When we last caught up with Johnson & Wales College of Online Education alumna Julia Abbiss ’15 ’17 MS – Nonprofit Management, she was on a steady track to graduating with her master’s degree. After completing her undergraduate degree in Tourism and Hospitality management with JWU in Providence, Julia’s inner travel bug was itching for a new setting. That’s when she found she could have the best of both worlds by moving to New Mexico while still earning her masters completely online with JWU.
Since graduating Julia has been busy starting her own business, Julia Abbiss Consulting, a venture she didn’t once consider but said it has really taken off. In hopes of seeing how her JWU experience has guided her post-graduation, we checked in.
Since graduating with your master’s degree what have you been up to?
I launched a consulting business specializing in fundraising, event, and communication strategies soon after I graduated. It was a risky decision, especially launching with only one client whose monthly invoice would just barely cover my rent. Remarkably, within a month of informing my network that I had taken this leap, I gained a steady client-base and financial security.
It’s been quite a journey since launching a little over two years ago. I’ve had the privilege of working with nonprofits and social enterprises across the country that are tackling everything from food insecurity and water conservation to reproductive justice and education access.
How do you think JWU did in preparing you for where you are now in your career?
I feel indebted to JWU. I believe that my work product, collaboration skills, and leadership qualities reflect that I am the product of a robust experiential education program. I am so appreciative of my professors-turned-mentors who remain to this day constant advocates for my success, most notably, Loren Intolubbe-Chmil, Ph.D., Kevin DeJesus, Ph.D., Eldad Boker, Ed.D., and Mare Davis, Ph.D.
In hindsight and a couple of years removed from graduating, are you happy you went with an online format to get your MS?
Definitely. It undoubtedly prepared me for working remotely with clients across the country and taught me how to maintain my focus working in spaces that are “nontraditional.” Remote learning trains you to be disciplined, yet agile, during your work day. It also makes you incredibly self-sufficient and responsible for your own success.
In light of our current stay-at-home orders, I’m grateful to have a few years of learning and working from home under my belt, since it hasn’t altered my work day as drastically as most.
What would you say to someone considering getting their masters online but is still unsure about taking the next step?
I totally understand! It’s a decision that requires introspection and some sacrifice. I loved being in a classroom (in fact, one of my clients is a school, and I adore being on campus for the camaraderie and collective energy). But remote learning is such a great option for folks who don’t want to be tied to a location or who already work full-time.
I think it’s also an unconventional way to really get to know yourself. How do you self-motivate? How can you optimally structure your average day so you’re productive but not burnt out? How can you foster professional and personal relationships when you’re not in the same room as your peers and professors? What do you need to feel balanced?
These questions are all amplified when you are, quite literally, left to your own devices. I feel more in tune with myself and confident with what I bring to the table, perhaps more than I would have in a more traditional setting.
What do you hopefully see being the end goal for your career?
To be honest, I don’t have an answer. And I’m oddly comforted by that fact. Although I’m a big believer in setting goals and working tirelessly to achieve them, I am the biggest proponent of simply being open to whatever opportunities present themselves. My most incredible professional experiences have stemmed from the most unlikely circumstances (for example, a last-minute request to fill in as a plus-one at a wedding resulted in sitting next to someone who ended up hiring me for one of my most meaningful contracts to date).
I do know some things. I know that I will be in a leadership role. I know that I will make a difference. I know that there will be a series of extraordinary events that will get me there. And I can’t wait to see how it all unfolds.
Want to learn more about earning your degree with Johnson & Wales University’s College of Online Education? For more information, complete the Request Info form, or call 855-JWU-1881.