When Julianna Kirschner was in high school, she visited her guidance counselor to talk about college. But the visit did not go the way Kirshner expected. “She told me I shouldn’t bother applying to college, despite my GPA. A career test showed I was supposed to be a secretary, but at the time, I wanted to be a writer.”
Thankfully, Kirschner, who recently graduated from Claremont Graduate University with her Ph.D. in Cultural Studies and lectures at the University of Southern California, ignored her counselor. “If you have a dream, don’t ever let someone talk you out of it,” she says.
Kirschner went to MiraCosta College, where her father had also attended. “He’d always told me what a great experience he had at MiraCosta,” she says, “so it was an easy decision to follow in his footsteps. Plus I got a scholarship, which made it financially possible for us.”
Always an introvert terrified of public speaking, Kirschner became a Student Ambassador, a program that required her to give presentations at local high schools and to meet with students who were interested in finding out more about MiraCosta. “It pushed me out of my comfort zone, but I loved it. Jan Moberly, the program coordinator, made sure I had plenty of opportunities to get in front of people. She was a huge influence on me.”
Kirschner also took a public speaking class—a MiraCosta requirement she’d wished she could avoid—and it was a major turning point for her. She gave up on her “fear” of public speaking and declared communication as her major. “I ran with it,” she says. Once she graduated from MiraCosta, she transferred to California State University, Northridge for her Bachelor’s and then went straight into the Master’s program. But tragedy struck when Kirschner’s father suddenly passed away.
“My father had always wanted to get his Master’s degree but he wasn’t able to. That made me even more determined to finish mine and to keep going with my education,” she says. “Losing him made me realize I didn’t want to waste time in a career I didn’t love, so I started to really focus on teaching,” she says.
Now as a lecturer at the University of Southern California, Kirschner says she incorporates many of the teaching strategies her professors at MiraCosta used to build community in class. She also has some advice for students who are navigating their college experience. “Join a club or attend events to meet friends—they will turn into a lifelong network. Seek out advisors and professors who are invested in your success. And, if someone tells you not to follow your dreams, don’t listen.”