Town and Gown: From Jacksonville to Bangalore – With two degrees in hand JSU Alumna answers call to India


By Heather Greene, a graduate assistant in the Office of Public Relations at JSU

Jacksonville State University has prided itself on producing numerous talented and outstanding students since 1883. On Friday, December 14, 2012, 634 students became JSU alumni. Among those graduating was Jillian (Jill) Rae Johnson, an outstanding student JSU can be proud to call its own. Johnson is from Oak Grove and graduated Friday night with a Master of Science in Community Agency Counseling. She also attended JSU for her undergraduate degree, a Bachelor of Science in Psychology with cum laude honors.

In the beginning, Johnson’s decision to attend JSU was based on the opportunity to be a part of the Marching Southerners Color Guard. However, on her decision to continue on at JSU for graduate school, Johnson states, “I have stayed at JSU because I love the people I have met here. JSU is a beautiful place to live.”

What is next for Johnson?

“I plan to continue on and pursue licensure for professional counseling,” says Johnson, “but for the next year, I will be serving in India and helping with the development of the aftercare process for women and young girls that have been trafficked and sexually exploited.”

After graduation, Johnson will take the knowledge she has gained and travel to India as a missionary for a year with Rahab’s Rope, an organization designed to help women who have been exploited as victims of the slave trade in India. The vision of Rahab’s Rope is “to see lives transformed by God’s love in action” (

Johnson had the opportunity to travel to India a few years back and felt that God began to give her a passion to help the women of the slave trade. Next year, she will be stationed in Bangalore, ministering to and assisting women who have come out of the slave trade to reintegrate into society.

During her time in graduate school, Johnson has worked as a graduate assistant in the Office of Distance Learning, which she feels has helped her “learn to be a professional” and also aided her in gaining “useful information about educational technology.”

Now that she has graduated, her graduate assistantship term has ended and the Office of Distance Learning will have a void to fill. Past instructors and co-workers expressed how they will miss having Johnson around the classroom and office.

“I am losing not only a graduate assistant, but a daughter,” says Gina Glass who works as the secretary in the Office of Distance Education and has worked with Johnson during her assistantship. “Jill has been with the Office of Distance Education since the summer of 2011. Since then, I have gotten to know her and see her as my daughter…She always has a positive attitude and a cheerful smile. When she comes in and I am down, she lifts my spirits up. I am going to miss her very much!”

Dr. Nancy Fox, retired Assistant Professor of Counselor Education at JSU who continues to teach through online classes, states, “Jill is simply joyful! She brings a ray of sunshine and hope as she encourages those around her. In addition to her pleasant disposition, she is an excellent student who dreams about fulfilling incredible goals, which will positively impact our world. After completing the graduate degree this term, Jill will continue to represent the JSU Counselor Education Program well as she moves on to new adventures.”

Dr. Fox also extolled Johnson for being an excellent student with a “strong work ethic.”

The life of a graduate student can be extremely time consuming; but in her spare time, Johnson enjoys spending time with her friends, travelling to new places, and playing with babies.

Reflecting on her education, Johnson states, “I feel that God has blessed me in many ways. I have had a supportive family and friends that have helped me; and by God’s grace, I am where I am today.”

JSU would like to wish Johnson and all of the graduates of 2012 the best of luck in all of their future endeavors.

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This article originally appeared in the "Town and Gown" of the Jacksonville News.