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Jessica Lambert Ward

Jessica Lambert Ward is the Director of the Carolina Collaborative for Resilience, a pilot plan. She is from Wakulla, NC, a small predominately American Indian community about 10 miles north of the NC/SC border. Jessica is an enrolled member of the Lumbee Tribe of NC and a proud “double Tar Heel,” earning both her undergraduate and master’s degrees at Carolina. Jessica earned her BA in International Studies and Transnational Cultures with a minor in American Indian Studies and Masters in Social Work (MSW). Jessica has supported students in various capacities through her work with the UNC School of Nursing, UNC School of Social Work, Undergraduate Retention, and Academic Advising. Jessica pulls from her personal experiences as a Native woman and as a low-income first-generation scholar with rural NC roots and social work training in her support of students. Her love for her family and community and the resilience she inherited from them drive her to make the world better for others.

Get to Know Jessica:

Name your favorite podcasts.

I don’t have a lot of time to listen to podcasts, but my favorites so far have been “This American Life,” “Serial,” “Criminal,” “This is Love,” and “Code Switch.” The next podcast on my “must listen” list is “The Red Justice Project,” an Indigenous true crime stories podcast that focuses on raising awareness of MMIW (Missing/Murdered Indigenous Women).

Best perk of the job?

Hands down—it’s the students. I love building relationships with students. I feel honored that so many have felt safe to share their hopes, dreams, fears, and insecurities with me. Participating in their development is a great honor and an incredible responsibility.

In an alternate universe, what would you do for a living?

In an alternate universe, I would run my own restaurant or bakery. I love to cook. The absolute best feeling in the world is to prepare a meal for someone and to watch as a smile slowly creeps across their face after the first bite. It’s also another opportunity to build relationships with people. Food is love. Some of the best conversations and most memorable moments of my life have centered around food.

Name three things that people would be most surprised to learn about you.

  1. I was born and spent my early childhood in Okinawa, Japan. I am one of four Okinawan/Lumbees in the world.
  2. During my undergraduate days, I stood in the Pit and sang karaoke in front of the entire campus.
  3. In my spare time, I assist my daughter and kidpreneur run her small business, Kyla’s CutieCakes.

What’s on your bucket list?

I would like to become a culinary tourist. I want to eat my way across the globe while learning about different peoples and cultures.

Whom do you admire…and why?

Ada Deer, Native woman, activist, social worker, and educator. Ada Deer is a member of the Menominee tribe who organized a grassroots movement to help end Termination Era policies and restore tribes’ rights. I had the opportunity to meet her back in 2012 when she visited UNC as the Elder in Residence. She encouraged me to use my voice and my story to help others. When asked about her career path, she said, “I speak up. I speak out. It’s not like I plotted and planned. I just had this general goal. I want to do and I want to be and I want to help. And I’ve been able to do it.”