Compassion to Bridge the Gaps

Compassion to Bridge the Gaps

By Ann Freestone, BA’89

Jillian Husman, BA’08, has always appreciated strong female leaders, whether it’s Lucille Ball paving the way for women in television, Margaret Thatcher in government or her grandma teaching in a one-room school house in Sioux Falls, S.D.

“I’ve always been drawn to women leaders and pioneers in our history — strong women who have compassion for humanity and strong leadership,” she says. “My grandma pursued what she wanted to do and didn’t box herself in to one certain role. Following my own interests came from that.”

Husman’s interests have taken her thousands of miles from Sioux Falls, but on the way, she earned her bachelor’s of arts from Creighton in political science and French with a minor in economics. While in college, she studied in southeast France and Cameroon.

Husman appreciated Creighton’s small political science department. In fact, she’s still friends with her professors and considers them “lifelong advisors,” especially James Wunsch, Ph.D., the founding director of Creighton’s African Studies Program and holder of the Rev. John P. Schlegel, S.J., Distinguished Professorship in Politics and Government, and Richard Witmer, Ph.D., associate professor of political science.

“The professors encourage you to think beyond yourself, to think about economic problems and to contribute for the better,” Husman says. “They were incredibly encouraging from day one and gave me confidence to seek opportunities.”

While at Creighton, she researched children’s healthcare policy as an intern for Nebraska Appleseed, a statewide nonprofit organization that fights for justice and opportunity for all Nebraskans. After graduating, she became a Human Rights Fellow at Nebraska Appleseed, tackling workers’ health and safety conditions in Nebraska’s meatpacking industry. “I loved applying the analytical tools I learned as a political science major,” she says. The result? A 2009 report that ignited a series of investigations and calls for policy change across the U.S. meatpacking industry.

In October 2008, Husman spent a year with AmeriCorps in Omaha as a refugee resettlement specialist at the Southern Sudan Community Association, where she supervised 75 refugee cases. “When the financial crisis was deep in its misery, contributions plummeted,” she says. “Jobs were scarce for all Americans, but especially for refugees.” She ensured the association provided excellent services and expanded community partnerships to provide additional cultural and job skills services.

Having learned about the Peace Corps while studying abroad, Husman joined in March 2010 as an environmental education volunteer in Koumpentoum, Senegal, a mainly Muslim country in Africa. Her projects varied. Husman worked on a waste management strategy, helped villagers grow vegetables more efficiently, and empowered middle-school aged girls to pursue an education.

After two years in the village, she moved to the capital city of Dakar, where she served for a year as the communications manager for Stomping Out Malaria in Africa Initiative. “We eradicated malaria in the U.S. in a decade, but still this disease impacts poor countries, primarily in Africa,” Husman says. In her role, she organized international training programs and mobilized 3,000 Africa Peace Corps Volunteers to engage in malaria prevention work.

Husman then pursued and earned a Master of Public Administration from Columbia University and traveled abroad while working on her advanced degree. Again, she headed to Africa. This time, she went to Ghana to provide safe reliable drinking water in rural areas and to South Africa and Botswana to help a supermarket chain improve operations.

Recently embarking on a new chapter, Husman works as a program analyst for the Office of Inspector General in the Office of Evaluation and Inspections for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. She analyzes the efficiency and effectiveness of Health and Human Services programs. “We’re making an impact for the long-term and society as a whole,” Husman says.

Husman’s interest is in improving and equalizing socioeconomic disparities in the world, not only in Africa, but domestically as well. “My travels have made me realize we are all equal citizens of the world. I’m not more entitled to a good life because of where I was born,” she says. “Everyone deserves a fair shot at living the best life they can. We are all the same people who want the same thing — to live a good life. It so happens in modern history we live in a world with socioeconomic constraints. I’d like to bridge those gaps.”