It’s 7am at Penn Station. The morning commuters pour out of their trains into the Big Apple, weaving their way in and out of the city’s labyrinthine streets. Amongst them is a self-proclaimed Brooklyn girl, Joanne Cohen. Although Joane now commutes an hour each way from Long Island, she maintains she still has that “Brooklyn tenacity.” This proclamation is a hard thing to refute. After all, at age 57, her day job is only one of the many hats Joanne wears.
By 8am she’s made her way to Fifth Avenue where she works as an executive receptionist for a high-end law firm. There, she works diligently helping manage the firm's day-to-day, breaking only for a 2-mile walk over lunch.
If it seems like Joanne never stops moving, it’s true. But as an online student at Johnson & Wales University working towards her bachelor’s degree, she has to find time to stop and study—even if it’s on the speeding train back home, it’s an hour she’s found works for her to do some not-so-light reading and catch up on homework.
Then, she’s back in motion: Turning her car from the commuter lot toward teaching crochet and embroidery or in the studio honing her craft as a trained metalsmith. The crafts she sells, along with her teaching, have become a side-hustle, yes, but more than that. “It feeds my soul because I’m in such a corporate environment during the day,” Joanne said.
When she arrives home around 8pm, she’ll unwind with a cup of tea and open up her computer. One last hat to wear before settling in for the night. She’ll work for two hours on her online courses to get her discussion posts finished and then it’s off to bed, just to do it all again tomorrow. On the weekends, she says she spends her time doing the bulk of the work for her courses.
It may seem like Joanne’s life is a whirlwind but she's just the type of person who pursues all of her passions fearlessly. It makes sense then that Joanne looked to find a way to tie them all together.
Eye on the Prize
For Joanne, the moment her daughter crossed the commencement stage was the moment she decided it was finally her time to get her degree. After her modeling career took off at 16, she spent her “college years” working in the New York City fashion scene. That feeling, igniting her Brooklyn tenacity, telling her it was time to finally put all of her skills together and ask herself, “Why am I just thinking about it, why don’t I just do it?”
So, she did it. Joanne enrolled at Johnson & Wales College of Online Education to pursue her BA – Residential Hospitality Management. Having a lifelong interest in helping other creatives get started, she said her goal is to “join all of my talents together, my years in office work, my ability to teach and create, and my degree through JWU to give me all of the business knowledge I need to put it together.”
She even said she was a tad bit hesitant to start her journey in the online classroom. “It’s a lot easier than I expected, I expected to really struggle,” she said. “Being an older adult, just the entire online school platform, I had a little bit of trepidation.”
But now, weeks into her new routine, Joanne said she has no regrets about her decision to pursue her dream online. “I sometimes feel like I fly by my gut on a lot of the decisions in my life and it just feels like the right time to be doing this.”
She hopes that after graduating, she can open a place for creatives to make their art without breaking the bank. “I feel as though there are so many artists and crafters out there that are just mind-bogglingly talented and just simply cannot afford that space.”
Joanne is currently taking courses that she said are laying the groundwork for her to hit the ground running when she graduates. “I already kind of see something coming together.”
The Next Chapter
Joanne‘s goal is to graduate the year she turns 60. Although that’s a few years away, that’s not stopping her from setting her sights on the horizon, even if that horizon takes the Brooklyn girl a little further from Brooklyn.
“I want to be closer to palm trees,” she says. “Ideally, I would like to find a small city with a lot of creativity and take an abandoned factory-type building and give artists and crafters a chance to rent a space affordably.” But first, she'll keep moving through her days and her classwork, until it's her turn to walk across the commencement stage. After all, Joanne knows that to reach her goals, she must take one step at a time.
Want to learn more about earning your BA – Residential Hospitality Management with Johnson & Wales University’s College of Online Education? For more information, complete the “Request Info” form on this page or call 855-JWU-1881.