Lauren Advertising and Public Relations · Omaha, Nebraska
Though she isn't a parent herself, Lauren Gehrki puts her heart into helping Huskers with little ones. As the coordinator for Students with Children, she helps plan events and cultivate the community of student parents on campus. In December, Lauren organized the first Holidays for Little Huskers event. Students with children applied and listed their wants and needs, and faculty and RSOs "adopted" them to support their holiday wishes. From warm winter clothes to child-size sleds, a variety of gifts were shared with the seven sponsored families during their busy finals season. Lauren hopes to continue to raise awareness of the resources available to student parents. No matter their level of need, any Nebraska student parent is welcome at the Students with Children RSO and can participate in their events. The group meets every Monday and discusses programming, resources and advocacy opportunities for students with dependents. Lauren believes that someone shouldn't have to stop their education to pursue having a family, and she advocates for her classmates with children.
“Lauren organized the first Holidays for Little Huskers event.”
Rosemary Interior Design · Urbandale, Iowa
Though they may look fine at first glance, many spaces are not designed with those with disabilities in mind. Hallways can be too narrow to accommodate for wheelchairs or walkers, or access might be limited to ramps and elevators. After seeing first hand how difficult it was for her father to go through public areas while using a wheelchair, Rosemary knew she needed to make things better for others. The third-year interior design student is passionate about creating environments that are accessible for everyone. In one of her classes, she designed a multidisciplinary clinic for patients with ALS. As an ALS advocate, she knew that many patients often must visit multiple doctors in a single day and wanted to create a space that allowed the clinicians to collaborate with each other. She also focused on making sure the hallways were accessible and that the furniture pieces were functional, comfortable, and easy to help patients get in and out of. For Rosemary, interior design is all about fulfilling the space needs and well-being of others. She wants to help people through her designs so they can feel comfortable — no matter where they are.
“After seeing first hand how difficult it was for her father to go through public areas while using a wheelchair, Rosemary knew she needed to make things better for others.”
Charlie Director of OASIS · Tuscaloosa, Alabama
From the moment she wakes up in the morning until she goes to sleep, Charlie Foster is focusing on diversity and inclusion at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. For 15 years, Charlie worked as a counselor for Nebraska's Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) where she focused on helping underrepresented students on-campus. Charlie now holds the position of Director of the Office of Academic Success and Intercultural Services and the Jackie Gaughan Multicultural Center. Her role focuses on serving others and giving every member on campus a voice, something she's had a passion for since elementary school. Whether it be helping others with their mental health journeys or providing students with resources to get them through school, Charlie said she wants to be the person she needed when she was younger. In her family, Charlie was a first-generation college student. Throughout her college experience, she said she needed a role model to tell her she could make it and was worthy of the life she wanted for herself. Often times, students who are looking for help just need someone to advocate for them. To further inspire students at Nebraska, she tells them to "go be amazing," something she believes every students needs to hear throughout this chapter. Her mission on campus is to see students succeed, even if they've doubted themselves in the past.
“Whether it be helping others with their mental health journeys or providing students with resources to get them through school, Charlie said she wants to be the person she needed when she was younger.”
Abbey Elementary Education · Omaha, Nebraska
No matter where a student is from, Abbey believes they should feel welcomed and included. When she saw a group of Rwandan students sitting by themselves at a dining hall, Abbey said she felt compelled to do something. A simple "hi" was all it took. That exchange, Abbey said, was the start of a unique friendship. Abbey learned words in their language (like "amakaru" for "how are you?" and "ndagukunda" for "I love you"), taught them American lingo and made herself available to help them with whatever they needed. Abbey's genuine love and interest for the group of students earned her the nickname, "The Good Samaritan." As the friendship flourished, Abbey accepted invitations to events within Nebraska's Rwandan community; they attended church together, and they supported one another in life on and off campus. This semester, Abbey was honored by the group of students at a ball they hosted. The Rwandan students made a video thanking her for all she has done for them. Abbey said that night was one of her favorite memories at Nebraska. The Rwandan students, like Cesar Harry Cyuzuzo and Mark Iradukunda, have "adopted" her into their community and have become family to her. However, Abbey said forming the friendship didn't take much work, and is something she encourages other students to do. Putting yourself in the shoes of students who are far from home and doing something as small as saying "hi" can have a huge impact.
“ Putting yourself in the shoes of students who are far from home and doing something as small as saying "hi" can have a huge impact.”
Jeffrey Pre-Law · Lincoln, Nebraska
When Jeffrey started applying for colleges, he thought applying to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and other state schools would lack opportunities. At first, he said he wasn't too excited to attend Nebraska. He thought it was a safe and unexciting choice. However, over the past three years, Jeffrey's experience at Nebraska has been anything but boring. During his time here, he has met students from all around the world and has been able to be a part of opportunities he didn't think he'd have when he was in high school. Jeffrey serves as the executive vice president of ASUN amongst other student organizations. The people that make their mark on campus, have passions of their own and are making the university a better place are what makes Nebraska what it is. Jeffrey said that he has noticed that students, faculty and staff work to improve the university every year. His involvement around campus and the connections he's made with other students have made his college years fly by. While college is short, Jeffrey has learned the value of taking on any opportunities given, cultivating relationships and doing whatever makes him feel most fulfilled within the university.
“While college is short, Jeffrey has learned the value of taking on any opportunities given, cultivating relationships and doing whatever makes him feel most fulfilled within the university.”
Hadi Mechanical Engineering · Safwa, Saudi Arabia
Originally from Saudi Arabia, Hadi moved to Nebraska in 2014 to enroll into Nebraska's engineering program. As a kid, he had a fascination with how cars and other objects worked and he'd often ask his mother how a simple, plastic gas pedal could make a whole car move. During his freshman year, Hadi said he found himself stuck in the same routine of going to class and going home. While he was learning a lot in his classes, he began to feel that he was simply going through the motions and not fully enjoying his college experience. One day, however, his friend pushed him to get involved and join an on-campus organization. This decision, he said, put some "flavor" back into his college experience. Since then, Hadi has served as a New Student Enrollment Leader and a member of the math club and the Nebraska Engineering student advisory board. Making connections with people within his program has led him to participate in some unique opportunities. Right now, Hadi is assisting in creating "hands" for a robot that could be used in hospitals. Though technical and often frustrating, the robot will be able to complete mundane tasks, like sanitizing surgical instruments. His choice to get involved has helped him grow and gain the confidence he needs to succeed beyond campus.
“This decision, he said, put some "flavor" back into his college experience. Since then, Hadi has served as a New Student Enrollment Leader and a member of the math club and the Nebraska Engineering student advisory board. ”
Jacinta Nutrition and Diatetics · Lincoln, Nebraska
Jacinta was a high-achieving, outgoing student. But when she found herself growing unmotivated and sleeping a lot, she realized that she needed help. She turned to her religion, her academic advisor and Counseling and Psychological Services before going to the doctor. Finally, in March 2016, Jacinta was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. Though Type 1 Diabetes is considered a childhood disease, it is on the rise in teens and young adults. Type 1 occurs when the immune system attacks and destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. Without insulin, sugar builds up in the bloodstream to dangerous levels. Her doctor got her started on insulin and worked with her to find a pump that would work best. Jacinta was referred to an on-campus diabetes educator, which was helpful for her in learning how to further manage her disease. Educating herself on diabetes made her rethink a few things, including her major. She switched from elementary education to nutrition and dietetics in the hope of becoming a dietician where she could one day work with clients with diabetes. Jacinta hopes to make an impact before she even graduates as the social media director of the university's College Diabetes Network. In this role, she seeks to raise awareness and provide students an additional on-campus resource. Sharing her experience and advocating for diabetes awareness has left Jacinta feeling that she's serving a larger purpose now than ever before.
“Jacinta hopes to make an impact before she even graduates as the social media director of the university's College Diabetes Network. ”
Katy Agriculture and Environmental Sciences · Rochester, Minnesota
Katy is part of the 85 percent of college students who have faced feelings of depression and hopelessness. For Katy, these feelings that began the summer before her sophomore year of college worsened when the school year started. She wasn't going to class and was self-harming, skipping out on social events and not doing what, at one point, made her happy. However, on social media, she made it seem like she was a thriving college student because she didn't want her friends and family to think that she was struggling. A suicide attempt served as a wake-up call for her to get the help she needed. Katy reached out to CASNR Cares, a safe place where faculty and students can get the resources they need if they're in traumatic situations. They helped Katy get into a hospitalization program. During her one month stay in the hospital, she focused on her spiritual journey, mental health and rediscovering herself. Katy learned that it's important to make a conscious effort to act against your own brain: taking your medication, going to therapy and staying away from harmful triggers. To further help her journey, Katy put together a wellness toolbox. This "toolbox" holds items, activities, and people she can turn to when she needs them, including puzzles, her mom and her favorite music. Following through with your therapy plan, fighting against your urges and relying on a "toolbox" are all part of being a survivor and continuing to survive. By sharing her story, Katy hopes to alleviate the stigma surrounding depression and mental illness. Nebraska provides numerous resources to help students through and beyond their mental health journey.
“By sharing her story, Katy hopes to alleviate the stigma surrounding depression and mental illness.”
Joe Air Force Veteran · Lincoln, Nebraska
Joe Brownell, director of Nebraska’s Military and Veteran Success Center, said he operates the center with one goal in mind: helping students achieve their academic and career goals. “Some [students] take a straight path, and others may have to explore a little bit more, but through it all you’re creating connections so that individuals are successful not only here, but in society,” he said. The Military and Veteran Success Center, now in its fourth year, provides support to students in regard to their military service and academics, offering academic tutors, peer mentors and even medical tests and screenings. For Brownell, the military wasn’t just about serving but doing your part. That’s why he got involved with the center shortly after he retired from the Air Force in August 2018, “I’ve always believed in servant leadership, and this is helping to do that,” Brownell said. “Your career doesn’t end when you leave the military, you still have to give back." As director of the program, Brownell said his main job is to ensure that students have the services and the support that they need to be successful. While it hasn’t always been an easy journey, which Brownell attributes to there not being enough time in the day, he still takes pride in seeing students succeed and accomplishing their goals. “At the end of the day, whatever decisions we make, if we’re focused on the students we’ll be successful,” Brownell said.
“For Brownell, the military wasn’t just about serving but doing your part.”
Bridget Biological Science · Colby, Kansas
Just three years ago, Bridget Bickner was sitting in a biology class not knowing of the opportunities coming her way. Now, as a teaching assistant for microbiology classes, Bridget said it's rewarding to teach for the same class that helped fuel her passion for science. Serving as a mentor and educator has allowed her to pay it forward to other passionate students. Through the long lab hours and unique experiments, Bridget said she has found her place within the biological sciences department. What has also helped her find her place at Nebraska is the university's UCARE program. UCARE gives undergraduate students the opportunity to work one-on-one with faculty research advisors. The program, she said, has been one of the most beneficial aspects of her college experience as it has given her the chance to form connections with faculty within the field. Being part of the program eventually led her to apply for summer research programs, including one at Harvard University. The competitive program gave Bridget the opportunity to step out of her comfort zone and bring the skills she's gained at Nebraska to the east coast, researching why the plant species Phlox drummondii blooms in different colors. She said she owes her drive to apply for advanced research programs and her desire to spread her knowledge to others to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
“Serving as a mentor and educator has allowed her to pay it forward to other passionate students. ”