How do you juggle work, a family, an assistantship, and graduate work? Just ask Lori Johnson.
“I had always wanted to go back to grad school, but we started our family first, so I didn’t want to juggle both.” Lori came to the conclusion, however, that it was now or never. “Several people told me if I wanted to go back to school I either needed to do it now when my kids were young or wait until they get out of high school.”
Lori decided to enter the Communication Studies Graduate Program at UNI part-time, and later enrolled as a full-time student. It was during her time there that she found her niche. “When I actually started teaching as a GTA, the light bulb went on that I love this! In my previous jobs before I came back to go to grad school, I always had student interns working for me. And one of my favorite aspects of my positions was always working with the interns, teaching them what I was doing and allowing them to do part of the job.”
After she graduated, Lori was hired as an adjunct instructor in the Communication Studies Department at UNI. “It wasn’t necessarily in my plan of what was going to be next after I finished my graduate degree. I really didn’t intend to be able to have a career here. I thought that if I did want to go ahead and teach that I would hopefully get to teach somewhere, but I didn’t know if they would hire me with only a master’s. And then to still be here after ten years is awesome.”
Along with teaching, Lori also conducts numerous communication workshops in the Cedar Falls-Waterloo community. “My graduate work here also prepared me in having some advanced skills in going out and offering training and workshops to businesses and non-profits who are trying to improve communication within their offices, within their companies, within whatever kind of organization they have.”
In reflecting on how she juggled her graduate work as well as life’s other demands, Lori simply says, “If you wants something bad enough, you’ll make it work.” It wasn’t without sacrifices along the way, but finishing her degree was certainly rewarding. "Completing my thesis while balancing teaching and my 'other' jobs as wife and mom taught me so much. I could have never done it without the great support and mentoring I had in the grad studies department at UNI."