Kenya Johnson’s college path started in 2016 when she enrolled at a private university where she realized in her first year that she and her family could not afford the tuition despite receiving some financial aid. To avoid being burdened with enormous student loan debt, the Newark native returned home and earned an associate’s degree at Essex County College while working part time. She then enrolled at Rutgers University–Newark in fall 2020 as a transfer student and has benefitted from financial aid, including a grant from Rutgers’ Scarlet Promise Initiative program.
Johnson is on track to finish her degree this semester, and she already has a job waiting for her after she graduates. The senior majoring in leadership and management in the Rutgers School of Business will join Prudential in Newark in July as an insurance and retirement associate. This role is part of a leadership development program that will allow her to work in different areas of the company before settling into a permanent position. She learned about the opportunity as a fellow in the Braven Leadership and Career Accelerator program, which has a partnership with Rutgers–Newark and Prudential.
What’s a day in Kenya Johnson’s life like as a Rutgers–Newark student? We asked her to share an account of a busy day. Here is what she did on Tuesday, February 7, 2023.
By Kenya Johnson, as told to Sam Starnes GSN’04
I woke up with my dog, Ginger, a 13-year-old Shi Tzu, at the foot of my bed. I’ve had her since I was 12-years old. She barked at me, which is how she tells me she’s ready to go out. I take her out and give her water and feed her. That’s the first thing I do every day.
After Ginger is happy, I make myself some tea and eat a cereal bar and some fruit and start to get ready for my day. My classes on Tuesdays are not until late afternoon and at night, but I always have a meeting of some kind in the morning to prepare for before I am due at work.
I attended a Zoom meeting from home with a staff member from the Student Life and Leadership Organization to plan for upcoming events for P.E.Y.T. Womyn, which stands for Pretty Educated Young and Thriving. I’m on the executive board, and our goal is to empower women on campus and support them with events. We have an event coming up about self-care, and we also have a community engagement day. I enjoy these events and getting to know and supporting others on campus. I’m also active in the Rutgers Undergraduate Women in Business group.
After my meeting I walk to campus, which is a 10-minute walk from the home where I live with my parents and brother in University Heights, just up the hill from campus. (My brother Christopher Johnson also is a Rutgers–Newark student.) I occasionally take the RU–N shuttle bus, but today it was a nice day, and I don’t mind walking.
I start work in the Office of Enrollment Services in Blumenthal Hall, a federal work study job I’ve held for a year. I work in the call center department, which involves answering the phone and handling questions and concerns about financial aid, billing services, and other issues. I take down students’ information and document their requests and help them find solutions.
The phone is always ringing, and lately, more people are coming in the door. One day last year I fielded more than 50 calls. I’ve learned a lot in this job, including how to handle a lot of tasks at one time, and also how to balance work and school. I’m also learning about how to work with people from different backgrounds and personalities. You have to be patient and try to understand what the person is going through. I’ve learned a lot about effective communications.
On my lunch break, I walk to Halsey Street and buy some tea and come back and sit at a table on the second floor of Blumenthal Hall. I like to walk around then sit for a bit and take a break after a busy morning of answering phone calls.
I finish the afternoon answering the phone and taking down information from callers. It’s a hectic afternoon, and two-and-a-half hours go by fast.
I clock out and walk a half mile across campus to the Rutgers Business School tower at One Washington Park. Although it’s later in the afternoon, my day is only half done and my class time is just starting. I have two classes that start at four and run up to nine o’clock.
My “Business Strategy and Policy” class focuses on strategies businesses use. I’m part of a group focusing on a case where we are looking at Netflix versus Disney when it comes to their streaming services. Reading that case study was interesting. I’m looking forward to our presentation about it.
My class ends and I walk over to Starbucks to get a cup of coffee. Sometimes I get something to eat, but I don’t have much time until my next class. It seems like the minutes go by so fast.
At six, I’m right back in class. This time it’s my “Global Management and Strategy” course which meets until nine. We are looking at businesses from around the country and the world and studying how they operate. I like the articles the professor chooses for us to read, including a recent one that discussed the growth of Chick-fil-A during the pandemic. I feel fortunate that I’m able to learn about so many different types of businesses in my courses, and I know it will help me when I start my job at Prudential this summer.
I take the shuttle bus back home. I use the Transloc bus tracker app on my phone which shows me the exact location of the bus, so I know how long I have to wait.
Back at home, I visit with Ginger, thankful that my family helped take care of her during the day. I get a bite to eat, and take a shower. I look over my coursework and prepare for the coming days. I’ve got a microeconomics midterm coming up soon I need to be ready for, so I spend some time studying for it.
By now, I’m ready to relax and watch TV for a while. I watch an episode of 90 Day Fiancé, one of my favorite shows. Ginger lets me know with a bark that she’s ready to go to bed. I put her up on the end of the bed and she starts snoring. She is so funny to me.
I turn off the TV and pick up a book I started reading recently. I read for a while from Coretta Scott King’s autobiography, My Life, My Love, My Legacy. I didn’t know she had an autobiography until recently, so I picked it up. I knew a lot about Dr. King, but I realized with many public figures, we don’t know about the woman’s side of the story. I wanted to learn more about her.
It has been a long day, and I drift off to sleep with Ginger snoring at my feet. Tomorrow will be another busy day. I’m happy that I’m making progress on my goal of graduating and look forward to launching my career at Prudential this summer.
The Day in the Life series details the challenges and hectic daily itineraries of Rutgers students involved in the Scarlet Promise Initiative. This wide-ranging program provides equitable access to a Rutgers education and a bridge to success, giving each student the leg up they need to change the trajectory of their lives while offering them opportunities to better the world.