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The Faces of Opportunity Vanderbilt
Photo of Jeremy Strickland

Jeremy Strickland

BA’11, McNichols-Owen Vanderbilt Scholarship

When Jeremy Strickland, BA’11, came to Vanderbilt, he intended to pursue a law degree that would lead to a career in public policy. However, one of the steps he made to increase his chances for success dramatically changed his course.

“During my time at Vanderbilt, I had the opportunity to intern twice in the public sector . . . and I became frustrated with the work I was doing there,” Strickland says. “I really felt that public sector work—working for the government—had become characterized by bureaucracy and that I was not making a meaningful impact.”

After graduation, he spent five years working at Google, where he added a love for business and technology to a personal drive to make a difference through public policy. “Coming out of Vanderbilt, particularly with a minor in corporate strategy, I had the skillset I needed to achieve, develop and be a good community member,” Strickland says.

“Coming out of Vanderbilt, I had the skillset I needed to achieve, develop and be a good community member.”

His public policy bent was reinforced on return trips from the West Coast to his hometown in rural Georgia, where he experienced an extreme disparity in technological resources. His realization of the lack of available information and innovation in some pockets of the country led him to consider its effect on economic circumstances in these areas.

During the same time, he was exploring graduate programs, and he learned of numerous dual degree offerings—intriguing for someone whose decision lay at the crossroads of public policy and business. When Strickland was accepted to Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, he approached program leaders about the prospect of a path leading to an MBA and a Master’s in Public Policy from The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

With approval from both institutions, Jeremy began a unique graduate school journey. Having completed his work at Kellogg, he is now two years into his studies and is preparing for his master’s dissertation. His focus? Creating centers of innovation across southern communities and their potential to be a positive force in local economies.

“I don’t subscribe to the notion that I have all the answers, so I would love to set the stage for further discussion,” Strickland says. “Are there some definitive next steps that we can take? Absolutely, and those are what I hope to bring forward. I believe this solution is one that will come from a variety of angles.”

The Opportunity Vanderbilt scholarship support he received brought him to Nashville from a rural Georgia town, and he is grateful to have a solid foundation to chart his own course.

Today, he is mapping plans to bridge the gap between business and public policy to make a difference for generations. An active member in the alumni community, Strickland also gives back to Vanderbilt, too. “It’s a debt that will always drive me.”