Jackson received three degrees from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and has held faculty positions at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Michigan State University, the University of Oklahoma, and the University of Arizona. At Arizona she also served in a series of administrative positions, including Vice Provost/Vice President for Learning and Information Technologies and Chief Information Officer. In 2007 she returned to the University of Illinois as a faculty member and Chief Information Officer of the campus.  She resigned from the position of CIO in 2011 but remains a faculty member.
Jackson's research has focused on communication design across a number of contexts, including the natural design of argumentative discourse, the design of classroom argumentation protocols, and the engineering of complex sociotechnical systems. Her work has appeared in Communication Monographs, Communication Theory, Journal of the American Forensic Association, Quarterly Journal of Speech, and Argumentation, among other journals. She has written or co-authored three books.
Jackson's awards include:
- Charles Woolbert Research Award, 1995
- Golden Anniversary Monograph Award, 1981
- Daniel Rohrer Memorial Research Award, 1993
from the International Society for the Study of Argumentation:
- Distinguished Scholar Award, 1997
- "Dr. Sally A Jackson". University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Retrieved 24 April 2013.
- Darshan Patel (27 April 2011). "Administrative restructuring raises tensions among faculty". Daily Illini.
- Julie Wurth (24 April 2011). "UI official resigns over changes". News-Gazette.
- National Communication Association Awards
- American Forensic Association Award Winners
- International Society for the Study of Argumentation Award Winners
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