If someone were to write a recipe for how to be a successful online MBA student, it might go like this: Combine hard work, perseverance, self-sufficiency, and a desire to learn; let lessons marinate at least 18 months or until degree is achieved.
Alyese Justis knew she had the ingredients to pursue her master’s degree, but she was unsure of how to make her dreams a reality. She works full-time in hospitality as a front-desk agent for Marriott on Chincoteague Island, Virginia, and is a part-time substitute teacher in the local school system. Any free time she has she spends in the kitchen, cooking family favorites and inventing her own twists on comfort-food cuisine.
Here's the step-by-step method she followed to tackle her academic goals — made possible through a surprising solution.
Step One: Refine Her Plan
About a year ago, she decided to take the first step toward her academic goals and apply to the MBA – Hospitality degree program at the Johnson & Wales University College of Online Education. After she was accepted, another important consideration began to become more real: How would she pay for her degree?
She was struck by an idea: Could she help fund her education by publishing a cookbook? Reasoning the dream of becoming a cookbook author could lead to that of an MBA grad, she put school on hold to devote herself to perfecting a collection of recipes to publish.
Step Two: Find Inspiration
Alyese not only had a bachelor’s degree in hotel and restaurant management to draw from, she had, in a sense, been raised in the kitchen. Born premature at seven months, Alyese was named after her Aunt Lisa, who had just received a kidney transplant — neither one was expected to live. A dialysis patient, Alyese’s aunt knew her food choices would dramatically impact her health. “I was her food buddy, and we cooked together to find food she could eat,” Alyese remembers. Before she could even reach the stove, Alyese was in the kitchen, barely taller than her aunt’s apron strings but already experiencing the healing power of food. “My aunt passed away when I was 13,” she says. “Cooking made me feel close to her, and even today when I start to miss her, I go into the kitchen and start to cook.”
Aunt Lisa was Alyese’s inspiration for her cookbook titled Life is but a Dream. “Under each recipe is a quote about dreaming and never giving up,” she says. “That was my aunt’s outlook, and I live my life to make her proud.”
Step Three: Achieve Her Goal — and Set a New One
Even prior to publishing the cookbook, Alyese was commended with Marriott’s Spirit to Serve award and named Associate of the Year at her property in 2015. Does her aunt continue to see these accomplishments? Alyese thinks so: “On the day of my first book signing, the forecast was for torrential rain, but when I woke up in the morning, the sun was shining through the clouds. It was a perfect day.”
The cookbook was released on June 2, Aunt Lisa’s birthday. Alyese spent the summer promoting the project (she’s had five book signings) and preparing to start her graduate degree with JWU Online in the fall term. “My mom got me a Johnson & Wales Alex and Ani bracelet,” she says. “I’m already a proud Wildcat.”
Life is but a Dream is available on Amazon.com.
For more information on pursuing your degree at Johnson & Wales University College of Online Education, complete the “Request Info” form on this page or call 855-JWU-1881 or email [email protected].