Alumna Inspires Through Advocacy, Small Business Ownership
Emily Schultz planned on a traditional college path, but life never goes as expected. After completing her associate’s degree, she moved on, later becoming a mother, small business owner and advocate for abuse survivors. She always planned on completing her degree, and now she’s working toward earning her Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies at Bellevue University.
Struggling With Limited Options
The Midwest native now lives in South Dakota, but grew up in Iowa. After high school, she attended a small, private school with few majors. “After two years of struggling with the question of whether I should be there, I chose to graduate with my associate's degree and move on,” she said. “Over the years, I found myself grateful for not continuing at my first alma mater because of the debt I would have acquired in the process, but I regretted not finishing my degree elsewhere.”
Through the years, Schultz challenged herself to someday complete her bachelor’s degree. ”I realized I wanted to finish my degree for myself,” she said. “I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. I'm so glad I leaped!”
Building a Life
In the years following her associate’s degree, Schultz got married and became a stay-at-home mother. In 2020, she was working as a part-time photographer as she prepared for her twins, her two youngest children, to enter kindergarten.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Schultz took advantage of an increasingly remote workforce to start her own company. “COVID-19 certainly positively impacted my career path. The pandemic inspired me to pursue work in social media,” she said.
She began her own home-based business in late 2020. “It has worked out well for me,” Schultz said. “I can prioritize my studies or content development based on the needs of the day or my impending deadlines. I might be home all the time, but I keep busy. I only want to work remotely or flexibly from now on.”
Helping Survivors of Abuse
In addition to running a successful small business, Schultz dedicates time to helping abuse survivors.
“I have experienced many forms of domestic, emotional, and predatory abuse. After several years of therapy and taking back my power, I realized I had a message of hope and conviction that I could share to help other survivors struggle less than I did,” she said.
Schulz began her advocacy with a speech about the abuse she experienced at an awareness rally. “As I shared my story of pain and healing, I grew involved with an organization advocating for survivors in a religious setting,” she said. “Now I am a member of the non-profit formed by these survivors, working with my religious community and beyond to create trauma-informed policies and abuse responses to better protect members of their congregations. Education is one of the most powerful tools for prevention and the support of someone suffering after an act of abuse.”
Bellevue University is a good fit for people with small businesses because you can take something you learned in your class this week and apply it to what you are doing right away.
Finding the Bellevue University Difference
Completing her degree online has helped Schultz juggle the demands of family, business and advocacy. “It's incredibly convenient because I can just jump into my coursework when I have time, any time of day,” she said. “I like the flexibility of not needing to attend a class at a specific time, yet having a weekly schedule so that I have deadlines. I enjoy participating in class discussion boards as well; I think students are more open with their thoughts than they may be in a classroom. As an adult with ADHD, I sometimes struggle without structure, but it is teaching me time management skills.”
Schultz said she chose Bellevue University for its affordability and strong reputation. “Bellevue University is considerably more affordable than other institutions with online formats. I also appreciate the fact that Bellevue has a real campus. I wanted to make sure I wasn't attending a so-called diploma mill,” she said.
She also talked to Bellevue University alumni when making her decision. “I heard nothing but good things! It's reassuring that Bellevue University alumni I know are serving my community in amazing ways.”
Implementing Lessons Learned
Schultz said her studies at previous colleges focused more on theoretical concepts and didn’t encourage independent thought. Earning this degree looks different.
“Bellevue University has offered me a sweet spot, with a variety of courses and a major rooted in theoretical concepts, but with real-life applications,” she said. “I'm challenging my mind by engaging with people that perceive the world differently and enjoying my courses. It's a great fit.”
Though she doesn’t graduate until next year, Schultz has already been able to apply her coursework to her business and her life.
“My classes in public relations, organizational communications and persuasion enjoy immediate application with my advocacy because they enable me to appropriately interpret and respond to communications from the organization we are challenging to change,” she said.
She said the program has always helped with her freelance business, as she applies methods of persuasion and community engagement to developing a thoughtful voice for her clients' audiences.
“Bellevue University is a good fit for people with small businesses because you can take something you learned in your class this week and apply it to what you are doing right away,” she said.
In the future, Schultz plans to expand her business to form an agency focused on marketing for small businesses and public relations for the nonprofit sector.
“I want to see women-owned, minority-owned businesses and causes that serve marginalized communities thrive,” she said. “With my passion for these missions and enthusiasm for my creative work, I know I can help connect the right people to the right business or organization, making my community better in the process.”