing real-world experience and opportunities for reflection, mentoring, and networking. Wilson-Jones’s fellowship brought her to Washington D.C. to work on cost analysis and program evaluation at the Pentagon. This experience at the Department of Defense allowed her to access and visualize a future in public service for the first time. It “really opened my eyes to a space that I wanted to be in and knowing that I had the ability to succeed in that space.” The Tisch Summer Fellows program also provides stipends to students, making the opportunity a unique one according to Wilson-Jones. “Being able to just have those opportunities and those doors opened—and not just opening doors—the doors that are open and people inside that are welcoming you and helping you come in… not everybody has the confidence or the resources to do that and [I think] Tufts and Tisch did that.”
Looking back on her time at on the Hill, and reflecting on her diplomatic career thus far, Wilson-Jones says that her Tufts education encourages her “to look at it from a perspective of how can I pursue my career, but also be an active citizen in some other capacity, . . . It's about walking out with the credentials, the degree of knowledge, but also, with empathy and to have this knowledge of leaning into discomfort and trying to broaden your perspectives.”
Wilson-Jones is committed to paving the way for future leaders who will follow in her footsteps. “I always talk about being at the State Department and really being the only Black woman in many meetings . . . and that's the reality of where we are as a country today, and we are working on it. And I will go through the discomfort and the trials and errors, so the next person who comes in doesn't have to feel that.”
Jessica Wilson-Jones currently lives in Baltimore with her husband and fur baby, and a “real” baby on the way.