One of the best ways to truly understand a school is to ask students to tell their own stories, so join us in getting to know recent Crowell students and alumni and how they have been transformed — by professors, by fellow students, by God — during their time at Biola in our series, Character and Career: Stories of Transformation.

Often, when we grow up, we put away dreams we had as children. But sometimes those dreams help drive us well into adulthood. For May 2020 graduate Jennifer Aspland, growing up in Salinas, California, there was a dream that began early and led her all the way to college.

“I wanted to run Taco Bell,” says Jen. “Not a Taco Bell. I wanted to be CEO of the whole company!”

Salinas is a farming community near Monterey Bay. It’s known as the “salad bowl of the world” and the hometown of author John Steinbeck. And it had a really cool Taco Bell.

“Our Taco Bell was designed like a ‘50s diner, and it was the place to hang out when I was in high school,” says Jen. “I really wanted to see what was behind it, and I found that the company really markets itself well and adapts to changing tastes and trends. It helped me discover my love for business, and after that, I figured, what better job than being the CEO of Taco Bell?

During her junior year at Biola, she discovered a love for advertising.

“I had an agency tour, and then a summer internship, and that helped me realize that working as an account supervisor is where I want to be,” Jen said. “In May 2020, I graduated with a Marketing concentration, thanks to the support of an incredible cohort led by Professor Les Harman.”

We asked Jennifer a few things about her time at Biola, and how it led her to where she’s at now.

Why Biola, and why business?

There was something different about Biola from the start. The required Bible minor was an immediate draw; I wanted my college experience to be centered around growing my faith, so that was a dream come true.

The other thing that made me want to go to Biola was that business classes were taught from a Christian perspective. It was hard for me to understand how “business as ministry” could apply to my career, but I was excited to find out.

I loved that a business degree could be applied in any industry. I wasn’t necessarily aware of all of the potential opportunities, but I knew that I would be able to choose my own path. Whether it was working at a corporate HQ or finding a job at a local non-profit, I knew I wanted something with flexibility.

The other piece many students (and likely their parents) consider is the salary that a business degree might lead to. It would be naïve to say this wasn’t a factor. However, doing something only because it makes money is not a good enough reason to dedicate your life. I’d say, find something that you love, learn what it takes to be successful at it, and take steps to get there. If business is the backbone of that plan, then get a business degree! But if you’re only doing it because you want more zeros on your paycheck, you might find yourself regretting it.

What did you discover about yourself at Biola?

I underestimated my ability to do good work. I had confidence going into Biola; however, there’s a difference between thanking others for recognizing your talents and recognizing them yourself. For me, it wasn’t until I was picking classes, and I realized that I wanted to take the harder professor because I wanted to learn more. I wanted to push the boundaries and truly understand both what I was learning and why I was learning it.

Also, my expectation as a freshman was to be friends with as many people as possible. Little did I know, the concept of quality over quantity isn’t just applicable to business! You must be willing to invest in long-term friendships and the return is priceless.

How did you sense God’s movement in your life during your time here?

The reason I grew in my relationship with the Lord is because I made the most of my experience; paying attention in Bible classes, getting to know people who weren’t from the same background, being vulnerable when appropriate, and sacrificing for others. However, it started by making God the number one priority; child of God first, student second.

The Spring 2020 quarantine was the first time I needed to take charge of my routine to ensure that work got done. It was tough at first, but working from home and being intentional about relationships was an unexpected learning opportunity. It taught me not to take things for granted, to be thankful for my health on a daily basis, and to enjoy spending time with my family.

So what are you doing now?

Since August, I have been working remotely for RPA Advertising as an Account Coordinator for the ampm and ARCO NW account. It's been an incredible learning experience in my first job coming out of Biola. It's exactly where I want to be and I am so grateful for the opportunity to be in the field I was hoping for!

Any advice to incoming and continuing students for the Fall 2020 semester?

Do not be discouraged. You’ve had to endure hardship and adapt to an environment that looks wildly different from your expectations. It’s okay that you have days where you are frustrated with circumstances. I encourage you not to stay in that frustration; be intentional about maintaining relationships so you and your friends/family/classmates have a space to process everything.

Second, maximize your time in the classroom. Before this pandemic, it was easy to take classes and professors for granted. Be present and enjoy the learning process because you will only have it for so long.

Most of all, ensure that you trust in the Lord. He knew all of this was going to happen and He will use it for good if you allow Him to do so. Work hard…and good luck!

Learn more about Crowell School of Business programs.