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School of Professional Studies Celebrates the Amazing Women in Our Programs


In honor of Women’s History Month, SPS would like to take the time to recognize some of our outstanding female students and faculty members. 

Rebeca Johnson

Rebeca Johnson thrives when she can be ahead of the curve.

In her 25 year career, she’s made it her mission to be ahead, to be on the cutting edge. That’s why she chose to pursue a Master’s Degree in Digital Marketing at Wake Forest University School of Professional Studies to supplement an already-successful resume filled with marketing industry experience. 

Currently, Rebeca serves as Senior VP of Donor Experience and Direct Response Marketing at the American Heart Association–although it is far from her first time in the driver’s seat of an organization’s marketing efforts. Throughout her career, she’s held marketing leadership positions at major corporations such as PepsiCo/Frito-Lay where she’s launched well-known products like Baked Lays.  

Despite a successful career, there was always something lingering on her “to do” list. 

“I’ve always wanted to get my masters but never found the time to do it the way I wanted to do it,” Rebeca notes. 

That all changed in 2020: her kids were grown and out of the house; she found herself working remotely; there were big digital initiatives looming on the horizon. Once again, Rebeca refused to let herself get behind. 

She admits, “I found myself dependent on external resources or the occasional book I read to give me the cutting-edge skills I need to be ahead.” 

So, it seemed like the perfect time to make the jump and finally pursue a master’s degree.

But why Wake Forest University School for graduate work? 

With a multitude of in-person and remote options out there, including local programs in her home state of Texas, Rebeca felt drawn to what Wake Forest University’s School of Professional Studies had to offer.

The deciding factor boiled down to one thing: values.

“The values of Wake Forest are what attracted me to Wake,” Rebeca says. “Humanitate. All about the human potential, the human capital, unleashing the best of people.” 

Wake’s motto is Pro Humanitate (for Humanity), and this idea spoke to Rebeca’s passion for ethical marketing and the humane use of technology.  In any organization she’s been a part of, this is a top priority. Currently, there is no federal legislation to guide companies on what is legally right or wrong in regard to the use of marketing data. As technological advancements continue with the world still feeling the impact of COVID-19, she’s found that the waters have become even murkier. 

“There’s a very thin line between cool and creepy,” Rebeca notes. “You need to know where that line is from an ethical standpoint to guide the marketing.” 

In the program, she’s been able to explore this further in courses such as “Leadership, Ethics, and the Legal Landscape of Digital Marketing.” Beyond the philosophical topics, Rebeca has acquired practical and technical skills in her studies as well. Most notable is her recent Google Certification that she immediately put to use at the American Heart Association. 

As a direct result of her coursework, she is bringing the power of Google Analytics to one of the most prominent non-profit organizations in the United States. This proactive change allowed Rebeca to gain confidence in her new skills.

“It just felt really good that I actually knew what I was talking about in a very technical conversation about Google analytics,” she admits. “I would have not had the in-depth technical knowledge to implement and lead a team on a project like this a year ago.”

But for Rebeca, that’s what it’s all about–continually learning new things. 

In her undergraduate studies, a professor told her, “Marketing takes a semester to learn and a lifetime to master.” She still takes those words to heart and understands that she will never truly “master” marketing because there is always something new to learn and explore. 

She is set to graduate in August, and after that? 

Potentially a Ph.D. Maybe teaching. But no matter where her journey takes her, Rebeca is confident it will be okay. 

This confidence is what she’s learned over the past 25 years, what she shares with her daughters today, and what she would tell herself as a young woman starting out in the world:

“Stick to your values and know who you are. It will be tested, but it will be okay. Don’t worry so much. It will be okay.” 

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