The Jackson Salon was born out of a desire of students in the Yale community to establish a forum for discussing issues affecting our community, our country, and our world. Students at the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs are provided with an abundance of discussion-oriented courses with leading faculty and Senior Fellows, but Nat and I recognized a desire for a forum where community members could engage with pressing current event topics that stretched beyond the parameters of curricula.

As we explored the creation a Jackson forum through the early discussions, we found that the Yale community often served as a reflection pool for the challenges faced in the broader national and global community. Our conversations at Yale served as a microcosm for the wider global discussion on a myriad of complex issues like populism, climate activism, political correctness, race, and gender. Many of these topics will define the challenges of our generation. They demand reflection and engagement, and we aspire for the Jackson Salon to answer that call for the Jackson community.

The early gatherings consisted of a handful of Jackson graduate students who sought an avenue to discuss the Kavanaugh hearings, specifically Dr. Christine Ford’s powerful testimony. As the nomination process gripped the Yale community, a group of graduate students met in the Jackson student lounge in Horchow Hall to discuss possible responses and grapple with the complexity of Justice Kavanaugh’s nomination process.

After those initial discussions, we worked to formalize the structure of the Salon. In those early days the staff at Jackson were incredibly helpful, providing advice and a road map for how previous clubs have been established and funded. Within six weeks of creating the Salon we were able to attain initial funding and a regular space in which to meet. The impact of this support cannot be minimized as the Salon routinely competes with the pantheon of world class experts who pass through Yale giving talks in their fields. Despite this competition and to the immense credit of the Jackson staff and community, the Salon has continued to grow in quality and popularity.

Now, in our second semester, we have sought to better leverage the incredible expertise of the broader Jackson community. We have done this mainly by establishing a core team to manage the Salon. Members of this team take ownership for individual meetings—curating references, recruiting informed discussants, and moderating discussions. The impact this team has had on the quality of the Salon was felt immediately. Moving forward, our goal is to continue to build on this initial success, ensuring that we hold exceptional conversations on the topics that matter to the Jackson community.

First-year MA students Adam Hammer and Nat McLaughlin launched the Jackson Salon in fall 2018.