2019 2019: Jill Abrahams ’19: Passion for higher education

Photo credit: Dennis Fox, ’20
2019 2019: Jill Abrahams ’19: Passion for higher education
Jill Abrahams ’19: Passion for higher education

After deferring her dream of earning an MBA, Jill returns to UMassD to complete "unfinished business."

When Jill Abrahams, MBA ’19, followed her dreams of starting a family and focusing on her career, she thought progressing from a campaign manager to associate director and eventually VP for advancement at various academic institutions would bring her fulfillment.  

Despite the steady rise in her career, Jill realized something was missing. Thirty years earlier, she had enrolled in the MBA program at UMassD, but once she and her husband decided to start a family, she knew it would be best to devote time to raising her children full time before restarting her philanthropic career.

While her field of choice provided her with credibility, not having completed her degree program felt like unfinished business. “The MBA was a coveted degree and something I had dreamt about for many years,” Jill says. “Truthfully it was all I thought about when I was working, and when I was at home.”

Earning her MBA

"Each year, my husband would encourage me to consider going back.” So, Jill decided to continue to work fulltime and take advantage of the opportunity to enroll in UMass Dartmouth’s online MBA program. How did earning an MBA while working as a philanthropist converge?

“Part of being a leader in philanthropy is understanding how you deliver the value proposition and modify how you deliver what people need and want in order to become better contributors to society,” she says. “Earning my MBA at UMass Dartmouth taught me how important critical data is to asking a donor to make a contribution. And, also how to capitalize on the intentional act of acquiring donations by providing the proper analysis for donors who want to understand the value of their financial contributions. Data helps the donor understand the impact of their gift.”

The online experience

Jill says learning online was a unique experience, but she found it enriching once she became used to the platform. “It’s challenging when you don’t see your audience, but the professor did an amazing job weaving case presentations into the curriculum.

“The discussion posts were helpful, and the online platform enables you to have access to your peers throughout the world who offered different perspectives based on their experiences. At the end of my program, I really wanted more. I loved being intellectually challenged, and learning online was as rigorous as being in a classroom setting.”

Inventing her future

Now that Jill has earned her MBA, she wants to use her advanced knowledge to help college-bound students realize their potential. “I’ve spent most of my career working in higher education. My love for academia comes from helping to make it possible for students to pursue their dreams. And working with families to show them how they can be contributors to the school without having to give money.”

Jill has also discovered her propensity for being on the other side of the classroom lectern. “I have enjoyed being invited as a public speaker to sports management classes. The energy, interaction, and exchange of ideas fueled me in ways that my jobs did not,” she says. “It’s an experience that has given me the desire to teach as an adjunct professor of marketing, leadership, and non-profit management.”

As part of her career track, Jill is leading two private foundations where she is impacting the lives of people on a daily basis and now she has recently enrolled in a six-course public leadership credential program at the Kennedy School. “Right now, I am weighing my options, but I am considering pursuing a doctorate degree, perhaps in public policy or a doctorate of educational leadership. There is still so much more to learn.”