Elementary Education · Omaha, Nebraska
As Yousra learned her freshman year, even your most stressful classes can bring life-changing opportunities.
In Yousra’s case, it took her to India.
“I was already struggling a little as a first-semester freshman, and one class was particularly stressful. But I vividly remember a College of Education and Human Sciences staff member coming in to talk about this study abroad experience.”
The experience was a CEHS 8-week study abroad opportunity to India, during which students work as classroom assistants in schools while researching the effects of inadequate resources in classrooms.
Yousra thought it was the perfect opportunity to jump into teaching, having recently chosen an elementary education major.
“Technically I was studying abroad, but I was actually getting teaching experience. I was able to research learning and retention in low-income schools versus those with more resources. I learned to work across language barriers and build relationships with kids, a lot of whom came from rough home lives.”
Several students’ families invited Yousra into their homes, feeding her, teaching her to cook and even bringing her along to weddings.
“It reminded me of my family’s values and culture,” says Yousra, whose parents are Sudanese immigrants. “It was beautiful to see how welcoming they were and how much love they had.”
Yousra is spreading these values as a Community Learning Center instructor at Brownell Elementary and as a TRiO Student Support Staff worker, where she helps provide resources to Huskers who, like herself, come from diverse backgrounds and are first-gen college students.
Having participated in TRiO’s Upward Bound college prep program in high school, Yousra knows how meaningful their work is for students like her.
“I didn’t have any teachers or counselors who were also Black, and being around the professional staff who were also Black women was really impactful for me,” recalls Yousra.
“I wanted to continue carry that impact on to college and be involved here at UNL.”
“Technically I was studying abroad, but I was actually getting teaching experience.”
Communication Studies Doctoral Candidate ·
Fighting stigmas around Deaf identities keeps Renca pretty busy.
The PhD candidate, classroom instructor, influencer and high school cheer coach channels the pride she feels in her identity as a Deaf woman into all facets of her life, especially in her research in UNL's Communication and Identity Lab.
“Communication is the number one thing we need in our life — we communicate for information, to express our thoughts and feelings, and to learn about other people. Communication allows us to feel connected to our identity.”
Renca’s work looks at how communication shapes our experiences, particularly those in the Deaf community.
“One of my projects is looking at the need for Deaf identities and cultures to be recognized and valued,” says Renca of her project “Deaf or Death: The Story of Robin,” inspired by the story of a Deaf woman who was denied access to a sign language interpreter when hospitalized.
“We need the same things as anyone else, but my specific communication needs and resources are different than what you might need — often people don’t recognize that.”
Engaging with local Deaf Clubs is another important aspect of Renca’s work and advocacy.
“Deaf Clubs are a hotspot where Deaf people get together to exchange information. We host events, birthday parties, and all kinds of things. With any marginalized community, you can’t sleep on what’s happening — Deaf Clubs give us spaces to meet, share stories, and discuss disability rights.”
Renca is also passionate about working with Deaf youths, recently co-coaching the Iowa School for the Deaf’s cheerleading squad to win the Great Plains School for the Deaf cheer championship.
“Because Deaf people are so stigmatized, many Deaf children grow up feeling isolated – like they wish they weren’t Deaf,” says Renca, stressing the importance of sign language access.
“When Deaf kids go to these schools, they feel at home and meet Deaf adult role models that help them build confidence in their identities so they can go out and be proud of who they are.”
“One of my projects is looking at the need for Deaf identities and cultures to be recognized and valued.”
Construction Engineering · Kearney, Nebraska
It’s safe to say that hanging out in her two grandfathers’ workshops as a toddler left a big impression on Taylor. One a welder and the other a carpenter, Taylor would glue blocks together or retrieve tools for them while her grandfathers invented and tinkered in front of her.
“I didn’t realize that it wasn’t super normal for a female to be in those types of areas until middle school shop class. I was one of the only people who knew what they were doing and remember thinking, ’Is not everyone brought up this way?’”
Now, as a member of the first-ever Kiewit Scholars Program cohort in the College of Engineering, Taylor’s upbringing — and pursuit of her passions — has paid off in a big way.
Currently in its second year, the Kiewit Scholars Program offers full scholarships, advanced curriculums, internship opportunities and mentorship from executives in the Kiewit Corporation to a select group of students.
For Taylor, the unprecedented access to Kiewit executives has already made a big impression.
“They give us lectures on a bi-weekly basis, but they’ll also shoot us an email or message on Teams to check in and see how the program is going. I really wasn’t expecting that. They want us to succeed and make sure that when we go out into the industry, we’re prepared.”
Much of that preparedness comes from trips to job sites in Nebraska, Colorado and beyond, and from summer internships around the country.
Taylor spent her last summer interning as a field engineer at Kiewit’s Riverfront Revitalization Project in Omaha.
“On the office side of things, I ordered supplies, logged hours and made sure blueprints were up to spec, but I was also helping manage a crew of 4-5 people in the field,” explains Taylor, who got to see the first and last piece of a pedestrian bridge installed over the course of the summer.
“Looking at the progress we made on the project over the summer was insane. It was just all just an amazing, amazing experience.”
“They want us to succeed and make sure that when we go out into the industry, we’re prepared.”
Broadcasting · Omaha, Nebraska
Brandon admits that he has a bit of a “takeover spirit,” naturally adept at taking the lead in any situation. This easy leadership has come in handy as president of UNL’s a cappella group Bathtub Dogs, which he’s shepherded out of challenging times and back onto the stage.
“Coming out of the pandemic, I knew it was going to be a long process getting back into the community and performing, and I wanted to be the conductor of that train,” he says.
Chances are you’ve probably seen the Bathtub Dogs performing somewhere, giving a lively a cappella rework of a classical tune or modern-day hit. For Brandon, his first encounter with the Bathtub Dogs was when they performed at a competition hosted by his high school in Omaha.
“They could sing their faces off and just seemed like stars. I was like, ‘I want to audition for that.‘”
Even still, Brandon found himself a bit skeptical about joining an all-men’s group, worried about fitting in and being accepted. Pretty quickly, though, those worries began to dissipate as Brandon felt an overwhelming sense of comfort and camaraderie.
“There are lots of things we do in rehearsal to make it a safe and open space. Sometimes I honestly love rehearsing more than performing because it’s such a fun shared experience.”
Rehearsing is something that they’re doing a lot of right now as the dogs gear up for regional and national competitions. These shows involve choreographed dancing on top of singing, which Brandon says requires the collaborative talents of all 17 members.
“There are so many different and important roles, and mine is often just stepping back to make sure things are running smoothy.”
Despite the high stakes of competition, Brandon still cherishes performing for local communities and young people above all.
“Getting in front of young people and being in high schools in front of show choir kids is doing the same thing that inspired me to get involved,” Brandon shares. “It’s so fun seeing the light in kids’ eyes when you’re up there performing. It feels full circle for me.”
“It’s so fun seeing the light in kids’ eyes when you’re up there performing. It feels full circle for me.”
Ag Business · Hickman, Nebraska
Carter wasn’t always sure that a 4-year university was right for him.
By the time he was a senior in high school, Carter was already focused on operating his own hay baling business and juggling multiple large-scale clients on top of classes. Going to a 4-year college while continuing to expand his business didn’t seem feasible.
It wasn’t until his father heard a radio ad for the Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program that Carter began to reconsider.
“My father asked if I’d heard about the Engler Program, and I hadn’t. He thought I might be interested and told me to look into it. It was the day before their scholarship app was due, so I applied and ended up getting accepted.”
Headquartered in a unique studio in the Dinsdale Learning Commons, Engler is an entrepreneurial program where students incubate their business ideas, learn from experienced professionals and take courses to hone their business acumen and focus their ideas.
For Carter, being part of Engler has given him the hands-on experiences and professional connections he was looking for at UNL, helping him maintain and grow his business as a college student.
“You’re not just talking to people who theorize about doing things—the people Engler brings in to talk with students are people in the industry. You want to learn about banking? They’re bringing one of the owners of First State Bank Nebraska to talk to us. They bring in owners, people willing to help make connections.”
Along with the professional networks he’s built, Carter also values the collaboration Engler promotes among its members.
“There’s a student here who creates websites and social media for businesses, which I know nothing about. I’ve been working with her to build a website for my business, and she’s awesome at it.”
And while Carter has big plans for his business (like a used limo he bought online for VIP clients), he credits Engler for helping him think one move at a time.
“At times, it can be overwhelming trying to run a business. No matter where you’re at, they just help you make that next small step forward.”
“At times, it can be overwhelming trying to run a business. No matter where you’re at, they just help you make that next small step forward.”
Computer Science · Brooklyn, New York
TW // Suicide, Depression
Although today is Random Acts of Kindness Day, any day is a good one to do something nice for your fellow Huskers. Eric, president of UNL’s Random Acts of Kindness (RAK) group, says doing something nice for someone else benefits you, too.
“Small acts of kindness affect everyone involved — both sides become happier because of the chemicals released when you do something kind for someone else,” explains Eric. “It’s a win-win.”
Eric knows this not because of the research he does in the chemistry department, but because of a psychology professor he recently invited to speak to the RAK group.
Regular guest speakers are among the many — and varied — benefits of joining the group, one that Eric started this academic year to help support the mental health of Huskers around campus.
“40% of college students report having felt too depressed to function and 60% have experienced overwhelming anxiety,” says Eric. “This organization is hopefully a way to reduce those numbers on our campus and be a relief to people who need it.”
Eric knows that these aren’t just numbers. The loss of a friend to suicide in high school — and the formation of a local RAK group afterward — inspired Eric to bring RAK to UNL in hopes of creating an outlet for students to decompress, talk about mental health and spread some kindness.
“Any given month we have about three events. We try to have one study hours where people can just come get to know each other and bring some food, another meeting with a guest speaker, and a third that’s either volunteering or some random act of kindness,” Eric says.
Recent acts of kindness carried out by the group include handing out cookies on campus, stream cleanups and volunteering with local nonprofits. Eric plans to host a rock painting party, stress awareness seminars with dogs for petting, and more this spring semester.
It’s low commitment, Eric stresses, just like small acts of kindness.
“There’s a potential for little things to have a ripple effect that can lead to a much greater impact.”
“There’s a potential for little things to have a ripple effect that can lead to a much greater impact.”
Economics · Brookings, South Dakota
With Valentine’s Day approaching, Victoria and her fellow Well-Being Ambassadors in Big Red Resilience & Well-Being encourage everyone to practice the most important type of love there is: self-love.
“Self-love encompasses everything from your individual growth and improvement to just living your life to the fullest extent,” says Victoria.
Talking to someone about troubles you might be having — or changes you want to make — is a great first step to upping your self-love game.
And that’s where Victoria and the ambassadors come in. Well-Being Ambassadors are available as peer listeners that can help you figure out ways to better love yourself, from smarter ways to manage stress to making healthier lifestyle choices.
“We’ll sit down with you one-on-one to assess where you’re at in life right now and where you might be able to go to get help,” Victoria explains. "We’re equipped to know about all the resources available to students that might not typically jump out to you.”
To get you thinking about self-care, ambassadors will walk you through an assessment that helps you track your well-being across 10 key “buckets” and figure out what areas could use more, well, love.
“You don’t always know where your buckets aren’t full,” explains Victoria. “You might realize, ‘Whoa, my physical well-being isn’t where I’d like it to be right now, how can I change that?’”
To fill these buckets, Big Red Resilience & Well-Being offers a variety of self-care tips on their website for Huskers to check out, from journaling to spending time in nature, and encourages everyone to designate a “self-care day”.
To help students fill their buckets, Victoria says being an active listener is key.
“I'll sit with you and make eye contact, nod along and ask you to tell me more — it’s about you feeling heard, which is often what people really need.”
Victoria says to reach out even if something isn’t “wrong.” Self-love can be a proactive thing.
“Sometimes people just reach out for better time management advice or friend advice. The world doesn’t have to be crumbling for you to ask for help.”
“I'll sit with you and make eye contact, nod along and ask you to tell me more — it’s about you feeling heard, which is often what people really need.”
Criminal Justice/Criminology and Sociology · Atlanta, Georgia
College is much more than your major, says Dalilah.
“People always hear ‘College is going to be the best time of your life!’ And although people’s passions might ignite in the classroom, I don’t think that’s always because of what happens in class.”
While there are lots of great reasons for getting involved on campus, Dalilah views her involvement in RSOs as a way to build a network that supports her and makes her feel part of a community — and she invites others to do the same.
“When I first came to UNL, I felt a little isolated not hearing anyone besides my roommate speak Spanish,” Dalilah says. “Being a part of RSOs on campus — especially those that are culturally based — has given me a space and community to use my voice around and be passionate about inclusivity.”
It was an encouraging friend that first got Dalilah to the student union her freshman year to check out a MASA (Mexican American Student Association) booth.
It didn’t take long, however, for Dalilah to realize this was where she belonged.
“In my first meeting I was like, ‘Before I graduate, I’m going to be president. This is just so cool.’”
Dalilah did, in fact, become president of MASA. She has also been heavily involved in the Delta Xi Nu Multicultural Sorority, which, once again, took a friend to coax her into trying out.
“I had a friend — again — who was like, ‘Just come check it out with me,’” Dalilah recalls. “The people in Delta Xi Nu described their mission at the university to me and how they wanted to make changes around inclusivity on campus. I really admired that.”
Like all RSOs, Dalilah’s involvements in MASA and Delta Xi Nu have spanned everything from social gatherings with tons of food to philanthropies and volunteer work.
Mainly, though, Dalilah urges her fellow Huskers to get involved for the friends and memories they'll make.
“A lot of our memories don’t come from the classroom: they come from the people we meet and the experiences and memories we’ll have.”
“Being a part of RSOs on campus – especially those that are culturally based – has given me a space and community to use my voice around and be passionate about inclusivity.”
Biological Sciences · Hội An, Vietnam
As a first-gen international student, Sam isn’t one to shy away from a new experience. In fact, the senior from Hội An, Vietnam prefers to fully immerse himself in whatever he’s doing, something that’s helped Sam as he’s navigated coming to college in Lincoln and getting involved around campus.
"I’ve always been okay with living outside my comfort zone and pushing myself to see how far I can go — now, I’m pursuing a bachelor’s degree in a second language while living far away from my family.”
After talking through the move with his family, researching colleges and earning a scholarship to UNL, Sam chose to come to Nebraska to pursue his dreams of studying medicine and becoming a doctor.
It was a big move for Sam, but one he credits the Husker community with making it much, much easier.
“When I first came to college, I found it quite challenging to immerse myself in a new cultural environment,” recalls Sam. “The people around campus — my professors, advisors, and peers I go to class with — they were very nice and helpful, and I felt I could reach out to them for a helping hand.”
After finding his footing on campus, Sam was ready for his next big challenge: serving as a TA for a general chemistry lab. Though it required him to learn how to instruct a classroom of students and stretch his communication skills, Sam’s time as a TA allowed him to forge more great connections in the Husker community.
“I think I developed some greater interpersonal skills by interacting with my students, especially during office hours where I answered their questions about lab reports or other issues the class,” says Sam.
“It was stressful and joyful at the same time.”
Sam particularly values the relationships he built as a TA with fellow international students.
“We had similar experiences coming to the US, being nervous about cultural differences and everything else. We struck gold — I really saw myself in them.”
“The people around campus — my professors, advisors, and peers I go to class with — they were very nice and helpful, and I felt I could reach out to them for a helping hand.”
Human Development & Family Science · Lincoln, Nebraska
"To be honest, I never really thought I was going to study abroad,” says Gabi.
The junior from Lincoln had reservations about leaving campus and her friends for a whole semester—which makes her recent journey through New Zealand with the College of Education and Human Sciences all the more exciting and unlikely for Gabi.
As part of a two-week study abroad program through CEHS, Gabi and her cohort have been learning about New Zealand’s unique approach to early childhood education while getting to explore the beautiful country.
“It’s been fascinating because New Zealand has an early childhood curriculum for the entire country,” explains Gabi. “The early childhood centers here are very nature-based, more similar to Montessori schools in the US.”
During the 3 credit-hour program, Gabi and her classmates have been studying the social and emotional development of children below the age of 5, focusing on how kids can learn to handle their emotions and develop relationships.
“We got to tour something called a ‘dopamine forest’ in Wellington, which is basically like an adult playground,” Gabi explains. “The undergraduates and the Ruth Staples faculty with us on the trip were able to hear lectures and learn from the creators of the forest about risky play for children and how to let them explore their emotions in these settings. Then, we got to do it as adults.”
“Dopamine Forest” aside, Gabi and her cohort have had plenty of time to take in and explore the breathtaking landscapes of New Zealand.
“We visited a place called Waimangu Volcanic Valley, which has the youngest active volcano in New Zealand,” Gabi says. “It was stunning—we went on a long hike with lakes and pockets of water everywhere. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
The group also did a service-learning project while touring the valley, pulling weeds to maintain the environment.
“Since we came in to explore this natural environment, it was nice to be able to give back.”
“It’s been fascinating because New Zealand has an early childhood curriculum for the entire country.”
Chemistry and Environmental Studies · Elkhorn, Nebraska
Zoe made a surprising discovery this semester while running an Honors Afterschool Club at Norwood Park Elementary, one that took the pressure off what felt like an intimidating new challenge:
“My biggest takeaway was that the students just wanted me to show up, have something ready, listen to their ideas and be intentional about the time I was spending with them,” says Zoe. “They already had so much enthusiasm and wanted to immediately know what we were doing each day — I really appreciated that.”
The Honors Afterschool program is a paid learning opportunity that allows Huskers to teach an afterschool club on subjects they care about in elementary schools around Lincoln. Zoe’s club, titled Green Genius, focuses on sustainability.
“The goal was to have these 3rd, 4th and 5th graders understand that sustainability is something that they can do every day and easily integrate into their lives. It’s not some big, scary thing.”
While Zoe did use more traditional concepts like the “three r’s” (reduce, reuse and recycle) to teach students easy ways to make their lives a little greener, she also made sure to emphasize appreciation.
“We did this activity called ‘Appreciation Station’ where I’d have students stand up if they’d ever been on a hike, walk, had a dog, etc. Then they’d talk about what they liked about that thing,” Zoe explains. “I just wanted to get a dialogue going about things they enjoyed about nature and what they might want to protect.”
Zoe also incorporated coloring activities, crafts and group discussions into her club, which met once a week. Many students would come to class eager to share with her stories about the new habits they picked up from Green Genius, a heartwarming feeling for Zoe.
“They got really excited about recycling at home,” recalls Zoe. “It was never about coming up with solutions to big issues, it’s just about learning to value what we see in the world and controlling things we can control.”
Chemical Engineering · Lincoln, Nebraska
Dorian, VP of UNL Engineering Ambassadors, has a wild idea: if you make science fun to learn and give more people the chance to learn it, more students will pursue it later in life.
And that’s a good thing.
“A lot of times, science and math are so scary—we give kids a really cool and creative opportunity to try things hands-on,” says Dorian of UNL Engineering Ambassadors. “Our goal is to change the conversation and help kids see engineering all around them.”
A student organization in the College of Engineering, ambassadors visit K-12 schools across Nebraska to teach interactive activities designed to get students of all backgrounds excited about STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). Husker students develop activities directly for these classes, catering them to the ages of the students and needs of teachers.
The activities stretch far beyond what K-12 students would typically encounter, including a favorite of Dorian’s where students design prosthetics for teddy bears.
"Not only do they get that hands-on activity, but we also get to have some real conversations about the importance of designing prosthetics for friends, family and people that they know—it helps connect that engineering is for everybody!”
Dorian began teaching her freshman year, developing and leading an afterschool STEM program at Belmont Elementary. She soon learned about the ambassadors, cementing her passion for teaching. She's now eyeing a PhD in hopes of becoming a university professor.
"Enhancing diversity, equity and inclusion in STEM is really close to my heart; I’m a Pell-eligible, first-gen student from a single-parent household, so engineering wasn’t something that was presented as a path for me growing up,” Dorian recalls, noting that she’s grateful she found chemistry in high school.
“There are so many students out there that could do wonderful things when given the opportunity. I want to bring more students that represent greater backgrounds into the field because that will be better for everybody.”
“There are so many students out there that could do wonderful things when given the opportunity. I want to bring more students that represent greater backgrounds into the field because that will be better for everybody.”
Vocal Education · Kearney, Missouri
Brendan was 10 years old when a medical condition forced him to receive a liver transplant. Being so young at the time, he didn’t think much of it — he just knew he was sick and had to get a procedure.
Time and experience, however, have given Brendan a newfound appreciation for what it means to be a transplant recipient.
“In high school, I started to become more conscious of the fact that it’s actually a really big deal, and the importance began to resonate with me. I decided I wanted to make sure I was involved and raising awareness around this, because it’s not something that a lot of people know about.”
Last summer, Brendan participated in the Transplant Games of America, a biennial gathering of transplant recipients, donors and their families. Teams compete in a variety of events to celebrate life and raise awareness of donors and recipients.
And though Brendan won a cool 8 medals at the games, that’s far from the biggest takeaway that his yearslong involvement in the games has given him.
“In everyday life, being a transplant recipient doesn’t come up much. Whenever I get to go to the games and connect with people who are like me, who understand what I’ve had to go through and how scary things can be, it’s very, very refreshing.”
Today, Brendan is very healthy and able to stay, as he puts it, “super-duper busy:” he’s currently a member of Bathtub Dogs, Big Red Singers, Chamber Singers and University Singers. Last summer, Brendan toured France with Chamber Singers and University Singers, performing with these groups in venues around the country.
It’s not lost on Brendan that part of the reason he’s been able to accomplish all of this because of the generosity of his donor.
“I feel like my appreciation and thankfulness has grown as life has gone on. When I take moments to reflect on how I’m able to do all these things that I love and keep on singing, I realize I’m not only doing this for myself but also the person that helped me live longer.”
“I decided I wanted to make sure I was involved and raising awareness around this, because it’s not something that a lot of people know about.”
Japhet, Benoit and Esther
Integrated Science · Kigali, Rwanda
Huskers Japhet, Benoit (Ben) and Esther are accustomed to making their band Live Lyve adaptable. The trio from Kigali, Rwanda formed Live Lyve in early 2020, leveraging the success of their first show at UNL’s Rwandan Night before pivoting to sharing music remotely.
The three friends and bandmates now have to be flexible for different reasons: balancing the band’s rising success with school.
“It’s been a critical time not only for our music careers, but also for our degrees,” says Esther.
This balancing act was especially tricky this past summer as the three held internships while playing Live Lyve gigs around the country. The trio performed in AZ, CO, SD, and WA over summer, requiring a lot of travel amidst their different positions.
Esther spent the summer in Seattle interning for Boeing, Japhet interned with the UNL Rural Fellows Program, and Ben worked for the City of Chadron through the Rural Prosperity Nebraska Program.
And while their musical influences span the globe, Japhet says playing for Rwandan audiences has led to tons of new gigs around the country.
“We wanted to get plugged into communities of the Rwandan diaspora. The most prominent events are weddings, which are huge audiences — 200 people or above. We would play at one wedding, and there we’d meet another client who wanted us to perform in a different state.”
Getting connected in Rwandan communities has also helped the band meet collaborators.
“That’s how we meet new clients, but that’s also how we meet producers and people who want to work on other projects,” explains Ben.
After such a busy summer, the band is focusing on playing local events, making new music, and finishing their degrees. But the band isn’t going anywhere, promises Ben, even as college comes to an end.
“We’re getting ready for the next step, the next transition.”
“Music will always be a part of me,” says Esther, “no matter what life throws at me. But, we want to make the most out of this time with each other.”
International Business · Columbus, Nebraska
Anibal vividly remembers the moment when he learned he’d received a Susan T. Buffett scholarship, enabling him to become the first in his family to attend college. He was in sociology class at his high school in Columbus, NE – the only period where his phone had reception.
“The email popped up on my screen when I got service. We were watching a movie and I had a cousin that I lived with in my class, so I turned back to him and whispered, ‘I got it!’ It was a huge relief.”
Born and raised in the US, Anibal lived in Columbus, NE until his parents were deported to Guatemala. He lived with them there for a time before returning to Columbus for high school, living with his aunt and uncle. He remembers the joy of calling his parents to tell them about the scholarship that would allow him to become a first-generation student at UNL, a hope Anibal had long harbored.
He also remembers calling them years later with news of another outstanding achievement: that he’d received a Gilman Scholarship to study abroad in Spain in 2022.
“I’d always wanted to travel abroad and told my mom that eventually I would do it. Being able to study abroad last summer fulfilled one of my childhood dreams. Now, I just want to help other people get that same experience.”
Anibal works with others in the International Business Club to help guide students at UNL achieve their study abroad goals.
“I help students understand what it’s going to be like and to not be afraid to just do it,” he says, hopeful that others can have similarly formative experiences abroad. “I’d do it again if I could.”
Anibal is, in fact, trying to do it again, eyeing a Fulbright application for next year. In the meantime, he’s looking forward to another important journey: seeing his little sister, who moved to Nebraska from Guatemala last year, follow in his footsteps and begin to apply for colleges.
“I think that seeing me do it helped her make the decision to apply. But, I was definitely first, so she’ll have to be okay with second place.”
“I help students understand what it’s going to be like [to study abroad] and to not be afraid to just do it.”
Women’s and Gender Studies · Minnetonka, Minnesota
TW // Sexual Assault
Em Paquette knows a thing or two about resilience. A women’s and gender studies major, Em is turning her story and experiences as a sexual assault survivor in high school into advocacy for bystander intervention programs in schools.
“It consumed my entire high school experience — I didn’t know if I was going to be able to continue at that school,” says Em. “Instead, I chose to push back as hard as I could by creating this intervention program.”
Em saw a gap in awareness among her peers as an opportunity to educate and prevent sexual violence among teenagers. She developed a Bystander Intervention Program (“BIE, as in ‘bye!’” Em says with a smile) for an activism-focused class at her school and lobbied her administrators to implement the program.
“When I told people in high school what happened to me, they were like, ‘How did we not realize that was happening? What were the warning signs?’ I didn’t even know the warning signs myself.”
Now, Em is reviving her program through a UNL Business Communication course where students are tasked with creating a topical campaign. Em hopes to eventually present her program to high schools around Lincoln, where she’s confident that educating younger teens will lead to better outcomes.
"You’re taught intervention strategies at orientation when you come to big universities like UNL, but I think if you’re teaching freshmen in their first week of college it’s already too late.”
She credits her time volunteering in the UNL Women’s Center and presenting at their Gender Equity Conference her freshman year for helping her come into her own as an advocate, a confidence she hopes to pass along to high schoolers through her program.
“A lot of high school students right now want to talk about things that are important to them. By the time students come to college they might encounter a situation that’s unsafe, and hopefully that’s where the education they would receive from this program would become important.”
“I chose to push back as hard as I could by creating this intervention program.”
Theatre Performance · Mansfield, Texas
As a longtime horror fan and recent Shakespeare convert, senior theatre performance major Aurora Villarreal sees their opportunity to play Lady Macbeth in UNL Repertory Theatre’s ShakesFEAR production as a particularly exciting — and unique — acting experience.
“Being able to feel the audience’s energy so close to me is going to be insane,” Aurora chuckles. “It’s so intimate. It’s going to feel so weird having them right there in the room and making them feel scared.”
ShakesFEAR is an interactive theater performance that sends audience members on a frightful search for Shakespeare’s lost play. The production runs from October 13–30 in the Temple Building, transformed by Hixson-Lied students into a Shakespearean haunted house populated with some of the writer’s most iconic — and unnerving — characters.
“People don’t realize that Shakespeare gave birth to so many horror themes that are still around today,” says Aurora. “Shakespeare is able to access darker parts of the mind and give it a voice. It’s frightening to even read, but seeing it performed is even scarier. Horror comes in so many facets, and Shakespeare really shows how crazy humans can be.”
Aurora’s newfound love of Shakespeare came during her experience studying at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London last summer with fellow Carson School students. The three-week intensive program at the world-famous theater plunged Aurora and their peers into the playwright’s work.
“We worked with directors at The Globe, learned from their teachers, saw shows, attended rehearsals, and even acted on the stage. It was the best experience of my life.”
Aurora will be one of two performers taking on the role of Lady Macbeth. Her studies at The Globe helped Aurora appreciate the complexities of the language.
“Sometimes you just feel so much emotion and you don’t have the words to describe it, but Shakespeare does. It’s really cool to be able to relinquish yourself to the language and not have to worry too hard about the ‘acting’ part. It just flows through you.”
“We worked with directors at The Globe, learned from their teachers, saw shows, attended rehearsals, and even acted on the stage. It was the best experience of my life.”
Communication sciences & disorders · Minnetonka, Minnestoa
Browsing Handshake for involvement opportunities has really paid dividends for Emma.
“I wanted to start building my resume to apply to grad school, and I saw an opening at the Autism Center of Nebraska,” recalls Emma, an aspiring speech-language pathologist since high school. “I’d never worked with kids with special needs before, so I was a little nervous starting out.”
Emma's decision to try something new paid off: not only has she gotten hands-on experience in work related to speech-language pathology, but her time at the Autism Center has also connected her with more learning opportunities. Emma began working with the Autism Family Network and Down Syndrome Association for Families, local nonprofits that offer resources and social opportunities to individuals and families with intellectual disabilities.
“They told me, ‘You’re great with this population, so we want to get you working with more people.’ It all just happened one after the other.”
Emma supports and plans social events for both organizations, bringing her closer to her professional goals while making an impact on the communities she serves. She’s now furthering that impact by participating in research at the UNL Learning Lab in the Barkley Speech, Language & Hearing Center.
“Even though it was challenging at first, I realized that I’m capable of working with these kids. I’m really invested in helping these populations, which is what got me into research at the UNL Learning Lab.”
The Learning Lab’s research works with children involved with the Down Syndrome Association for Families, which means that Emma is conducting research alongside many of the same kids she’s built relationships with through her nonprofit work. The research looks at literacy and reading in children with Down Syndrome and studies ways to improve their outcomes.
“It’s so great because you get to interact with the kids and make it fun for them! The kids get so excited when we tell them, ‘We’re doing all this for you!’. It’s been so rewarding.”
“Even though it was challenging at first, I realized that I’m capable of working with these kids.”
Sports media & Communication, Broadcasting and journalism · Seattle, Washington
Throughout his college career, Peyton has dived head-first into opportunities on campus—from broadcasting on national television to leading multiple student groups.
When he was a high schooler in Seattle, his cousin—a Nebraska student—showed him the College of Journalism and Mass Communication and the unique, hands-on projects he was working on, something Peyton hadn’t seen at other universities. Now a senior, he’s gearing up to finish college with a resume packed with real-world experience and three degrees: sports media & communication, broadcasting and journalism.
And that real-world experience has been one of Peyton’s favorite parts of studying at Nebraska.
“Getting experience outside the classroom is everything. Classes lay the groundwork, but everyone gets that groundwork. What you do outside the classroom separates you from the others.”
In three years, Peyton has had the opportunity to work in broadcasting for Husker Football and serve in several leadership positions including director of KRNU Sports, chair of the first Student Editorial Board at CoJMC and student lead for the Experience Lab. At the same time, he has worked for the Big Ten Network’s Student U Program, an opportunity for up-and-coming college broadcasters to do highlights for soccer, volleyball, softball and other sports.
“BTN has added to Nebraska’s reputation of having some of the best student-run broadcasts. And not only do we get paid for those opportunities, we get high-quality content to add to our broadcast reels. Mine is an extension of my resume that I send everywhere I apply.”
Immersing himself in leadership and involvement opportunities shaped Peyton's college career. Looking forward, he's got a razor-sharp focus on his career and is excited to apply his Nebraska knowledge wherever his degree takes him.
“Getting experience outside the classroom is everything. Classes lay the groundwork, but everyone gets that groundwork. What you do outside the classroom separates you from the others.”
Neuroscience Pyschology · Rockford, Illinois
TW // addiction
Although Grace’s battle with addiction gave way to some hard times her freshman year, she wants you to know that her recovery journey is not a sad story. Quite the opposite, actually.
“My professors told me to go to Big Red Resilience and Collegiate Recovery Community (CRC), and that’s what really changed the game for me,” says Grace. “I’m over 7 months sober now and am really passionate about helping others stay sober, too.”
Grace is now working with Big Red Resilience and CRC to champion recovery and destigmatize addiction for students across UNL. Grace especially wants to normalize the idea of getting sober in college. “I had never heard of younger people doing it—I’d always just thought ‘Oh, I’ll get sober later.’ You can get sober at any age!”
Big Red Resilience features addiction-specific (like CRC), well-being and mental health resources for students. Through her work Grace is striving to get those who are struggling with their mental health, addiction and substance use the comprehensive resources they need.
“It’s really cool to watch it come full circle—I’ve been helping amazing young people get sober, but at the same time I’m still working on myself and doing my program, too. You just have to trust the process.”
UNL Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) have also played a big role in Grace’s recovery. But Grace says that everyone, not just those struggling, should take advantage of this resource to check in with their mental health.
“CAPS was really critical in my recovery, but mental health is just really important in general—you’re not going to do yourself a disservice by going to seek extra help.”
All of these resources, Grace says, improve—and often save—lives. And while she’s proud of how far she’s come in her own journey, she’s equally as hopeful that her journey will inspire others.
“Hopefully, me getting sober can help other people realize, ‘Oh, well if she can do it, I can do it too.’”
“You’re not going to do yourself a disservice by going to seek extra help.”
Emerging Media Arts · Lenexa, Kansas
Technically, Hadley had been on a horse before trying out for the Husker Equestrian Team. It had been a while—since she was little, actually—and she had certainly never done anything like what was required of riders in the Equestrian Team, which a friend convinced her to try out for during her junior year.
“I was like, ‘You know what? I just want to be around horses.’ I don’t know how I got the courage to show up, but I did...I struggled to even get on a horse.”
Having the courage to show up and try something new, however, turned into an unexpected journey. Now Hadley is, well, back on the horse—and, as it turns out, something of a natural.
Not only did Hadley qualify for the competition team, but she ended up placing second in the Beginner Horsemanship section of the Western Semifinals last spring. The Husker Equestrian Team won the overall team championship in the competition.
“I never expected anything beyond just competing, but then I won my first show in November. I was in VR class when my coach called to ask me to be a rider in the semifinals team,” Hadley says. “I was like, ‘Are you sure?’”
Despite her unexpected success, Hadley still finds herself asking a lot of questions—and she’s totally okay with that. She’s still growing in her newfound passion, one that’s helped take the pressure off her academic pursuits as an Emerging Media Arts student and her goal of becoming a VFX rigger.
“Being on the team is my main stress reliever. We always talk about how when you’re here riding, you leave everything else behind,” says Hadley.
Having an outlet beyond academics has also given her some perspective: “I used to care a lot if I couldn’t achieve a certain thing. Now, with everything I have going on, it’s not that big of a deal to me anymore.”
Although there are days she finds her time management skills being stretched and balancing everything to be overwhelming, she wouldn’t dream of giving up one thing for the other.
“I’m not going to lie: it’s hard. But I wouldn’t give up one thing. I want it all.”
“I’m not going to lie: it’s hard. But I wouldn’t give up one thing. I want it all.”
Rob & Zach
Management · Elkhorn, NE & Leawood, KS
Shortly after meeting in the College of Business, Zach and Rob’s entrepreneurial spirits brought them together—both in friendship and business. It didn’t take long before a casual phone call turned into an exciting new venture: launching Big Red Fan Club.
Zach and Rob met when they were selected for the Clifton Builders Program, which supports students who aspire to change the world by building new businesses and communities through their leadership. With a curriculum that emphasizes hands-on, real-world projects with local businesses, the program has offered Zach and Rob some of their most valuable business experiences.
“The first project we did was a start-up competition for who could generate the most revenue selling to the community. There aren’t many opportunities like that and that’s why the Clifton Builders Program is second to none,” said Zach.
Through Clifton Builders and campus RSOs like Husker Venture Club and Big Red Investment Club, Zach and Rob built the network and skills to launch Big Red Fan Club in the new era of NIL endorsements. The company connects Husker fans with student-athletes through exclusive experiences, player generated content and behind-the-scenes action while giving athletes the opportunity to build their brand and earn money off the field.
Zach and Rob’s experience building their start-up hasn’t been without hard work, challenges and sacrifices—but they’re proud of the early success they’ve experienced. And they encourage students to take advantage of university resources and to take chances on themselves and their aspirations in and out of the classroom.
“Now is the time to take action. You can read books about entrepreneurship but will never become one until you try something,” said Rob. “You’ve got to go for it and not be afraid of failing, because that’s where you learn all your lessons. No one has created something successfully without hiccups.”
“The first project we did was a start-up competition for who could generate the most revenue selling to the community. There aren’t many opportunities like that and that’s why the Clifton Builders Program is second to none.”
Marketing; Sports Media & Communications · Omaha, Nebraska
Naren would really like to make the topic of mental health more visible. Literally, more visible. It's why he is leading the Green Bandana Project at UNL, and why he’ll be walking up and handing you a green bandana.
The project is a nationwide initiative to educate and equip students with resources for addressing mental health concerns. By tying a green bandana to your backpack, you signal that you’re someone who can support and guide those needing mental health resources.
When you get a green bandana, you also receive a card that lists all the mental health resources available at UNL. “The idea is for students to see you as a mental health ally—for students experiencing mental health issues to know that you will be supportive of them and are capable of giving them the resources they need,” says Naren.
Watching friends struggle with the transition into college—and experiencing struggles of his own—left Naren inspired to take up the mantle of the Green Bandana Project. He first heard about the project and got involved as a first-year student in FCLA. Now, as an ASUN senator for the College of Journalism & Mass Communication, Naren is working to make the project a household name around campus.
“Let’s say we get 50% of campus with green bandanas on their backpacks. Then, everyone knows what it means and in future years students will understand that these resources exist for them to find help.”
That means passing out a LOT of bandanas and knowing that every single one helps—even if indirectly.
“We’re trying our best to have every new student know what it means, or at least have them walk up to someone and ask, ‘I see all these green bandanas on backpacks, what do those mean?’”
To pick up a green bandana, contact Naren, another ASUN rep, or visit the ASUN office in the Union.
“The idea is for students to see you as a mental health ally—for students experiencing mental health issues to know that you will be supportive of them and are capable of giving them the resources they need.”
Political Science · Murray, Nebraska
When ASUN president Jake Drake came to UNL as a first-year student, he made it a goal not to get involved. A self-proclaimed “over-involved” high schooler, Jake thought steering clear of clubs and organizations would help keep his collegiate experience simple. “I thought, ‘I’ll just focus on my studies and have a bunch of fun with buddies. I don’t need things to be overcomplicated again.’”
A chance meeting with a former ASUN member changed all that, convincing Jake to apply for the Freshman Campus Leadership Association in ASUN.
A first-generation college student from the 400-person town of Murray, Nebraska, Jake is now president of ASUN, the Association of Students of the University of Nebraska. As he returns to campus for his senior year, Jake wants to convince students — especially freshmen – to get involved and make their voices heard on campus.
And that, he says, can look a lot of different ways.
“Joining a student organization is one of the most impactful ways for you to show what you value,” says Jake. “And it doesn’t necessarily have to be an organization that has a big role in advocacy for any particular issue...just by being a part of those groups, you have a better platform for understanding issues that impact you personally and the people you’re around.”
As ASUN President, hearing from students on issues they care about is exactly what he signed up for – and hopes to see more of. ASUN advocates for students on a variety of issues, from supporting diversity and inclusion measures and climate initiatives on campus, to allocating resources toward programming. Their advocacy affects students across campus in ways big and small, and Jake wants your input.
“It’s as easy as sending an email or text message” to reach ASUN to and offer your input, says Jake. “Even if you’re not a ‘member’ of the organization, you have a role within ASUN because, technically, all 25,000 students are members of the association.”
“Joining a student organization is one of the most impactful ways for you to show what you value.”
MA in Psychology · Providence, Rhode Island
TW // interpersonal violence, sexual assault
Through her research and role as a therapist in the Trauma Recovery Clinic (TRC) on campus, Katie is working toward her goal to empower trauma survivors.
“As a survivor myself, I feel strongly that people who have experienced violence are uniquely positioned to provide compassionate support to individuals on their journey to healing.”
This fall, she’ll provide evidence-based therapy to those who’ve experienced interpersonal violence as a TRC therapist within the Center for Advocacy, Response and Education. The CARE office — which recently expanded into the Neihardt Center — focuses on confidentially supporting survivors in a safe, inclusive, survivor-centered space. Additionally, CARE provides educational opportunities for the campus community that show how we can all play a role in preventing interpersonal violence.
This fall, CARE will also start a new program — the Husker CARE Peer Educators — which will empower Huskers to spread awareness and educate their peers on topics related to sexual and relationship violence.
“One of CARE’s priorities is ‘primary prevention,’ or stopping interpersonal violence before it happens. Huskers can help support primary prevention by practicing bystander intervention and clearly communicating to individuals causing harm that their behavior is not seen as “normal” or “acceptable” by the broader UNL community.”
Katie reminds survivors that, “No one should have to go through the process of reporting without the help of an advocate specifically trained to offer necessary, nonjudgmental support.”
To learn more about resources and educational opportunities through CARE, visit care.unl.edu.
“As a survivor myself, I feel strongly that people who have experienced violence are uniquely positioned to provide compassionate support to individuals on their journey to healing.”
Music Education · Lincoln, Nebraska
To be the first in her family to graduate is an accomplishment that Aracely holds close to her heart.
Aracely joined the university as an introverted music education major with a love for playing the saxophone. Though she faced adversity as a first-gen student, she never strayed from her goal of expanding her music skills or from her passion for playing in the Cornhusker Marching Band, which took her to different states, taught her discipline through everyday rehearsals and connected her to some of her closest friends.
“My favorite memories from college are playing with my best friends at Memorial Stadium. I’d only been to one game before joining and being on the field is shocking. Even though there are 300 of us, it feels like everyone is looking at you. It’s very cool to see.”
Outside of playing in the "Pride of All Nebraska," Aracely grew her passion for music education in the classroom and neared her high school dream of teaching. After graduating this weekend, she's looking forward to showing the next generation the power of music.
“It’s proven that we do better academically when we are involved in music and music programs. It’s also stimulating to be a part of something like music where everyone can be a part of a team and perform live.”
And she hopes to use her experiences as a first-gen graduate from an immigrant family to inspire her students that regardless of where they may start, they too can attend college and accomplish things that seem unattainable.
"I'm working at a Title I school and diversity is high, and I love that because I’m a person of color and I hope to impact young kids of color. I want them to know that they can be whatever they want to be, whether that’s a music teacher or anything else.”
“I hope to impact young kids of color. I want them to know that they can be whatever they want to be, whether that’s a music teacher or anything else.”
Pre-Me Biology and Psychology · Omaha, Nebraska
When his baby brother was diagnosed with brain cancer, reality completely changed for Luke’s family: friends couldn't come over, the house had to be deep-cleaned once a week and hospital visits filled with feelings of helplessness became the norm. The experience connected Luke with Lighthouse Family Retreat and opened his eyes to his purpose in life—joining the medical field to help children and families battling pediatric illnesses.
Luke first experienced Lighthouse at the end of his brother’s treatment when his family attended their summer retreat for families fighting childhood cancer. Seeing the impact the organization had on others firsthand, Luke became interested in finding ways to support families like his.
As Luke integrated himself into campus life, he joined clubs like Dance Marathon and UNL's American Medical Student Association which allowed him to explore his passions and make a difference in the lives of others.
During his first year, he received an offer to be a retreat leader for Lighthouse. In addition to the experiences he was gaining on campus, he would spend two summers helping families escape their stresses at home through group bonding sessions, barbecues, beach nights and date nights for parents.
“For a week, the families don’t have to worry about hospitals, doing laundry, cooking, any of their daily pressures. I could take that away from them and make a big difference in their life.”
After seeing his brother beat cancer and supporting others through his involvements, Luke looks forward to entering the medical school application process and hopes to help children as a pediatric orthopedic doctor.
“I find pride and purpose in helping these children. These families are going through a lot and if they’re flying down a river and I can be that branch they hold onto or a part of the boat that carries them out, that’s huge to me. That’s what draws me to the medical field.”
“These families are going through a lot and if they’re flying down a river and I can be that branch they hold onto or a part of the boat that carries them out, that’s huge to me. That’s what draws me to the medical field.”
Veterinary Medicine · Aurora, Nebraska
Since preschool, Sydney has loved science and animals. She started helping at a pet clinic in her hometown as young as eighth grade and has been working toward fulfilling her dream of helping animals ever since.
Thanks to years of hard work, Sydney has a leg up in achieving her dreams. She was recently admitted to vet school one year early, a feat possible through the 3+2 Program offered at Nebraska which gives Huskers the opportunity to apply to vet school as juniors and upon completion, receive both their bachelor's degree and a professional degree in veterinary medicine.
“A lot of people don’t even know about the program—I didn’t know about it until NSE. I loved being able to cut a year from my schooling but also loved that if I didn’t get in, I still had a backup option to finish my fourth year at Nebraska.”
After learning about the 3+2 Program, Sydney knew she would need a strong application supplemented with leadership and hands-on experience working with animals. She started by cold emailing the Nebraska Veterinary Diagnostic Center, which was so impressed by Sydney’s resume that she was brought onto the team. The two years of working at the center changed her life, providing a wealth of hands-on opportunities and exposing her to her new dream job: being a veterinary pathologist.
Sydney also sought out other involvements on campus, from becoming treasurer of the Veterinary Pathology Club to serving as a Nebraska Honors peer mentor. And outside the school year, she was sure to continue expanding her skills through other jobs including one of her favorites—mammal and bird rehabilitation at a wildlife sanctuary in North Carolina.
“I knew I was at a disadvantage because I had to get more experience in less time. I made sure I was getting good grades and doing everything I could during my three years. And I advise students to do the same—reach out to others and try doing anything you’re interested in.”
“I knew I was at a disadvantage because I had to get more experience in less time. I made sure I was getting good grades and doing everything I could during my three years. ”
Computer Science · Cambridge, Nebraska
When Santiago moved to Nebraska from Colombia, he didn’t know any English and was using an iPad to communicate with others. Flash forward several years and that experience has inspired his passion for innovating and participating in research at the university.
As a first-year student, Santiago became involved in STEM CONNECT— a scholarship program where students in STEM receive mentorship from faculty, develop their leadership skills, explore career paths and network with industry professionals.
“STEM CONNECT gave me a hands-on experience and impacted me in a way that I can’t describe. Before coming to college, I didn’t know how I would pay for it, and the reason I had the opportunity to research at NIMBUS Lab was because STEM CONNECT assisted me.”
The NIMBUS Lab specializes in mobile unmanned systems such as autonomous robots and drones. Santiago’s primary project at the lab was building, testing, and flying drones, and though he never envisioned himself working with drones, the experience has been impactful. Not only has he been able to conduct research as an undergraduate, but he was also one of the first students of his group to build a drone at the lab and has since had the opportunity to teach his teammates the process as well.
The relationships and networks Santiago has built through his involvement in STEM CONNECT and NIMBUS Lab have helped him solidify his choice to pursue technology and research as a career. He considers these experiences to be the most valuable of his college experience and strives to continue finding new ways to be involved with STEM at Nebraska.
“Before this, I didn’t know anything about research or computers, we didn’t even have computer classes at my high school. But now, it’s my favorite thing I’ve done at the university, and I want to find any position I can to be innovative in and work on a team.”
“Before this, I didn’t know anything about research or computers, we didn’t even have computer classes at my high school. But now, it’s my favorite thing I’ve done at the university, and I want to find any position I can to be innovative in and work on a team.”
Integrated Science · Kigali, Rwanda
Whether teaching English in her hometown of Kigali, Rwanda or working as a Rural Fellow in Nebraska, Clare has always put her heart into serving the community around her.
Before coming to Nebraska, Clare spent her free time volunteering to teach underprivileged children and stay-at-home mothers in Rwanda how to read and write. She loved what she was doing for the community but had no idea she could make a career of it until joining the Rural Prosperity Fellowship Program through the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources.
For the last two years, Clare has participated in Rural Prosperity Nebraska— a fellowship program that places students in rural communities to work on projects that support local businesses and help local leaders accomplish goals. In her first year, Clare lived in Ord, Nebraska, where she collaborated with locals to highlight members of the community and further develop the downtown area.
“I found it to be the perfect fellowship for me to grow as a professional in the area of community development. I was very grateful that I was offered the opportunity to do it for a second year.”
Now Clare is using the knowledge she gained for this summer’s program: a statewide project researching the impact of leadership on community development. She hopes her work starts a conversation on inclusive leadership and highlights ways the state can improve.
Clare looks forward to finding new ways to continue her passion. After graduating, she plans to attend graduate school and eventually take the lessons she has learned home to Rwanda, where she hopes to start an organization that provides mentorship and career development resources to youth who are passionate about community development.
“Being in Rural Prosperity Nebraska helped me understand my purpose as a person. Knowing that I’m being intentional and that what I’m working on is impacting communities and people has been the most fulfilling thing!"
“Knowing that I’m being intentional and that what I’m working on is impacting communities and people has been the most fulfilling thing!”
Masters in Entomology · Abilene, Kansas
“I told my mom that I wanted to be a beekeeper...She didn’t think I was serious.”
Rogan was 12 years old when he spotted his first beekeeper at the county fair. Since that moment, he knew he would pursue a career in beekeeping and asked his mom to help him get his first hive. By the time he was a teenager, Rogan was already making a name for himself in the industry: winning scholarships, selling jars of honey and even donating his profits to Heifer International.
After finishing his undergraduate degree at Kansas State, Rogan was excited to gain experience working with honey bees professionally. He knew that Nebraska had a great program—one that was conducive to the hands-on learning experience he hoped for and that would offer him the opportunity to make a real difference in protecting the endangered species.
Over the last two years, Rogan has had the chance to immerse himself in his research and passion for honey bees.
“I'm trying to learn all aspects of honey bees and what's impacting their overall success or failure, then working to see where my research can impact them most."
Three days a week, he visits his hives that are spread across the state. He hatches bees, raises them and studies how two different environments, one of which is polluted with pesticides, impact worker bee behaviors and the overall population. He hopes to help educate people on how things like pollution and pesticides are affecting the longevity of bees and, in turn, impacting a range of crops like fruits, nuts, vegetables and legumes.
While Rogan’s research is intensive, it’s easy for others to help bees in their daily lives. Build a native bee nest; plant pollinator-friendly plants in your family’s yard; or even donate to an organization that supports beekeepers.
“Honey bees have a huge impact on pollination, our food and crops, and a lot of wildflowers that we get to see and enjoy. So, doing anything you can to help them is something that I would encourage everybody to try!”
“I told my mom that I wanted to be a beekeeper...She didn’t think I was serious.”
PhD in Entomology · Wasim, India
Moving to the other side of the planet is no easy feat. And though his new life has come with challenges, Sanket has learned to counter them with his passion for spreading positivity on the Nebraska campus.
When Sanket made the 8,000-mile journey to Nebraska, he was filled with the excitement of fulfilling his lifelong dream of coming to the US. While he was accustomed to living away from home after attending boarding school his whole life, moving to the states was an adjustment greater than what he could prepare for. The first few months proved to be both amazing and challenging for Sanket.
“The system is completely different here and there’s a constant pressure on international students to be the best and work hard. I was just getting familiar with how exams even happen!”
As Sanket began to settle in, he found a new way to battle homesickness and stress: sharing messages of positivity on social media. He found that not only could he look to others for support on social media, but he could also help support those going through similar struggles and make friends while doing it.
"I used to follow other people and look for their messages and I thought, ‘Why not do it for myself?’ Generally, a lot of people feel the same thing but don't express it.”
Sanket found that as he began spreading positivity on campus, more people were reaching out to him to share how his messages impacted their lives. He started meeting new friends through his posts, whether it was through RSOs asking him to teach Bollywood dance lessons to students or invitations to academic events with other graduate students. Slowly but surely, sharing positive messages with others was also helping Sanket improve his own mental health.
“I believe in mental health and prioritizing it. Initially, it was hard and it started to affect me, but then I started using these messages to take care of myself. Now I want to share with others and make sure they are the happiest versions of themselves.”
“I believe in mental health and prioritizing it.”
Elementary Education · Elkhorn, Nebraska
30 years ago, Sydney’s father helped incoming Huskers prepare for college as a New Student Enrollment Leader. This year, she is ready to follow his example by spending her summer welcoming our newest students to Lincoln—something that, in the back of her mind, she’s always known she wanted to do.
“My parents instilled the love of Husker nation in me since I was young. Now that I'm here, I couldn't think of a better way to give back to the university.”
Sydney considers coming to Nebraska to be one of the best decisions she’s made in her life and knows that starting college is a unique experience. She is excited to bring positivity and excitement to the students she leads this summer and passionate about ensuring they have a memorable start to their college career.
As she’s moved through her first two years of college, Sydney has learned both the rewards and challenges that come with being a new student—whether in academics, social life or extracurricular activities. As an NSE leader, she wants to ensure students are aware of how they can utilize university resources to their fullest as they navigate campus.
“One of the biggest challenges of moving to college is the transition from the structure of high school to the freedom of college. As NSE leaders, we want to help prepare students in the best way we can by giving them the resources and tools they will need to not only survive college, but to be successful.”
Sydney eagerly awaits the connections she’ll make with incoming Huskers, and nothing makes her happier than knowing she’s making a positive impact on campus. She firmly believes in stepping outside of her comfort zone to grow personally and plans to encourage students to do the same. If you are going through NSE this year, Sydney recommends you make the most of it by coming in with an open mind, having fun and meeting new people!
“We change the process a little bit every year so even if you had an older sibling go through, it will look different. Have fun, and get excited to see campus and meet a few new faces!”
“My parents instilled the love of Husker nation in me since I was young. Now that I'm here, I couldn't think of a better way to give back to the university.”
Finance · Vermillion, South Dakota
Having parents who work in higher education showed Ananth how students are positively impacted by campus involvement. So, while succeeding in coursework, he also sought out numerous spots to apply his skills outside of class and quickly found himself passionate about finance and diversity on campus.
Through his leadership and involvement in Big Red Investment Club and Husker Venture Fund, Ananth had the opportunity to use his finance education in real-world transactions. He managed a real investment portfolio, invested in early-stage Nebraska startups and built relationships that pushed him to be involved in other areas.
“BRIC has been a big part of my life. I have made a lot of friends through it, and it’s also influenced my career as well,” he said.
Ananth also used his passion for helping others by tutoring at the Teaching and Learning Center at the College of Business. His experience inspired him to advocate for students studying business by piloting Inclusive Business Leaders—and with Ananth’s help, the college was able to launch the scholarship program for first-year, underrepresented students. He also served on the college’s Inclusive Excellence Advisory Board, which establishes and tracks its diversity, equity and inclusion goals.
“I wanted to see how we can help our first-generation college students and students of color navigate the business workplace because it is not an easy environment to go through,” he said, “I wanted to bring my perspective as a finance person and as a person of color and see how I could make an impact in this area,”
Following his parents’ examples and getting involved on campus turned out to be one of the the best decisions Ananth made at Nebraska. With the support of the university throughout his journey, he is ready now, more than ever, to head into the next chapter of his life.
“All of these clubs and experiences have shaped my life and inspired me. I’m really excited to be working with clients and applying the knowledge I’ve learned into the work that we’ll be doing.”
“I wanted to see how we can help our first-generation college students and students of color navigate the business workplace.”
Fashion Merchandising · Huntsville, Alabama
Fit? Check. Cap and gown? Check. Nebraska degree? Soon!
By the age of five, Cherish was drawing her own designs and dreaming of a career in fashion. By ten, she was in sewing classes and is now just days away from graduating with a degree in fashion merchandising and launching a company.
Before college, Cherish thought she knew everything about the fashion industry. But, after studying fashion for four years, she has built up her knowledge and skills through UNL Textiles, Merchandising & Fashion Design curriculum and hands-on opportunities like designing fabrics and helping local businesses create visual displays.
“I didn’t realize how much work goes into the process of designing a line and I was shocked to learn that when I got to UNL. I love that the program is so one-on-one and lets us experience every part of the industry: sewing, textiles, merchandising, designing etc.”
Cherish took her passion for learning outside the classroom and was motivated to develop more skills that would be crucial to her success as a fashion designer. Through serving as the creative assistant for CEHS Global and president of Montage Fashion Club, Cherish learned the ins and outs of working in the professional world. She was polished in using the creative side of her brain, but involvement on campus pushed her outside of her comfort zone and taught her to speak in front of crowds and run interviews, publish articles and juggle multiple projects.
With only finals ahead of her, Cherish is excited to put years of dreams and hard work into her next journey: starting her own company specializing in women’s wear and getting closer to becoming a well-known fashion designer. As she crosses the stage next weekend, she encourages Huskers to leverage university resources, build relationships and get outside their comfort zone.
“College is what you make of it so take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way. You never know who you may come in contact with, so always put out your best version of yourself.”
“College is what you make of it so take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way. You never know who you may come in contact with, so always put out your best version of yourself.”
Hospitality, Restaurant and Tourism Management · Lincoln, Nebraska
For as long as he can remember, Matt has been watching the Masters Tournament with his father and has been fascinated by the prestige of this event. Now, he has had the opportunity to work two consecutive years in Augusta, a highlight of his experience at UNL.
Through the Hospitality, Restaurant & Tourism Management Program at the UNL College of Education & Human Sciences, Huskers can apply to work at the Masters, where they have the unique opportunity to get hands-on experience serving patrons of the coveted tournament.
"It’s awesome that we as UNL hospitality students get the opportunity to be part of one of the most prestigious tournaments in the world," said Matt.
During his time at the Masters, Matt learned lessons he’ll carry in his daily life and into his career in hospitality. Not only was he impressed by the organization’s commitment to maintaining the highest standard in patron experience, but also by their dedication to continue seeking out aspects of the experience that can be improved each year.
“The first tournament was in the 1930s and while it’s evolved and changed, they’ve always been on the forefront of providing amazing service for any patrons who attend.”
Matt encourages any hospitality student to apply for this opportunity, “No matter if you watch golf, no matter what you think you want to do, being able to be a part of the Masters history, work, and learn from everyone there is an opportunity not a lot of people get.”
After spending two years at the Masters, Matt applies a similar standard of excellence to his work in hospitality. After graduating in May, he plans to enter tourism management with a goal of helping cities attract new visitors, businesses, and residents.
“Augusta showed me that if you have a high standard and you are constantly putting the experience of the patrons first, people will come back again and again.”
“It’s awesome that we as UNL hospitality students get the opportunity to be part of one of the most prestigious tournaments in the world.”
Computer Science and Economics · Omaha, Nebraska
Since he was a child, Ben has dreamed of working with NASA.
He began coding as a middle-schooler and was developing apps and interning in software development by the time he was in high school. At Nebraska, he joined the Raikes School of Computer Science and Management, where he’s made maintaining exceptional academics a priority.
Ben’s hard work made his childhood dream a reality when he accepted an internship with Lockheed Martin, the aerospace giant that has long worked with NASA on space technologies. He attributes his ability to succeed in this position to the curriculum at Raikes, which places an emphasis on group work and working with sponsors in the Design Studio process.
“The Raikes curriculum really helped me be able to jump into a new project with a lot of overhead and be able to understand what I need to do and how to work with people on my project.”
During his time as an intern, Ben worked on projects for the Artemis 2 mission, which is paving the way for human exploration of the moon and Mars. It was his team’s responsibility to run hundreds of tests on various algorithms that control vital spacecraft functions, including waste management and ensuring accurate environmental data reporting from outer space to Houston ground forces.
"There are many really interesting problems that people on Earth would never think about. You can’t take anything for granted in space.”
Ben has accepted a full-time offer and plans to return to Lockheed Martin after graduating. As he moves into this new chapter, he hopes to continue working on groundbreaking NASA projects that change the future of human exploration in space.
“There are many really interesting problems that people on Earth would never think about. You can’t take anything for granted in space.
Global Studies and Political Science · Sega, Kenya
In 2013, Rosemary came to the United States as a green card immigrant from Kenya. Though her experience moving to the US is important to who she is, she is passionate about showing that she's not defined by her past situations—and about helping fellow Huskers realize this too.
“The idea of refugees has been distorted so much that when we think of refugees, we think of people who are helpless. That’s not the truth. In those refugees, we have artists, doctors, teachers, etc.”
Coming to Nebraska was a challenging adjustment for Rosemary. She often found herself one of the only Black students in the room, but quickly found a community. She now serves as the President of the African Students Association and as an OASIS Peer Mentor, where she dedicates her time to having conversations with mentees about their mental health and plans for the future.
Rosemary says these conversations around mental health aren’t always taking place in BIPOC communities, but she is working to change that by having open discussions about her experiences witnessing hardship.
“Just having those discussions helps us understand how we as a generation are changing a lot of stigmas on mental health and having hard conversations.”
Rosemary hopes that her time as a peer mentor inspires others to be confident in asking for and accepting help, applying for jobs they think they could be rejected from, or even changing their outlook on receiving a bad grade.
“You still see the ‘I can do anything.’ spark in first-year students. It’s my job to make sure my mentees don’t lose that spark. We’re so scared of failing that we don’t even try.”
Rosemary’s goal is to join law school, where she will study human rights law and eventually revisit Kenya to follow her passion of helping others. She is proof that it doesn't matter what you go through, you can redefine any outcome in life.
“I’m not awesome or anything. I just did the best with what I had.”
“We're so scared of failing that we don't even try.”
Biological Systems Engineering · Lincoln, Nebraska
Last weekend, medical and engineering students gathered for GoBabyGo!, a program that provides modified, ride-on cars to families of young children with mobility issues. Among them was senior Nebraska Engineering student Ethan.
The program is supported by the Biomedical Engineering Society at UNL, an organization Ethan joined as a first-year student. Now the president, he helped lead and coordinate the event alongside fellow officers of the Biomedical Engineering Society and its volunteers who made the event a success.
“I wanted to be a part of GoBabyGo! because I very strongly believe in its purpose…I believe that free mobility is a right, not a privilege, and most of us take it for granted every single day. It is vital to the healthy physical, mental, and emotional development of every child."
For children with mobility issues, getting around on their own has an added expense. Conventional mobility devices can cost thousands of dollars and most families cannot afford to pay that much.
With the skills he gained through his coursework, Ethan was able to make toy cars more accessible and provide a way for the children to more easily socialize with others. He helped his team with the construction, wiring and assembly of cars, and at the end of the day, he was able to see the hard work of all of the volunteers pay off as they presented the families with the cars.
“The end of the day is so satisfying, knowing you’ve used your skills to make a child’s life a little bit better. But, the real payoff is seeing their faces light up when they start moving that first time. The feeling that smile gives you is like nothing else — it’s very gratifying.”
Journalism · Lincoln, Nebraska
Will Sleddens believes in the power of second chances. One month after receiving a full-ride to start as a computer science student, he would lose his scholarship; two years later he would be dismissed from the university. Fast forward: Will has returned to school and is completing his final year as a Husker. He is a straight "A" senior with a Nebraska Promise scholarship and is studying journalism before heading to law school.
"I always knew I would come back to the university. I spent time bartending and serving and realized what I liked to do is talk to people and communicate with them. Going to law school would be an extra step to help the community."
Time away to realize his passion marked a new era for Will. After years of struggles, he finally found a happy spot in academics and considers himself a changed student. He keeps a strict routine but also isn’t too hard on himself.
"I think of school as a full-time job, but I also have a full-time job. I've made my school hours 9-5 regardless of classes. And I do deviate from that sometimes, but it helps me make sure I have set hours for school."
Will hopes his story will encourage others to find their place in society by truly assessing their passions, even if it takes longer than expected. Students who are unsure of a career path or their passions may go through similar experiences of stress with academic probation, losing scholarships, and skipping classes. He wants anyone who is struggling to know that it's acceptable to take time and re-evaluate before returning to school—and to not be afraid to reach out for help.
The greatest piece of advice Will shares is to lean on the UNL community. Upon his return to campus, Will overcame the anxiety he used to have with reaching out to professors and his scholarship office. He has now created a network of mentors who are helping him reach his goal of getting to law school.
"Like Elle Woods had a really good support system, I do too! It took a community effort to get me where I am."
“It took a community effort to get me where I am.”
Advertising and Public Relations · Omaha, Nebraska
Launching a coffee shop wasn’t what Megan Castor expected to do when enrolling at Nebraska. One thing she did expect was to be a part of the strongly knit Husker community. It’s with the support of this community that Megan was able to open Reactor Coffee, a picture-perfect coffee shop filled with positivity, college students, and a safe space for everyone to grow personally and professionally.
Through her involvement with Startups UNL and UNL Women's Plus, Megan found herself surrounded by creative, entrepreneurial students and mentors who helped her realize her potential. This network of entrepreneurs ultimately led to finding the opportunity to create a shop at Turbine Flats. Through Reactor, Megan hopes to foster an environment where friends can spend time together and study, student organizations can hold meetings, and local small business owners can showcase their products.
Megan is often balancing a lot at once. However, she prides herself in understanding what college students need and uses this knowledge to set Reactor apart from others. She’s incredibly open about how trying it is to run a business as a student.
“I’m still growing up too—growing a business, growing myself, and growing as a college student,” she says. And growing through Reactor is something she hopes other students can also do. Megan believes that the success of Reactor is fueled by its student leadership, as they truly understand what other students want. Though she is graduating in December, Megan hopes to connect with Huskers who will be able to help her continue the culture at Reactor.
“There are so many college students who want to run a coffee shop. I would love for other people to have the same experience that I’ve been able to have.”
“I’m still growing up too—growing a business, growing myself, and growing as a college student.”
Anthropology and Spanish · Grand Island, Nebraska
Nayla’s education is a major milestone — but not just for her. As the oldest in her family, she has little sisters who look up to her, and as a first-generation American and first-generation college student, she knows that her experiences can inspire others who come from similar backgrounds.
After moving to the U.S. from Cuba at age 10, Nayla quickly adapted to her new life in Grand Island and eventually became a part of the Nebraska College Preparatory Academy (NCPA). There, she was able to form a community of fellow future Huskers who would support her as she worked her way toward college. As a first-year student she still leans on her NCPA family and considers the program's office a second home on campus.
NCPA connected Nayla to college, and now she’s using her education to help others. This fall, Nayla voiced Spanish translations of campus news for radio broadcast spots during Husker football games. While she doesn’t see herself stepping behind the microphone and becoming a full-time broadcaster one day, she was excited to have the opportunity to create accessible content for Spanish-speaking people across Nebraska.
“I am thankful that they did that, because it shows that they are interested in others and trying to include everybody,” Nayla said.
Nayla is also using her experience as a Husker to show other Latina women that college is something they can do. When she’s in her residence hall or in classrooms on campus, she often looks around and doesn’t see many people who look like her — but that doesn’t stop Nayla. She hopes that one day her much younger sisters will be able to look to her as an example and know that if she can thrive in higher education then they can, too.
“I am pretty proud of who I am and who I will become, but it's also like, I don't need to try to conform to other people. I just need to teach them how to treat me just like I let them teach me how to treat them,” Nayla said. “If everybody was the same, the world will be really boring, and there would be no transaction of knowledge.”
Political Science · Aurora, Nebraska
Not everyone’s path leads directly to college — and Jacob knows that from experience. After graduating from high school, Jacob took a gap year to explore his options.
Eventually, he enrolled in a community college to get back in the swing of school. But when he transferred to the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, things didn’t fall immediately into place. As a transfer student entering a new school amidst a pandemic, adjusting was hard. He leaned on the Center for Academic Success and Transition (CAST), Counseling and Psychological Services and his friends.
Jacob’s own experience as a transfer student inspired him to help others. He became a transfer student peer mentor at CAST, a role in which he gets to help fellow Huskers as they adjust to life at UNL.
“I didn't want people like me to feel like they were less than, or I didn't want people to feel like they were alone in their transfer experience,” Jacob said.
Though he entered UNL undeclared, Jacob is now a political science student with minors in economics and national security studies. He hopes to attend law school — something he never would’ve seen himself doing years ago.
Jacob’s path to college has proved to him that everyone’s journey is different.
“I wanted to be a peer mentor because I wanted people that were in my position a year ago to know that they're not alone. There are multiple paths to success and multiple paths to find your calling — and that doesn't always involve spending four years at your state university or spending four years at your dream school,” Jacob said. “If you don't know what you want to do, you're unsure, or you have circumstances in your life that prevent you from taking the traditional path, there are tools and there are multiple ways that you can achieve what you want to achieve.”
“I didn't want people like me to feel like they were less than, or I didn't want people to feel like they were alone in their transfer experience.”
Law · West Des Moines, Iowa
Nebraska Law students are bringing their legal education to local classrooms. Through the Community Legal Education Project (CLEP), Huskers teach the basics of the U.S. legal system to Lincoln-area middle and elementary school students.
Third year law student Joe Quinn has been part of the CLEP since fall 2021. He says the project is driven by the belief that law should not be left to lawyers alone.
“In order for the law to work, it has to be all of us,” Joe said. “It can't just be lawyers and judges — there really needs to be everyone in the community having a basic understanding of how some of these key principles work.”
This fall, CLEP hosted Constitution Day-themed workshops across Lincoln classrooms. Nebraska Law students taught on the process of adding amendments to the Constitution, discussed amendments that didn’t pass, and had discussions with their participants on their thoughts on the matter.
“I think that they probably had heard about some of this stuff but didn't really understand, and kind of how it worked in the background. A lot of the volunteers that we had said that their students were really interested, really engaged and asked a lot of really good questions,” Joe said.
The program is currently planning for their spring project, which will take volunteers to local classrooms for a multi-week program with fifth-grade students. After partaking in CLEP for more than a semester, Joe can already see the impact it’s making on the Lincoln community.
“I think that just helps build those ties. I think that's really, really important for every lawyer — no matter where you're practicing or what area the lawyer is practicing. Being involved with your community is something that all of us need to do and want to do.”
Cade & Hunter
Fisheries and Wildlife; Agronomy · Kearney, NE; Wood River, NE
LS Lures started with a $50 bill.
Huskers Hunter and Cade were paired together for a project in the Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program. For their assignment, they were given $50 and told to build a business from the ground up.
As an avid fisher, Hunter frequently found himself frustrated with the lures he was using from big box stores. Inconsistent quality across the cheaply made lures led to lost fish and wasted time at the lake. His solution? It was time to make his own.
Sparked by their Engler course and shared fervor for fishing, Cade and Hunter formed LS Lures. The business would provide handmade lures, baits, tackles and jigs to fellow fishers. By making each product by hand, the two would ensure that the quality would be top-notch. Before they knew it, they had a booming business.
“We just went headfirst into it and turned out making it into something we really like,” Cade said.
After graduation, the two hope to take their love for lures to the next level. The pair won the grand prize in the 2021 Nebraska College of Business New Venture Competition, which scored them $25,000 to use on expanding their operations. They have recently started selling at a sports store in Lincoln and hope to make connections with more shops across the country this spring as they travel with the Husker Bass Team for competitions.
Thanks to Engler and the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s emphasis on entrepreneurship, Cade and Hunter have a new life path as business owners. And they say if they can do it, anyone can.
“It just takes drive. Anybody can do it,” Hunter said. “You just have to have a passion for something and be able to work your tail off at whatever you're passionate about.”
“We just went headfirst into it and turned out making it into something we really like.”
Alpha Xi Delta UNL
Members of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s Alpha Xi Delta (AXiD) sorority are helping kids in the Lincoln community. Through the organization Food Fort, these Huskers spend hours each week serving food and providing homework help to children in under-resourced neighborhoods.
After their national organization gave each sorority chapter the opportunity to work with local organizations focusing on food insecurity and community outreach, UNL’s AXiD chapter discovered Food Fort.
Food Fort is a school bus that has been renovated into a mobile community. Each week, the bus stops in three Lincoln neighborhoods to provide meals, homework help and friendly companionship with volunteers.
“We just really liked how this small organization does so much for the community,” said Emily, AXiD’s philanthropy vice president.
Starting in fall 2021, AXiD began sending three volunteers to each of Food Fort’s three neighborhood locations. They’ve also held fundraisers on campus and organized a Trunk-or-Treat Halloween party for the kids.
Emily loves seeing how much her sorority sisters love Food Fort. Some members go back week after week, just because of how much they enjoy it.
“It's been cool seeing the girls come back with their just faces lit up from working with the kids,” Emily said.
Emily knows that she and her sorority sisters are making an impact. And best of all — they’re making an impact on the fellow members of their community.
“It's been amazing, being able to work more hands-on...we can actually go and volunteer and work with kids and work with organizations in our own community,” Emily said.
Sociology, Women’s and Gender Studies · Blair, Nebraska
Thanks to one University of Nebraska–Lincoln program, Delainie is ready for the future.
Delainie has gained valuable research experience through the university’s Undergraduate Sociology Teaching and Research (USTARS) program. With USTARS, she works alongside faculty and graduate students pursuing real-world research studies.
Before finding her path in sociology, Delainie wasn’t quite sure what she wanted to do. But in the span of a few short years, she found her passion. After changing her major to sociology, she then added a double major in women’s and gender studies and minors in English, psychology and LGBTQ/sexuality studies. Then she found USTARs, which provided further confirmation that she was on the right path.
Through USTARs Delainie has been able to see all sides of research — from collecting and organizing data, to coordinating with Institutional Review Boards, to reading and transcribing study interviews.
“It's been super helpful for showing me what it's actually like doing research,” Delainie said.
With her USTARs experience under her belt, Delainie feels ready to tackle her capstone research project and find the perfect post-grad path.
“It’s just given me tons of opportunities. Obviously, there are other ways you can go in the sociology field, but research is such a big part of it,” Delainie said. “It's really interesting for me to be able to see this whole side and all the aspects of it.”
Along with finding her future career field, Delainie has also found a community she can lean on as she prepares for life after UNL.
“I've definitely broadened my horizon on potential jobs in the future, so that's been incredible. As well as making good connections with the people who run these programs — that's been excellent for me as well...it contains the perfect resource,” Delainie said. “If I have any questions, there's someone I can always go to.”
“It’s just given me tons of opportunities...It's really interesting for me to be able to see this whole side and all the aspects of it.”
Computer Science · Lincoln, Nebraska
Keith is where he is today because of an after-school club. As a middle school student, his curious mind was entranced by the LEGO robotics club started by one of his teachers. Now, as a senior computer science student, he’s helping build the next generation of computer science students by forming his own STEM after-school clubs.
“It was cool to have something there that gave an opportunity like a cool after-school club,” Keith said. “And honestly, it shaped a lot of what I was interested in now because of what I did in middle school.”
Keith started his first club through @unlhonors, and then teamed up with Initialize UNL. Initialize is a registered student organization (RSO) focused on engaging the Lincoln community with computer science learning opportunities. Initialize connected Keith to resources, including computers, robots and a network of University of Nebraska–Lincoln student mentors.
After carefully going over the curriculum and updating it to the latest computer science language, Keith was ready to train his mentors. Luckily, they were all fellow computer science students and able to quickly grasp the learning concepts and directions.
During fall 2021, Keith and his team of mentors were able to put their passion to work through leading after-school clubs at three Lincoln elementary schools. Soon, they’ll start their second semester of teaching the 10-week clubs.
For Keith, leading after-school clubs has been life-changing. The opportunity has inspired him to pursue a Ph.D. in computer science education, where he’ll research systemic issues in the computer science industry and uncover new ways to make the concept accessible to students.
“I don't think computer science is diverse enough,” Keith said. "We need to get kids interested early on, make it a viable path... that's one of my motivations.”
Biology · Lincoln, Nebraska
Students Together Against Cancer (STAC) is devoted to helping local cancer patients. In late 2021, the group hit a major milestone: their 100th donation to a Lincolnite diagnosed with cancer.
Senior biology major Sarah Hoagland is the president of STAC. Having been involved with the organization since high school, she has seen the group donate thousands of dollars over the years.
“I am really proud to be a part of a nonprofit organization like [STAC], because I think it’s really impressive that a group of 18 to 22 year olds have been running a nonprofit now since 2012,” Sarah said.
All STAC donations cover bills for cancer patients with financial need. Through gift cards to grocery stores or direct checks made to utility companies, STAC gives cancer patients one less thing to worry about.
“I think a lot of cancer related organizations focus on finding a cure, and we focus on everyday problems. So, you know, making the choice of paying for your cancer treatment or having dinner — I don't think that that's a choice that someone should have to make,” Sarah said. “We try to alleviate some of those everyday stresses in someone's life so that they can focus more on healing and being with their family, and not having to worry about those smaller things.”
For Sarah, one of the best things about being involved in STAC is meeting the patients they serve. She estimates that the group has given 30 donations since she’s been a part of it and that she has been on the team that has personally met with recipients at least five times.
“I've met with patients, and I really know the impact that STAC is making on people in the community...they could be your neighbors, you never know,” Sarah said.
“I've met with patients, and I really know the impact that STAC is making on people in the community.”
Art · Omaha, Nebraska
Angela’s daughter Lily knows Richards Hall as well as her own child care center. After all, she’s been going there since she was a newborn.
Angela started her degree program in art at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln while she was pregnant with Lily. After giving birth, she would occasionally return to campus with her small daughter on her hip or carried alongside her in a car seat. Now, three-year-old Lily knows the familiar hallways like the back of her hand.
Angela and Lily are just one of the many parent-child pairs on UNL’s campus. It’s estimated that around 400 student parents are on campus, from undergraduates to PhD candidates. For these students, the pressures of parenthood and academia interact daily. Coming home from classes signals the end of one job and the beginning of another, and child care center pickups, dinner, bath time and bedtime stories replace the time that many other students would spend studying or taking a break from tests and presentations.
“It's two full-time jobs that I have right now,” Angela said.
Angela leans on her partner for support. Together, the two balance her school schedule alongside Lily’s needs. While it isn’t always easy caring for a toddler and also taking a full course load of classes, Angela knows it will all be worth it when she receives her degree in May 2022. She hopes by living as both a mother and a student, she can show the two life paths don’t have to be mutually exclusive.
“I don't want her to grow up and down the road be like, ‘Oh, I gave up school for you’ or something. Because for so long there's been the stigma, especially towards women, when you're a mother — that's your job. You know, you're not allowed to have any thoughts, ideas, needs or anything. So, this can help show her that yeah, I had you and I was still able to pursue my dream and work towards my degree and make things happen for myself,” Angela said. “I was still able to have my own identity."
“So, this can help show her that yeah, I had you and I was still able to pursue my dream and work towards my degree and make things happen for myself.”
Business · Cancun, Mexico
Eduardo has always been an entrepreneur. From the time he was just a tween, he's been building his own businesses. But now, his business ventures are about more than just selling something.
Almost 10 years ago, Eduardo’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. She beat the disease, but the experience stuck with Eduardo. This year, he was inspired to build a business based on giving back to those affected by cancer.
By selling breast cancer awareness t-shirts, Eduardo’s new business is raising $10,000 to give to cancer patients. Eduardo has overseen the entire operation: he designed the shirts, ordered a thousand printed tees and sold them. He's almost halfway to his sales goal and plans to be the person that hands the check to his recipients once he's finished.
His education in the College of Business helped him get here. From calculating his costs to promoting his final product, he’s used what he’s learned through the CoB and the Center for Entrepreneurship to create a maintainable business.
Though Eduardo has done the planning on his own, he doesn’t feel alone.
“I am the one selling the t-shirts, but this is a whole team effort. And I keep saying that over and over again — if we get a thousand shirts, that’s a thousand people that helped support these people and support this cause,” Eduardo said. “So, it's a whole team dynamic.”
When Eduardo’s fundraising is complete, he plans to split the $10,000 into $1,000 donations for 10 cancer patients. The checks can go toward paying for their treatments, or just assisting with the bills while they undergo a difficult time. Starting a business and promoting a product isn’t always easy, but for Eduardo, it’s worth it.
“This hits home,” Eduardo said. “It's a cause that I care about.”
Computer Science and Mathematics · Grand Island, Nebraska
As a first-generation student from an immigrant family, Bryan didn’t always see college as accessible. But thanks to the financial assistance of scholarships from the Nebraska College Preparatory Academy (NCPA) and the support of his loved ones, this weekend Bryan will accomplish his goal of graduating from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Bryan first became a part of NCPA in middle school. He had seen his older brother succeed in college through NCPA and knew he wanted to follow in his footsteps. As he went through high school and prepared for college, the NCPA community was there for him every step of the way.
“I personally describe it as a second family,” Bryan said. “There are students from every grade level from grade nine all the way up to seniors in college.”
Bryan’s second family at NCPA showed him that it’s OK to ask for help. When he was struggling in classes or grappling with making big decisions, he always knew that he could find his answers somewhere in the university community. Whether it was through a study session at a resource center or a friendly face at NCPA, he was able to solve his problems by seeking help.
“If you seek out help, you will eventually find the help that you need,” Bryan said. “And that help is going to go a long way — whether you see that now or later.”
As he finishes up finals and gets ready for graduation, Bryan reflects on the gratitude that he has for the people who have helped him get to where he is. He’s especially proud to show off his accomplishment to two of the most important people in his life — his mom and dad.
“I think graduation is so important to me because my parents never had this opportunity,” Bryan said. “They weren't able to go past like eighth or ninth grade, and it wasn't like they had a choice. Even if they wanted to go to school, they had to stop going to school in order to work. And so being the second graduate in my family...I feel like because of them, they gave me the opportunity to do what I want to do and pursue my dreams.”
“I personally describe [NCPA] as a second family.”
Biological Systems Engineering · Lincoln, Nebraska
When Suzi became president of the Afghan Student Association (AFSA), she thought her term would be filled with planning fun socials and connecting with her friends. But when she learned that hundreds of Afghan refugees would soon arrive in Lincoln, her plans changed.
Suzi and her fellow AFSA members stepped up to resettle refugees.
Their first plan of action was a rally for peace and funds for the Afghan American Women’s Association. Then BASA, UNL's Bosnian American Student Association, wanted to collaborate on a donation drive for Nebraska’s incoming refugees. The two groups came together to organize a campus-wide resource drive benefitting Catholic Social Services (CSS). Upon seeing bag upon bag of clothes, towels, blankets and other goods dropped off at CSS, Suzi realized that AFSA had a real potential to initiate change in the community.
“Honestly, the outreach from the community and their response has been amazing,” Suzi said.
Suzi hopes that AFSA can be a resource to new Nebraskans as they adjust to living in Lincoln. They plan to hold educational seminars on Afghan culture for resettlement volunteers, as well as use their Farsi language skills to personally connect with refugees when there might be a language barrier.
“We're really hoping to take the initiative of making them feel comfortable in Lincoln,” Suzi said. “Catholic Social Services and Lutheran Social Services are more helping them like get situated and everything, and we're just hoping to help them acclimate.”
While Suzi never expected her senior year to go this way, she knows that this is what she’s called to do.
“It was like a very personal issue to honestly I think every Afghan in America, because you still have family back there,” Suzi said. “I have my like aunts and uncles that like lived through the Taliban in the ‘90s and to see all that happened...I felt a strong urge to help out.”
“The outreach from the community and their response has been amazing.”
Integrated Science · Rwanda
Gabin was a sophomore when he first came in contact with Connection Point, a church and outreach center near the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s East Campus. As a class assignment in ALEC 120: Interpersonal Communication, students were asked to complete 20 hours of community service, and Gabin chose to volunteer in Connection Point’s Open Shelf Pantry.
Long after his 20 hours were satisfied, Gabin kept volunteering.
“I felt like a part of the community, and so I continued,” Gabin said.
And while volunteering, he got an idea.
The Open Shelf Pantry, which offers food, household supplies and clothing to anyone in need, is an affiliate of the Lincoln Food Bank, so records must be kept on families served, and volunteers were using a note card and file system to keep track of these records by hand.
With the pantry serving about 120 families a month, Beth Graverholt, pastor of Connection Point, said the note card system was complex and time-consuming to check people in and complete reports.
Gabin had been teaching himself computer programming and web design and thought he might be able to help by building a website that would streamline the intake process for the pantry and run reports with the click of a button.
“What motivated me was that I want to use my computer science knowledge for community development,” Gabin said. “I ask myself, ‘How can I use this to help people or help my community?’ And, I have these skills, so how can I solve a real-life problem?”
After months of work on the program — and several pitfalls — Gabin was ready to show the website to Beth, who was impressed and excited to fold the new system into the pantry’s operation.
“It makes it a lot faster and easier to train new volunteers,” Beth said. “Having it digitized makes the process so much smoother for check-in, and Gabin worked with me to make the system work for us in terms of what we needed.”
“The solution he came up with is great. He saw the problem and fixed it because he wanted to help his community.”
“What motivated me was that I want to use my computer science knowledge for community development.”
Construction Management · Omaha, Nebraska
Laura doesn’t let anything stop her — not even fires.
As a sophomore, she balanced the transition to college all while undergoing fire cadet training. When she wasn’t studying for her construction management classes or attending meetings for her sorority, she could be found learning the ins and outs of fire search and rescue.
Laura was one of the only women in her cadet training class. But instead of feeling outnumbered, she felt empowered.
"I kind of just decided, you know what? I'm not gonna sit back and just watch the guys do it. If they want to ask, ‘Who wants to practice with the chainsaw again?’ I'm gonna stand up and say, ‘Me!’” Laura said. “Because if this is a career I really want to be in, then that's a difficulty I'm going to have to overcome every single day — so might as well start now.”
She takes that same drive into the classroom. As a woman in construction management, she knows firsthand that there’s a large gender gap in her industry. She also recognizes that she likes things that might make her stand out even more, like the Miss Amazing Pageant she coordinates to connect girls with disabilities with self-esteem boosting opportunities.
Instead of abandoning her passions to fit in with the rest of the construction crew, Laura decided to do it all. She’s a firefighter, a construction engineer and a pageant director — and she wants everyone to know that they can do it all, too.
“I have always been a person who's said you can do anything you want to. And you know, people do doubt you. When I first said I wanted to be a firefighter, a lot of people kind of laughed in my face a little bit and instead of letting that affect me, I turned it into, no, I'm going to prove you wrong,” Laura said. “I will do what I want to do, and I won't let anybody stop me. I just kind of carry that throughout my life. When I want to do something, I won't let anybody tell me I can't. If I'm going to put my mind to something, I'm going to do it.”
“If this is a career I really want to be in, then that's a difficulty I'm going to have to overcome every single day — so might as well start now.”
Veterinary Science · Laurel, Nebraska
In honor of National First-Generation Celebration Day on Nov. 8, we brought together two first-gen Huskers for a Q&A: junior Maddie Swanson and Chancellor Ronnie Green.
RG: So, Maddie, you're a first-generation college student. I am too. Congratulations on taking on that challenge and being successful here at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. You’re from Laurel, NE, and interested in being a veterinarian — how's that going?
MS: It’s going pretty good so far, I'm getting a lot of work experience in the field and that's very rewarding.
RG: As a first-gen student, what made you make the decision to pursue your university education?
MS: There's actually quite a few factors. One of them was my family. They've never limited me in what I want to do. They really pushed me to be the best I can be and reach all my goals. To be a veterinarian, I need a higher education, so they really pushed me to go to college. Another factor was myself. When I looked at my life, I didn't think I'd be happy not pursuing higher education furthering myself as a person. The younger people coming after me in my family look up to me and I want to be a role model for them.
RG: Have you been part of the First Husker program here at the university? What has that been like?
MS: They have been a saving grace for me. Coming from a small town and coming to a bigger city, it was kind of a culture shock. When I came to campus early, they indulged in all my questions. They helped me find my resources on campus. They helped me adjust. When I ran into problems, they were the first people I contacted, and they were there for me day or night. It was really a saving grace. I'm also a peer mentor for that program now, so I’m able to help the new first gen coming in.
RG: Well, I understand what that's like. Because I remember being a first-gen student. I remember all my friends seemed to know how all this worked, and I had to kind of figure it out. So, congratulations on your success.
Environmental Science · Omaha, Nebraska
Growing up, Erik lived amongst injured creatures and critters as part of his mom’s volunteer position with Nebraska’s Wildlife Rescue Team.
“We would have animals in the backyard, we would have animals in the bathroom...we actually had a beaver in our bathtub,” Erik said.
Erik can’t count the number of baby birds, squirrels and rabbits his mother rehabilitated throughout his childhood. He does have a few distinct memories of special cases they took on — like the time they rehabbed a lizard that was found in a flower bouquet, or when they cared for what was thought to be a bobcat but was actually a particularly wild-looking tabby cat.
While his experiences around animals felt like the norm during his upbringing, it’s clear to Erik now that they’ve made an impact on who he is as a person. He realizes that caring for animals and the natural environment is a shared family trait — it’s something Erik’s grandfather instilled in his mom, and she passed on to Erik. Now, he’s continuing the tradition by studying environmental science.
“When I was trying to work things out of what major I wanted to choose, I was going down the list of everything in CASNR, and environmental science really popped out as the one thing I couldn't stand not doing,” Erik said.
As Erik prepares to graduate, he knows that his career will lead him back to caring for the world around him. After doing an internship focusing on water resources with the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources, he knows he wants to focus on doing work that restores, conserves and protects the resources that matter to us all.
Whether protecting the largest water systems in the land, or rehabbing the smallest animals in the forest, Erik is there to lend a helping hand and make things better than before.
“We're all in this together...if you see something in need you should help it.”
Psychology Ph.D. · Portland, Oregon
When she’s not walking her pup Linus or leading new research at the Canine Cognition and Human Interaction Lab, London is training service and therapy dogs.
London has been training dogs since she was in undergrad. As a dog lover, she always knew she wanted to be around the four-legged friends — but when she started training them, she realized she had a knack for the task.
“I started getting really into it because it was basically a clear application of learning about the animal mind,” London said.
After moving to Lincoln to pursue her Ph.D. with the UNL Canine Cognition and Human Interaction Lab (CCHIL), she became involved with Uplifting Paws. Uplifting Paws, started by Liz Higley, rescues dogs from shelters and then provides them with round-the-clock training so they can become certified service animals.
Trained service and therapy animals can be expensive. For many people, the cost alone can keep them from implementing these useful animals into their lives.
“I saw that in the service/therapy dog world, there's a huge gap with mental health service dogs because they just don't make them, and they don't really place them... And some of the reasons are because it's hard to get money for them,” London said. “Often, people with mental health disparities find it harder to get jobs so they can't pay for the service dogs as well, and even subsidized, they're still upwards of $20,000 to $30,000.”
Uplifting Paws service animals cost half to even one-third of the cost of even the most subsidized service animals. Service dog training is not the easiest task, as it requires the animal to live with a volunteer trainer for years and undergo a variety of temperament tests — but for London, it’s worth it.
“[Liz] basically was just like, ‘We're gonna be doing good for a lot of people,’” London said. “And I'm a sucker for doing good.”
Third-Year Law Student · Huntington Beach, California
tw // addiction, overdose
Tim found his circle through the Collegiate Recovery Community (CRC).
When Tim inquired about CRC in 2019, the group was still in its early stages and needed a student leader. Instead of shying away from the task, he saw it as a great opportunity for someone in recovery.
“I moved away from everyone I knew and came to Lincoln...that's often the case for students. They're coming here, they're alone and they don't know anyone,” said Tim. “It's important to really take the initiative to get into a supportive community as quickly as possible, because you can get isolated and lonely, and those are really bad for people in recovery as it leads to relapse.”
Tim has been in recovery since 2016. While working 80-to-100-hour weeks in the hectic Los Angeles restaurant world, he had turned to alcohol and opioids to manage his stress — but soon he lost control.
“I was heavily addicted to opioids and lost several friends to drug overdose. I continued to work in the restaurant industry and worked my way up to executive chef, but at the same time was dealing with a constant everyday addiction,” Tim said. “And so eventually I just came to a point where I needed to take a different path.”
Along with joining the CRC, students in recovery can seek out community through Big Red Resilience & Well-being as well as get professional help from Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS). Most importantly, they can learn that they are not alone. It’s not always easy to share one’s experience with addiction. But for Tim and his fellow members of the CRC, it’s necessary.
“It's not something that we can afford to not talk about.” Tim said.
Racial Justice Alliance
The Racial Justice Alliance tackles complicated concepts through conversation. Formed in late 2020, the registered student organization is devoted to understanding, recognizing and interrupting racism.
“Our major lane of activism is dialogue and conversations, so our major goal is to bring together a group of students who are committed to supporting one another, to help each other through difficult concepts, conversations,” said Megan, one of the group’s founders. “One of our major goals is learning how to talk through racism because it's so complex and contradictory — it's not the same in every case. There's no guidebook or rulebook that is going to be the same in every instance, so we talk from our own experiences, learn from each other's experiences and help each other find the words to have these conversations.”
“We do a lot of dialogue around identifying racism within ourselves and racist biases, and how we - even as people of color or not people of color - perpetuate racist ideologies, internalized racism and societal racism,” said Alexa, another founding member.
RJA takes in new members at the start of each semester. As a discussion-based organization, they rely on forming close relationships that allow members to be completely vulnerable about their feelings — which is why they keep a closed membership to only students that can commit to their monthly meetings. For students that are interested in RJA but might be unable to attend frequently, the group also provides connections to resources that may help.
“So many things are happening around the world that we need to really understand and try our best to help other fellow humans,” said Uma, a member of the group. “I’m really very fortunate to be in this group and very grateful to these two great women.”
(Pictured left to right) Megan Cardwell is a third-year communication studies PhD student from Syracuse, New York; Uma Ganesan is a third-year educational studies PhD student from Chennai, India; Alexa Yunes-Koch is a second-year educational studies PhD student from Mexico City, Mexico.
Mechanical Engineering · Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Kaleab’s drive for engineering comes from his hands-on experiences. As a member of the university’s Husker Motorsports Formula SAE (Formula) team, he builds Formula One-like vehicles that go head-to-head against other universities across the country.
Kaleab has worked his way up from a general member to technical director of the group over the past four years. While thinking back on how Formula has helped him develop as an engineer, he noted that the organization has made a tremendous impact on him.
“Having Formula has developed very much every instinct that I have as an engineer,” Kaleab said. “Designing, basically understanding the mechanical components, knowing techniques and methods so that I can prove myself — basically building my arsenal.”
Building a car from scratch isn’t easy. The team must build a machine that is fast and sturdy, while also being safe, manufacturable and affordable. Then to even compete against other schools, Formula’s car must pass a lengthy inspection.
“We go through technical inspections before we can participate in the events, and it is extremely tough to even pass that technical inspection,” Kaleab said.
From testing and re-testing the final product, to painstakingly detailed audits of the design, to learning from past mistakes in previous years to build an even better model in the future — Formula gives Kaleab a place to put what he’s learned in the classroom into practice.
Formula has also helped Kaleab prepare for his career. As he started with the group as a first-year, he now has four years of ample experiential opportunities on his resume. He’s able to show employers the depth of his experiences, and how Formula has accelerated his engineering education.
“Having Formula has developed very much every instinct that I have as an engineer. Designing, basically understanding the mechanical components, knowing techniques and methods so that I can prove myself — basically building my arsenal.”
International Business · Muscat, Oman
Muzna’s first day as a Husker wasn’t picture-perfect.
Everything about Lincoln was brand new to her — from the layout of campus to the cold winter temperatures at the start of each spring semester. As she made her way to her first class, everything seemed to go wrong.
She was running late and couldn’t find her friends in her residence hall. As she made her way to class, she got lost. And then, to make matters worse, Muzna slipped on a patch of ice and fell as she crossed the street.
Her bubbling frustrations reached a boiling point. After pulling herself back up, she got out her phone and called her parents to tell them that she wanted to go home.
But instead of giving up and getting on a plane home, Muzna stayed. And although it wasn’t always easy, she made Lincoln her new home.
“I didn't imagine that when I fell there once, I'm going to fail more than once — emotionally and physically — and I'm still standing up,” Muzna said.
Muzna started forming a community in Lincoln through the Omani Students Association and Toastmasters. The two groups connected her with new friends and allowed her confidence to flourish as she took on new leadership skills on campus.
And with her new confidence, she handled obstacles in a new way. When her lupus flared up and caused her to be in severe pain, she powered through with the help of her doctors to finish the semester. When she faced issues in classes, she relied on herself to find solutions. When she missed her family in Oman, she gave them a call rather than booking a plane ticket home and quitting her studies.
With her newfound grit, she achieved glory. On Saturday, August 14, Muzna’s family was able to watch as she graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in only two years.
“I'm just thankful for everyone here,” Muzna said. “My friends...the Omanis, my international friends, my American friends, my instructors, my advisors.”
Cesar Torres Mulgado
Educational/School Psychology PhD · Defiance, Iowa
Cesar is dedicated to making schools better for teachers and students.
As a fourth-year PhD student, he works in the UNL Empowerment Initiative Lab. Started by Dr. Susan Swearer, the lab works with Lincoln Public Schools students to address situations of bullying behavior.
The lab takes an altered approach to these behaviors. Instead of placing students who participate in bullying on suspension, the lab assesses their needs and provides them with healthy behaviors to model and mental health resources.
Bullying is a complex topic, and a multitude of models and factors can point to the micro and macro causes of the behavior. But rather than instituting punishment for bullying, Cesar looks to implement prevention tactics for future instances.
“As long as there's risk factors, we can also put protective factors and counterbalance that,” Cesar said.
When Cesar meets with students, he often sees a different side of them that doesn’t come through on their school referral reports. By showing unconditional support, he can connect with them on a new level and see a new side to their personality.
“When you meet with them, you meet such a wonderful student that's unlike anything you saw on the referral. Yeah, they have issues, but by giving them that one-on-one attention...it becomes a whole different conversation,” Cesar said.
In addition to working with students, Cesar also assists teachers through the Nebraska Department of Education. In his work there, he helps educators combat compassion fatigue — the feeling of caring so much for others that you forget to care for yourself. By showing them methods of self-care, Cesar is helping teachers so that teachers can help their students.
“I think it's like a holistic approach...if the teachers are educated and trained, they can provide good behaviors for the students and the students will engage a lot better,” Cesar said. “It's all about relationships.”
“By giving them that one-on-one attention...it becomes a whole different conversation.”
Computer Science · Waverly, Nebraska
Lauren is putting her spare snacks to good use.
As a student living on campus, Lauren purchased a meal plan with Dining Dollars. At the end of each week, she’d grab extra snacks using her leftover funds.
But after learning about a food program that provided grocery kits to Lincoln families, Lauren decided that her spare snacks could do some good in the community. Her dad, who works at the F Street Community Center in Near South Lincoln, told her about the program.
“They had a huge deficit of food,” Lauren said. “When we started, they really struggled to get enough donations.”
To help build up the center’s food pantry, Lauren decided to start donating food that she would purchase with her leftover Dining Dollars. She also bought plastic bins and placed them in her residence hall in case any of her friends and classmates wanted to do the same.
After leaving the bins out in her residence hall, her fellow Huskers began filling them with their own extra snacks and donations. Over the course of the year, Lauren estimates she took at least six large bins full of food to the community center.
“A lot of [students] — especially upperclassmen — were very vocal about encouraging people and reminding people, even people who weren't involved in the slightest,” Lauren said. “And I thought that was really cool that they really encouraged it.”
Lauren will place the bins out again during the fall 2021 semester. She hopes to take them to the community center once again, but if they fill their shelves then she plans to take them to the on-campus Husker Pantry.
“I really enjoyed doing it; it was especially nice working with my dad because my whole life, my dad has always just been someone who's really encouraged me to be very community-minded and he's always taught me that character and morality comes first,” Lauren said.
“A lot of [students] — especially upperclassmen — were very vocal about encouraging people and reminding people, even people who weren't involved in the slightest,” Lauren said. “And I thought that was really cool that they really encouraged it.”
Advertising & Public Relations · Omaha, Nebraska
UNL Unified advocates for all athletes. Known officially as the UNL Unified Special Olympics College Club, this recognized student organization’s (RSO) mission is to bring together athletes of all abilities to connect through sports.
Nate is a sophomore College of Journalism & Mass Communications student and a member of UNL Unified. After hearing a fraternity brother talk about the RSO, he figured he might try it out through one of their virtual meetings. Though UNL Unified typically meets in-person for Spikeball, bocce ball, basketball and flag football games, during Covid-19 the club moved to an online platform.
After attending a few Zoom dance parties and breakout room Pictionary competitions, Nate realized he had found something unique.
“I fell in love with it and started going to all the meetings,” Nate said.
With around 20 active members, UNL Unified is a tight-knit group of Huskers who advocate for inclusion. Anyone is welcome to attend their events, whether they attend the university or not.
In addition to advocating for inclusion through sports, the group has also created a pledge to spread inclusion through thoughts, words and actions. Their pledge has been picked up by members of Husker Cheer and Husker Volleyball— including Coach John Cook.
By bringing together people of all abilities to play games and form friendships, UNL Unified is highlighting the importance of inclusion in all aspects of life — and proving that all communities can be connected through sports.
“It brings a lot of happiness to the members, and definitely myself,” Nate said. “I remember after my first in-person event I just couldn't stop smiling.”
Law · Hershey, Nebraska
TW // eating disorders
By sharing her struggles on a statewide stage, Katie has found community and confidence. But it wasn’t always like this.
At only 16, Katie was scheduled to undergo weight loss surgery. She felt alone and unconfident, and wanted a change.
“Being treated different...and less than my whole life — I was sick and tired of it,” Katie said.
Before Katie could go under, her surgeon stopped the procedure because they didn’t feel comfortable performing it on someone so young. Katie felt shattered. With surgery no longer an option, she turned to using unhealthy weight control methods. She began to feel both physically and emotionally exhausted.
“I just remember one day walking to class, and just having to sit down because I had no energy and it was really scary,” Katie said. “I loved my life, I loved every other aspect of my life, and I knew that I wanted to...not risk my life for something that I finally started teaching myself was just so shallow.”
Though it was scary at first, Katie began to share her story at pageants. Her passion for body positivity and bringing attention to eating disorders became a part of her platform, and her message resonated with her audiences.
“I started speaking on it, and I kind of felt alone during that time. And the more I've spoken about it the more I've met people who have gone through the exact same thing,” Katie said.
Before she knew it, she was an advocate for dismantling modern-day beauty standards and a changemaker on the local level. At this year’s Miss Nebraska competition, Katie was the first-ever plus-sized contestant to place in the top five and to win an award in the preliminary round.
“All the little girls that came up to thank me afterwards like, ‘thank you for being here, thank you for competing...you were my favorite,’ — like that makes it all worth it.”
“"The more I've spoken about it the more I've met people who have gone through the exact same thing."”
Elementary Education · Omaha, Nebraska
Julia is a connector and educator.
As the president of UNL Hillel, she is leading an organization that connects the university’s Jewish community and provides education to those wanting to learn more about Judaism.
After transferring to the University of Nebraska–Lincoln from a college in Omaha, Julia quickly became immersed into the UNL Jewish community when she became the president of the campus Hillel chapter. She was in a new space, surrounded by new people, and discovering a new path for the club amidst Covid-19 changes.
It wasn’t always an easy adjustment. Leadership positions require a lot of work, and Julia looked to others to find support. Luckily, she found it.
Her local synagogue started assisting through scholarships, and her rabbi provided free food for Jewish holidays. Students attending Hillel programs don’t have to pay for membership, as it’s all funded by members of the Lincoln community.
“I think it’s so cool that the Lincoln Jewish community is great ... they love to help us out,” Julia said.
Julia even figured out how to create community events amidst a pandemic. From to-go Shabbat dinners to socially distanced sushi in the on-campus Sukkah, she found ways to involve new and returning members in special Hillel experiences.
“I welcome anybody,” Julia said. “In past years, it's been like, only if you're Jewish, but I'm like, no, no, no. If you want to learn, you want to educate, if you want to listen, hear stories, meet other Jewish people ... this is a place to do it.”
Abby Smith and Harrison Grasso
Biological Systems Engineering · Kansas City and Lincoln
Thanks to Nebraska Engineering students, Olive the three-legged cat has a new paw-spective on life.
Abby and Harrison 3D printed Olive’s new leg as a part of their senior design capstone. Alongside their other group members — Jaden Schovanec, Rachael Stanek and Alexandra Jensen — the team designed a fully functional and affordable leg for their new furry friend.
The project was led by instructor Deepak Keshwani, with assistance from veterinary medicine professor Beth Galles. Galles found Olive in a shelter and initially volunteered to foster the feline until the capstone project was over. However, that plan didn’t quite turn out.
“She ended up being such a sweet cat and we were very lucky to work with her,” Abby said. “Dr. Galles’s family adopted her in the end because they loved having her in their home that much.”
After months of work, the group was finally able to present Olive with a prosthetic leg that had been printed right on campus at the Nebraska Innovation Studio. Since cats are creatures of habit, the team was initially uncertain if she would adapt to the prosthetic or not. To the team’s relief, Olive adjusted well to her brand-new leg.
“Animals are very real creatures of emotions, and they get used to living their way of life,” Abby said. “So, when you're testing the first time, if she even puts it on the floor once or twice that’s success.”
Olive got a new leg and a fur-ever home, and Abby and Harrison got the experience of 3D printing a prosthetic. Overall, everyone would say it was a pretty paw-sitive experience.
“By the time we get out to the end and it was relatively functional, I think we were all pretty impressed with ourselves and pleased.”
Broadcasting and Sports Media & Communication · Ashland, Nebraska
Maddie's sports career started at hometown football games. Underneath the shining Friday night lights, she'd stand on the sidelines with her trusty camera. Little did she know that in just a few years she'd be photographing the Super Bowl.
After finding her passion for sports in high school, Maddie came to the University of Nebraska–Lincoln to major in broadcasting and sports media & communication. She began racking up photo experience with outlets like The Daily Nebraskan, the Omaha World-Herald and Husker Athletics.
In spring 2020, she landed her biggest opportunity yet: an internship with the NFL. Due to Covid-19, it was remote rather than in-person in Los Angeles, but Maddie made the most of the situation. She showed her passion and impressed her mentor, who asked if she'd help cover Kansas City Chiefs games in the fall.
As the Super Bowl approached, Maddie was given another amazing opportunity. She was invited to stay in Tampa and assist NFL photographers as they shot football's biggest event.
"When my boss kind of asked me, I was like, "Yeah, I'll come,' and I was very composed, but I know I called my family right after freaking out," Maddie said.
After spending most of the game assisting her assigned photographer, Maddie had her moment to shine during the post-game pandemonium. As confetti poured down and players celebrated, her photographer took a break. Maddie jumped into action and started snapping shots.
"That was cool to be able to kind of just take that moment in and then also be able to capture it."
With a new degree in hand and a resume full of experiences, Maddie is ready to enter the professional world as one of the industry’s next sports photographers.
“I'm excited for my future...also just really grateful for these last four years,” Maddie said. “And if it wasn't for the journalism college and so many people I've met, I wouldn't probably be in this experience that I’ve had.”
Community Health & Wellness · Lincoln, Nebraska
Wearing Nebraska’s scarlet and cream is a tradition in Tyler’s family.
Tyler is the fourth member of his family to be on the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s track and field team. He follows in the footsteps of his parents, David and Amy, and sister, Shelby, as a Husker student-athlete.
Growing up in Lincoln, Tyler always looked up to his family members and the Husker athletes he watched at meets and on TV. When he first started track and field at the age of 8, he was excited — though knew he had big shoes to fill.
As the years went on, Tyler fell in love with track and field. He embraced the family tradition of competing in throwing events, all while making a name for himself across the state. In 2019 and 2020, he was even named the boys track and field Gatorade Player of the Year for Nebraska.
When it came time to think about where he'd compete in college, Tyler looked at schools from across the country. But after calls with coaches and thoughts about going out-of-state, he realized that nothing could compare to Nebraska.
“I feel like UNL really feels like home...growing up in Nebraska, the track team is like idols, in a sense,” Tyler said. “So, it's just always a dream.”
Tyler now gets the unique opportunity of calling his sister his teammate, and the two of them throw discus for the same team that brought their parents together years ago.
“It's obviously exciting having all of us come through here. It's a really great experience for me to come to the university. I know it really fits me nicely,” Tyler said. “And I know even without all of them coming here I probably still would have gone because I really feel like it feels like home.”
Veterinary Science · Omaha, Nebraska
Because of her hard work in high school, Macy was able to accelerate her undergraduate experience.
Macy brought in credits from her dual-credit high school classes when she started at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Many of those credits counted toward her required ACE electives, which gave Macy more flexibility for her major-specific courses. It also allowed her to graduate in a whirlwind three years.
But while her time as an undergraduate was short, it was still fulfilling. She nabbed an internship in the UNL Vet Diagnostic Center, where she worked in the bacteriology lab, getting hands-on experience handling samples, running tests and seeing the research side of veterinary science.
“It's kind of helped me to see the whole picture of diagnostic medicine,” Macy said.
One of her projects involved identifying salmonella through an infrared spectrophotometer instrument — which was a bit of a departure from what most people think about veterinary science, as it placed her in the lab rather than in the office with four-legged, tailed patients.
While Macy loves research, she’s still searching for her ultimate focus in the veterinary field. She’s been accepted to the university’s Veterinary Medicine program and plans to use the next few years to solidify her post-graduate pursuits. Though she’s not sure on the specifics, one thing she knows for certain is that she’s on the right path.
“I love learning new things, and I like animals a lot...the profession of veterinary medicine just kind of met all the things that I was looking for in a career.”
Master's in Interpersonal Health & Family Communications · Los Angeles, California
For most graduates, the months following graduation are filled with new possibilities. For Jacqueline, they were filled with doctor’s appointments and lingering questions due to an illness that left her bedridden for months.
But when Jacqueline looked for answers, she couldn't find any. She felt overlooked, misdiagnosed and frustrated.
Her frustration led her to a professor from her undergraduate college whose work is focused on health communications. After reconnecting, Jacqueline began working with the professor on a research project. Still sick, Jacqueline would do her work a few hours each day while bedridden in her parents’ home.
As the years went on, Jacqueline’s illness became more manageable. She decided to continue her path in research by attending the University of Nebraska–Lincoln for a master's degree in interpersonal health & family communications.
"I said, 'If I ever figure out what's going on, if I ever heal, if I ever am able to manage this and have the energy to do my own research,'" Jacqueline said, "I want to extend this into the realm of this experience right here."
While at Nebraska, Jacqueline finally received a diagnosis, giving her a new spark. She felt even more empowered to continue her studies.
Jacqueline's research tackled the helpful and harmful messages communicated to patients. She hopes the research will one day be made into a guide benefitting emerging adults with disruptive medical experiences.
While she intends to shift her studies for her PhD research, Jacqueline has learned much on her path so far.
"If you have someone in your life that's going through this...going through an invisible illness, and that can be a physical illness, it can be a mental illness. That can be anything," Jacqueline said. "Ask them what support looks like to them; believe them...Sometimes it's as simple as looking at this person and saying, 'This is hard and just know you're not alone.'"
English · Essex, Iowa
On Saturday, Misty will trade her dining hall uniform for a cap and gown.
Misty is one of thousands of University of Nebraska–Lincoln students receiving their degrees this weekend. After 22 years of working at Selleck Dining Hall while simultaneously pursuing her studies, it still doesn’t feel real — especially because the last time she took a class was in 2011.
Misty applied for a job at UNL knowing that she wanted to go back to school. She had started working toward an English degree at another institution and planned on finishing it at UNL with the tuition credits allocated to university employees.
Then life got busy. She got married and soon her focus shifted to raising her two daughters. She would take classes when she could, but it wasn't always easy. Luckily, Misty had people in her corner.
Her supervisors allowed her to work classes around her schedule at the dining hall, and her classmates didn’t treat her any differently when she came to class in her food service uniform. Her professors engaged with her questions and comments, and they even recommended scholarships for her to pursue new opportunities. Her husband spent six weeks being a single dad to their girls so she could take a study abroad trip to Mexico for her Spanish minor, and her girls patiently understood that sometimes mom couldn’t do things because she had to study.
Misty took a break from her degree in 2011, and it wasn’t until this March that she decided to dust off her textbooks and finish up her last few classes. When she called her advisor to check in about the coursework, she was given the surprise of her life — she would be graduating in just a month. The advisor reviewed her credits and realized that Misty had all she needed. She would finally get her degree.
“It's so freeing — I have it now and I can take it,” Misty said. "I earned it.”
Mechanical Engineering · Mobile, Alabama
John’s journey to graduation has been a roller coaster.
It started when he first arrived on campus as an out-of-state student. As he settled into life as a Husker, he began thinking about his passions and plans. He’d always loved anything that allowed him to be creative, but it also needed to be a bit of a challenge. After thinking it through, he realized that he wanted to produce theme park exhibits.
“You have to build something that works potentially 1,200 times an hour for 18 hours a day for 10 to 20 years,” John said. “Which as an engineer is a lot cooler of a challenge in my opinion.”
John knew that he could build an education at Nebraska that would match his dream job. But doing that meant he would need to take initiative. While at first he was hesitant to ask his professor about starting a theme park design club, he knew it was necessary to reach his goals. His professor saw the spark behind the idea and encouraged him to pursue it.
“It felt like I was taking the biggest risk of my life, hanging a single poster up saying, ‘Hey, do you like theme parks? Please email me.’” John said.
To John's surprise, within the first day he had 30 interested students email him. A few days later he held his first official meeting with 15 new members.
Since then, the Theme Park Design Group has built real-world exhibits for Lincoln learning spaces. They’ve partnered with the Lincoln Children’s Zoo to create enrichment toys for their giraffe exhibit, as well as the Lincoln Children’s Museum to build a superhero-themed pulley swing.
After four years of balancing school, work and the group, John's University of Nebraska–Lincoln roller coaster ride is coming to an end. And while many of his post-grad plans are still up in the air, he knows he’s ready for his next adventure.
“It felt like I was taking the biggest risk of my life, hanging a single poster up saying, ‘Hey, do you like theme parks? Please email me.’”
Economics, Environmental Studies and Natural Resource Economics · Bellevue, Nebraska
A plot of land behind McCollum Hall has become a second home to a group of University of Nebraska–Lincoln students.
Inside the gated fence lies the Student Organic Farm (SOF). The student-led organization by the same name has grown produce and plants for the Husker community since 2013 — but this year, things are a bit different.
This year the farm shifted to a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) system, which allows Lincolnites to purchase produce from the farm. The idea came from Kat Woerner, a third-year UNL student.
Kat knew she wanted to learn how to grow her own food, but it was only after joining SOF that she realized the farm could be taken to a new level. She shared her ideas with the farm’s lead gardener, Nash Leef, and put her @nebraskabiz skills to use as she formulated her plans to shift the farm to a new sustainable business model.
The CSA model allows for customers to purchase crop shares. The proceeds from their share are used to fund the tools, seeds and labor put into the farm, and then in return they receive weekly produce boxes during the harvest season. The idea was a hit, and the farm sold out of their 2021 shares.
The excitement around the CSA shares has shown the SOF students that there is support for the farm that they love so much. Day in and day out they tend to the plants in the hoop house, learn about the intricacies of compost, or just relax under the shady tree. They put the farm first through all kinds of weather — even if it means bundling up and taking overnight shifts to care for the plants on frosty nights.
It has become a community and mentality. Their motto is “leave it at the fence,” which reminds them to leave their stresses, worries and troubles outside the gates of the farm. Once they’re inside the fence, they’re home.
“I had no idea I'd be this involved, I had no idea that I would call the farm ‘home,’” Kat said. “I had no idea it’s where my primary community would be, and it'd be my happiest place on earth.”
Biochemistry · Mankato, Minnesota
For Carissa, making the personal choice to get vaccinated was about more than just the free Krispy Kreme donuts.
"When it came to my decision to get vaccinated myself, I really felt like it was not just a decision that was going to affect my health but also the health of my friends and family and the people around me — and also the health of my community overall," Carissa said. "I feel like I have some personal responsibility."
The junior biochemistry student has already received her second shot, and after a two-week wait for the vaccine to become fully effective she will be able to safely gather with her vaccinated friends and family. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, her vaccination will also make it less likely for Carissa to get COVID-19, and if she does contract it she will not become seriously ill.
The CDC has also declared it safe for fully vaccinated people to travel within the U.S. as long as they maintain proper COVID-19 precautions — meaning that Carissa will be able to travel home to Minnesota for the first time since winter break. As an out-of-state student, Carissa already faces homesickness each semester — and being unable to visit family members frequently due to the pandemic has made it even harder.
With more and more people receiving vaccinations, Carissa is hopeful for the future. She's already thinking of how different her senior year will feel with all her friends back in town, and is hoping that she'll be able to participate in Husker traditions with her family.
"I have been doing everything I can, you know — following every guideline, getting myself vaccinated — because I know what it was like pre-pandemic going to school here and I loved it so much," Carissa said. "I want to end my time here like that."
“When it came to my decision to get vaccinated myself, I really felt like it was not just a decision that was going to affect my health but also the health of my friends and family and the people around me — and also the health of my community overall. I feel like I have some personal responsibility.”
Emerging Media Arts · Kurdistan
On August 3, 2014, Vianne's entire world changed.
Her hometown of Sinjar, Iraq, was captured by ISIS, which led to the genocide of the Yazidi people and Christians in the region. Vianne and her family hid for two weeks while their city collapsed around them.
"By a miracle, we all survived. I don't know how. Thousands of people died, lost their lives, got kidnapped..." Vianne said. "Some of them were my friends."
She still doesn't know what happened to them.
After the attacks Vianne began volunteering at a refugee camp as social worker with women who had survived ISIS captivity.
"I tried to, you know, help them with anything I can — just at least listening to them...because there was nobody even to listen to them," she said. "They lost their family. They lost everything."
Vianne began working on a documentary about the survivors. She would talk with them about their lives before, during and after ISIS — with some of the conversations lasting as long as seven hours.
In 2016, Vianne was invited to attend Nadia Murad's United Nations Goodwill Ambassador ceremony as a witness and a survivor of the genocide. A few months later, she was able to move to the United States with a few of her family members.
After she settled in Lincoln, memories from the refugee camps came flooding back. Vianne looked for ways to express her complex emotions — and turned to art.
Vianne is now a student in the Carson Center and is using her storytelling skills to uplift the voices of the Yazidi women she met in the refugee camps. She wants to ensure that their stories — and their pain — will not be forgotten.
"These women will remain part of my identity," Vianne said. "Their story always will be with me."
Henry González Hernandez
Mechanized Systems Management Master's · Nahuizalco, El Salvador
Education means everything to Henry.
He was the first in his family to attend college, and soon he'll be the first to graduate with a master's degree. Education is important to Henry, because he knows from experience that it isn't always accessible.
He's the first person from his community in El Salvador to attend any higher education institution. His family comes from the mountain regions where schools were simply too far away to attend. They started working at a young age, and never even considered school to be a possibility.
That's why Henry takes so much pride in his academic pursuits. After earning his undergraduate degree in Honduras, he came to the University of Nebraska–Lincoln to pursue a master's degree in mechanized systems management. Henry splits his time now between the University of Nebraska–Lincoln campus and his research station in the Sandhills, where he is studying wastewater and irrigation technology.
Leaving home to pursue an education hasn't always been easy. He misses El Salvador and estimates that he's only spent a few weeks there since he left for college in 2014. Luckily, he's been able to build a second home in Nebraska with his community of classmates and coworkers. He especially felt the Husker hospitality when he first ventured out to the Sandhills.
"They were like, 'Okay, Henry. I know you're new here in the United States, so maybe we can go and visit some places,'" Henry said. "They were really, really supportive."
Henry is also now a leader to his family members back home. He's shown them that it's possible to pursue your academic dreams, and has even inspired his younger brother to attend college as well.
"It's like giving back — [my parents] have been making a lot of sacrifices since I was a child...so trying to be the best and everything is just a goal I have for my every day," Henry said. "And that's not only for me, but because I want the best for them."
Spanish, Communication Studies & Latin American studies · Lincoln, Nebraska
Ronaldo uses music to make a difference.
He uses the platform that comes with being a local Lincoln musician to promote personal causes and campaigns related to social justice. As a first-generation American, Ronaldo cares deeply about immigration issues.
Ronaldo's parents fled El Salvador in the 1980s when the country became engulfed in a civil war. They started a new life in Nebraska — and hoped that it would be a better, safer one for their family.
"That’s why immigration reform and equality mean so much to me, because it’s the only reason I’m even here and able to say I’m the first university grad in my family."
Ronaldo's passion for social justice shines through in his on-stage performances and recorded songs. For him, music is a way of decompressing while also expressing his thoughts and feelings. By harnessing his musical talents to write songs about his beliefs, he's able to show his perspective to new audiences while lifting up the causes he believes in.
"I just feel like, the best thing I can do, because everyone's gonna have their opinions and we have to be respectful about that but... the best thing I can do is offer just to educate people on what's going down," Ronaldo said. "It's heavy stuff, but it's also stuff that needs to be addressed."
Biological Sciences & Spanish · West Point, Nebraska
Leigh wasn't expecting much when she filled out the online application to be on one of her favorite reality TV shows. She had always been passionate about gymnastics, fitness and obstacles courses — but never thought that she'd be picked to appear on American Ninja Warrior.
Then she got an email. Her application had been viewed, and the team wanted to connect her with a former contestant for a training opportunity. They didn't make any mention of her being picked for the show, only that they felt she would benefit from the training.
"But that gave me a glimmer of hope," Leigh said.
One day as she waited in line at the Nebraska Union, she received a call from an unknown number. Thinking it was spam, she let it go to voicemail, only to find out afterwards that it was one of the American Ninja Warrior producers telling her she'd been chosen to compete on the show.
Leigh took a week off from classes to film her segment, and when she returned @unlhonors asked if she'd like to replicate her experience on the show for an after-school club.
Leigh agreed and set about creating an obstacle course club for Lincoln Public Schools elementary students. She spent her fall break sharing her passion for fitness by showing her students how to hop, skip and jump through new challenges.
"I think it was a really neat way to have kids have an opportunity to be more active in their clubs," Leigh said. "Being passionate about something is a great way to share it with someone else... just be open to sharing what your niche is. Everyone has their own — so take advantage of it."
“Being passionate about something is a great way to share it with someone else.”
Computer Science · Omaha, Nebraska
Michael is building a brotherhood on campus.
As a part of Brother2Brother, he's providing a space for men of color on campus to connect.
The program functions as part network and part brotherhood. It's a space for members to meet new faces while uplifting and encouraging one another on their academic and professional journeys — and it's also a place for them to share their experiences as men of color and find support and validation.
Michael played sports all his life, so he wants to replicate the same feeling of camaraderie that he found with his teammates through Brother2Brother. All male or nonbinary students from all backgrounds are encouraged to be a part of Brother2Brother, and the program is actively looking for new members to join their leadership team.
"Especially for minorities on a predominantly white institution campus," Michael said. "It's kind of hard for us to connect and even know that each other exists."
By bringing men of color together through Brother2Brother, Michael hopes to help the men involved while also amplifying their diverse voices and experiences to the entire University of Nebraska–Lincoln community.
"I'm a big believer in diversity and how important that is... because diversity not only takes you out of your own box in your own way of growing up, but it makes you explore yourself and open the different parts of yourself that you may not have been aware of. Diversity allows you to find yourself — and I find that really powerful."
“Diversity allows you to find yourself — and I find that really powerful.”
Animal Science PhD ·
Haley’s research takes her to some wild places.
Right now, that place is the Lincoln Children's Zoo. As a doctoral student in animal science, Haley is working with a team to produce a video tracking program that monitors behavioral changes in the zoo's cheetahs.
The program was originally created by University of Nebraska–Lincoln animal science researchers to track livestock animals. Using the system, Haley is able to track a variety of the cheetahs' habits — from how fast they're walking, to how much time they spend sleeping. This data is then imported into a spreadsheet for the zookeepers.
From there, the zookeepers are able to analyze the data and see if there are any noticeable changes in the behavior of the cheetahs. Behavioral changes can indicate problems the zookeeper might not be able to see — like injuries or sicknesses that the animals might be masking.
The inspiration to use the tracking system on zoo animals came after Haley spent two years working as a zookeeper. She knew she could find a solution that would help bridge the communication barriers between humans and cheetahs.
“I’m really excited, because I never thought I’d be able to take my own experiences or these limitations that I saw as a zookeeper and actually try to find a solution,” Haley said. “I knew when I was a senior in college that I wanted to do something with wildlife, and I stayed in Lincoln for that fact. I’m really glad I did, just because it’s taken me to more places than I expected."
Jim Benes & Tim Turquist
Geography PhD & History PhD · Lincoln, Nebraska & Harvard, Nebraska
Like many love stories, Jim and Tim's story starts on campus.
As undergraduates, the two shared lunch dates in Selleck, read together on the green space and memorized each other's schedules so they could connect after class.
"Every minute we were always trying to find each other on campus," Jim said.
The pair have been through a lot together since they started dating in 2008 — in their academic careers they've each obtained a bachelor's degree, a master's degree and now are pursuing part-time and full-time PhDs. In their personal world they've shared a proposal in Tel Aviv, a wedding in Yellowstone and the introduction of their newest family member — their pup, Rudiger. Through all the academic adventures, travels and life changes, Jim and Tim have always had each other.
"It's so much fun having someone who's on the same journey as you," Tim said.
Though a lot has changed in the past 13 years, campus has always been a constant in their lives. Whether they're walking to work, a lecture hall or to meet up for lunch, they can relive their relationship as they pass by the familiar buildings and green spaces.
"The landscape... kind of becomes infused with the love I have for him," Jim said. "So like when I see the cherry trees on campus blooming, or I see the magnolias, or when I stop to get a coffee in the Union or the Academic Grind... I just think of Tim all the time on campus."
“The landscape...kind of becomes infused with the love I have for him.”
Emerging Media Arts · Virginia
Sydney always knew she wanted to impact the music industry. As she dreamed of the possibilities in her future, one thought kept sticking with her — what if she could create her own music festival?
The event would feature performances from up-and-coming artists, and would put them in front of an audience full of potential fans and industry leaders. She'd call it The Citrusfest — after her nickname, Citrus.
After Sydney came up with the idea, she went to her family for help. They were able to connect her with potential teammates for the project, and before long, the gears were in motion and Citrusfest planning was underway.
At times juggling classes and festival planning was stressful, but Sydney made it through with the help of @carsoncenterunl. Her classes in the college taught her about music entrepreneurship, and she was able to connect with director Megan Elliott to bounce around ideas and receive mentorship.
On Jan. 26, The Citrusfest went live. Viewers from across the world tuned in to see 12 new artists show their talents and receive feedback from some of the music industry's top producers and talent executives.
While creating the festival itself was a rewarding process for Sydney, the best part of it all was seeing how it could make an impact on the careers of emerging musicians.
"I just think that a lot of those artists deserve to get exposure and deserve to show their artistry."
Political Science · Lincoln, Nebraska
As a first-generation American, Aila grew up in two cultures.
"I love growing up with two cultures...sometimes you kind of feel torn between the two, like they're both pulling you one way or another," Aila said. "But I think it's just been really awesome to be able to have two parts of myself and be able to experience both cultures and the richness of both and be proud of who I am and the culture I was raised by."
Aila's parents fled Bosnia during the war and genocide of the '90s and eventually settled in Lincoln. They connected with the city's large Bosnian refugee population, which allowed Aila to grow up alongside many other first-generation Bosnian-Americans.
During summer 2020, Aila founded @basa_unl. The registered student organization (RSO) provides a space for Aila and her fellow first-generation Bosnian-American students to share their experiences in adjusting to life between two cultures and helps them maintain bonds to their common heritage.
Additionally, the RSO was created to give other University of Nebraska–Lincoln students an opportunity to learn more about Bosnia and its traditions.
"One thing about Bosnians that makes us really special is how much we love welcoming people into our community and sharing our culture," Aila said.
Aila already feels like BASA has helped her reconnect with her roots. By meeting other Bosnian-American students, showing Bosnian culture to American students, and engaging in this new intercultural community, she is able to appreciate her Bosnian heritage — even though she's thousands of miles away from the country her family once called home.
"I think that making sure that our parents' stories aren't lost, in that we're continuing to share those [stories] and just sharing our perspective on campus with other people... I think that's a really important thing for us to do."
“One thing about Bosnians that makes us really special is how much we love welcoming people into our community and sharing our culture.”
Microbiology · Columbus, Nebraska
Thanks to scholarships, Antonio will be able to take part in experiences that he once thought were out of reach.
Antonio recently received a Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship through the U.S. Department of State as well as an Early Abroad Scholarship and an Emerging Leader Scholarship through the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. As a Gilman Scholar, Antonio will travel to Italy — once guidelines surrounding the virus permit it — and learn from experts there about the epidemiology of COVID-19.
The chance to learn about the virus from some of the minds that know it best is an amazing academic opportunity for a microbiology student like Antonio. He's excited about the program, but also patient in knowing that it might be a while before he's actually able to go to Italy and safely participate in his studies.
Without scholarships, Antonio wouldn't be able to participate in programs abroad. He's thankful he applied for the scholarships, and now he wants to share his story with other students who think that studying abroad is out of their reach. These opportunities didn't come easy to him — at times, he was working two jobs just to be able to cover bills, all while wanting to lead as an example first-gen student for his family and for other students like him.
"There is a lot of pressure to succeed in college, not just for yourself but for your family — doing something they didn't have the opportunity and resources to do."
Through perseverance, grit and seeking out scholarships, Antonio is now able to do the things he never thought he could do.
Mechanical and Materials Engineering PhD · Mason City, Iowa
According to the Society of Women Engineers, only 13% of working engineers are women. For those women, working in a male-dominated industry can be intimidating at times.
On top of that, life as a graduate student can be isolating. With all the research it takes to complete their studies, it can be hard for students to find time to unwind or to work toward other professional development goals.
That’s why Courtney is passionate about providing a space devoted to connecting with and empowering her fellow women in STEM.
Courtney founded the Society of Women in Physics at her undergraduate institution, and when she came to UNL for her PhD she wanted to find a group with a similar mission. She joined Nebraska’s Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and eventually spun off a graduate student version of the organization in spring 2020.
In addition to the stress of grad student life, Courtney also experienced imposter syndrome as one of the few women in her field — and she doesn’t want anyone else to feel it too. That’s why she made sure that the graduate SWE’s main focus would be on building and fostering a positive graduate student community that reminds her fellow women in STEM that they are smart, valued and deserving of their role in science.
“When I started grad school I had a difficult time making friends and finding a good work-life balance, and having this community... I’m sure they feel the same, and I want them to know, ‘You’re not alone,’” Courtney said. “We are in this together.”
“I want them to know, 'You’re not alone. We are in this together.'”
Broadcasting · Beatrice, Nebraska
As a transfer student, coming to the University of Nebraska–Lincoln was a fresh start for Alec.
New majors, classes, professors, friends, and a new city to call home. Coming from a city of about 20,000 to UNL's downtown City Campus, he immediately felt a change.
Alec had typical transfer student worries over his course roster and how he'd find his own community, but they soon melted away.
He was able to transfer over his credits from his former school without any troubles, and found professors at @unlcojmc who welcomed him and made him feel comfortable in his new college. And when it came to friendships, as a @huskerfbnation player he quickly bonded with his teammates and found camaraderie on and off the field.
Campus involvements were key to helping Alec transition to life as a UNL student. Along with his involvement in athletics, he joined @jachtagency to further his skills as a broadcasting major. The group helped him connect with his fellow College of Journalism & Mass Communications classmates and allowed him to work on projects that gave back to the community.
For Alec, being a transfer student was all about adapting — to a new city, a new campus, and new community. But it wasn't as scary as it seemed it would be — everything fell into place when he made an effort to branch out.
"Get involved in something; put yourself out there; get out of your comfort zone a little bit," Alec said, "Because you're never going to grow just going to class and going back home... I feel like you've got to do something."
“Get involved in something; put yourself out there; get out of your comfort zone a little bit.”
Elementary Education · South Sioux City, Nebraska
With 2021 just a day away, there's a lot of talk of change. While some might be scared of all that change, Karla has learned to thrive in it.
Karla had been a straight-A student throughout high school and always dreamed of being a band director. After starting music education classes at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, she realized that it just didn't interest her the way she thought it would.
As the semester progressed she struggled academically, and found additional troubles with things like financial aid and the fear of failure. Coming to college as a first-generation student added an extra layer of anxiety to the situation, as she didn't have family to turn to with college-related questions.
Thanks to the help of First Husker, Karla was able to connect with fellow first-generation students who shared her feelings. The program gave her a safe place to go to with her troubles and connected her with mentors that told her it was okay to change her path.
"Kids come to college – especially first generation students — with this mentality that they have to take something while they're in high school and they have to stick to it no matter what," Karla said. "And it's really not the case."
Even though it was a scary change, Karla went through with it and switched her major to elementary education. The risk was worth the reward — she loves what she's studying now.
Karla hopes to use her future career as an educator to help other first-generation students. She plans on telling them about all the little things they need to know about college, along with reassurances that if their plans change, better things are on the way.
"The doors open to so many other possibilities."
“Kids come to college – especially first generation students — with this mentality that they have to take something while they're in high school and they have to stick to it no matter what and it's really not the case.”
The spirit of giving is an all-year feeling for one Husker group.
The University of Nebraska–Lincoln's Medical Students United with Neighbors Across America (shortened as MUNA) has been gathering food donations for Lincoln refugees since summer 2020.
The registered student organization was founded by two UNL pre-med students — Kailynn and Makayla. The two had always been looking for ways to give back to the community, and even shared a Google Doc filled with all their ideas for changing the world.
As they were searching for volunteer opportunities last spring, they came across UNMC's MUNA chapter. They saw how the UNMC chapter was able to help others and knew they wanted to bring the program to Lincoln.
"We were just really inspired by the work that they were doing and how they were doing it in response to the COVID-19 pandemic," Makayla said.
So, Makayla and Kailynn got to work. They gathered the five members needed to form a RSO, set up interviews with local community centers, and started planning their first online fundraiser. After working throughout the summer on establishing the club, the group was able to organize their first food distribution for refugee families in the fall.
Since then, UNL MUNA has completed five distributions and fed over 100 families in the Lincoln area.
"It's taught me a lot about the different communities that I will be working with someday in the future...I really want to set pre-med students up with more cultural experiences," Kailynn said. "I come from a small town in Nebraska and didn't have the opportunity to get to know a lot of people of different cultures and ethnicities. MUNA sort of gives me the opportunity to just get to know these people but also give back to communities that I wouldn't normally interact with."
“MUNA sort of gives me the opportunity to just get to know these people but also give back to communities that I wouldn't normally interact with.”
Great Plains Studies ·
Susan restarted college in her sixties, and is now a proud December 2020 Husker grad.
While working in the Student Involvement office, she was searching through available majors and minors when she learned about the Great Plains Studies program.
"And I thought, 'Oh I think if I would have had that back in the '70s, I might have finished college,'" Susan said.
As Susan thought about the possibility of going back to school, the message of a card on her desk caught her eye. The card — given to her by her coworker — said, "Stop asking yourself about whether you can or should, think about how you might."
"Every day I would see that card, and then one day it just kind of clicked," Susan said. "Instead of sitting there thinking, 'Well, I'd like to go back,' — I work at the university, I get credit for education if I want to — now would probably be a good time, because I wasn't getting any younger."
And so, after dropping out in her twenties, Susan restarted her degree. Her first semester didn't go quite as planned, as she developed an infection and wasn't able to complete her class. But after recovering, she returned and started steadily chipping away at her course requirements. It wasn't always easy — Susan has complications from her past cancer diagnoses, had to balance her studies alongside working a full-time job, and had to spend a lot of weekends away from her grandkids and family so she could complete her homework.
"Being a college graduate means a lot to me personally," Susan said. "Because I really didn't think I could do it."
Susan's degree is also for her family. Her parents didn't graduate high school, making her a first-generation college student. It's also for her kids and grandkids, so they can have an example of perseverance.
"With all my cancer and stuff, I really wanted to show them that you can get knocked down several times and pick yourself back up and go."
“With all my cancer and stuff, I really wanted to show them that you can get knocked down several times and pick yourself back up and go.”
architecture · Baghdad, Iraq
Samah has learned a lot about what makes a home. Because for her, home has changed a lot over the past few years. Originally Samah and her family lived in Iraq. But when things became unsafe, they left for Syria. Shortly after, they were granted refugee status in the US and made their way to Lincoln. Though she now calls Lincoln home, she often misses the comfort and security she found in her home in Iraq. As an avid artist, Samah turned to drawing to capture her emotions. Her mom told her that if she liked creating things on paper that she should consider architecture — where her creations could come alive and be built out in the world. Samah's mom was right. Her passion for creating things pushed her to complete her undergraduate degree in just three years, and she's now pursuing her master's in architecture at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Now Samah is able to create places and spaces on her computer that can become real buildings out in the world. For her, architecture isn't just about designing a visually appealing space. It's about creating a sense of home — and capturing that feeling of home that she left behind in Iraq. "I would like to create something that just makes people feel like they belong, you know, like that feeling of safety," Samah said. "It's not safety from like bombs and all that but you go home you're relaxed... it's like, relief."
“For her, architecture isn't just about designing a visually appealing space. It's about creating a sense of home — and capturing that feeling of home that she left behind in Iraq.”
construction management · Grand Island, Nebraska
After enlisting at 17, Rodrigo joined the Marines right after finishing high school. "It definitely made me grow up really fast. I kind of considered myself an adult right at 18." After being stationed at Camp Pendleton for four years, he decided it was time for a change. As an avid Husker fan, he decided to follow his dream and become a Husker himself by applying to the university. Starting college while reentering civilian life wasn't always easy. After living with the same people for four years at Camp Pendleton, it was easy to feel lost and alone at a university the size of UNL. But thanks to the kindness of his classmates and opportunities with the Student Veterans of America and UNL's Military & Veteran Success Center, he was able to build his own community here at Nebraska. But that's not the case for veterans everywhere. Veterans Affairs has reported that on average 16 veterans die by suicide each day. Rodrigo, like many other veterans, has experienced losing military friends to suicide. This loss has inspired him to take part in The Things They Carry Ruck March, an annual march between Nebraska's Memorial Stadium and University of Iowa's Kinnick Stadium to raise awareness for veteran suicide. Though they might not be able to walk the 322-mile trek this year due to COVID-19, Rodrigo will partake in the virtual form of the event. He encourages all those who want to raise awareness and show support for this cause to join him on their own virtual marches—just walking a few miles could make a major impact on someone's life. "I've been in a position where you kind of feel alone when you come to campus from a whole different world. And it helps when just one person says, 'Hey, I got you.'"
“I've been in a position where you kind of feel alone when you come to campus from a whole different world. And it helps when just one person says, 'Hey, I got you.'”
English · Bellevue, Nebraska
Eric Morris likes to inspire and be inspired. One day, he hopes to become a renowned author, to see his novels or poetry books on shelves at Barnes & Noble or a local bookstore. "What do I hope to accomplish? I guess bringing something new into the world that wasn’t there before.” So while he works on his craft, he’s also helping others discover their own. Eric has seen the impact of a mentor firsthand. He’s had family, teachers and advisors he’s looked up to that have provided him guidance and helped him get from point A to point B. But the two mentors he had through Emerging Leaders—a program that supports recipients of the Nebraska Emerging Leaders Scholarship through continued success during their first year—were different. “They were immediately there for me and they were dedicated to guiding me through all of my first semester." After taking an interpersonal skills course and volunteering at the Lincoln Boys & Girls Club, he was even more determined to help other students through mentorship. Now, he’s coming up on his two years as a peer mentor through Emerging Leaders, helping other Huskers become comfortable and succeed through their first semester. Through the program, the mentors take on a class of students and actually teach curriculum that revolves around understanding yourself as the leader you want to become, navigating difficult conversations with others and reflecting on values and identities. Though he mainly teaches, Eric emphasizes the importance of connecting personally with his mentees, opening up to them and being a person they can rely on. "There’s definitely a lot more to us, whether we’re artists, or architects, or marine biologists, or nurses, or fashion designers, or a little bit of everything. I like to think that we’re more than just one of our goals and we’re more than just one of our interests."
“What do I hope to accomplish? I guess bringing something new into the world that wasn’t there before.”
criminal justice and child, youth and family studies · Minneapolis, Minnesota and Omaha, Nebraska
Nasia is making her mark at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln by creating a more open and accepting campus for students like her. As she immersed herself in the UNL community during her first year, Nasia realized that there were very few students that could share her experiences as an Indigenous, first-generation Husker. Along with the everyday stresses of tests, classes and homework, she also had to handle macro- and microaggressions — like people making incorrect assumptions about why she was going to college, who was paying for it, and calling the traditional clothing of her culture a "costume." "I was like, you know what? I'm not going to dwell on it... I'm going to change it," Nasia said. Over the past three years, Nasia has been an active member of the University of Nebraska Inter-Tribal Exchange (UNITE), Delta Xi Nu Multicultural Sorority, Inc., and the Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Student Advisory Board for Racial Justice, Inclusion and Equality. "My personality — it kind of doesn't allow me to just be back in the shadows," she said. By participating in these organizations, Nasia is able to connect with students who share the same experiences as her and help younger students as a mentor. She's also able to use her leadership positions in these groups to amplify her voice to the broader UNL community. "I like people to talk about me, even if that's good or bad. I don't care... because not everyone's gonna like me," Nasia said. "Not everyone's going to understand where I come from, why I walk into a room and I laugh as loud as I can, and I talk as loud as I can. It's just so people remember where I am, because if people remember who I am then they'll remember my people, and if they remember my people that's 20 steps more than what Christopher Columbus thought was gonna happen."
“I like people to talk about me, even if that's good or bad. I don't care... because not everyone's gonna like me. Not everyone's going to understand where I come from... It's just so people remember where I am, because if people remember who I am then they'll remember my people.”
psychology major with a minor in gerontology · Cameron, Missouri
Helping others has always been something Bianca is passionate about. In her small hometown, she volunteered at the public library where she prided herself in greeting the visitors and helping them find what they needed. Seeing people leave with a smile on her face drove her to pursue more opportunities to lend a hand. As a desk assistant at Harper, Schramm, Smith, and Village, Bianca works to provide students, parents and visitors a safe but exciting environment where they can excel at their studies and grow as people. She loves to meet different people and the challenge of the role, but helping people is what first drew her to the job. "I'm the first smiling face they see when they walk through the doors to their dorm rooms. Residents come to the desk for a variety of reasons ranging from cable issues to roommate disagreements. They trust me (and the desk staff) to help with whatever issue they may need fixing at that moment and it's such a good feeling to be able to solve that problem for them.” She’s also passionate about safety as it enables her to continue helping others. It’s something that’s been extremely important right now, and she’s sure to follow all guidelines both in her job—like wearing a mask and sanitizing surfaces—and with her friends as they find socially distant ways to connect. This combination of community and safety is something Bianca also hopes find in a post-grad career. She looks forward to becoming an occupational therapist and advocating for older adults. In this job, Bianca will help improve their quality of life, help them understand programs and services they can receive and combat any negative treatment or stereotypes of aging adults. Wherever she is—whether volunteering, working or just being in her community—Bianca will continue to live by one rule: “Everyone has a right to live and receive the care they need. No matter who you are or where you come from."
“Wherever she is—whether volunteering, working or just being in her community—Bianca will continue to live by one rule: “Everyone has a right to live and receive the care they need. No matter who you are or where you come from."”
advertising & public relations · Minneapolis—Saint Paul, Minnesota
2020 has brought in a tidal wave of new thoughts, emotions and experiences for members of the Husker community. College of Journalism student Karin knew she needed to talk about it. That's why, with the help of fellow members of College of Journalism & Mass Communications Ambassadors, she is spearheading the creation of The Circle. The Circle provides an open and understanding space for students to share their struggles, joys, perspectives and questions with one another. The club is molded after the Husker Dialogues style of conversation, which fosters meaningful discussions about sometimes difficult topics. Any Husker can attend the meetings either in person while practicing social distancing or online through Zoom. "Our main goal is just to foster friendships and community for students during this time of uncertainty and just scariness in the world," Karin said. "We just want there to be a comfortable place for students to feel empowered enough to express their opinions." After growing up in a home where her parents encouraged open communication and seeking out new perspectives, she especially wanted to lead a club that had that same mission. Karin understands that for some people, they might not have a place to go to talk about these topics or might have friends or family who won't listen to them. In The Circle, it's different. "In order to change the world and change the way people think, we have to all come together."
“In order to change the world and change the way people think, we have to all come together.”
criminology & criminal justice · Omaha, Nebraska
When Francisco first started at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, he was out of his comfort zone. As the first member of his family to attend college, everything about UNL felt like a new experience. But one day while walking across campus, he found a group doing advocacy work in front of Broyhill Fountain. Sigma Lambda Beta is a multicultural fraternity that is devoted to advocating for the Latino community and issues of social change. As a group they work together to create camaraderie on campus, help the Lincoln Hispanic community, and inspire younger generations to consider secondary education. Francisco felt drawn to join after learning about their mission, and he has been an active member ever since. With Hispanic Heritage Month ongoing now through October 15, Sigma Lambda Beta is currently focusing on creating special ways to commemorate the members of the Hispanic community who have come before them. The group is managing a social media campaign promoting influential Hispanic leaders in history, as well as producing a short video documentary. "The way we celebrate it is making sure that the contributions and the work that has been done isn't forgotten," Francisco said. Sigma Lambda Beta has given Francisco an opportunity to meet like-minded people on campus and connect with the Lincoln Hispanic community, but most importantly it has empowered him to find more ways to help others. "We have all similar backgrounds and similar mindsets on what we want to project on to our unique community, and so that's what's keeping me doing the work that I am doing."
“We have all similar backgrounds and similar mindsets on what we want to project on to our unique community, and so that's what's keeping me doing the work that I am doing.”
forensic science · Papillion, Nebraska
Though she's only been a Husker for a few months, Aliyah has already found a support system for her big dreams. Through the CASNR Change-Maker Quick Pitch Competition, Aliyah was given the confidence to pursue her dream of producing a surgical sleeve that would help those with breathing problems. After seeing her brother live with asthma and a family friend face the challenge of a collapsed lung, she knew she wanted to make something that could help those struggling — and with an interest in surgery, she knew she would one day have the skills to do it. Aliyah brainstormed how to make it happen, and then presented her idea for a surgical sleeve that could detect lung complications. After filming her pitch this summer, she waited to hear back on the results. Ultimately, Aliyah was picked as one of eight first-year students to receive a Change-Maker scholarship. In addition to receiving the scholarship, she will also be matched with a professional mentor that will help her as she works to make her surgical sleeve research a reality. By getting an early start, she's hoping she will be prepared for when she needs to streamline her research focus for medical school. It's just the beginning of Aliyah's University of Nebraska–Lincoln story, but thanks to CASNR she already knows that she can chase big dreams here.
“After seeing her brother live with asthma and a family friend face the challenge of a collapsed lung, she knew she wanted to make something that could help those struggling — and with an interest in surgery, she knew she would one day have the skills to do it. ”
music education · Lawrence, Kansas
Cameron never expected his senior year to look like this. He thought his final year would be filled with the quintessential moments of college and all the little details of a life lived pre-pandemic. Changes to his senior year like mask-wearing policies, some classes going online and canceled events were difficult to adjust to at first, but now he understands that they were initiated for the safety of everyone. And as an LNK is Greater Than ambassador, he is on a mission to be a role model on campus and encourage other students to adapt to this new normal. LNK is Greater Than is a campaign devoted to showing Lincolnites how they can curb the spread of COVID-19. Cameron applied to be an ambassador because the mission of the campaign aligned with his own personal convictions — he cares about the people around him, wants to have a safe school year, practices social distancing, wears a mask and washes his hands. Cameron and his fellow ambassadors can be found on campus or at local public events handing out prizes to people practicing proper social distancing and mask wearing. They're also active on social media and share information on how to still have fun and socialize while staying safe. "I wanted to show people that it's still possible to be safe and to follow guidelines and to put others safety and health as a priority," Cameron said. "But also it's still possible to get together through things like social distance picnics or even just wearing masks at the Haymarket Farmers Market. It's been a great way to see people gather and come together but also respect others and respect their safety."
“I wanted to show people that it's still possible to be safe and to follow guidelines and to put others safety and health as a priority.”
psychology · Schuyler, Nebraska
The Mac Miller lyric “there was never a better time to better myself” has been a drumbeat in Erik’s head for the past couple of years. When he was exploring colleges, he originally planned to become an accountant. He was good at accounting in high school and it became second nature. After getting involved in engineering competitions, he set his sights on nuclear engineering and started attending Central Community College. Though he would later switch back to accounting, he dropped out to take care of himself and focus on his mental health. Around this time last year, he was really inspired to go back to college, both for himself and his parents. “I’m a first-generation Latino student so I want to make them proud by being the first in my family to graduate from a 4-year university.” Going to college is also a way to honor the legacy of two of his friends, Ramon and Juan, who passed before they could attend college. “I’m going through this journey for them as well." Now he’s started as a junior at Nebraska, a university he said he’s wanted to attend since middle school. And he’s also discovered a new path for himself: finishing college and then attending graduate school to become a guidance counselor. "I’ve always been the “therapist” for my friends so that inspired me to go into psychology. I wanted to become a guidance counselor because more often than not I found myself helping friends and coworkers with resumes, scholarships, applying for colleges, and FAFSA as well." As someone that strives to help others and to better himself no matter where he's at in life, he feels like being a guidance counselor is the perfect fit. And aside from helping students navigate school, he'll be able to help families. "There’s also not a lot of bilingual guidance counselors so I know it would help some parents of students to know what their child is going through it when comes to school."
“I’ve always been the “therapist” for my friends so that inspired me to go into psychology. I wanted to become a guidance counselor because more often than not I found myself helping friends and coworkers with resumes, scholarships, applying for colleges, and FAFSA as well.”
Agricultural Education · Genoa, Nebraska
On many people’s 18th birthday, they may have a nice breakfast, open presents and celebrate. The first thing Kelsey did was call the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians. Growing up, her family was very involved in the community and instilled one particular message that has stuck with her: no matter what life gives you, give more back. A trip for ice cream in high school sparked her own interest in community involvement. After seeing a flyer on a bulletin board, her dad encouraged her to get involved as a volunteer Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). Although she was hesitant at first, she thought about her own family. “I knew that if my grandpa or my dad or mom needs to call 911, I’d want someone to respond for my family; so I do it for other people’s families." At 17, she wasn’t eligible to become a volunteer EMT. But she went through training and waited for her 18th birthday when she could officially take the tests necessary to become licensed. When she’s in her hometown, she carries a pager in case someone needs help. And two years later, she’s gotten use to the unexpected nature of the job. “The calls always seem to come at in at the worst time, like when your meal is hot and you’re sitting down. But that’s part of the job.” And she doesn’t mind because she’s able to help those who need it. Kelsey has been able to help people even when she hasn’t been called on, like when she was cheering on the sidelines of her high school football game and a player was injured, or when someone on campus became light-headed during an event. But her EMT training has also given her peace of mind at home. She says that living on a farm, so much can go wrong so quickly and being an EMT makes her and her family feel a little safer if something were to happen.
“Growing up, her family was very involved in the community and instilled one particular message that has stuck with her: no matter what life gives you, give more back.”
advertising and public relations and psychology · Lincoln, Nebraska
Alexis has lived in Lincoln her entire life. And when she saw an opportunity to connect with her Black heritage and advocate for Lincoln’s Black community, she took it. “It was just important for me to use my voice. Usually I’m silent about polarizing topics but I wanted to finally speak out and use my voice and my social media to push that on to other people.” So she set out to create a list for the community to come together and support local Black-owned businesses. It started with a simple post on Facebook and Instagram but soon grew into a community-fueled project. Alexis received tons of direct messages and comments about additions to the list. As a @unlcojmc student, she knows how to use social media to generate buzz but she didn’t expect the list to get as much attention as it has. And she has seen the impact firsthand, meeting the business owners at rallies and hearing that others in the community have found their new favorite restaurant. The whole experience reinforced something she’s known about the Lincoln community: “When we all get together, we can all make a change.”
“When we all get together, we can all make a change.”
child, youth and family studies · Moreno Valley, California
When Kami first signed up for a volunteer shift at the Malone Community Center, she thought she would just spend a few hours there while checking off requirements for a class assignment. Instead, she ended up finding a community that would change the rest of her college career. Kami went from being a volunteer for the Malone Center to becoming one of their youth specialists. Since 2016 she's spent most of her afternoons picking up students from school, providing them with after-school activities, homework help and snacks, and then driving them home around dinnertime. For Kami, finding the center felt serendipitous. As a child, youth and family studies major, it made perfect sense for her to be working with kids, and as a former Husker gymnast, she was excited to start the center's first gymnastics club and share her passion for the sport. Best of all, she could do it all while supporting one of Lincoln's only African American community centers. Kami recently moved home to California and completed her final shift at the Malone Center. While the center might be far away physically, it will always be something she keeps close to her in her heart. "It's just nice to be able to have a center like that for these families to come to and feel a sense of community that people are here for you, that they care for you, and that we can all stand together." Kami said.
“It's just nice to be able to have a center like that for these families to come to and feel a sense of community that people are here for you, that they care for you, and that we can all stand together.”
Accountancy · Sioux Falls, South Dakota
As an out-of-state, first-generation and biracial student, there were plenty of times when Andee felt like she was the only person in the room that understood her experiences. But instead of sinking into that lonely feeling, she sought out and created supportive communities that would uplift her and push her forward. During her undergraduate studies at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Andee was active as a mentor for DREAMBIG Academy and First Husker — two programs that are aimed at helping first-generation and underrepresented students achieve their college goals. She was also a resident assistant for housing and a tutor at an elementary school. Her passion for helping students like herself also led her to found a campus organization for her fellow Black students in accounting. With the help of Associate Professor Crabtree and the accountancy program, Andee was able to join the National Association of Black Accountants (NABA) during her undergraduate career. After attending the association's student conference for two years, Andee felt the impact of the program and decided it was time to create a student chapter on UNL's campus. UNL's NABA chapter is now officially a registered student organization on campus, and Andee hopes to have the chapter recognized by the national organization this fall. To Andee, the organization is an opportunity for Nebraska College of Business to have an inclusive space for Black students to share their experiences, dispel their insecurities and grow together in their careers. "I feel like a lot of times students kind of have imposter syndrome in these experiences, and so I think it's important for them to realize like, 'There's other people doing it — I can do it.'"
“Her passion for helping students like herself also led her to found a campus organization for her fellow Black students in accounting.”
Sociology · Virginia, USA and Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
Han, a May 2020 University of Nebraska–Lincoln graduate, had been preparing for the 4K for Cancer for months. 4K for Cancer is a program where volunteers run or bike across the United States to raise funds for the Ulman Foundation, which provides support services like scholarships and housing to young adults battling cancer. Han lost her grandmother to cancer as a child, and recently her mother was also diagnosed with the disease. Her personal connections to cancer made her especially motivated to partake in the event. But with coronavirus concerns in mind, her running plans took a new path. Originally she was going to run with her 4K for Cancer team from Baltimore to San Francisco, however, due to the effects of COVID-19 the cross-country trip was canceled. That won't stop Han — she's participating in the full 49-day run from home. She has her road ID, her safety devices and a daily schedule of miles to run to keep her on track, and each day she'll check in with her team via Zoom to dedicate their run to a cancer patient or survivor. All that's left to do is run. Though coronavirus might have stopped Han's cross-country trek, it hasn't stopped her mission to help those battling cancer. "I don’t think that anything can replace the real thing, but at the end of the day, cancer is larger than all of us individually, and there are brave warriors out there fighting this disease," Han said. "We continue to remind ourselves of our mission — that we run for them and for each other."
“Though coronavirus might have stopped Han's cross-country trek, it hasn't stopped her mission to help those battling cancer.”
Biochemistry · LIncoln, Nebraska
Aiah Nour, a biochemistry major and president of the African Student Association (ASA), found community in the University of Nebraska–Lincoln's Black Student Union (BSU). BSU is a group of Black leaders from different student organizations on campus that advocate for the Black voice and create a safe space for Black students to express themselves as a minority at UNL. "Being a student at Nebraska, I’ve always been the minority in all my spaces," Aiah said, "However, getting involved with the Black Student Union and the African Students Association has allowed me to find where I belong and who I can relate to." Recent events have triggered many emotions in the Black community. To ease the stress, BSU has created a community initiative to give back to the people of Lincoln and help those that who are struggling with the economic and social tensions. "It’s in times like these where community becomes crucial." Aiah said, "To be a part of something bigger than yourself provides a sense of security, as well as cultivates a community that will be kept for the generations of Black students after us." Aiah encourages other students to get involved and find community at Nebraska. "For Black students, it’s important to get involved in RSOs like ASA and APU (Afrikan People's Union), as well as get connected with BSU." Aiah said, "These organizations allow for communication within the Black community, and act as spaces of inclusivity and welcoming to a particular minority that attends UNL." Over $12,000 has been raised for the BSU Care Bag initiative to provide the Black community in Lincoln with wellness items such as hand sanitizer, food, hygiene products and anything else a family needs to be supported during this time. Learn more at the UNL African Student Association Facebook page.
“It’s in times like these where community becomes crucial." Aiah said, "To be a part of something bigger than yourself provides a sense of security, as well as cultivates a community that will be kept for the generations of Black students after us.”
Fashion Design and Textiles · Lincoln, Nebraska
Emily Pillard has known how to sew since she was six years old. After finding her passion at a young age, she followed it all the way to college at UNL Fashion. In March 2020, Emily realized that her gift for sewing and design could be used to make face masks to keep people safe from COVID-19. With the help of her mother, sister and brother, Emily has now produced more than a thousand fabric masks and shipped them across the country. Emily did all of this while finishing her spring semester at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. In between adjusting to taking her classes remotely and preparing for finals, she still found the time to gather fabric and elastic and set up her production and shipment plan with her family. Emily and her mom and sister are tasked with using the sewing machines while her brother handles cutting out all the fabric. Once the fabric is cut to the pattern, each mask takes about five to eight minutes of sewing to be completed. Then they are either mailed off or offered for pickup locally. She charges her customers only for the cost of fabric, elastic and shipping. "I'm trying to just make them as cheap as possible because they're essential. And I'm just not trying to charge people a fortune in a pandemic," she said. When she first offered to make masks, Emily thought she would be able to help only a handful of people. But as needs have grown, she's received more and more messages asking for her help from people living in remote areas without access to masks. "So I'm just like, if I can't help them, who's going to help them? So I kind of have this feeling like I need to push myself, I need to do this," Emily said, "And so it's a lot of hard work. I don't eat or sleep that much, but I'm okay. My mom is taking care of me. And I'm just trying to do the best for the community which is crazy...it just feels crazy."
“When she first offered to make masks, Emily thought she would be able to help only a handful of people. But as needs have grown, she's received more and more messages asking for her help from people living in remote areas without access to masks.”
Animal Science · Lincoln, Nebraska
When health care forces across the nation went into overdrive in response to COVID-19, University of Nebraska–Lincoln student Laura Walklin stepped up to help on the front lines. Laura had been working part-time as an x-ray technician at Bryan Health before the outbreak began. But when her clinic staff had to double its size to handle all the testing, potential patients, and new safety protocols surrounding COVID-19, she shifted her hours and started working full time — all while handling a full-time course load in animal science. During the day she dons her PAPR (powered air-purifying respirator) while attending to patients and phone calls. And when the mask comes off and she heads home at the end of the day, it's time to focus on homework, tests, and projects. Balancing life, the priority of a full-time course load, and a full-time job is a lot to handle. When Laura finds downtime, she likes to take her mind off of things and unwind by training her 4-year-old former racehorse. She feels joy when she's taking care of animals, and she hopes to one day combine it with her love of medicine by working with injured horses or pursuing the additional credentials she'd need to become an equine veterinarian. For now, Laura will continue to help Nebraskans receive the medical help they need during this different and difficult time. It's been taxing, but it's been worth it thanks to the support she's seen and felt from the people around her. "My coworkers and I have been so grateful for all the appreciation shown by businesses and members of the community," Laura said.
“She feels joy when she's taking care of animals, and she hopes to one day combine it with her love of medicine by working with injured horses or pursuing the additional credentials she'd need to become an equine veterinarian. ”
Business · Verona, New Jersey
Like many Huskers, Emilia finished her spring semester hundreds of miles from campus. And though she may be physically far away, she still feels connected to her campus community. Checking in with coworkers at the communications department at Nebraska Business and taking classes through Zoom, sometimes things feel almost the same — just virtual. The Nebraska community has been a constant in her life, helping Emilia to adjust to all the changes around her. She's in South Carolina, living with her entire family for the first time in years, and many of the plans she had for this spring and summer don't look the same. One of those major plans that changed was the Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament. With a goal to work in college athletics one day, Emilia volunteered at the event last year and was in Indianapolis again this year observing and learning from professionals in the field. Emilia was volunteering at the first game on March 12 when the call was made to cancel the rest of the tournament. She went straight to the airport to catch a flight back to Nebraska. While in the airport, she got the email saying that classes would be moved online. After weighing their options, Emilia and her family decided it would be best for her to join her family in South Carolina. "I knew it was a serious thing," Emilia said, "But I didn't really realize the magnitude of it all until I was there.” In addition to continuing her education through her remote classes and graduate assistantship, Emilia is also using this time to learn more about her career. As sports teams and athletics organizations adapt to life in this new normal, she's taking note of how they respond and lead. "I think we're in a very unique opportunity to be able to learn from what our peers are doing in the industry," Emilia said, "And kind of being able to see how people operate in situations that are completely unexpected and unprecedented."
“And though she may be physically far away, she still feels connected to her campus community. ”
Actuarial Science · Rusinga, Kenya
As the University of Nebraska–Lincoln seniors wrap up their final tests, papers, and projects as Huskers, many are reflecting on what their time on campus has meant to them. Every senior became familiar with the campus in their own unique way. Some of them grew up visiting it for football games and attending field trips and festivals. Others saw it briefly during Red Letter Days and New Student Enrollment. And some experienced it for the first time when they landed here at the beginning of their international student experience. Don is one of those international students. He came to Lincoln from Rusinga, Kenya. While initially, he picked Nebraska for its actuarial science program, he found more than just a highly ranked course of study — he found a community. Don felt the friendliness of the UNL community before he even started his classes. As he prepared to pack up his life and move to Lincoln, he kept in close contact with a UNL Housing employee who helped him as he decided where to live on campus. "It doesn't matter what time I sent emails — she'd be there to respond," Don said, "And we built a friendship on that." Don's Husker community continued to grow when he got on campus. From NSE events connecting international and domestic students to desk jobs at residence halls and making new friends over meals at the dining centers, his time on campus allowed him to build a life-changing network of friends, professors and professionals. His philosophy is that every interaction he shares with someone else is worthwhile, whether it's a brief conversation in class or a long talk over a cup or two of coffee. Even though his time as a Husker student ends this week, Don hopes to stay close to campus after graduation so he can visit the friends he has made during his time at Nebraska. "Building a community was so easy and so much fun," Don said, "And I think that's the most valuable experience I've ever had in my life."
“While initially, he picked Nebraska for its actuarial science program, he found more than just a highly ranked course of study — he found a community. Don felt the friendliness of the UNL community before he even started his classes.”
Political Science · Elkhorn, Nebraska
Alyssa spent most of her senior year preparing for the University of Nebraska–Lincoln's Out of the Darkness Walk, an annual event aimed at raising awareness for suicide prevention. But in a matter of days, her plans crumbled. As universities across the country closed and events large and small were canceled, she realized that the walk wouldn't be able to happen the way she thought it would. At first, she was gutted. "You put your blood and sweat and tears into this," Alyssa said, "And then suddenly it's like, 'Oh — can't do it.'" But the mission of the Out of the Darkness Walk inspired her to find a way to make it happen. As a passionate advocate for mental health awareness and suicide prevention, Alyssa knew how important it was to continue sharing the message of outreach, awareness, and prevention through the event. So, like most things now in a social distancing world, she decided to make it virtual. Attendees can now tune in to a virtual walk streamed on April 26 on the Out of the Darkness Walk's Facebook page. Though the day won't go exactly the way Alyssa originally had planned, it will still be an opportunity for people to listen to the walk's keynote speaker, raise funds, and virtually walk together to amplify awareness for the cause. By transitioning the walk online, Alyssa felt like she could still make an impact on a cause that has deeply affected her life. When she struggled with a personally dark time during her first few years at college, Alyssa relied on Out of the Darkness to provide her with a support system, a reason to get better, and a will to continue. Though her last event with them as a Nebraska student might not be what she expected, she's still grateful that it's happening in some capacity.
“As a passionate advocate for mental health awareness and suicide prevention, Alyssa knew how important it was to continue sharing the message of outreach, awareness, and prevention through the event.”
Integrated Science · Kigali, Rwanda
While campus may seem far away for some, a number of Huskers still call it home. Shemsa is one of those Huskers. While many of her classmates packed up their residence hall rooms, she knew she would need to stay on campus to finish out her classes. For Huskers like Shemsa who couldn't return home, University Housing stepped in to institute social distancing measures to keep students safe. Shemsa was moved into a suite where she has her own private bathroom, which lessened her parents' worries about her sharing a space with other people in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. She gets her meals to-go from the dining hall, engages in her coursework online in her room, and has necessities like toilet paper and cleaning supplies provided to her so she doesn't have to leave campus to make any purchases. While at first she felt anxious about being one of the few students left on campus, now that she's in her suite and she knows other students are going through the same experience, she doesn't feel so lonely. "There's a certain comfort that comes from seeing people, even if you don't hang out with them or you don't talk to them, you know?" Shemsa said, "Just see them around and you know, feel like you're not alone." To further combat loneliness, Shemsa also regularly connects with her family and friends. Her parents call from Rwanda nearly every day to check in on her, and she video chats frequently with her friends. She might be social distancing, but she doesn't feel too distant from those she loves. And though she is by herself in her residence hall suite, she knows she is not alone in the challenge of continuing to learn and engage in new ways. "I have everything that I need right here," Shemsa said.
“She might be social distancing, but she doesn't feel too distant from those she loves. ”
Global Family Health · Selangor, Malaysia
Huskers are taking the lyrics "we'll all stick together in all kinds of weather" to heart as our community adjusts to our new normal. One of those Huskers is Cassandra, a University of Nebraska–Lincoln Ph.D. student that has created a way for people in the community to get mental health support for their COVID-19-related anxiety and stress. Using her connections to mental health practitioners, Cassandra organized a group of more than 40 therapists to offer free mental health support for those that may be struggling. Cassandra understands that people are going through a lot right now. When people undergo change, especially sudden change, it's likely to leave them feeling overwhelmed. "Even the "adjusting" itself is stressful, because you had a routine of something and suddenly you don't." Cassandra said. As an advocate for mental health, she wanted to make sure that this service was accessible to all — that way whether they live in Nebraska or across the world they can still access a therapist through the virtual Telehealth services. She did this all while balancing her own stresses in life. As a TA she had to quickly adapt to putting her classes online, and as an international student she had to grapple with knowing that her family was thousands of miles away in an uncertain time. Though she had a lot of adjustments herself, she still took the time to find a way to help others. Cassandra is proof that we stick together — in all kinds of weather.
“Using her connections to mental health practitioners, Cassandra organized a group of more than 40 therapists to offer free mental health support for those that may be struggling.”
Management · Columbus, Nebraska
At the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, our students do big things — even during difficult times. Luke is one of those students. When he heard about local restaurants having to shut down in the wake of COVID-19, he realized he had a way to help those businesses through their hardships. With his and his partner's app, Brim: Mobile Ordering, he's helping coffee shops and restaurants continue to reach customers through mobile orders. The concept for Brim took shape in October 2018, when Jacob connected with The Foundry coffee shop over their need for a mobile ordering solution. By August 2019 he had created a working product, which led him to bring on Luke to help with the business aspects of expanding the app out into the community. Soon, coffee shops from across Lincoln and Omaha could be found on Brim. As restaurants began to switch to take-out only dining options when COVID-19 recommendations were announced, Luke and Jacob decided it was time to jump in and help by offering the Brim mobile ordering service for free for new businesses for six months. The two don't see it as a business opportunity for themselves — they just want to help businesses that are struggling. In fact, any business that joins won't have any obligations to continue using the service after their six months are up. Luke said that even if they end up leaving the platform, the Brim team will still consider it a success. "Because that was, you know, six months where we're able to help them out through tough times." Luke said. A handful of businesses have already taken Jacob and Luke up on their offer and will be up on the app soon. "For us, if we're able to help a few shops stay open this time..." Jacob said, "That's a total win for us."
“Luke said that even if they end up leaving the platform, the Brim team will still consider it a success. "Because that was, you know, six months where we're able to help them out through tough times."”
Software Engineering · Kansas City, Missouri
At the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, our students do big things — even during difficult times. Jacob is one of those students. When he heard about local restaurants having to shut down in the wake of COVID-19, he realized he had a way to help those businesses through their hardships. With his and his partner's app, Brim: Mobile Ordering, he's helping coffee shops and restaurants continue to reach customers through mobile orders. The concept for Brim took shape in October 2018, when Jacob connected with The Foundry coffee shop over their need for a mobile ordering solution. By August 2019 he had created a working product, which led him to bring on Luke to help with the business aspects of expanding the app out into the community. Soon, coffee shops from across Lincoln and Omaha could be found on Brim. As restaurants began to switch to take-out only dining options when COVID-19 recommendations were announced, Luke and Jacob decided it was time to jump in and help by offering the Brim mobile ordering service for free for new businesses for six months. The two don't see it as a business opportunity for themselves — they just want to help businesses that are struggling. In fact, any business that joins won't have any obligations to continue using the service after their six months are up. Luke said that even if they end up leaving the platform, the Brim team will still consider it a success. "Because that was, you know, six months where we're able to help them out through tough times." Luke said. A handful of businesses have already taken Jacob and Luke up on their offer and will be up on the app soon. "For us, if we're able to help a few shops stay open this time..." Jacob said, "That's a total win for us."
“As restaurants began to switch to take-out only dining options when COVID-19 recommendations were announced, Luke and Jacob decided it was time to jump in and help by offering the Brim mobile ordering service for free for new businesses for six months.”
Agricultural Leadership · Omaha, Nebraska
Brytany is grateful. Grateful for a major she's passionate about, a school she loves, and the opportunity to share her story with each person she meets. Brytany's story starts in Jalisco, Mexico, where she spent the first few years of her life growing up on a dairy farm. Her parents moved their small family to the United States when she was four so she could have access to a better education, and her love of agriculture followed. Throughout high school, Brytany was a student leader in Future Farmers of America, so when it came time to pick her course of study at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, emphasis on agricultural leadership felt like a perfect fit. Now well into her second year, Brytany is already making big plans for life after graduation. Along with her interest in agriculture, Brytany's experience immigrating to the U.S. and being a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipient stoked a passion about human rights and the legal system. She'd like to one day start an educational program focusing on advocacy and urban agriculture or to work as an immigration lawyer. "I want to change people's lives and show them that they too can pursue the American dream," Brytany said. For now, Brytany will continue sharing her story with students at Nebraska and encouraging them to share their stories, too. "I'm just really grateful for being at UNL, because it's provided that platform and it always encourages students to share those stories," Brytany said. "It's nice to be in a community that allows you to be yourself, but also share your story and change others perspectives."
“Along with her interest in agriculture, Brytany's experience immigrating to the U.S. and being a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipient stoked a passion about human rights and the legal system. She'd like to one day start an educational program focusing on advocacy and urban agriculture or to work as an immigration lawyer.”
Integrated Science · Kigali, Rwanda
For some students, taking the leap and studying abroad in a new country can be scary. For Damien, it was a challenge accepted. From the moment he received his scholarship to study across the world at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln to when he applied to be a member of Freshman Campus Leaderships Associates (FCLA) to today, Damien has always felt propelled to try new things that pushed him past his comfort zone. "It's all about taking the first step," he said. Now that Damien has taken those first steps and adjusted to life as a Husker, he's looking to help other students. As a part of his FCLA duties, he's working on a project that would connect first-year students to valuable social and academic resources. From finding registered student organizations that suit their interests to seeing where they can get help with their classes, the goal is to make it easier for Huskers to acclimate to campus culture. If students are struggling to form friendships or find a community, Damien suggests that they open up to new opportunities and cultures. By experiencing new people and exploring new topics, they just might find the connections they seek. "Be courageous, adventurous — try new things," Damien said, "That, you know, the 'old you' couldn't try."
“If students are struggling to form friendships or find a community, Damien suggests that they open up to new opportunities and cultures. By experiencing new people and exploring new topics, they just might find the connections they seek. "Be courageous, adventurous — try new things," Damien said, "That, you know, the 'old you' couldn't try."”
Software Engineering · Lincoln, Nebraska
As a software engineering student, Hallie wanted to find a way to share her love of STEM with the community. Then she found Initialize UNL. The registered student organization is composed of computer science majors at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Hallie joined the organization in her sophomore year and has been an active member ever since. Hallie is involved in the mentorship branch of Initialize and volunteers as a leader for after-school robotics clubs. There she teaches elementary, middle and high school students about STEM and creates curriculums designed to show them the tools and skills associated with programming. Initialize mainly focuses on working with Title 1 schools, but they also extend their reach to rural schools using Zoom video calls. Introducing students to STEM and acting as their mentor is especially important to Hallie because she missed out on STEM opportunities growing up. She was only introduced to computer science during her high school years, but she wishes she had the opportunity to start learning about it earlier. One of Hallie's favorite parts of leading an after-school club is when a student starts the meeting acting bored and unenthused, but they end it filled with excitement and eagerness to continue learning. Hallie remembers one occasion when a student wasn't picking up on an activity, so Hallie decided to shift the curriculum a little bit to cater to her. At that point, the activity started to make more sense to the student, and she began to act excited was clearly engaged and excited about the work even when she was faced with issues, saying, "Oh, this is how I can fix it!" "I think the work we do is just really cool," Hallie said, "I can see the effect that it has on the students that we work with for our educational programs, but then also how helpful it is and how cool of an experience it is for the college students."
“Hallie joined the organization in her sophomore year and has been an active member ever since. Hallie is involved in the mentorship branch of Initialize and volunteers as a leader for after-school robotics clubs.”
Political Science · Norfolk, Nebraska
Jesse knew even before college that he wanted to go into a career focused on public service. Now, he's doing just that through The Nebraska Change Venture. "I think it's important because a lot of young people want to do well," Jesse said, "And the biggest gap is knowing how to do it." With The Nebraska Change Venture, Jesse and his fellow organization members create free presentations, workshops and online resources that help high school students determine their professional goals and ambitions. Through classes on how to write cover letters, and handouts on networking or online resume templates, they're giving students professional development opportunities and materials they might not have access to otherwise. Even though he's always felt comfortable in a professional atmosphere, Jesse understands how it can be difficult for other young people to find the confidence to put themselves out there when they're meeting with a potential employer or new networking connection. He believes that by teaching these skills at a peer-to-peer level, students will feel more comfortable learning and replicating them. "We think that it's really important that when we go and speak with students," Jesse said, "We are doing it from a perspective they can kind of understand." Since bringing The Nebraska Change Venture to Lincoln during his sophomore year, Jesse has gained valuable professional skills while sharing his knowledge and impacting students across the capital city community. Now that he's close to graduating, he is proud to be able to look back at all the lives that The Nebraska Change Venture has shaped so far, and all the future Huskers it will help as well.
“With The Nebraska Change Venture, Jesse and his fellow organization members create free presentations, workshops and online resources that help high school students determine their professional goals and ambitions. ”
Biochemistry and Chemistry · Lincoln, Nebraska
Sonoor has always called Lincoln "home," so attending the University of Nebraska–Lincoln was an easy decision. Even though she was familiar with the university, she still had her worries. How would she navigate college as a first-generation student? Where would she find her support network? Were people going to treat her differently? Would they accept her for who she was? She knew it was important to go despite her fears — growing up, her family had engrained in her the importance of education, and sometimes it felt like the only thing they could hold on to. "I think most of all my parents emphasize education so much because I'm a first-generation student — my parents didn't get an education. We fled from war. I'm a refugee. We had no idea what was going on when we first came here." At first the thought college was daunting, but once Sonoor started classes at Nebraska, she began to feel at ease. She became a part of the McNair Program, Student Support Services and other organizations, and she also began cultivating connections with student and academic mentors. Because of all the support she's received as a student, she's already thinking of the ways she will be able to give back to others once she graduates. She plans on becoming a physician-scientist, so she can help patients while also researching illnesses and diseases, and she also hopes to mentor students seeking guidance, as she was once in their shoes. "Now that so many people have given to me, I think of how I can do it too for others."
Music Performance · Peculiar, Missouri
Opera might seem like just music, lights and flashy costumes to some, but for Alie, it's much more than that. As someone who has been performing in operas since her early teens, she's learned a lot from the art form and thinks that others can too. It might feel intimidating at first to attend an opera, but in reality there's nothing to worry about. Though stereotypes might make out opera halls to be stuffy and unwelcoming to newcomers, Alie said it's actually quite the opposite. Dress codes are relaxed, there's often pre-show talks that go over the plot, and the lyrics (when performed in a language other than English) are translated and projected out for the audience. Alie believes that opera is so accessible that even children can understand it. During her summer working at Opera in the Ozarks, Alie performed in an opera that toured across northwest Arkansas for children of all ages. Not only did the job allow her to use her musical talents as a performer, but it also provided her a chance to show a new group the discipline, teamwork, kindness and preparation it takes to perform an opera. "The longer that opera has been a part of my life, the more I've come to realize how it can be a strong indicator of social responsibility," Alie said. While the work that goes on behind the scenes of an opera shows the importance of forming strong, trusting social relationships with others, what happens onstage is just as important. Themes of reconciliation, mercy and forgiveness are common in many operas, and Alie thinks they are vital to share with the opera audience as well as the world. "I think that those are stories that really need to be told," Alie said, "The world needs to hear that."
“As someone who has been performing in operas since her early teens, she's learned a lot from the art form and thinks that others can too. ”
Biochemistry · Howells, Nebraska
Coming from a small town in Nebraska, Carter knew he wouldn't know many people in Lincoln. So, he built his own community. By joining plenty of Registered Student Organizations, being active in the honors program and working at the Campus Rec, Carter started to find friends and mentors that helped him adjust to collegiate life. Being active on campus helped him to find his interests and make new friends, but it also taught him about diversity and respecting others. Hailing from a town of fewer than 600 people, he didn't grow up with many of the different cultures that are represented across the University of Nebraska–Lincoln campus. By reaching out and opening his mind, he was able to forge strong relationships with Huskers from across the world. "If you're close-minded, you aren't going to form anything, you're not going to learn anything.” Carter took the lessons he learned from his experiences on campus and applied them to his keynote speech during this year's Husker Dialogues. He urged students to be inclusive, respectful, outgoing and kind and also encouraged them to find some form of student involvement that interests them. With over 550 student organizations on campus, Carter says there's something for everyone. "Go to that one club meeting — you're going to find somebody want to meet," Carter said, "You're not going to really go anywhere or make any new friends unless you make the step to go and go do it."
“Hailing from a town of fewer than 600 people, he didn't grow up with many of the different cultures that are represented across the University of Nebraska–Lincoln campus. By reaching out and opening his mind, he was able to forge strong relationships with Huskers from across the world.”
Biology and Psychology · Omaha, Nebraska
Saisha is driven to help others. As a biology and psychology major, Saisha hopes to pursue a master's in public health after graduation and one day work for a large public health institute where she will be able to affect even more lives. Her inspiration came from her time at a neuroscience internship in Nepal, where she was able to see the disparities in public health between the United States and other parts of the world firsthand. Back in Nebraska, Saisha continues to work towards her goals by being a public health resource to refugees that have recently been resettled in Omaha. She presents to these groups on the cultural health differences they might be experiencing upon their arrival to America and shares with them the proper protocol to follow to call 911 or understand if they need an ambulance. When she isn't volunteering, Saisha is often working in the Child Maltreatment Lab or planning and preparing initiatives for ASUN's Diversity and Inclusion committee. "Being a person of color and having that culture, I really want to embrace that here and then educate those around me.” As the co-chair for this committee, she and her fellow members are tasked with connecting the different cultural communities at the university. They work on projects that range from creating handbooks on American culture to educating their fellow students on non-gendered bathrooms across campus. "Making an impact is so huge."
“Her inspiration came from her time at a neuroscience internship in Nepal, where she was able to see the disparities in public health between the United States and other parts of the world firsthand. ”
Hospitality, Restaurant and Tourism Management · Beatrice, Nebraska
With nearly 1,400 degrees to be awarded this weekend at undergraduate and graduate commencement, Huskers across campus are taking in their final moments as students before accepting their diplomas and officially becoming alumni. As a hospitality, restaurant and tourism management student in CASNR, Marissa was able to visit nine countries on study abroad experiences, complete three internships and even work at the Masters Golf Tournament. These opportunities led her to make lasting friendships with classmates and valuable connections with professors. Now she's a soon-to-be graduate that will begin a master's program in business administration this January. While she's excited to graduate and begin the next chapter of her life, Marissa said she will miss her undergraduate years. Whether it was chatting with her pals in classes, connecting with her HRTM professors, or even just grabbing lunch at her sorority house, she knows her college experience was enjoyable because she picked the right major and extracurriculars. "College was much more enjoyable when I focused on being involved in a few things that made me really happy, rather than trying to give half effort in a ton of things." Marissa said that while it was stressful at first to figure out life after graduation, the pieces fell into place and now she's excited for the future. She's especially excited for all the possibilities ahead of her, and she will always be grateful she chose Nebraska to be a part of her story.
“As a hospitality, restaurant and tourism management student in CASNR, Marissa was able to visit nine countries on study abroad experiences, complete three internships and even work at the Masters Golf Tournament. These opportunities led her to make lasting friendships with classmates and valuable connections with professors.”
Psychology · Omaha, Nebraska
As a student at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Jared is taking every opportunity he can to study the Korean language. Though it isn't an official program at UNL, he's been able to take courses on campus via the Big Ten Academic Alliance. Jared and his classmates study with a class from the University of Minnesota, video chatting in to each lecture. His passion for learning Korean translated into Jared being one of five Huskers to receive a Critical Language Scholarship from the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. This June he will return to South Korea for his second summer in the country to partake in an intensive and immersive language program. As an honors student studying psychology, he's using his time in South Korea to do more than just perfect his command of the language. He plans on making connections with professors and other psychology professionals so he can conduct research on cross-cultural psychology between the United States and South Korea. Jared plans to start distributing surveys, gathering responses and completing his thesis research during fall 2019, and then he intends to apply for a Fulbright award. One day, he would like to get his doctoral degree in psychology and use his knowledge to work with children.
“Jared plans on making connections with professors and other psychology professionals so he can conduct research on cross-cultural psychology between the United States and South Korea.”
Marketing · Omaha, Nebraska
Though he only started posting his music on Spotify in early December, junior Noah Floersch already has more than 40,000 monthly listeners. The marketing major has been making music his way for years. He started by teaching himself how to play banjo in middle school, then picked up the piano, guitar and ukulele. By the time he reached high school, he had learned how to record music on his iPad and was piecing together his own creations at home. He knew then that he wanted to make a career in music, and when he started at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, he connected with a fraternity brother who happened to produce it. The two teamed up and since December 2018 have been producing roughly one song a month. Noah looks forward to writing every day and especially to showing his new songs to his friends. When he sees them perk up and connect with a line or a melody, he can't help but feel motivated to keep creating. "That's the best feeling in the world."
“When he sees them [friends] perk up and connect with a line or a melody, he can't help but feel motivated to keep creating. "That's the best feeling in the world."”
Mechanical and Materials Engineering · Nowshahr, Iran
Coming to the University of Nebraska–Lincoln involved a lot of firsts and lasts for Ramin. He would be a first-generation student leaving to visit the United States for the first time. His single-entry visa meant it would be the last time he would see his family for five and a half years and the last time he would see his home country. Though the transition was a big one, Ramin remembers being excited for the new experience. He threw himself into his studies and became involved in the community. He frequented coffee shops, the Outdoor Adventure Center and biking trails. Ramin even became president of the Iranian Student Organization and a graduate ambassador for the College of Engineering. Most significantly, Ramin became a husband and stepfather. Despite being so busy, Ramin still wanted to do more. When he learned about an opportunity to teach middle school students about STEM through the Girls Inc. Eureka! program, he was quick to volunteer. He identified with the challenge many of the girls will face someday in college as first-generation students like him, and he wanted to serve as living proof that if they worked hard they could make their dreams come true, too. "There were so many odds against me, and I made it." Ramin said. Ramin also wanted the girls to know that engineering wasn’t just for boys. At the end of their class session on polymers and recycling, he took them on a tour of the College of Engineering so they could see where they could study engineering in just a few short years. He’s seen firsthand how education can change people, and he wants to continue to help others learn and grow.
“He identified with the challenge many of the girls will face someday in college as first-generation students like him, and he wanted to serve as living proof that if they worked hard they could make their dreams come true, too.”
Speech Pathology · Omaha, Nebraska
Alyssa has always had a special passion for helping those with language disorders. That's why she organized the fifth annual Aphasia Awareness Walk. Aphasia is a language disorder caused by brain injury, and it affects how people express and understand both written and spoken language. A large majority of people have never even heard of it, according to Alyssa. The goal of the walk is to raise awareness about aphasia, as well as to raise proceeds for the Barkley Speech-Language and Hearing Clinic and the Aphasia Community Partners Program. The Community Partners program pairs volunteers with individuals with aphasia, and together they work to practice communication skills through easy, low-stress social events like grabbing a coffee or visiting a museum. Alyssa started planning the June 8th walk during the fall 2018 semester, but she realized that it was difficult to promote it since not many people knew what aphasia was. She decided this year that she wanted to take the awareness efforts even further than before and got the state to recognize June as Aphasia Awareness Month. Planning the walk was a big task, but it was worth it. "It's taught me that the most meaningful things are the things that seemed impossible."
“Alyssa decided this year that she wanted to take the awareness efforts even further than before and got the state to recognize June as Aphasia Awareness Month.”
Psychology · Waverly, Nebraska
For Will, the LGBTQA+ Resource Center is more than just an office in the Nebraska Union — it's a community. As a first-year student Will became involved with the resource center through their Peer Mentor Group, where students are paired up with an upperclassmen mentor in an effort to help new students become acclimated and active in the LGBTQA+ campus community. He gradually became more and more engaged in the center's events and activities. Now as a senior, he is the center's library and resource coordinator. In this role, he gives presentations, recommends LGBTQA+ friendly counselors and doctors, and oversees the 1,500 items in the center's library. Will is also the president and one of the founding members of TRANSform, a club focused on a new support system within the LGBTQA+ Resource Center. The group promotes advocacy and support for trans students and works together on everything from housing policies to inclusive swim nights for those that might feel uncomfortable at public pools. The resource center gave Will a community at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, and now he's helping to expand it. "It's just nice to have people that are here to help you and support you," Will said.
“Now as a senior, he is the center's library and resource coordinator. In this role, he gives presentations, recommends LGBTQA+ friendly counselors and doctors, and oversees the 1,500 items in the center's library.”
Landscape Architecture · Holdrege, Nebraska
When Aus started at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, it was a difficult adjustment. As a first-generation student from a small town, going to college was a brand new experience in a completely unfamiliar place. Thanks to the friendly faces of the orientation team at New Student Enrollment, Aus felt welcomed and encouraged. Now, Aus gets to be that same type of mentor figure to new students as an Orientation Leader for this summer's NSE. "There's something really beautiful in helping someone," Aus said. One way Aus likes to help new students is by informing them about the resources available on campus. Many students know about the library or the campus recreation center, but Aus wants them to know about others that can help them get a great start on college life — like the Explore Center or First Year Experience & Transition Programs. They also recommend other resources, like Legal Services and Husker Hub, for student needs. When Aus wanted to change their name, Legal Services provided them with lawyer representation, and Husker Hub made sure the change was reflected on their student account. Aus remembers feeling vulnerable during the process, but the staff in Legal Services and Husker Hub were open and understanding.
“Many students know about the library or the campus recreation center, but Aus wants them to know about others that can help them get a great start on college life — like the Explore Center or First Year Experience & Transition Programs.”
Political Science · Beloit, Kansas
As an orientation leader for New Student Enrollment, Jared spends his summer days serving other students and making them feel welcome to the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. He knows how hard it can be going to a new place. When he first came to the university as an out-of-state student, he didn't know anyone. But he quickly found his own community, and now he wants to encourage other students to do the same. By making connections in the Honors Program and the Association of Students at the University of Nebraska ASUN student government, Jared found people that pushed him to succeed. Now serving as internal vice president of ASUN, his goal is to make forming student organizations as simple as possible so others can get involved on campus. Nebraska's culture of involvement helped Jared find his home away from home, and he hopes it can help others too.
“By making connections in the Honors Program and the Association of Students at the University of Nebraska ASUN student government, Jared found people that pushed him to succeed.”
Animal Science · Nevada, Missouri
As an advocate for chronic illnesses, Josie is always happy to explain to people why her pup, Jeter, stays steadfastly by her side day and night. Josie has Type I diabetes, which causes her blood sugars to dip high and low quickly because her pancreas isn't making enough insulin. She's also hypoglycemic unaware, so she can't tell when her sugars dip low. Luckily, she has Jeter. Jeter was rescued by a Nebraska-based company that trains diabetic alert dogs. Using scent training, Jeter can smell when Josie's blood sugar is rising or dropping and alert her. She also taught him to do heartbeat alerts, tricks, and even tasks like fetching her juice when her sugars are low. Just like she was passionate in teaching Jeter, Josie is also passionate about educating others about service animals. She said it's OK to be excited to see a dog, but it's important not to distract the dog since it could cause them to miss important alerts that could affect the health of their owner. It can be stressful when people approach Jeter in public while Josie is just trying to go through a store or do other day-to-day tasks, but she's always willing to inform them about Jeter's important role as a service animal. "You can't really blame them if they don't know," Josie said, "I'm super happy to talk to anybody in a store, just about his job or how to handle a service dog if you see one."
“Using scent training, Jeter can smell when Josie's blood sugar is rising or dropping and alert her. She also taught him to do heartbeat alerts, tricks, and even tasks like fetching her juice when her sugars are low. ”
Assistant Director in the Office of Admissions · Grand Island, Nebraska
As a first-generation student growing up in Grand Island, Abel felt lost when it came to planning for college. Then he found the Nebraska College Preparatory Academy. Started in 2006, the program is designed to help first-generation and low-income students reach their academic goals and attend college. The program helped him get into the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and graduate in 2013 with a bachelor's degree in business. After working in Lincoln at a software company, he chose to return to the university as a recruiter in 2015. “The opportunity to be a recruiter and connect directly with students in Nebraska communities, especially those who are first-generation like I am, was too good to pass up,” Abel said. “I also really liked the idea of helping out kids in and around Grand Island." Abel recently became an assistant director within Nebraska's Office of Admissions, a role he said will allow him to interact directly with student populations in need of more assistance. With his experience as a first-generation student and his ability to speak Spanish, Abel is prepared to connect with students and families that are going through situations similar to those he faced before college. “We want every Nebraska student to know that this land-grant university is there for them and that earning a Big Ten degree is an obtainable goal for anyone — regardless of their situation."
“With his experience as a first-generation student and his ability to speak Spanish, Abel is prepared to connect with students and families that are going through situations similar to those he faced before college.”
Psychology · Omaha, Nebraska
As a student at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Jared is taking every opportunity he can to study the Korean language. Though it isn't an official program at UNL, he's been able to take courses on campus via the Big Ten Academic Alliance. Jared and his classmates study with a class from the University of Minnesota, video chatting in to each lecture. His passion for learning Korean translated into Jared being one of five Huskers to receive a Critical Language Scholarship from the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. This June he will return to South Korea for his second summer in the country to partake in an intensive and immersive language program. As an UNL Honors student studying psychology, he's using his time in South Korea to do more than just perfect his command of the language. He plans on making connections with professors and other psychology professionals so he can conduct research on cross-cultural psychology between the United States and South Korea. Jared plans to start distributing surveys, gathering responses and completing his thesis research during fall 2019, and then he intends to apply for a Fulbright award. One day, he would like to get his doctoral degree in psychology and use his knowledge to work with children.
“Jared is taking every opportunity he can to study the Korean language. Though it isn't an official program at UNL, he's been able to take courses on campus via the Big Ten Academic Alliance. Jared and his classmates study with a class from the University of Minnesota, video chatting in to each lecture.”
Forensic Science and Insect Science · Louisburg, Kansas
Through Undergraduate Creative Activities and Research Experience (UCARE) at Nebraska, Whitney had the opportunity to get up close and personal with her research subject — bees. As an insect science major interested in pollen and conservation, Whitney was drawn to the UNL Bee Lab after reaching out to her advisor about potential UCARE projects. With her focus area decided, she began working under the guidance of Assistant Professor of Entomology Judy Wu-Smart. Whitney's project focused on examining how pesticide residues in the brood combs of bee larvae affect the behaviors of the insects after they emerge from their combs and become working adult bees. From summer 2018 through early fall semester, she spent a couple hours each day observing her bees and taking note of their behaviors. Each insect had a tag with a number and color, so she could even record individualized observations as they got older. Sometimes she would perform tests, like when she would use liquid nitrogen to freeze kill a specific area of the hive in order to mimic disease. She would watch the bees to see if they were able to sense if something was wrong with the area, and if the bees would remove the capped cell to stop the "disease" from spreading through the rest of the hive. For Whitney, her UCARE project was a great way to get research experience before grad school. It even gave her the opportunity to present her findings at the American Bee Research Conference in Arizona. No matter a student's post-graduation plans, Whitney would recommend engaging in undergraduate research. "Even if you're not planning on going to grad school or anything like that it's still a great experience.
“ For Whitney, her UCARE project was a great way to get research experience before grad school. It even gave her the opportunity to present her findings at the American Bee Research Conference in Arizona.”
Environmental Studies · Blair, Nebraska
By starting his own business devoted to sustainability, Gage is acting as the change he wants to see in the world. Gage is an environmental studies major, so it's no surprise that he has a passion for nature and sustainability. He had known for a while that he wanted to start a business centered around sustainability, but it wasn't until he was on a plane returning from studying abroad in New Zealand that the idea hit him. He wasn't quite sure what he was going to do, but he knew then that he wanted to do something that helped inform his peers about environmental issues while making an impact. He spent the fall 2018 semester testing different business models in his entrepreneurship class, but none of the ideas stuck. In December he landed on the idea to create a one-for-one t-shirt business in which a tree would be planted for every shirt that is sold. After that, things just began to fall into place. He found a t-shirt manufacturer that creates eco-friendly shirts made out of recycled bottles in Kansas City, then partnered with One Tree Planted to ensure that a tree was planted for every shirt purchased. He worked with designers to shape the look and feel of the brand and to create the t-shirt designs, and received help from a friend to assemble photos for the website. Before long, it was late February and his brand, Greenstain, was ready to launch. He had planned to print the shirts at Nebraska Innovation Campus on his own, but pre-sale orders were so large that he had to ask a friend to help. Now Gage has a local company handling the shirt printing, which saves the time he used to spend using the community tools at NIC. Gage wanted to see a brand that made their customers a part of the story and the opportunity to "be the change," so he made it himself. "I feel like my skill set and my strengths fit this position to start something that matters," Gage said. "So I was like, 'Cool, I have to be the one to do this.'"
“ In December he landed on the idea to create a one-for-one t-shirt business in which a tree would be planted for every shirt that is sold.”
Computer Science · Omaha, Nebraska
Gauri likes to keep busy. When she isn't studying for her Raikes School classes, she can be found helping run a Girls Code Lincoln, leading Computing for All or checking off the latest book on her reading list. But she doesn't keep busy just for fun — she does it because she's trying to create a future where diversity and inclusion can flourish in the STEM field. Through Computing for All, Gauri and her fellow club members work to create activities for women in the computer science department, while also promoting accessibility in computing for people who may have never done it before. Gauri also makes an effort to make technology accessible to local girls through Girls Code Lincoln. Every Sunday she can be found helping lead the group on everything from basic coding concepts to skills like bravery and leadership. She said it's been one of her most rewarding experiences to teach them about coding through creativity, confidence and communication. So while things might get stressful at times, for Gauri it's all worth it. She has her community through the Raikes School and her extracurricular activities to lean on, and the knowledge that her efforts will help others to keep her moving forward. "I can deal with one stressful day if I know that like, this many students are gonna be impacted by it," Gauri said, "Or, I'm going to make someone's life better by it."
“Every Sunday she can be found helping lead the group on everything from basic coding concepts to skills like bravery and leadership. She said it's been one of her most rewarding experiences to teach them about coding through creativity, confidence and communication.”
Animal Science · Lyons, Nebraska
When Katelyn saw the devastation left in the wake of the historic flooding in Nebraska, she could hardly believe it. She couldn't get the thought of the wildlife, animals, farmers and ranchers that were affected out of her mind. So, she scrapped her spring break plans and decided to help. She purchased milk replacer for the animals but realized her own contributions could only go so far. She started a GoFundMe page to share with her family and friends with the intention of raising $2,500. In 24 hours Katelyn had raised $4,500 — enough money to fill an entire trailer with donations. It was full of food for dogs, cats, chickens and horses, along with corn, oats, colostrum supplement, milk replacer, antibiotics, syringes and sedatives. But while it was her first trailer load, it wouldn't be her last. Katelyn took more trailer loads, carrying salt and mineral blocks, all purpose pellet feeds, fence posts, medications and veterinarian supplies to affected areas. At one point, she even received a donation of an entire semi-trailer load of feed from a company in Iowa. For Katelyn, organizing the donations on her own was about the timing. She knew that eventually larger organizations would be able to come in and help, but she knew it could take awhile. "I wanted to do something then and was able to with being on spring break," she said. "The calf that lost its mother didn't have a week to wait to get colostrum or milk replacer. That rancher or pet owner didn't have time to figure out which roads he was going to have to travel to get feed or supplies, along with everything else going on." It was simple for Katelyn. She saw the state that she was raised in and its animals in trouble and knew it was her time to help.
“In 24 hours Katelyn had raised $4,500 — enough money to fill an entire trailer with donations.”
Integrated Science · Kigali, Rwanda
Patrick has been drawing since high school. Now, as a freshman at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, he's using his hobby to cultivate a new generation of agricultural professionals. Patrick recently wrote and illustrated a children's book called "Miss Farmer." The project helped him combine his passion for agriculture with his love for art, while creating something that could help future generations. He hopes that "Miss Farmer" will bring awareness about the lives of people working in agriculture to the growing number of people who have no direct connection to it. While it's easy to find books and games promoting technology and math, he said he sees a lack of stories about farming and raising animals. The book is 15 pages long. Each page took Patrick 1-3 days to illustrate. He presented it in a poster format at College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources Community Night with Agriculture Leadership Shields, and he already has parents asking him when he'll publish his work. He hopes to one day have it printed and that it will inspire young readers to be interested in the agriculture industry.
“Patrick recently wrote and illustrated a children's book called "Miss Farmer." The project helped him combine his passion for agriculture with his love for art, while creating something that could help future generations.”
Biochemistry and Mathematics · Fairbanks, Alaska
Hailing from Fairbanks, Alaska, senior Shannyn Bird knows a bit about getting out of her comfort zone. As a senior in high school she knew that she wanted to find a university with a strong research background and a tight-knit community, and knew she'd have to leave home to find it. Though it was a scary step to take, she packed up and moved more than 3,000 miles away to study at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. "If I had stayed in Fairbanks," Shannyn said. "I would definitely not be the same person I am now." Shannyn knew she had to set her own path, and that's something she's stuck to throughout her time at the university. Though she studies biochemistry and math, she isn't applying for a medical school program like most of her classmates. She wants to study law, something she got unique experience in as an Alaska youth court participant. Shannyn spent five years processing and sentencing low-level juvenile misdemeanor cases with other youth attorneys, judges and jurors under the supervision of practicing attorneys. This experience, coupled with the realization that she didn't want to work in a lab, made her decide to pursue a career where she could intersect her strengths. Shannyn hopes that when she is finished with law school she can pursue both her passions through environmental or scientific policy law. Though it's a different path than most of her classmates, it's her own — and that's one of the most important things she's learned. From her time at Nebraska, Shannyn has learned to find her own happiness and pave her own way. "I think that just having that inner sense of self is really important." Shannyn said, "Now I feel that the place I am doesn't determine who I am, I determine my sense of happiness."
“Shannyn spent five years processing and sentencing low-level juvenile misdemeanor cases with other youth attorneys, judges and jurors under the supervision of practicing attorneys. This experience, coupled with the realization that she didn't want to work in a lab, made her decide to pursue a career where she could intersect her strengths.”
Pre-Dentistry, Psychology · Bloomington, Illinois
For a handful of University of Nebraska–Lincoln students, spring break was filled with drywalling, painting and picking up the pieces left in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. A group of volunteers from UNL Lutheran Chapel made their way to Corpus Christi to take part in the relief efforts still needed after the Category 4 hurricane hit the coastal town in 2017. Spring break mission trips are common for the UNL Lutheran Chapel, and this year's service opportunity was led and planned by junior psychology student Kaitlin Buhler. While it wasn't Kaitlin's first mission trip, it was her first time using her spring break to give back. She said she sees the trip as a special chance to contribute to something bigger than herself. As a college student, she said she'd been given responsibility and independence when planning where the group would be volunteering. Kaitlin made contact with a Texas group and was able to find the communities that were most in need of assistance and the tools that her team could use to help them. While a lot of cleaning out has happened in Corpus Christi, Kaitlin said there's still work to be done to get people back into their homes. Kaitlin hopes that the group's efforts have helped some of the hurricane victims return to normalcy, and that having been helped to get back to their homes they will be able to help others in the future, too.
“Kaitlin hopes that the group's efforts have helped some of the hurricane victims return to normalcy, and that having been helped to get back to their homes they will be able to help others in the future, too.”
PhD Educational Psychology · Winnebago Reservation, Nebraska
Growing up on the Winnebago Reservation in northeast Nebraska, Colette Yellow Robe dreamed of pursuing an advanced degree. But after graduating from college with a bachelor's degree in sociology, she hit a wall. She couldn't find work, so she took a job in interior construction to make ends meet. While spending her days building walls and shelving, she had a moment of clarity. “I didn’t do all this schooling and sacrifice to do construction,” she thought, “I have to get myself going.” Colette balanced being a single mother, teaching assistant and research assistant all while working towards her PhD. When she was offered her current job as assistant director for non-cognitive development and leadership for the university’s TRIO Programs, a mentor warned her that she needed to put her education first. Colette took the job, and her mentor seemed to be right. Life kept moving. She got married. She had another child. Her father became ill and died. Her husband asked for a divorce as she was two chapters into her dissertation. Though all this may have slowed her down, Colette never let it stop her from achieving her goal. When she completed her PhD in educational psychology in 2014, her mother suggested that she re-adopt her tribal name and become Dr. Yellow Robe. By changing her name to reflect her Native American heritage, Colette found a source of strength to help her carry on. “Sometimes you have to do things for a reason,” Colette said. “It’s absolutely the grit and the glory. We have to learn things the hard way — but we persevere."
““Sometimes you have to do things for a reason,” Colette said. “It’s absolutely the grit and the glory. We have to learn things the hard way — but we persevere."”
For the past six weeks, campus was home to 10 new students from Argentina. As part of the Friends of Fulbright program sponsored by the Fulbright Commission Argentina and the U.S. Embassy in Argentina, the cohort observed classes, strengthened their English skills and fully immersed themselves in American culture. From living in the residence halls to attending labs and lectures, the students lived their six weeks on campus as any other University of Nebraska–Lincoln student would. They explored local coffee shops, took part in classes in their majors, and even experienced fraternity and sorority life. Though at first unsure of how conversations would go with American students, the Argentine students found everyone was warm and welcoming. The students say that university life in the U.S. is much more community focused than in Argentina. They also said that being a part of the Friends of Fulbright program has allowed them to see a mix of culture and ideas, and make new friends from all over the world. They head back to Argentina on Saturday, and while their time in Nebraska might be over, they'll always have their memories (and new Husker apparel!) to remind them of their experience. ¡Buen viaje!
“They head back to Argentina on Saturday, and while their time in Nebraska might be over, they'll always have their memories (and new Husker apparel!) to remind them of their experience.”
Speech-Language Pathology · Omaha, Nebraska
Michaela loves hearing other people's stories. In fact, she loves them so much that she's dedicated to helping others be able to tell their story in their own voice again. As a student studying speech-language pathology, she hopes to help people be able to communicate again through speech therapy. While on a mission trip to India, she saw the impact of the lack of speech therapy in children's lives. She saw how it changed them as a human and wanted to show that someone was listening to them. After her experience in India, she decided to do independent research on the impact and strengths of speech therapy in developing nations and even traveled to Uganda for an internship at a hospital there. She continued her research upon her return to Nebraska and hopes she can pursue it through graduate school. Her research wasn't just something she did to liven up her resume. For Michaela, it was an opportunity to grow into the kind of speech therapist she wants to be — someone who listens to those who are unheard and is there to help.
“After her experience in India, she decided to do independent research on the impact and strengths of speech therapy in developing nations and even traveled to Uganda for an internship at a hospital there.”
Political Science · Hackettstown, New Jersey
When Justice started college at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, there was one thing missing: hockey. She had played for years back at home in New Jersey and it didn't make any sense to her why a university as big as Nebraska wouldn't have its own active women's team. She found out that there used to be one, but it had dissolved after a few seasons. So, Justice decided to bring women's hockey back on campus. It wasn't easy. She tried to gather names of interested members during her freshman year but only came up with five. During her sophomore year, she started to put out the message again. This time, Justice had ten interested players and began to search for coaches. By the spring of 2017, the UNL Women's Hockey team was approved as an official sports club. They joined the American Collegiate Hockey Association and squared off against 17 other college teams during their first season. The team is open to all players that are ready to lace up their skates and go — even if they've never played before. For Justice, bringing women's hockey back on campus was about more than just getting back on the ice. She saw that there was a men's team and wanted women players to get the same chance to play. "Not having that same opportunity for women is kind of tough," Justice said.
“For Justice, bringing women's hockey back on campus was about more than just getting back on the ice. She saw that there was a men's team and wanted women players to get the same chance to play.”
Computer Science · Lincoln, Nebraska
For Brian, being a member of the UNL Vietnamese Association (VSANE) gives him a voice. It's a voice that is heard in the large Lincoln Vietnamese community, but also a voice he uses to teach other students about a vibrant culture. One way he's doing that is by serving as the chair for VSANE's "Hello Vietnam: A Ticket to Childhood." The event is the RSO's biggest fundraiser of the year and features local Vietnamese food, dancers, singers and more. Brian says it's an important event for the university community, because it gives students the opportunity to experience the culture for themselves. "It's just important to see a different outlook or perspective." Brian says. "Hello Vietnam" is this Saturday and will reflect on the past and present experiences of growing up in the Vietnamese community. Some of the story is based on a popular novel from Vietnam, but Brian says a lot of it is based on the life experiences of VSANE members. Brian says that VSANE, as well as "Hello Vietnam," isn't exclusive to only local or international Vietnamese students. Any student interested in learning more about the culture can join the RSO or attend the event.
“For Brian, being a member of the UNL Vietnamese Association (VSANE) gives him a voice. It's a voice that is heard in the large Lincoln Vietnamese community, but also a voice he uses to teach other students about a vibrant culture.”
Pre-Nursing · Lincoln, Nebraska
When Sydnie was 16, her life was punctuated by rounds of chemotherapy and hospital room stays. With her energy zapped and her immune system weakened, seeing friends and socializing with other teenagers became a special occasion rather than a normal part of her day-to-day life. Then she learned about Dance Marathon. Dance Marathon raises money for Children's Hospital & Medical Center in Omaha and culminates every year in a 12-hour event where patients and their families are invited to come to Nebraska's campus and be celebrated. The event gave Sydnie the chance to take a break from her hospital room and spend the day with students close to her own age. After a full day of socializing in the family room and watching the dancers bust a move, Sydnie was able to see how many people cared about the hospital that had become her second home. Sydnie was a Miracle Child for Dance Marathon for two years. Now, having been out of chemotherapy since her freshman year, Sydnie dances for the kids. At Dance Marathon's HuskerThon 2019, she'll be dancing for the kids she met while she was at Children's Hospital and for all of those who are still there.
“Sydnie was a Miracle Child for Dance Marathon for two years. Now, having been out of chemotherapy since her freshman year, Sydnie dances for the kids.”
Advertising and Public Relations · Lincoln, Nebraska
At a time when most people in Lincoln are sleeping, Jesse Esquivel is waking up and getting ready for the day. The full-time student usually wakes up early to be ready for work at 4 a.m. and then heads to class. When he isn't studying at @unlcojmc, he can be found attending meetings and brainstorming with UNL PRSA. For Jesse, it's worth it — he wants to be here, and he wants to do this. When he started classes in fall 2018, he saw award trophies on display in Andersen Hall. He decided he wanted one. Last month, the work he and PRSSA did for their Huskers Helping Huskers Pantry+ campaign earned a Nebraska PRSA Paper Anvil Award. He doesn't let the early hours hold him back. He told his dad he would get his degree, and after enrolling at Nebraska at 32, he's on his way. He says he feels welcomed by the Nebraska community and wants other non-traditional students to not be afraid. Jesse says that if they want it, they should go for it.
“He told his dad he would get his degree, and after enrolling at Nebraska at 32, he's on his way.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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. ”
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. ”
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.”
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. ”
Education · Lincoln, Nebraska
What began as a high school senior project for Riana has since turned into an ongoing passion project. Whether it be an up-and-coming business owner or a passionate Nebraska student, Riana has the ability to form people's stories into art. Her interest in storytelling was shaped through her curiosity for history—reading the stories from people of the past sparked her desire to do her own storytelling. This passion has led her to create Kind Magazine, a literary magazine that highlights people all over Lincoln who have made a difference in the community and serves as a way for people to get to know others in the community. When Riana came to the university, she was unsure how she'd continue the magazine. But, the programs she's been involved in, including UNL Nova, the university's Asian-interest sorority group, as well as the people she's met here have given her the inspiration she needed. The wholesome and passionate people in Lincoln and throughout the university have given her a place to belong, inspiration to draw from and a thriving community she gets to be a part of. As Riana continues her chapter at Nebraska, she strives to make an impact by elevating the voices of those within the Lincoln community.
“Whether it be an up-and-coming business owner or a passionate Nebraska student, Riana has the ability to form people's stories into art.”
Psychology · Fernandina Beach, Florida
Grace Mosier is used to moving around. As the daughter of a retired Navy officer, she grew up living in eight different states and attending 11 different schools. Every three years, Grace and her family would pack up everything they knew, leave behind the friends they promised to keep in touch with and start a new life in a new home. When Grace chose the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, her high school classmates questioned her decision and were worried she wouldn't thrive so far from home. Of course, leaving the comfort of home and coming to a school without knowing anyone was scary. But Grace said moving so frequently has given her the ability to adapt and make friends easily. Since day one of her freshman year, Grace knew it was important for her to get involved and welcome her new life at Nebraska with open arms. Now Grace is making an impact on students that were in the same position she was through her work with @unl_nse where she has helped teach incoming students how to be successful at Nebraska. All of her involvements, from greek life executive roles to the Nebraska Alumni Advisory Council, Grace said she has been able to enhance her leadership and communication skills, become friends with other passionate students and create a home for herself here.
“All of her involvements, from greek life executive roles to the Nebraska Alumni Advisory Council, Grace said she has been able to enhance her leadership and communication skills, become friends with other passionate students and create a home for herself here.”
Biological Science · Scribner, Nebraska
Coming from a high school class of 18 to a college of over 25,000 may seem daunting, but Michael Broussard always dreamed of being a Husker. Watching football season after season as a kid, Michael has always known the University of Nebraska-Lincoln was the place where he belonged. He embraced the transition from a small town to a large school, getting involved from day one and fully immersing himself into what Nebraska has to offer. During his sophomore year, Michael got involved with an on-campus organization called Camp Kesem (@campkesem_unl), a nonprofit organization that supports children through and beyond their parent's cancer. His own experiences with cancer prompted him to get involved. When Michael's mother was diagnosed with breast cancer his freshman year of college, he saw how it affected his younger sisters. After her diagnosis, his sisters went to Camp Kesem and Michael became interested in how Camp Kesem made an impact in children's lives. Camp Kesem, he said, has allowed him to grow and help kids understand and cope with the uncertainties revolving around their parent's cancer. The organizations he's joined and the people he's met have made his time at Nebraska life-changing. When reflecting on his favorite student life memories, Michael can't just say one. Every football game, class and organization he's been apart has given him more reasons to love the university and continue to grow as a student.
“When reflecting on his favorite student life memories, Michael can't just say one.”
Yajaira and Ana
Spanish/Latin American Studies and Sociology/Spanish · Crete and Grand Island, Nebraska
Finding a place to belong in college has always been important for Yajaira López-Villa and Ana Perez-Sinic. Being away from their families, Yajaira and Ana wanted to provide a home away from home for themselves and other Latina students. They thought the university needed more options for students to celebrate their culture and bringing Kappa Delta Chi, a national Latina sorority, to Nebraska's campus seemed like the perfect solution. They were drawn to the sorority's passion for latin culture, academics, immigrant rights and cancer research. While completing national's requirements, Yajiara and Ana decided to give their chapter the name EMERALD, the national chapter's stone. Ana, the president of EMERALD, said the organization gives Latina students at Nebraska a feeling of sisterhood and an opportunity to be part of something that is bigger than themselves. As EMERALD continues to grow, both Ana and Yajiara hope this group gives Latina women a place to go and serves as a community where they can write their own story.
“They thought the university needed more options for students to celebrate their culture and bringing Kappa Delta Chi, a national Latina sorority, to Nebraska's campus seemed like the perfect solution.”
Music Education · Hays, Kansas
Alex Crowley's first memory playing an instrument was in seventh grade band. As an aspiring music teacher, he now spends his days rehearsing, practicing his six instruments and participating in recitals. A fourth generation Husker, Alex said the University of Nebraska-Lincoln was always his dream school. Both of his parents were music majors and his mom even graduated from the same program in which Alex is currently studying. Alex was initially impressed by the opportunities provided by Glenn Korff School of Music (@unlsofmusic) but he has been most impacted by the connections he's made at Nebraska. Throughout his college career, he has gained confidence and strengthened his dedication for music and he is moved by how invested Nebraska faculty are in seeing students succeed. Alex's ever-growing passion has led him to be the trombone section leader for the Cornhusker Marching Band and play in both the wind ensemble and symphonic band. It's the people within these involvements and the evolving student life that have given him the college experience he has always envisioned for himself. The connections he has formed with his music professors, members of the marching band and other passionate students have positively impacted him physically and mentally. Alex hopes to provide a similar experience to his future students, helping them gain confidence, explore new interests and find something that makes them happy. Just like he's found at Nebraska.
“The connections he has formed with his music professors, members of the marching band and other passionate students have positively impacted him physically and mentally.”
Advertising and Public Relations · Bellevue, Nebraska
When Jazmyn was a freshman, she sought out mentors to help her navigate college and overcome obstacles. This, she said, influenced her decision to help students herself. Being a mentor has allowed her to step into a leadership role that has impacted students all across campus, helping them be successful at Nebraska. As a peer mentor for First Generation Nebraska and through her mentorship of students in Oasis, Jazmyn has found her true calling: guiding and helping others. Throughout time, her mentorship style has evolved as she has connected with various groups of people across campus. Eventually, Jazmyn would like to transfer her leadership qualities into a classroom setting and work as college professor to further make a difference in students’ lives.
“As a peer mentor for First Generation Nebraska and through her mentorship of students in Oasis, Jazmyn has found her true calling: guiding and helping others.”
Student Affairs Administration · Texas
As a second year graduate student in student affairs administration, Mac is often asked why he chose the path he did. Originally from Texas, Mac earned his bachelor's degree in education from Kansas State University. While there, he worked in the university's student affairs office. For hours, Mac worked with incoming freshmen to help them afford college. That was the moment he knew he wanted to pursue student affairs. When Mac came to Nebraska for graduate school, he joined the University Program Council as a graduate assistant and started the Intercultural Leadership Program for Oasis. He created the program to help students learn more about identity and intercultural development and gain more effective leadership skills. The 11 week program allows students to make connections with others across campus and helps them explore their leadership style and how it is impacted in different cultural settings. Working one-on-one with students and directly impacting their lives is what keeps Mac fulfilled. Once he graduates from his program in May 2019, he hopes to leave the university knowing he helped students make connections across cultures, solve problems and foster diversity and inclusion.
“Once he graduates from his program in May 2019, he hopes to leave the university knowing he helped students make connections across cultures, solve problems and foster diversity and inclusion.”
Food Science · India
Paridhi lives by the quote "nothing worth having comes easy," and it's reflected in her work every day. Coming to the states from India was a challenge, but she thinks it was definitely worth it. She was working at the Indian Counsel of Agriculture Research when she was encouraged by one of her colleagues to check out Nebraska for her PhD. She's constantly impressed by everyone's politeness and dedication to their work here, from researchers to grocery store cashiers. Another challenge for Paridhi has been her work with millets in the food science department. Researching millets is important because most farmers are reluctant to grow them, despite being wonderfully sustainable crops. If she can prove that millets are beneficial and capable of being a food product, the proliferation of their growth will impact the planet for the better. When Paridhi isn't in the lab, she's goes on hikes, studies history or works on her statistics minor. She also appreciates spending time with the friends she's gained through her studies. The culture among the graduate students is very diverse, which has opened up the world to Paridhi without even having to leave campus.
“Paridhi lives by the quote "nothing worth having comes easy," and it's reflected in her work every day.”
Chemical Engineering · Eerie, Pennsylvania
As a kid, Lindsey doodled beakers and lab coats on the back of her elementary school worksheets. Once she hit high school, she learned about the variety of science-based jobs, discovered chemical engineering and never looked back. Now, in her fourth year of chemical engineering, she's still just as enamored with science. After attending an engineering conference for LGBTQA+ students, Lindsey learned that other schools had Out in STEM groups, and she was determined to create a similar community at Nebraska. The Nebraska oSTEM group does many things, from ice cream socials to career prep to attending national conferences. Above all, Lindsey wants the group to empower its members professionally, academically and personally by cultivating environments and communities that nurture innovation, leadership and advocacy. The most fulfilling part of her experience was handing off her presidential position to a member who said the group made them feel like they had a community. When Lindsey looks to the future, she's not sure exactly where her career will take her, but she knows that she wants to leverage diversity in all encounters to solve problems and make the world a better place.
“ Lindsey learned that other schools had Out in STEM groups, and she was determined to create a similar community at Nebraska. ”
Management · Lincoln, Nebraska
Phát's family came to America from South Vietnam in 2010, and he felt compelled to give back to his new home. His grandfather had been a lieutenant in the South Vietnamese army, so Phát wanted to continue the tradition of service in his family. He joined the army reserve his senior year of high school and soon decided that he would pursue a career in the military. He's currently in the university's ROTC program as a S1 Personnel, handling the paperwork and managing the well-being of 90 cadets. He appreciates the tight-knit, friendly culture of the group. Everyone is unified under the same dedication to serving. After graduation, he's interested in exploring explosive ordnance disposal. Beyond ROTC, Phát has explored his own cultural heritage through other organizations on campus. He helped establish the university's first Asian interest fraternity, assisted in creating an Asian student leadership conference with the Asian Student Union, is the external vice president of the Vietnamese Student Association, has served on the scholarship committee for Define UNL and assists in fundraising for North Korean refugees through UNL Link. Phát believes college is the best time to find your niche and follow it. Swipe over to hear him talk about stepping out of your comfort zone.
“Phát believes college is the best time to find your niche and follow it. ”
Political Science · Elkhorn, Nebraska
After graduating from Elkhorn High School, Hunter's initial plans were to go out of state for college. He didn't believe Nebraska had as many opportunities as some other elite colleges, but ultimately, he ended up staying for scholarships and to be near his family. Although he started college skeptical, after three years here, he's never been more happy to be wrong. He discovered that the special thing about Nebraska is its people, and he's always had a strong desire to lead and serve them. Now, as the new ASUN president, he's doing just that. Some of his team's top priorities are increasing transparency and student input with fee allocation, instituting and increasing awareness of the Green Fund, which is funded by students for students' sustainable project ideas, and expanding mental health resources through Counseling and Psychological Services. Overall, he hopes to shape a culture of dedication and passion for student government that will live on beyond his term.
UNL Hip Hop Dance Club
While studying abroad, Tristan learned new dance techniques and was excited to bring them to the states. After returning to campus, she discovered that there was not a student dance organization that fit her passion, so she decided to start one. Now in its third semester, the UNL Hip Hop Dance Club boasts a strong membership. Tristan and her vice president Jordan teach anyone that wants to learn, regardless of their dance experience. Members can also audition for the club's team to perform at campus competitions and events. Tristan and Jordan both immensely appreciate the welcoming atmosphere of the organization. Dancing is vulnerable, but the crew makes everyone feel comfortable trying new things. In the future, Tristan and Jordan would like to expand the club's YouTube presence and collaborate with other local artists.
“Dancing is vulnerable, but the crew makes everyone feel comfortable trying new things.”
Sociology · Grand Island
In high school, Guadalupe wasn't sure if she'd go to college. She was especially unsure after suffering a traumatic brain injury close to graduation. Despite the odds being stacked against her, she secured a full-ride scholarship. Now, she's bringing her voice to a national stage through the University of Nebraska–Lincoln speech and debate team. Guadalupe intertwines Latino themes into her performances of poetry, oral interpretation, program, dramatic and duo. She loves the team's culture of growth and encouragement. The culture translates to success, especially after taking home a seventh consecutive Big Ten title in January. When she's not traveling for tournaments, Guadalupe is on the executive team for the Mexican American Student Association and a member of Emerald, a women's enrichment group. Ultimately, Guadalupe is grateful to have been able to make it to college as a first generation student and do what she loves, and she looks forward to her next few years.
“Guadalupe intertwines Latino themes into her performances of poetry, oral interpretation, program, dramatic and duo.”
Computer Science · Lincoln
While some kids spent their summers at the swimming pool, Maggie was doing math workbooks. This may sound like torture to some, but she loved it. Her mother was a math teacher and showed her how numbers could be a fun challenge. Having encouragement from her mother to pursue STEM, Maggie applied to the Raikes School at Nebraska to study computer science. During her sophomore year, she caught the attention of Google and joined their internship program for the next two summers. The infamous, sexist Google memo was released as one of her internships wrapped up, and she was immediately contacted by her team. They assured her that they immensely valued her as a woman in their workplace. She'll be going back again after graduation as a full-time software engineer and she couldn't be happier. She has no hesitation returning to the company because she knows that the good eggs far outnumber the bad. She thanks the Raikes School for giving her so many opportunities to work with real clients, build her portfolio and meet her closest friends. It's the experience she's gained here that paved the way for her dream job.
“Maggie thanks the Raikes School for giving her so many opportunities to work with real clients, build her portfolio and meet her closest friends.”
Art · Lincoln
Although he attended an Indiana high school without any art classes, Pha wasn't deterred from pursuing his passion. When it came time for college, he joined Nebraska's art program as a graphic design major. Over time, Pha realized that he'd rather create more self-expressive work, so he shifted his major to focus on painting. Many of his pieces are self portraits, an art form that urges him to be vulnerable. He knows that everyone has personal problems, but it's not always easy to open up, so he uses painting as a way to share emotions. In the last couple of years, Pha has stepped out of his comfort zone even more with photography, a medium that has pushed him to connect and collaborate with others. He's even become the photographer for a local boutique he admires. He owes part of his growth to the art professors that take a genuine interest in his improvement and encourage him to stay focused. To Pha, the program has felt more like a community than school.
“Pha knows that everyone has personal problems, but it's not always easy to open up, so he uses painting as a way to share emotions.”
Advertising and Public Relations · Chicago
As a Chicago native, Bari knew that immersing herself in Nebraska activities was vital to connecting with new people. Soon after starting college, she found a group that embodied her interest in women empowerment: the Creative Commons. She believes that having a space where everyone builds each other up combats the stereotype that women need to tear each other down to get ahead. Bari started as a regular member and worked her way up to vice president. In her leadership role, she embodies the club's motto of "Build. Empower. Collaborate." by brainstorming new ways the organization can help members explore and hone their creative skills. When a particular speaker resonates with a member, or they learn how to use a new design tool, Bari can see their self-confidence growing. She's excited to see how high members will reach.
“Bari believes that having a space where everyone builds each other up combats the stereotype that women need to tear each other down to get ahead.”
International Business · Sacramento, California
After playing rugby for six years, Ryan has braved many opponents. When returning to Sacramento after his freshman year of college, though, he had no idea that an unexpected challenge would arise: leukemia. He was hospitalized for a month, and although it was tough, he had many friends come visit in support. After weeks of intense chemo treatments, Ryan can now proudly say he's been cancer-free for a year. In an odd way, he was thankful to be home, despite the illness. He was able to see a new stadium open, spend time with his family and help coach high school rugby with the coaches that shaped him. He even received a supportive phone call from Carlin Isles, a member of the United States rugby team who has been touted as the fastest player in the world. Getting back into the game hasn't been an easy battle, but when he's on the field, Ryan's focus cuts through the fatigue. After beating something so big, he feels like he can take on any challenge, and he doesn't lose hope when facing obstacles. As games start up again this spring, he wants students to know that anyone is welcome to check out joining the UNL rugby team.
“After beating something so big, Ryan feels like he can take on any challenge, and he doesn't lose hope when facing obstacles.”
Entrepreneurship & Innovation · Omaha, Nebraska
Jewel Rogers is many things. She is a community builder for South of Downtown, a writer, a TEDxLincoln speaker, a management entrepreneurship major and a performer. But, above all, she is a revolutionary. She sees a revolutionary as someone who is simply an agent for change. Change does not mean something abrupt, intimidating or scary, but rather just movement forward. Jewel is particularly interested in revolutionizing urban development. While initially pursuing architecture, she thought that change was laid in the designs of structures, but she realized that what was more important was directly helping the lives that would be in them. Jewel dreams of creating the largest urban cooperative in America, leveraging collective economics to rebuild gentrified or dilapidated areas. She wants the people's needs in these areas to be taken into heavy consideration with any architect's design. In the mean time, Jewel performs spoken word at events, volunteers with youth at the F Street Recreation Center and is creating a documentary that features local change-makers. She wants to show people how attainable it is to make an impact at a small scale. If she makes even one person realize their potential, then she's made a difference.
“Jewel dreams of creating the largest urban cooperative in America, leveraging collective economics to rebuild gentrified or dilapidated areas.”
Environmental Economics · Grand Island, Nebraska
Sustainability is something Eric has always been interested in, but after taking a geology course freshman year, his passion was ignited. Now an environmental economics major, he gets involved with anything and everything that impacts sustainability. He's been a part of Sustain UNL for several years, an environmental student organization that puts on popular events such as Earthstock and brings in community leaders to talk about environmental solutions. Off campus, Eric's currently working with Gene Hanlon, the recycling coordinator for Lincoln, to help educate residents about the cardboard landfill ban that will go into effect this April. Looking back, he realizes that his childhood shaped him into an environmentalist. Seeing his mother reuse food containers and getting clothes from his brother taught him that it's important to reuse and recycle. Eric doesn't believe sustainability is a partisan issue. We all share this earth, and we should use any resource as effectively as possible. Whether it's to cut down economic costs, preserve resources or help people, sustainability is important to everyone in some way. In fact, Nebraska recognizes this and gives students the opportunity to apply to the UNL Green Fund, a fund that helps students turn their green ideas into reality. Eric encourages students who want to make a change to get involved and seek out projects that spark a fire in them.
“We all share this earth, and we should use any resource as effectively as possible.”
Vocal Performance · Kearney, Nebraska
In high school, Matthew was a math and science guy. There was always an answer to a problem with a fairly strict binary between right and wrong. Outside of class, though, he regularly participated in plays, and once he began college, he knew music had to be a part of his life. With any music major, things aren't always cut and dried, and that's something Matthew has learned to embrace. Originally, he intended to minor in vocal performance, but during his audition, the faculty insisted he declare it as a major. Now in his sophomore year, he's been a part of eight shows, with the next being Avenue Q, a comedic, puppet-based musical with adult themes debuting March 2. In class, he's training his brain with music theory, his ear with aural skills and his voice with diction courses. While most of his classmates will go on to get their masters and doctorate to teach, Matthew is determined to be a musical theater performer. He loves performing because it allows him to explore a part of himself that he doesn't always show, letting loose with his emotions. He's willing to go anywhere in his career, as long as he's inspiring people and being inspired by them through art. For now, he's not getting caught up with future plans and appreciating the time he's spending at Nebraska.
“Matthew's willing to go anywhere in his career, as long as he's inspiring people and being inspired by them through art.”
Educational Psychology · Tampa, Florida
Lawrence Chatters doesn't have the phrase "slow down" in his vocabulary. He's currently working on his PhD after getting his masters degree in educational psychology, which some would consider a full-time job. But that's just the start for Lawrence. Throughout his years at Nebraska, he's worked at the Multicultural Center, the Women's Center and, currently, the athletic department as a diversity consultant. At the core of his job, he makes sure that student athletes from all walks of life are being seen as a whole person through inclusive programming and outreach. During his three years with the athletic department, he has helped establish the Nebraska Athletics Diversity and Inclusion Summit, a yearly event that brings together student athletes, staff, administrators and coaches to focus on inclusion, turn inward and better understand themselves to create better teams. Outside of his campus work, Lawrence started the Goldwin Foundation, which provides funding for national children's hospitals to purchase equipment outside of their budget and champion underfunded research. He's also an international DJ, owner of an energy drink company, a husband and a father. To Lawrence, all this work is connected because he's serving people, whether it's creating a special event through his music or sitting in on a board meeting at a hospital. He advises people to never underestimate their own potential. Giving yourself the opportunity to experience a multitude of things makes you a well-rounded, better person.
“To Lawrence, all his work is connected because he's serving people, whether it's creating a special event through his music or sitting in on a board meeting at a hospital.”
Secondary English Education · Lincoln, Nebraska
Tina discovered her passion for English and education when her one of her high school teachers, a Nebraska alum, showed her the power that writing has in reclaiming words, standing up for yourself and empowering others. Now, in her junior year of college, she's determined to impact middle and high school students in the same way. Although most people think she's crazy for wanting to work with those age groups, she thinks they're brilliant and have unrealized potential. She currently coaches slam poetry at Waverly and Northstar High School, and it's been one of the most encouraging and motivating things she's ever done. When she's not in class or at school, she's around other kids at The BAY, a local coffee shop/music venue/skate park that provides a safe space for at-risk youth to be themselves. As a barista, she loves meeting new, diverse people every day. In January, she's starting an open mic night to give locals the opportunity to share their work. Next year, The BAY will be opening a new digital art space with computers, recording equipment and other technology that will let kids explore their passions and learn new skills. Tina got involved simply by showing up to events and getting to know people, and she encourages everyone to take risks and do things that are uncomfortable. That's where new opportunities present themselves.
“I encourage everyone to take risks and do things that are uncomfortable. That's where new opportunities present themselves.”
English and History · Norfolk, Nebraska
If there's one underlying theme in Vic's life, it's that he works relentlessly to help others. He's an English and History major, but his interests have led him into politics, too. He currently interns at Nebraska Appleseed, a nonprofit organization that fights for justice and opportunity for all Nebraskans. Specifically, Vic works in the child welfare branch, producing a podcast that focuses on the voices of LGBT youth in foster care and highlighting the discrimination they may face in the system. Over the summer, Vic also interned for senator Tammy Baldwin in Washington, D.C., through the Victory Institute, an organization that empowers young LGBT people to become elected officials. After college, Vic wants to be a social worker for a few years to know what it's like on the ground level. He doesn't feel like he's cut out to inform policy without experiencing it personally. With almost 30% of kids in foster care identifying as LGBT, he believes it's important to have people working with them that they can relate to and trust. Although some would call Vic an overachiever, he wants people to know that he has battled with mental health throughout college, and he's proud of that. He's thankful for the university having a great support system and professors who have worked with him, not against him, throughout his four years.
“I'm thankful for the university having a great support system and professors who have worked with me, not against me, throughout my four years.”
Secondary English Education · Niobrara, Nebraska
In high school, Shana knew that the power of education could take her anywhere. After studying hard and receiving scholarships to attend the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, she wanted to empower others to do the same. Shana is pursuing a degree in secondary English language arts education, which will allow her to teach in small towns or reservations and, eventually, get a masters degree in counseling to directly guide Native high school students. She believes that high school is an imperative time to encourage and educate students about how important a diploma is in broadening their world and helping their community. In college, Shana worries that Native students struggle because of their lack of preparation on how to thrive in higher education. Luckily, she has revived an organization that offers support for Native students, UNITE. They work to break stereotypes and celebrate Native culture. As the president for the past few years, she has seen the impact it has made on both herself and other students. It's helped her feel at home being around others that understand where she comes from. Each spring, the organization hosts a spring powwow on the green that features vendors and a drum circle. Normally, the powwow honors graduates from the group, but since there aren't any this year, they're bringing in Native students from Lincoln Public Schools to honor their high school graduation, showing how proud they are of something that many people take for granted.
“High school is an imperative time to encourage and educate students about how important a diploma is in broadening their world and helping their community.”
Biochemistry · Morelos, Mexico
In 2006, Shadid's family came to Lincoln from Morelos, Mexico for her father to pursue a doctorate in genetics at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. When it came time for her to think about college, she knew that Nebraska was exactly where she wanted to go. Influenced by her father's studies, she was naturally attracted to science, declaring biochemistry as her major. She is one of the few women and students of color in her classes, but she absolutely loves what she does. You can find her outside of class in the biological systems engineering department as an undergraduate researcher working with bio fuels. In the future, she plans to go into the research and development of cosmetic science. Although Shadid's life is packed with her research and studies, this doesn't stop her from pursuing other interests. She's currently a part of the Lambda Theta Nu multicultural sorority, the Cuddle Raptors frisbee team and, of course, the Cornhusker Marching Band as a rank leader in the piccolo section. The electric feeling of performing in front of 90,000+ people every game day is incomparable. As her last year in the band comes to an end, she's thankful to have played alongside such a dedicated, hardworking group.
“The electric feeling of performing in front of 90,000+ people every game day is incomparable.”
Chemical Engineering · Omaha, Minneapolis, Nicaragua
In high school, Dominic Nguyen noticed that janitors were dumping recycling bins in with the rest of the trash, and he knew that he could create a much better use for the recycled cans. In college, he came up with the idea to collect aluminum cans, melt them down and make things for the community. He rounded up four of his best friends and pitched them the idea. They loved it, and Alumin8 was born. The group of chemical engineering majors, hailing from Omaha to Minneapolis to Nicaragua, made a forge to melt the cans, and the Office of Sustainability took notice. The group gained funding through the office's Green Fund in February of 2017, allowing them to expand Alumin8 and relocate to @turbineflats. Currently, they're working with the Malone Center, an after school nonprofit organization for kids, to create name tags from the melted aluminum. The 3D printing software they use allows them to make virtually anything out of the metal. You don't have to be a computer whiz to join the group, though. They have an RSO full of members from a variety of majors that have assisted in building a shed for their materials and collecting cans from locations across Lincoln. Group member Julian is excited about how far they've come, saying, "I never knew that we would get to this point. We now have a shed, 10,000 cans and a kiln. Try things. You never know how far you'll get and what you'll learn from it."
“I never knew that we would get to this point. We now have a shed, 10,000 cans and a kiln. Try things. You never know how far you'll get and what you'll learn from it.”
Art · Lexington, Nebraska
Daffnie always doodled as a kid, but she never pursued art until college. Her minimal training didn't stop her from working hard to catch up with other students. Last fall, though, an unexpected hurdle appeared: she began losing feeling in both her legs. She now has pain throughout most of her body. During daily flair ups, her legs will start to tingle and eventually go numb. Sometimes it's manageable, but other times she's unable to leave the house. She's seen many doctors and neurologists, but they have yet to pinpoint the issue. Initially, Daffnie was very self-conscious when losing an ability that she's had for 20 years, but she's learning to embrace it. She uses her condition as an artistic influence. When she couldn't move at all, she created a painting series featuring things around her home, from a portrait of herself slumped over on the couch to a 6 foot by 6 foot painting of her ceiling fan. She had to lie down while creating the series, and her roommates helped turn the canvas when she finished painting different sections. Beyond personal work, Daffnie is the president of the UNL Art League, a group that explores galleries together, and an illustrator for the Daily Nebraskan.
“ Initially, Daffnie was very self-conscious when losing an ability that she's had for 20 years, but she's learning to embrace it.”
Architecture · Bellevue, Nebraska
After Arthur's parents fled Vietnam and came to the U.S. as refugees, they were determined to create a new, better life for themselves and their family. Naturally, there was pressure on Arthur to satisfy the parents that sacrificed so much for him. He graduated high school at 16 and studied in the College of Engineering based at UNO's Scott Campus, a decision he didn't have much control of as a minor. As soon as he turned 19, he boldly transferred to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to study architecture, develop his photography skills and make his own success. When he arrived in Lincoln, he really wanted to shoot a Husker football game but didn't have any way to get a photo pass. This didn't stop him from capturing the atmosphere around the stadium, uploading the compilation video to YouTube and soon after, being hired by the digital communications team as their only student videographer. Now he has free rein to shoot whatever he wants on game day. While at UNO, he briefly worked for the student paper, and they will occasionally bring him back to shoot events, such as Barack Obama landing in Omaha. When asked why he got into photography, Arthur says it was the people. He doesn't see the point in having a lot of followers or recognition if it's not backed by meaningful relationships. He wants to show others the best of themselves.
“I want to show others the best of themselves.”
Psychology · Lincoln, Nebraska
Most students come to college after graduating high school and leaving their parent's house, but that's not the case for Lindsey. After having a kid and separating from her husband, she wanted to prove to herself and her daughter that it was possible to still get a degree. She quickly became involved on campus, especially with the Women's Center, and she's currently the student parent coordinator. There are particular struggles these nontraditional students face, such as class scheduling. It's very difficult to enroll in classes outside of 9 to 3 when there's a child to take care of before and after school. Lindsey has submitted a proposal to ASUN to make priority registration for student parents more accessible. In 2015, she founded the Student Parent Association as a space where parents can come together to support each other, create family-friendly programming and find campus resources. They've hosted a student parent welcome during Big Red Welcome week as a more relaxed and comfortable environment for students and their families to have fun. Lindsey wants other student parents to know that they're not alone, and if they'd like to get involved to email email@example.com.
“She wanted to prove to herself and her daughter that it was possible to still get a degree.”
Integrated Science · Rwanda
When Erasme came to NEBRASKA, he did not expect to have such a warm welcome. He found that the people here are friendly and approachable, especially when he gets lost on a campus that's 8,000 miles away from home. Erasme is here through the Rwandan Scholarship Program, an experience that offers Rwandan students an opportunity to pursue a Bachelor of Science in integrated science at CASNR. As of this year, there are 105 students currently on campus through this program. These scholars have committed to return to Rwanda upon graduation to serve in critical areas across research, extension and training. They represent the talent needed to advance agriculture in Rwanda. Erasme has three concentrations in water and soil management, leadership and entrepreneurship and food safety. Rwanda has a high population with little land, so learning to manage that land and feed its people through agriculture is crucial. Erasme also appreciates learning how to better his communication skills to bring people together and figure out important solutions to these issues.
“"The people here are friendly and approachable."”
Fashion Merchandising and Apparel · Omaha, Nebraska
Alexis has always loved clothes, from creating miniature pieces for her Barbies to designing her own fashion line, LAME Eccentrics. You can see some of her latest work at lameeccentrics.com. She loves standing out and expressing herself through her appearance and art. She has a design studio in The Creative's Lounge, a new space downtown for local artists, and she has displayed her pieces at First Friday shows. She hopes to expand her shows to include live models and her creation process during the exhibit. After just turning 20, Alexis doesn't think she's too young to start a fashion collection. She believes that if you love something, start as early as possible and grow with your passion. If you know what you want to do, you should go for it. When she's not working on her art, she's taking Taekwando classes at the Rec or attending meetings for the Afrikan People's Union.
“If you know what you want to do, you should go for it.”
Film and New Media · Lincoln, Nebraska
Carter came to UNL for many reasons. He's from Lincoln, his family is full of alumni and he has many friends on campus. Most importantly, though, was the film program. Being a part of a Midwest film school is a bit unusual, considering most are along the coasts. Although the program is small, the quality of education is phenomenal, and it's one of the best in the region. His love of cinematography evolved from his initial interest in photography. With videos, though, the story runs deeper. He could study it for his whole life and never quite grasp everything. It's a whole new level of technicality and creativity. Luckily, he has a ton of learning opportunities, whether it be class activities, competing in film competitions put on by Cinema 16 or his own projects. He even filmed a music video for Salt Creek, a Lincoln-based band.
“Although our film program is small, the quality of education is phenomenal.”
Computer Science · Omaha, Nebraska
After visiting the Raikes School of Computer Science and Management, Jessee fell in love. After coming to NEBRASKA, he filled his time with any opportunity available. He claims his life is just like his dining hall habits: he puts a lot on his plate. He's a part of the aerospace club, a manager for the school's capstone design studio, works remotely for IBM, is working on an app and, surprisingly, is a part of the ballroom dancing club. Even more surprising is students from the Raikes School make up a large chunk of the members. He realized that he should fill his time with more than just work, so he turned to dancing after a couple friends encouraged him to join. He's a member of the competitive segment of the club, but there are casual classes on Tuesday nights at 9 p.m. in the Union's ballroom. He's glad he joined, and he encourages students to "take risks and explore new opportunities. Change happens outside of your comfort zone."
“Change happens outside of your comfort zone.”
Advertising · Lincoln, Nebraska
Brooke is not a collector of trinkets, stamps or coins but of people, ideas and connections. Her passion for people runs so deep that she invites guests into her home once a month for her long table gathering, Dwell Dinner. The idea for Dwell Dinner came together in late 2016 through her interests in cooking, food photography and beautiful lifestyle publications. Although she's not the first to create a long table gathering, she is determined to keep her dinner accessible and affordable. To attend the gathering, guests sign up online and fill out a questionnaire about themselves. Brooke goes through the responses to create conversation starters for the group along with a dinner theme, whether it be "inspire," "minimal" or "nourish." Her gathering has become so popular that it's not rare for all the guests to be complete strangers. She loves bringing people together to learn from each other in a unique atmosphere. Although the dinners can be stressful, by the end of the evening her efforts are rewarded through the meaningful connections made.
“I love bringing people together to learn from each other in a unique atmosphere.”
Advertising/Public Relations and Art · Des Moines, Iowa
When Michael came to Lincoln for school, she did not expect it to be much different from her hometown, Des Moines, but she quickly grew to love the university, city, and particularly, the local art scene. As a sophomore, she discovered the Tugboat Art Gallery and dreamed of being a featured artist some day. A few years later, it became a reality. Although Michael has been a part of multiple shows, one of her favorites was "Chew on This," an interactive piece inspired by a cow tongue from an earlier project. She had a bizarrely personal moment when thinking about the cow's tongue, and it made her reflect on the responsibility and helplessness she feels about being environmentally conscious. Installation visitors were given instructions to chew on wheat grass while interacting with the tongue and discussing their thoughts and experience with the people around them.
Michael is thankful for Lincoln's welcoming art community and her opportunities to grow as an artist and learn even more off campus.
Michael Johnson is a senior majoring in ADPR and art from Des Moines, Iowa.
“The art scene has been really fantastic. It's been a great place to grow as an artist and a person.”
Psychology · Omaha, Nebraska
At NEBRASKA, Chueqa found her home in the Jackie Gaughan Multicultural Center. It was there that she gained a sense of identity beyond just being a student. In fact, as far as she knows, she's the only Hmong person on campus and one of few in the state. The Multicultural Center inspired her to get involved with Asian interest groups, such as her sorority, Sigma Psi Zeta, and the Asian Student Union, which she revived herself. The Asian Student Union is starting their first annual Asian American leadership conference this fall for high school students and incoming freshmen, and she's very excited to show their hard work. She encourages students to visit the Multicultural Center next to the Union, check out multicultural Greek life and get involved with inclusive groups like Resilient Women.
“Chueqa found her home in the Jackie Gaughan Multicultural Center”
Business & Broadcasting · Jefferson, South Dakota
Alex is from South Dakota, but he’s been a Husker fan his whole life. His mother forced him to even consider other colleges, but he always knew exactly where he’d go. In fact, he loves NEBRASKA so much that he spends his time being as involved as humanly possible. He works with admissions, has been a campus host since freshman year, has been on the board of directors for the student alumni association for three years, is a part of the Iron N student group, was nominated for homecoming royalty and just wrapped up his role as a New Student Enrollment leader. It’s no surprise that his mantra is “stay away from your dorm room.” Alex also gives recruiting tours for football on game days, and one of his dreams is to coach Husker football. There’s no doubt that Alex is a lot like other students with his love for our school and sports, but he is unique in his extreme involvement and passion for people. He tries to average three to five new friends a week, and if you see him on campus, definitely say hello.
“Stay away from your dorm room!”
Spanish and Psychology · Lincoln, Nebraska
Though he arrived at the university less than one year ago after transferring schools, Jace’s driven personality has afforded him countless opportunities at Nebraska. Beyond being a double major with two minors, Jace is also a member of the university track and field team. He credits the campus communities he belongs to as places of comfort and support for him - including the Husker athletic department, W.H. Thompson scholarship community, his residence hall and the friends he’s made by being a student. The feelings of acceptance and support he receives from these groups is something he aims to emulate in his personal relationships. As a LGBT athlete, Jace recognizes the importance of giving yourself the opportunity to grow and discover who you’re meant to be while in college. Looking back now, he’s surprised by how much growth he experienced at the university. “I feel like I’m learning to live for myself,” he says of this past year, feeling more confident and open than ever.
“I feel like I’m learning to live for myself.”
Speech Pathology Major · Norfolk, Nebraska
From the moment she stepped foot on campus, Emma was involved. Attending a Red Letter Day prior to her freshman year, she was encouraged to apply to be a CEHS ambassador. Though she was originally hesitant to attend the university, her experiences throughout her time here have reaffirmed Nebraska as her home. In Lincoln, Emma is heavily involved as a student researcher, beyond her organizational and community involvement and on-campus positions. She prides herself on her hard work ethic, and sees this determination present in many of her peers. She notes how many opportunities this university has available, and encourages students to take advantage of them all.
“Her experiences throughout her time here have reaffirmed Nebraska as her home. ”
Marketing and Advertising/Public Relations · Chongqing, China
Looking back, Nathan’s experience at Nebraska has been a roller coaster that’s only continuing to get better. Arriving in a new country and not knowing anyone was difficult for Nathan. A small move to a new residence hall, though, changed his life. There, he befriended his resident assistants and began blossoming into the energetic person he is today. “Ever since then, I feel there’s so many bright sides of UNL I didn’t notice at the beginning,” Nathan shares, a telling reminder of the impact one person can have on another’s life. One thing he loves about Nebraskans is a trait he believes he shares with others - sincere kindness. He can easily recount a story with a delayed flight back home to China, in which a stranger in the Lincoln airport drove him to Omaha to catch another flight. He loves how people here are are so friendly and naturally willing to help one another. Through the ups and downs of this roller coaster, Nathan now considered Lincoln just another one of his homes.
Nathan Wenchang He is a senior marketing and advertising and public relations double major from Chongqing, China.
“There’s so many bright sides of UNL.”
Animal Sciences · South Sioux City, Nebraska
Coming to college as a first-generation student, Carina truly did not know what to expect. The success she has experienced on campus primarily came from her personal initiative, especially being willing to ask questions. In her high school, Carina was surrounded by people like her. The university, though, was the first time she realized how much of a minority she was. During her time on campus, she has found people that she relates to and has built meaningful friendships. She is fiercely passionate about all that she does. She connects with many other students based on their similar drive and motivation to accomplish goals. To the campus community, Carina encourages, “No matter what obstacles are in your way, know that with perseverance you can accomplish anything."
“ No matter what obstacles are in your way, know that with perseverance you can accomplish anything.”
Agricultural Business · Imperial, Nebraska
Hailing from a small town in southwest Nebraska, Darin knew college would expose him to new ideas, beliefs and people. To expand his views, he took specific steps to learn new perspectives, such as enrolling in a political science class just to learn a new point of view. Though the university is far larger than his hometown, Darin was surprised at how he was able to build a community that made campus feel much smaller. His experience on East Campus has been instrumental in allowing him to grow and build a path to success. He loves that he’s able to walk on the sidewalks of East Campus and recognize every third or fifth person, demonstrating the community atmosphere this campus provides that makes college feel like home.
“The atmosphere campus provides makes college feel like home.”
Spanish and Latin American Studies · Crete, Nebraska
Hailing from a smaller town in Nebraska, Yajaira was overwhelmed when first stepping foot on campus. As she’s advanced in her college career, she began to create a family at the university, making this once seemingly huge campus not feel so large. Her time in Lincoln has taught her the importance of adaptability. From schedule changes to cultural shifts, she sees a need for everyone to develop this vital skill of flexibility. Yajaira has made it her mission to learn in hopes to help others. Though she’s pleased with the changes she’s seen on a university-wide scale since her freshman year, she believes action falls on all of us, not just administration and faculty, to make this campus more welcoming to all. Whether encouraging a high school student to pursue college or being more intentional in our inclusivity, we can all always get better.
“We can all always get better.”
communications and global studies · Kearney, Nebraska
From the day he stepped foot on campus for his New Student Enrollment day, Griffin felt welcome at Nebraska. A self-proclaimed “stark optimist,” he aims to make everyone he encounters feel just as welcomed at the university. His involvement on campus has allowed him to meet a vast amount of people from different backgrounds, providing him with new perspectives. Given multiple opportunities to travel throughout his life, Griffin quickly learned that there is far more to this world than Nebraska. “There are so many people here that have stories and experiences to expand and enlighten your mind,” he says, encouraging students to start up conversations with people they don’t know. He loves Nebraska for many reasons, but especially the chance this university provides students to tell their own story and pursue their own path. He reminds students, faculty and staff to embody “Nebraska Nice” and make others feel welcome.
“There are so many people here that have stories and experiences to expand and enlighten your mind”
Computer Science · Ankara, Turkey
Moving from Turkey to Nebraska with her family shortly before her freshman year of college, Ceren experienced a slightly different move than other international students. One of her favorite parts about Nebraska is being surrounded by nice people. The people she met after her move were open-minded and welcoming. This kindness is something Ceren also emulates to everyone she meets. Though she knew moving to a new country would present a lot of changes, she was surprised by how many friends she was able to make from all around the world. She knows her higher education experience in Turkey would be vastly different than her time at Nebraska, but she wouldn’t change it for the world.
“Kindness is something you can share with everyone you meet.”
Marketing · Grand Island, Nebraska
As an adopted, first-generation college student, Shayne has experienced many firsts throughout his life in college. His background sets him apart in the way he approaches his time at the university. He credits the skills he learned when preparing for college - leadership, integrity and work ethic - as the things that have carried him through and led him to success. The connections he’s made through classes and involvement have transformed his perception of his ability to benefit the campus community. He encourages his peers to “make a difference and put yourself out there…leave the university in a better place than when you got here.”
“Make a difference and put yourself out there…leave the university in a better place than when you got here.”
Fisheries & Wildlife · South Sioux City, Nebraska
For many, attending college can be a culture shock. Hailing from Nebraska, Jazmin did not assume she would have this same experience at a university in Lincoln. Jazmin’s high school was predominately comprised of minority students, much different than this university. The tradition and pride she holds for her Mexican heritage has allowed her to connect with many people, especially international students. What started as a Facebook search for students with an interest in soccer has bloomed into friendships with people from across the state, nation and world. Throughout her time at NEBRASKA, she has made a concerted effort to be a better listener in an attempt to learn from others. These listening skills especially aided her during her research abroad, studying hyenas in Botswana. “You can’t enter their country with your perspective,” she warns, encouraging peers to be more open-minded both domestically and internationally.
“You can’t enter their [another] country with your perspective”
Architecture · Lincoln, Nebraska
Rousol’s college career has shown a progression of challenge and change. Every year, she learned to be a better person and a better citizen. The ambition and drive she’s aimed to demonstrate throughout college are also qualities she admires in many of her peers. The opportunities the university has afforded her have prepared her to be a global citizen. She’s noticed important changes on campus this year - from seeing more women in hijabs to the inclusive messaging from administration - she feels the university is creating a safe haven for all. To students, faculty and staff at the university, she reminds, “You impact us more than you know.”
“To students, faculty and staff at the university, she reminds, “You impact us more than you know.””
journalism, advertising and public relations · omaha, nebraska
Coming to the university with a set life plan in mind, Steven was thrown for a loop when he decided to change majors during his junior year. After confiding in academic advisors and friends, he realized his goals had shifted. This sense of depth in conversations is something he’s tried to implement throughout his time at the university. He noticed that many people he encountered had a shield up when conversing with others, and stayed comfortable with surface-level conversations. Steven, though, has aimed to dive right in and show his true self to everyone he meets quickly in their relationship. From bridging gaps between international and domestic students to facilitating conversations at new student enrollment, he thrives on the connections he builds with others on campus. Steven recognizes that in order to engage in diversity, you have to reach out. If you only stick with your friend group in your comfort zone, you’ll likely miss out on incredible friendships and lessons. “So say ‘hi’ and start a conversation…you’ll be surprised how many doors it opens for you.”
“Say ‘hi’ and start a conversation…you’ll be surprised how many doors it opens for you.”
Broadcasting, Advertising, and Public Relations · Lee’s Summit, Missouri
Walking on campus as a senior, Sydney is watching her college career come full circle. From entering campus knowing almost no one, to now, constantly recognizing acquaintances and friends on the sidewalk, she is appreciative of the situations that have put her where she is today. The growth and culture shock she was forced to face in adjusting to college life is something she willingly put herself through multiple times throughout college by interning abroad. She sees her eagerness to grow mirrored in many of her peers. As she puts it, “Everyone here is working toward a greater purpose.” As she pursues her larger destiny in life, she recognizes the importance of always learning and growing. She encourages everyone to ponder, “If you could strive to be better, what would that look like?” Campus can be a tough place; we might as well teach and encourage others to be better, to be more culturally sensitive and understanding to make all feel welcome.
“Everyone here is working toward a greater purpose.”
Finance · Khujand, Tajikistan
With a smile from ear to ear and infectious enthusiasm, Nurik is one to leave an impression on everyone he meets. Coming to the university as an international student, he saw himself as self-sufficient and was always helping others. In college, however, the tables turned - requiring Nurik to be the one asking for assistance. Whether questioning his domestic-student roommates why a joke was funny or having another set of eyes read over his paper in the writing center, he is very appreciative of the academic and social support he’s received in Lincoln. Originally, Nurik sought comfort in students similar to him, like in the Russian Club on campus. Soon, though, he realized the importance of immersing himself in the diversity of campus to strengthen his understanding of himself and American culture. As for most every student, freshman year was full of lessons about independence and growing up. Through it all, Nurik faces adversity with a smile on his face. The kindness he prides himself on demonstrating is what he feels connects him most to other Huskers. For all faculty, staff and students at the university, Nurik offers one piece of advice - “Smile more.”
“I realized the importance of immersing myself in the diversity of campus to strengthen my understanding of myself and American culture.”
Athletic Training · Wayne, Nebraska
After spending nearly twelve years with the U.S. Army, Joe assumed college would be a piece of cake. “They’re not trying to kill me,” he reasoned. His tasks during deployment were straight-forward; college, however, was harder than expected. He was, and remains to be, constantly busy - with classes, internships and his work as a student veteran peer mentor. Though his education at the university is not easy and takes a great deal of effort, he, like most other students, finds college to be pretty fun. The values instilled in Joe during his military career transfer over to his role as a student - motivation, focus and hard work. Though he is grateful for the work of fellow student veterans in creating a resource center and accompanying student organizations, he sees great opportunity for more veterans to attend the university. The maturity and work ethic of these students is well-developed, preparing them for a successful career as a student. His education at Nebraska has given him a great advantage when going into his post-collegiate career, and Joe readily praises his professors and advisers for their help. As he has been for years, Joe is and will continue to be a life-long Husker.
“The values instilled in my military career transfer over to my role as a student - motivation, focus and hard work.”
English · Bellevue, Nebraska
With a vast vocabulary and eloquent voice, Christian has always had a love for words. Whether competing as a member of the university speech and debate team or walking the halls of Andrews for his classes as an English major, he largely defines his time at the university through his academic experience. Christian loves his field of study, because, “Everyone takes an English class, so you meet people from all walks of life.” Getting to know new people through classes and his on-campus job at the University Bookstore, he prides himself as being a friendly face on campus. Though his positivity is evident through his smile and presence, college hasn’t always been pleasant for Christian. From being gay to struggles with body image and mental health, the once sturdy person Christian saw himself as came to a crumbling halt. By seeking support from friends, family and the counseling and psychological services office in the health center, he came to peace with himself and started on a new path. Changing his ways and adjusting to the level of freedom he has in college taught him the importance of not putting false expectations on himself or others. Christian is now confident in who he is and the role he plays at this university, because no matter where he and his fellow students end up in the world, they will always be Huskers.
“Changing my ways and adjusting to the level of freedom in college has taught me the importance of not putting false expectations on myself or others.”
Political Science and Global Studies · Omaha, Nebraska
As a first-generation student of Afghan descent raised in the Midwest, Leemah has always understood her cultural and racial identities are fluid. Taking pride in the different aspects of her life, she has found the university to be a great place to call home during the transformative years of college. Though she has experienced personal growth throughout her time, she did not always understand her place at this university. The resources on campus, as well as the education she obtained from classes and involvement, have allowed Leemah to carve out her own place and grow in her understanding of people both similar and different from her. Her convictions have developed steadily with her knowledge - a friendly reminder that people can and will believe in you if you believe in what you’re saying.
“At the end of the day, we will never understand the individual experiences of each person. What we can do, however, is validate them.”
Advertising and Public Relations · Norfolk, Nebraska
When asked about what makes her distinctive from others on campus, Maxine laughs and replies, “My age.” Currently pursuing her bachelor’s degree, she sees her values shared with countless others at the university; passionate people excited about learning, trying to get a degree and a sincere want to make the world a better place. Adjusting to life in college was hard, as it is for most any student, learning to connect with instructors and practice strong time management skills. She can immediately recount her first mass communications professor, Carla Kimbrough, as a welcoming face as she began this journey. She readily shares her gratitude for the understanding nature of the professors. Last year, Maxine needed to take some time off to attend to family needs. When contacting her instructor about missing class, he replied saying, “Thanks for being a good mom.” To faculty, staff and students at the university, Maxine believes sincere thanks are in order.
“Thank you for accepting me, encouraging me and for being here.”