When Johnston Center for Integrative Studies alumna Ellie Nava-Jones ’05 found herself without a job after the 2008 recession, she took a position as a tax professional—for which she had no formal training. Now working as an enrolled agent, Nava-Jones says her liberal arts education gave her the confidence to change career paths.
Nava-Jones says she uses skills acquired at the University of Redlands every day at BQ Tax & Accounting, as a specially trained federally authorized tax practitioner who can represent taxpayers before the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Preparing and analyzing tax forms, performing audits, and writing letters to the IRS all require skills she developed in her collegiate liberal arts courses.
“A liberal arts education teaches you how to think,” says Nava-Jones, whose emphasis focused on literature, philosophy, and African American studies. “It teaches you how to mount an evidence-based argument and how to engage in dialogue. It also helps create empathetic and compassionate individuals.”
Her professional drive, she says, also stems from her four years in the U of R Johnston Center. During the program, Nava-Jones enrolled in countless English classes, got involved on campus, and formed relationships with her professors. When asked who her favorite faculty members were, she says she can’t pick just one. Looking back on her college experience, though, one experience stands out.
“Defending my senior thesis is definitely a fond memory,” she says. “I remember being surprised at how many friends and faculty members showed up, and we engaged in a really lively discussion. It felt like a culmination of the support and community that Redlands embodies.”
Nava-Jones notes small classes helped foster her sense of community on campus. During her senior year, she remembers having only seven classmates in her seminar course. Classes like these led to the formation of impactful relationships with her professors and peers. She continues to foster these connections in a Facebook group for U of R English and literature students and alumni created by English Professor Heather King Shamp.
From forging friendships to acquiring a wealth of knowledge, Nava-Jones says that the University of Redlands fosters an environment of lifelong learning. “Redlands really taught me what my responsibilities are as a community member,” she says. “I also learned how to navigate different environments and solve problems, which are invaluable tools.”