8 Surprising Things You Might Not Know About JWU

Updated September 2023

“Isn’t JWU a culinary school?”

It’s a question we hear a lot. Yes, we’ve been a world leader in Culinary Arts education for quite some time now — but the excellence doesn’t stop there. From humble beginnings (which actually had nothing to do with culinary arts), we’ve grown and transformed into a university that offers elite programs in so many fields.

Here are 8 surprising things you may not know about JWU.

1. JWU was founded as a business school by two women.

Johnson & Wales portraits

In 1914, Gertrude I. Johnson and Mary T. Wales founded Johnson & Wales Business School in Johnson's home with just one typewriter and one student. Through their hard work and devotion to education, the school quickly grew. They both retired by 1947 and left the school in the hands of Morris Gaebe and Edward Triangolo, but their legacy of practical, hands-on education and preparing students for career success continues to be the foundation of the JWU experience.

2. JWU has industry and educational partnerships with Augusta National Golf Course, celebrity chef Tyler Florence and more!

One JWU student in chef uniform in front of clubhouse; group of students working in kitchen

Our founding mothers would be proud to see that we've taken hands-on education to the next level by partnering with a variety of prestigious organizations and professionals to benefit our students. For example, students at our Charlotte Campus have the opportunity to intern at the Augusta National Golf Tournament each year. We've also enlisted celebrity chef and JWU alum Tyler Florence '94, '04 Hon. as our first Food Entrepreneur in Residence, a role where he oversaw our inaugural Future Food All-Stars Challenge.

To benefit our students, we've developed strong relationships with companies like Hilton, Google, TJX Companies, Hill Holiday, Wegmans, Nordstrom, Hyatt, Johnson & Johnson, Fidelity, IGT, Charlotte Hornets, FM Global, Aramark, Compass Group, Disney, The Kraft Group, and Marriott to help our students land internships and jobs.

3. JWU’s College of Culinary Arts is now the College of Food Innovation & Technology (CFIT).

The FIDL at Harborside Campus

We’re leading the way to the future of food with our new College of Food Innovation & Technology. Students can still learn how to make some of the world’s most delicious food, but now they will also be able to explore how food impacts people, communities and economies. From the ingredients to the package it comes in, food has social, political, and environmental implications. And, with a new Food Innovation Design Lab (FIDL) at the Providence Campus, students have already started experimenting with new ingredients and package designs that will change the way the world eats.

4. JWU’s Advertising & Marketing Communications program is nationally recognized.

The ADTEAM with first place trophy

Many alumni of this program are now working at some of the biggest companies in the industry (Hill Holliday, Google and Facebook to name a few) which is how JWU has made a name for itself in the Advertising world. “The JWU program in terms of business, marketing and advertising is very well known in the professional industry, so you’re in really good hands,” said Jasmine Turner '16, who now works at Hill Holliday as a media strategist.

We’ve also built up our reputation through competition. Each year, the American Advertising Federation hosts a National Student Advertising Competition and — not to brag — JWU’s ADTEAM has had a lot of success. They placed in the finals in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, and 2019, and won the national championship in 2017.

5. JWU’s Cyber Threat Intelligence & Defense program will teach you CIA tactics.

A student at a computer

Confidentiality, Integrity, Availability — this is the CIA triad, a model that helps guide organizations on best practices for security. You can learn all about it and many other industry tools and operating systems in our Cyber Threat Intelligence & Defense program, which goes beyond the traditional Cyber Security degree to teach the proactive defense and counteraction used to protect our country every day.

In addition, The National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security (NSA/DHS) have designated Johnson & Wales University as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education (CAE-CDE). The Cybersecurity Center is located at JWU’s Providence Campus, where JWU faculty and staff train and teach courses in cybersecurity and networking.

6. JWU’s Media & Communication Studies program was designed to help you pursue a career in virtually any industry.

Students using the Center for Media Production

Doesn’t sound like it could be true, right? But, the highly customizable Media & Communication Studies program can teach skills that translate to any industry in or outside of media.

“We prepare students to really think about how to create as well as edit, translate, and disseminate information across a variety of industries and platforms,” said Professor Chris Westgate, Ph.D. “[Students build] those creative and critical thinking skills as well as the written and oral communication skills that will prepare them to succeed in any position that they set their sights on for the future.”

Aspiring filmmakers, photographers, podcasters, producers and sound engineers will enjoy the numerous production courses. Aspiring writers, journalists, social media coordinators and media marketers will enjoy the principle courses that study media audiences, industries and perspectives. And, everyone will enjoy the creative space that the new Center for Media Production offers, including a podcast studio, writing room, editing suites and tons of production equipment.

7. JWU Criminal Justice students learn how to solve crimes with very realistic mock crime scenes.

Students working in a staged crime scene

In the state-of-the-art Criminal Justice Lab (and sometimes around campus), Criminal Justice students take their tests — but they aren’t sitting at a desk. Instead, they’re graded on how well they work a crime scene and study the evidence. The mock crime scenes, often staged by Professor James Desmarais, allow students to study blood splatter, collect fingerprints and footprints, or even track a bullet’s origin with the lab’s bullet trajectory research window. Once they collect their evidence, they process and study it with the lab's other high-tech forensic equipment.

8. JWU leads the way with our groundbreaking Cannabis Entrepreneurship program.

A hand reaching for a cannabis plant

To round out the list of surprising facts about JWU, it seems only fitting to end with one of our most popular majors, Cannabis Entrepreneurship. When it was first announced, the program certainly made waves in the world of higher education. But for anyone paying attention to the continued prominence of the cannabis industry and the new jobs it’s creating, developing this program was a no-brainer.

“This program starts from the ground up to allow students to evaluate the cannabis landscape as it evolves,” says Professor Magnus Thorsson '94, Ph.D., one of the lead faculty members of the program. “It’s a multibillion-dollar industry that is the fastest growing opportunity to employ people. It fits so perfectly with the grit and ingenuity of JWU students.”

Find out more about these exciting programs and what else JWU has to offer.