Jennifer (Bradshaw) Johnson

Jennifer (Bradshaw) Johnson

July 31, 2018

Jennifer (Bradshaw) Johnson (2017)

Born outside Chicago, Jennifer (Bradshaw) Johnson has lived in seven different states and spent the first 15 years of her life homeschooled. Frequently engaging in political debates, she strives to live everyday like Elle Woods after Warner told her she wasn’t smart enough for law school. Jen is pursuing her J.D. at UMKC School of Law and begins her 1L in August 2018. She currently resides in Kansas City with her software engineer husband, Neal, and her geriatric cat, Angel.

What year did you graduate and what was your concentration?

I graduated in May 2014 and majored in both Communication (concentrating in Public Communication) and English (concentrating in Criticism). I also minored in French.

What extra-/co-curricular activities did you do?

I was a member of Sigma Kappa social sorority as well as a member of the French Honors fraternity, Pi Delta Phi. I also worked for KTRM as a news reader, web writer, and on the promotions team (my first foray into running a Twitter for an entity).

From 2012 – 2014, in the summers I also worked for the Joseph Baldwin Academy as a Preceptor and, in my last summer, as Assistant Director of the camp.

Did you go to grad school? If so, where?  Was it immediately after you left Truman or did you wait?  Why?

I will be attending UMKC School of Law this fall (2018). Law has always been a pathway on my mind, but since it is such a huge (and expensive) decision I wanted to make sure it was 100% what I wanted before I committed fully. After the 2016 election and my growing frustrations with the state of our government, I knew that law school was going to be my next step. I began studying for the LSAT in July 2017 and took the test that December.

What was your first job after graduation?

In September 2014, I began working as a front desk representative for Builder Designs, an internet marketing company based in Olathe, KS that focuses on providing website services for homebuilders across North America. Within six months, I was promoted to account manager.

What work do you do/What are you doing now?

Jen at the Women’s March (2017).

After speaking to friends and colleagues who’ve traveled down the legal path, I’ve been encouraged to take the summer before my first year of law school easy – but that doesn’t mean I plan on doing nothing. I’m focusing on working part-time in order to help out with rent while also ramping up my volunteer work around KC to discover where my passions lie.

Currently, I am a volunteer at Planned Parenthood Great Plains – aside from helping out at various events, I create the monthly blog posts for the book club they sponsor: “Flip the Page, Flip the Script.”

In this role, I produce a 2-3 page critical examination of the book we are reading for the month that is then posted to the members of the group. I’ve written about Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar as well as my personal favorite we’ve examined so far, a series of essays by Roxane Gay entitled Bad Feminist.

I have also submitted my intent to volunteer with a local political campaign, Sharice Davids for United States Congress. I met Sharice at a Planned Parenthood counter protest and was struck by her candor, charm, and views. While I do not live in her district, I am hoping to help her campaign in any way I can.

How has your Liberal Arts/COMM education helped you?

I am routinely surprised by the sheer amount of people who do not use critical thinking in their daily existence. One of my most memorable moments actually happened with my own mother! She was referencing a recent “debate” we’d had as a family, one in which my now-husband, Neal Johnson, had also been involved.

“I’ve noticed that you and Neal always ask us where we got our sources,” Mom noted to me. “Why is that? What taught you to think that way? I didn’t teach you that.”“Truman,” I immediately told her. “You need to question everything.”

I remember how confused she was that we never automatically took someone at their word when debating a topic and how I was just as confused she didn’t think to question the information she was given.

Which class did you dislike at the time you took it, but now you’re grateful you took it?

Prof. Don Krause and Dr. Mark Smith are going to hate me for this, but it was actually Media Writing! In fairness, it was mostly due to my anxieties and not the subject matter. They remain among my favorite professors at Truman (which is backed up by the fact I continued seeking out courses they taught).

At the time, I hated any form of public speaking or anything that would call attention to myself. Requesting interviews from others? Finding stories in the community and – gasp – having to interact with people to find out more? My worst nightmare!Thankfully, since my grade was on the line, I pushed past these insecurities and managed to power through. I remember that for one radio assignment, I ended up talking to a local political figure that was running for election. I met her at her campaign office in downtown Kirksville and spoke with her for over an hour about her motivations, her history, and nurses protesting at the Missouri capitol (she was a former nurse herself).

While I didn’t do great on the assignment (I was so flustered by the interview that I never got her opponent’s side of the story), I was proud of myself for stepping out of my comfort zone instead of only interviewing friends and sorority sisters.

What was your greatest accomplishment at Truman?

Jen Johnson, MRS, and her husband Neal (2017).

Meeting my husband and getting my MRS degree – just kidding!

I am actually most proud of presenting a paper I wrote at the Student Research Conference in Spring 2014. Dr. Smith told me I should present my paper, and I’m so glad that I listened. He mentored my presentation and encouraged me throughout (remember my fear of public speaking?).

My presentation was based on a paper I wrote for his Media Criticism class, and the subject matter surprises literally no one who knows me: I wrote about the portrayal of women in Marvel’s 2012 film The Avengers. There are two things I am passionate about in this world: the Marvel Cinematic Universe and feminist criticism. The work that went into that paper and the passion I felt when talking about my research in front of an audience remains one of my most vivid memories of Truman.

Why is Truman a good place for a student to study?

I firmly believe that anyone can find his or her place at Truman. There are so many opportunities for involvement, whether it is in your major or something completely different. The professors are incredibly knowledgeable and approachable and I left university feeling like I really did learn something instead of just memorizing items to pass a test.

The professors also truly care about the success of their students. With two majors, I somehow managed to be assigned only an advisor for my English major. I didn’t think it was a problem until I went to start my senior year and realized I was missing prerequisites for required classes in my COMM major. Facing an extra semester, I set an appointment with Dr. Jay Self where he helped me map out a way to graduate on time.

This care was not limited to just academic success. In the spring of my senior year, I received a call from my then-boyfriend (now husband) asking me to drop by his place. I showed up see him sitting in his front door, unable to breathe, and complaining of chest pain. Four hours in the Kirksville urgent care later, we found out his lung had collapsed and he was being transferred to the hospital.

I missed my Wednesday class, a communication class with Dr. James Cianciola. The next day, he asked me what happened and by then I had the word for it: spontaneous pneumothorax. The first thing that made me laugh after the whole affair was, an hour later in another class I had with him, when he made a joke about “taking your breath away.” He cut himself off, stricken, and immediately apologized for what he considered to be an inappropriate joke. I thought it was hilarious.

What would you say a COMM student should absolutely do while at Truman?

Join an organization. For me, working for KTRM let me get experience in news writing as well as public relations when I worked for the promotions team.

You have so many opportunities to get involved in college – use them. You’ll never know when one of those experiences will give you the leverage you need in a job interview. And it’s so easy to become involved! Once you’re in the “real world,” free time and free experiences can become so limited. Participating in events and organizations while in undergrad is a great way to discover what you’re truly passionate about.

What advice would you give someone who wants to go into the same line of work as you?

Jen Johnson, Class of 2021, UMKC School of Law.

If you want to go to law school, make sure you are doing it for yourself and not just because it’s expected of you or you’re “not ready to join the real world.” Law school is expensive, trying, and will take its toll on you mentally and emotionally.

You’ll also face people who tell you that you can’t do it – don’t listen to them. My roommate junior year was the main reason I didn’t apply to law school right out of college. Whenever I would mention it, she would go on and on about the job market, the cost, and how implausible it was that I would get a job.

I don’t regret taking time off to save up money and find out if I truly wanted to go, but I do regret listening to someone who constantly told me I could not do what I set my mind to. It’s important to surround yourself with a good support system you can fall back on for when times get stressful. Friends who help you see the reality of the situation are a huge benefit, but learn to tell the difference between those who care and those who simply don’t believe in you.

What do you miss most about campus/Kirksville?

How close everything is! I loved being able to walk down to the Square and get Greek food, or see a movie, or just wander. My friends were all right around the corner and there was this sense of camaraderie living in a small college town.

What tag line would you create for the COMM department at Truman?

“Find your voice.”

If you could come back to Truman and teach a class for a semester, what would be its title and what would it be about?

Jen and Angel (2017).

Office Politics and Worker Rights – It took me so long to realize that I need to speak up in meetings and that I have valuable contributions. Even more, it was important to speak up when I thought things weren’t going right. Towards the end of one of my jobs, I was extremely dissatisfied and thought that things weren’t quite right with my male supervisor, but I feared the consequences if I spoke up. I didn’t think I had enough proof I was being sexually harassed. I ended up being laid off from that job. A few months later, a former colleague informed me that my former boss was let ago amid rumors of sexual harassment allegations and a company-wide deposition.

While justice was served, I failed by not speaking up because I was too busy trying to “toe the party line.” I want to teach students the importance of navigating office politics, but knowing when to speak up and what your rights are in that situation. Too many of my friends are unaware of their legal rights as employees. Before entering the workforce, this should be something more students are knowledgeable about.

What did we not ask that you think is important for people to know?

Grades are important but they certainly are not everything. Seek out experiences: challenging projects, volunteer opportunities, internships. Don’t sacrifice your grades, but don’t make studying the only thing you do.

If you would like to learn more of Jen’s story, you can follow her on Instagram or LinkedIn.


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