Hometown: Oak Park, Illinois
Degree: Master's degree in Public Administration
"It took me 10 years to get here," said 36-year-old Juisell Lewis of Oak Park, who earned her master's degree in Public Administration while working as a program analyst for the Federal Aviation Administration in Des Plaines. "My father was just like, 'You keep talking about this; just do it. Start your checklist and do it.' So I did."
She still remembers the words of one of her professors when she entered the master's program at NIU.
"Your time is precious, and you're going to have to tell some people no," he told her.
"He was absolutely correct," she said as she recalled juggling her full-time job with her studies.
Lewis learned to multitask, motivate herself to keep going. But NIU's career-friendly course schedule helped, too. "I researched a bunch of programs, and NIU had one of the longest and most upstanding reputations for Public Administration. It was a perfect fit," she said.
"When I started taking the classes, each of the classes fit kind of perfectly into my professional life."
She finished the program in two years and aims to put it to use on the job, along with her passion for volunteerism.
"There are some opportunities on the federal and public side that I haven't been able to reach because I didn't have the educational aspect, but I'm hoping to just keep pushing and keep moving," she said.
"What I like about Public Administration is it gives you the business principles you would get in an MBA [Master of Business Administration], but it gives you that public service focus so you learn the public service side and the nonprofit side."
Lewis volunteers with Family Shelter Service in Wheaton, which provides help to victims of domestic violence, as well as a church ministry offering mentorship and life skills to girls ages 8 to 18.
"I definitely have a passion for giving back and trying to have an impact, and now I feel like I have an educated impact after my education here at NIU," she said.