Jessica Stuart sits at her laptop at NAU–Yuma. Jessica Stuart sits at her laptop at NAU–Yuma.
Education & Service 

Building a more equitable future

Allied Health discrimination Diversity flexibility inequality master’s degree Organizational Leadership NAU Online OIEI veteran

NAU Online Organizational Leadership master’s student Jessica Stuart is committed to a career promoting equality.

Jessica Stuart has no patience for inequality. After all, she’s experienced more than her fair share in her lifetime. Enough to know that her career path will be dedicated to protecting others from discrimination. A Marine veteran, Stuart is working toward a master’s degree in Organizational Leadership through NAU Online in preparation for a career as a diversity officer.

Stuart was a Marine from 2007 until 2012. She worked as an avionics technician in Miramar, San Diego, where she met and married her Marine husband. They moved to Yuma, Arizona in 2012, but with her husband now on the cusp of retirement, they’re looking at moving to Texas to be closer to family. Stuart has an associate degree in exercise and wellness and a personal training certification. She earned her bachelor’s in Allied Health from NAU–Yuma.

As a civilian, she held a job where she was the only woman on a crew of more than 40. Misogyny, in forms large and small, was a daily occurrence. That experience was the catalyst for her decision to pursue a master’s degree.

“I have more gray hair from that job than from when my daughter was two years old,” she jokes.

With guidance from Cecilia Torres in the NAU Veteran Success Center, she found the Organizational Leadership program and applied.

Her daughter is now 10, and she has a stepson who is 13. The fully online program gives her the flexibility she needs for her family, whether they stay in Yuma, move to Texas, or go somewhere else.

Her coursework revealed career options that aligned with her passion for equality.

“This class on diversity showed me that that’s what I want to do,” she says. “We were talking in this class about the increase of women getting their education over the past three decades. Amazingly, corporate America is only 20 percent female leadership; it’s mind-blowing. More women are getting their degrees than men. But the inequity is still institutionalized.”

She wants her children to grow up in a more equitable and ethical society.

“I’m all about equality and just being treated as equals. Women have a lot of experience. Try us out as leaders.”

She recalls a job interview she had shortly after moving to Yuma. The interviewer wanted to know if she was afraid of spiders. The other finalist, a man with exactly the same experience and qualifications, didn’t get that question and was chosen for the job.

“That’s the stuff that I want to eliminate,” she says. Her goal after graduation is to get a job where she is in a position to weed out that kind of baked-in inequality—for women, for veterans, for the disabled, for everyone. “I’m all about that little guy needing their voice heard.”

Stuart is enjoying her coursework and her experience with NAU Online. She plans to graduate in late 2022.

“The content and the classes are great,” she says. “I like NAU. It’s a great university to go to. I’m always telling my husband’s Marines, ‘You need to get your degree. You need to use your tuition assistance. Go to NAU because it is more affordable, and you’re getting a great education.’ I like NAU a lot.”