Best preparing herself for the future, Jessica Johnson '06 saw the importance of a Mercy education

Jessica Johnson '06Jessica Johnson ’06 | BBA Marketing

In the midst of a transitional time in her life, Jessica Johnson ’06 started classes at Mount Mercy to best prepare herself for the future. She coordinated school, work, and family time with the help of her advisor—ultimately gaining invaluable work experience and self-confidence to continue to move forward.

MMU: Tell us about your path to Mount Mercy. What inspired you to first start your degree?

JJ: When I decided to attend Mount Mercy, I was a young mother going through a divorce. I set a goal to complete my bachelor’s degree, and at this time in my life it became a top priority. Returning to school as a non-traditional student seemed overwhelming at first. The Mount Mercy team was very welcoming and instrumental in helping me navigate the process. I had an associate degree in liberal arts from Kirkwood Community College, and my credits transferred seamlessly to Mount Mercy.

MMU: As a young mother, how were you able to juggle the important things and still find success in the program?

JJ: The assistance of Mount Mercy staff and the variety of course offerings available in my program of study made it possible for me to enroll in the traditional undergraduate program, instead of the accelerated program. I was able to work with my advisor and align my course schedule to fit my daughter’s preschool schedule. The flexibility was key; it allowed me to spend as much time as possible with my daughter, and I didn’t have the added expense of daycare. It’s not easy to coordinate school, work, and family time. The class sizes at Mount Mercy, as well as the relationships and mentorships I had with my professors, made it possible for me to maximize my time in the classroom and get the most out of my education.

MMU: Tell us about your experience in the marketing program. What did you take from the program, and do you find yourself using what you learned in class?

JJ: My business marketing degree from Mount Mercy has been invaluable to my career. I’ve taken so many lessons from the program—from market analysis to strategic decision-making and communication strategies—and applied them in my daily work. The ability to read and analyze financial statements was critical to my leadership roles in the non-profit sector.

MMU: Is there one defining moment from your time at Mount Mercy that changed your experience?

JJ: I enrolled in Mount Mercy during a transitional time in my life. Sometimes when you are working towards a long-term goal, it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. At a mid-point during the journey, my outlook shifted. As I started making progress towards completing my degree, I gradually gained confidence in all aspects of my life. It was empowering for me to set a life goal and have my commitment and work towards accomplishing it pay off. Graduating from Mount Mercy was transformational; I realized I could be successful and continued to build on that.

MMU: What have you been up to since graduating? You’ve had an interesting path—from stay-at-home mom to professional roles in the community—how has Mount Mercy remained a part of your life?

JJ: Shortly after graduating, I accepted a position with Priority One, a Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance legacy organization. My career accelerated from that point and I became very engaged in the community. Throughout my career, I’ve been fortunate to hold a variety of positions in the non-profit sector, which has allowed me to work on local projects I’m passionate about and remain actively engaged in the community.

During the flood of 2008, I was the director of marketing at the Cedar Rapids Area Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB). Throughout the flood recovery process, there were many times that we, both as individuals and as a community, had to dig deeper and do more than we ever imagined we were capable of. I was able to draw on my experience at Mount Mercy and apply lessons I learned there.

Following my role with the CVB, I was executive director of the Iowa Cultural Corridor Alliance. In this position, I worked with partner organizations to support and strengthen the cultural community in an 11-county region. Following that position, I had the opportunity to stay home with my children for four years, which was an experience I will always cherish.

I recently returned to my career as community relations & development manager with VenuWorks. We manage the U.S. Cellular Center, McGrath Amphitheatre, Paramount Theatre, and Cedar Rapids Ice Arena for the City of Cedar Rapids. During my time at Mount Mercy, I learned the foundation of relationship building, collaboration, and working together as a team. Mount Mercy provided many of the tools I needed to be successful, both in my career and in my personal life.

MMU: What advice would you give to someone who may have taken a break from school or may be coming from an unconventional path? Was there anything you wish you would have known?

JJ: Investing in your education is the best thing you can do for yourself. The decision to return to school is not easy, especially if you’ve been out of the classroom for a while. If you wait for the perfect timing it will never happen; you just have to do it. Everyone’s situation is unique, and regardless of your reason, it requires a commitment. 

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