"Journey with the Spirit of Helping Others": Donors Michael A. Nula, DPT and Lisa Nula are Powered by Purpose

Pictured above from left to right: Sophia, Sarah, Michael, Lisa and Maya Nula.

Michael A. Nula, DPT, has long considered himself a member of the Johnson & Wales family. His sister, Carina Nula Cohen, studied fashion merchandising at JWU, and her courses helped her launch her career as a buyer with Nordstrom. Although Carina ultimately earned her degree from George Mason University, Michael recalls being impressed with her educational experience at JWU and the forward-thinking nature of the university’s faculty and academic programs. Later in life, as he grew his award-winning practice, Elite Physical Therapy, and began coaching and providing professional development to physical therapy companies around the country, Michael maintained his JWU connections. He kept up with new initiatives via friendships with former Providence Campus President Irving Schneider ’66 ’11 Hon., current College of Health & Wellness (COHW) faculty member Paul Ullucci, Ph.D., and current COHW dean Laura Galligan, Ph.D.

A former high school biology teacher, Michael is a self-described “teacher at heart.” So, it’s no surprise that after working with Johnson & Wales to develop an Exercise & Sports Science program within the College of Health & Wellness, he has now joined the team as an adjunct faculty member.

“I can feel a palpable energy on campus,” Michael shared. “JWU has a clear vision for introducing new programs in the College of Health & Wellness and expanding existing programs in the spirit of collaboration. I think JWU’s interdisciplinary approach will serve as an example to other institutions. We’re creating the complete professional.”

Michael and his wife Lisa, who has a background as a registered nurse, feel it is important to invest in the future of allied therapies and help prepare students for in-demand careers throughout the health care industry. They are also passionate about education and helping others succeed. With three girls of their own, the Nulas value family and want to help open the door to a JWU education for more families in Rhode Island. Inspired in part by Michael’s parents, who pursued their own higher education while working full-time, Michael and Lisa encouraged the JWU community to “Share, teach others, and pay it forward” by sponsoring a generous calendar year-end matching gift challenge in November and December of 2022.

What motivated Michael and Lisa to make this commitment to JWU? In Michael’s words:

Everyone has the capacity to make a difference. It doesn’t matter how big or small—actions speak louder than words, and can create a contagious energy.
- Michael A. Nula, DPT.


Lisa added, “We want to further JWU’s mission—we believe in it…we love the new strategic plan—‘Powered by Purpose.’ If our commitment can encourage more people to show their support of JWU’s mission, we are proud to do so.”

Michael is energized by the time he has spent in the classroom at Johnson & Wales, and is proud to be part of a community that nurtures and supports each student but also challenges them to realize their highest potential. His own educational journey was shaped by passionate faculty members who helped him investigate new areas of interest like physical therapy—a field he pursued because of his own misdiagnosis of an injury in his final year of high school. Similarly, Lisa began a nursing career as a result of exploring career options during her own time in college. 

Michael stated, “Your path can change over time. You don’t have to have life all figured out. College is also about stepping stones—meeting people and networking.” Michael and Lisa also love JWU’s hands-on approach to experiential education and are excited about the ways the university is evolving to meet industry needs, including the new Accelerated Second Degree Nursing Program launching in fall 2023.

You are invited to join Michael and Lisa in creating opportunities for today’s Wildcats. Whether you are a loyal donor and member of the Mary & Gertrude Society or this will be your first gift to JWU, our combined support makes a difference for our students.

“If everyone helps others, it’s very powerful,” Michael emphasized. “[In that way] one person can make a difference.” 

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