Joel Finsel ’14

December 19, 2019

Joel Finsel ’14 has definitely “mastered” his craft. A writer, researcher, mixologist and social justice advocate, he epitomizes a liberal studies graduate. Rather than being vocation-specific, GLS programs are designed for scholars who relish in knowledge and seek to see people, ideas and events from social, scientific and historical dimensions.

Already a published author, (Cocktails and Conversations on the Astral Plane, 2009), Finsel enrolled in UNCW’s GLS program looking for ways to boost a few stagnating side projects.

Since earning his master’s, he has authored another book (with his mother Rebecca Finsel), Franz Kline in Coal Country; opened Jess James + Co., a vintage/antique/curiosity shop on Castle Street in downtown Wilmington (with his wife Jess James); and co-founded Third Person Project (with former UNCW distinguished visiting writer John Jeremiah Sullivan and Trey Morehouse '12), a documentary research group focused on the art, culture and history of the Cape Fear region.

Though his work is constantly evolving, Finsel says “maintaining a sense of purpose is important, along with having as much fun as possible without taking myself too seriously.”

To fulfill the
fun component in his life, he likes to cook, tinker around in the yard and take walks on the beach with Jess and their dog Dakota (a.k.a. “Style Bear”).

His advice to today’s students is: “Follow your intuition. Don't be afraid to take risks. Travel. Focus on preparing yourself for the job that to you feels the least like work.”

Spoken like a true GLS graduate.

 -- Caroline Cropp