Reflecting on My Time at JWU: Julia Shiels '24

Author Julia Shiels '24 is a recent graduate of the Graphic Design program and worked as a student assistant at JWU, contributing to JWU News for over two years. In the days leading up to graduation, she reflected on her time at JWU by writing this final piece.

As graduation approaches and I realize just how fast four years has gone by, I find myself thinking about the memories I’ve made at Johnson & Wales. Between the amazing people I’ve met and the invaluable lessons I’ve learned, this school will always have a special place in my heart. 

I’ve had so many interesting experiences at JWU. I studied in the Graphic Design program, worked as a student assistant in the University Marketing department for two and a half years and was a member of the International Horse Show Association (IHSA) Equestrian Team for four years. Each gave me the opportunity to meet many different people and make the most out of my college career.

Julia Shiels posing with her graduation cap in Gaebe Commons.

Since joining the University Marketing team in January 2022, I have published more than 20 stories for JWU News. Each story I wrote gave me the opportunity to reflect on the opportunities I had at JWU or meet students with unique stories. I learned about different programs from writing about topics like studying abroad and technology in hospitality, and I interviewed students and helped them tell their stories, too. I now am leaving with a collection of stories that I can keep with me about my time at JWU.

Since I grew up with horses, I knew I wanted to be a part of the IHSA Equestrian team the minute I committed to Johnson & Wales. What I didn’t know is how impactful being a part of this team would be. I joined during the height of COVID, so we were unable to practice as a team. When Fall 2021 came, practices were back in full swing. I looked forward to practices every weekend and loved being at the barn with people who were just as passionate about the team as I was. During my senior year, I was honored to be made a captain. Throughout my four years on the team, I’ve grown as a rider and a person. I’ve developed leadership skills and competed at both regional finals and zone finals, collecting multiple top placings. Most importantly, I’ve made friends for life.

Julia Shiels standing in front of a board with her design work and talking with two women.

The Graphic Design program has become my family. We’re a small group, but a close one. My friends and I push each other to be the best designers we can be, and those relationships helped push my portfolio to the next level. The professors I worked under have been nothing short of incredible. Karyn Jimenez-Elliott, Tim Cox, Gail McCarthy and Deana Marzocchi are all professors I have had the privilege of becoming especially close with. I have produced work I am truly proud of and have grown from a student who was insecure of her work to a designer who loves showing off her projects.

Leaving this amazing school is bittersweet. I am excited for what comes next, but leaving all the memories behind is difficult. Everyone tells you how fast college goes by, but you don’t believe it until it’s here. In five days, I will walk across the stage to get my diploma, but with the experiences and skills I’ve learned here, I am confident I can go into the world and make my dreams happen.

Julia and three friends walking through Gaebe Commons with their graduation gowns on.


Apply to JWU

Transfer to JWU

Visit JWU