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Breaking Glass

Meet Crystal: An aspiring academic whose career started with a "leap of faith" when the recession hit close to home

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Crystal Marull is one of the women set to receive a scholarship from Executive Women of New Jersey on Oct. 10, 2013.
Crystal Marull is one of the women set to receive a scholarship from Executive Women of New Jersey on Oct. 10, 2013. - (Submitted)

Crystal Marull's husband lost his job at an architectural firm during the Great Recession. That didn't stop her from taking what she calls "a complete leap of faith" and enrolling in a Ph.D. program at Rutgers, relying on her paltry stipend and her husband's unpredictable income to support their family of four. And look at those happy faces? No one seems to be suffering in that adorable family photo.

Going after what you really want in life can be an incredibly daunting prospect, especially when the financial rewards are not immediate and you have little mouths to feed. That's why I love Crystal's story. Executive Women of New Jersey did, too, and will be honoring her among several other women at a scholarship dinner tonight. Consider this post my personal, virtual high-five for showing us all that it can be done.

Name: Crystal Marull

What school you are attending: Rutgers University

What degree you are pursuing: Ph.D.

What are you studying? Bilingualism and second language acquisition

What has been the biggest challenge you've faced? During the economic crisis of 2008/9 my husband was laid off from his architectural firm. It was a complete leap of faith to enroll in a Ph.D. program the following year to pursue my dream. Having to support our family of four on a nominal TA stipend and my husband's unpredictable income made the normal stresses of the first two years of graduate school so much greater.

How have you been able to overcome that? My husband and I have really come together as a team. We have done what is necessary to keep both his and my dreams alive. We have taken on additional side jobs, worked crazy hours, sacrificed professional and personal opportunities and have juggled the demands of child care and family responsibilities. But through it all, we have fought to not lose sight of the greater vision and purpose we have for our family: to love and support each other unconditionally while providing a stable, happy upbringing for our two children.

What has been your biggest career success to date? Although it has little to do with what I am doing now, being hired as the personal assistant to the former foreign minister of Spain, Ana Palacio, was my biggest career success to date. It was the culmination of many years of hard work and sacrifices and embodied the realization of a dream that everyone told me was impossible.

What's the best advice you ever received? To never accept others' expectations, maintain your integrity and aim higher, whatever the circumstances.

What advice would you like to give young working women? Be relentless in the pursuit of your passion.

What's one thing about you that most of your co-workers or classmates would be surprised to hear? I get sick to my stomach before I give a presentation.

What did you want to be when you were 8 years old? I wanted to join the U.S. Air Force.

What is your goal for the next five years?I would like to finish my Ph.D., get a tenured-track position at a large research university or be hired as a resident director for a study abroad program in Spain.

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