Shultis earns master's degree after being crowned Miss Nebraska
While she typically sports a crown and sash to represent her title as Miss Nebraska when traveling the state, on Sunday, Jessica Shultis ’18A traded the crown and sash for a cap and gown at Doane University’s Commencement ceremony.
Shultis walked across the stage inside the Haddix Center Sunday afternoon earning her Master of Arts in Management degree from Doane University as one of 33 December graduates in the MAM program.
Shultis was crowned Miss Nebraska in June, three months after she began the capstone portion of her degree, Developing Leader Coaches. In the early stages of her time as Miss Nebraska, she was balancing a full-time job, graduate school, and her duties as Miss Nebraska. Shultis eventually left her job to focus on her responsibilities as Miss Nebraska, which is a full-time position in itself.
Shultis makes appearances across the state on a weekly basis, speaking to schools, businesses, teams, and other organizations. “I get a lot of windshield time,” she said with a big smile. “I’ve been from the panhandle to Omaha. One day I drove from North Platte to Omaha and back to North Platte. I’ve become a big podcast listener to pass the time.”
As she constantly makes appearances, gives speeches and connects with strangers, she says the MAM program has already paid dividends in her time as Miss Nebraska.
“The capstone portion could not have come at a better time,” Shultis said. “I learned a lot about myself. I feel like I’m a better listener, leader, and manager because of this program.”
Despite having a number of obligations as Miss Nebraska, Shultis only missed one class in the last six months according to Dr. Dana Miller, director of the Developing Leader Coaches capstone program.
“Jessica takes her studies very seriously and wants to do well,” Dr. Miller said. “She is a lifelong learner and is very driven. It’s important for her to excel.”
Shultis plans to continue her education, studying for the GRE exam, before applying for schools where she is able to pursue a doctorate in Psychology. Shultis says she would like to become a licensed psychologist, working with the terminally and extremely mentally ill individuals. “I worked at a mental hospital for three years during my undergrad. I think there’s a need for people in that profession,” she says.
Sunday also marked her educational journey coming somewhat full circle, as she began her undergraduate education at Doane in 2012. Shultis eventually transferred from Doane after being diagnosed with cancer, forcing her to give up her basketball playing days.
Doane left a positive impact on her and she says it weighed heavily in her decision for graduate schools.
“I love Doane,” she says. “I loved my classes when I was here as an undergraduate. The smaller classroom feel is more personal and the professors truly do care about you and hold you more accountable.”
That tight-knit community Doane exemplifies was on full display in September when Shultis was competing at the Miss America pageant on national TV.
Kate Engel, a faculty leader in Shultis’ cohort, hosted a watch party for the students in the cohort. Shultis placed in the Top 10 at Miss America that evening, the first time a Miss Nebraska winner has done so since 2010.
“Everyone was really excited for her,” Dr. Miller said. “It was a lot of fun for the cohort group to be able to support her.”
Jessica also became the second Shultis in her family to graduate from Doane’s MAM program, joining her mother Laurie.
“It makes today (Sunday) even more special,” she said.