Meet the students YOU are helping achieve their degrees.

The COVID-19 pandemic has created challenges for University of Nebraska at Omaha students who are striving for their degrees. Thanks to the help of generous supporters like you, eight students have been able to continue their studies this year with a scholarship from the UNO Fund. Through the collective power of gifts from you and alumni like you, we have been able to provide access to exceptional education to students who need it the most.

While there are many scholarships at UNO, the UNO Fund for Student Scholarships is the only one that sees hundreds of alumni and community members come together and make gifts – last year as low as $5 and as high as $5,000 – to give directly back to students.

We’d like you to meet some of 2020-21’s UNO Fund scholarship recipients:

Karina Ruiz was just starting to feel confident when the pandemic hit. Having moved to a new country, learned a new language, started her business degree at UNO and secured her own place, the pandemic again threw life into uncertainty. She said receiving the UNO Fund scholarship “was like being able to breathe again.” “It really inspires me to want to give back, too, once I graduate and have the means, because I’ve been there,” she said. “I continue to feel more freedom financially because of what you did, because of you deciding to give. Thank you… you changed my life.”

Anna Wesch, already raising three children and working at the same time, decided to pursue her bachelor’s degree and fulfill her longtime dream of becoming an early childhood educator. The UNO Fund scholarship gave her inspiration to keep going, even when her studies got tough. “It’s just so unexpected,” she said. “I’m so very grateful. It definitely helps to make things a little easier and makes it a little more like, ‘OK, I can do this.’ To know that there’s people that believe I can do it too and make me successful, that’s just really cool.”

Beth Hoyt moved from McCook, Nebraska, to pursue communications studies at UNO. With three in her family attending college, she wanted to make sure her degree was affordable for herself and her parents. She chose UNO partly because it has one of the lowest tuition rates in the region, and the UNO Fund scholarship is helping her to graduate on time. “I’m so grateful I won’t be in debt for a long time afterward,” she said. “Th¬at was a terrifying prospect. But just to have that peace of mind is so incredible and so rare, and I’m incredibly grateful for that.”

Anna Buchannan has experienced a year full of changes — a move from Metropolitan Community College to UNO, a switch in majors, a new job and, of course, adjusting to the new virtual life of a college student in 2020-21. Fortunately for Anna, UNO alumni and donors have made all of the changes — and hitting her goal of graduating on time — just a little bit easier to manage, providing a scholarship to complete her studies. “It was a super big relief,” Anna said, “because it took out a lot of stress of me having to take a loan. I’ve gotten this far in my college career without having to take out a loan. It was amazing. I was so happy!”

Leah Stednitz had been putting her professional skills as a respiratory therapist to use by volunteering with elderly citizens when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and when that work was put on pause, she decided to become a full-time student and enrolled at UNO. She’s pursuing a multidisciplinary studies degree with emphases in health care administration, gerontology and respiratory care. “I would love to take this degree and run a long-term care facility here in the Omaha metro,” she said. “I want to take my knowledge and passion to truly honor and celebrate our senior citizens. I feel that I can bring the younger tech-savvy groove of society and apply it to our long-term care facilities to help them stay socialized and connected with the outside world.”

Sara Pedersen aspires to be both an author and a librarian. She’s pursuing an online education in library sciences from her hometown of Norfolk. Already a contest-winning writer for her mystery and horror tales, Sara’s own story got a surprising twist last fall when she received a UNO Fund scholarship. “I don’t usually win these kinds of things,” she said. “I am lucky sometimes, but not in the stuff that really matters. I have an older sister who is now an art teacher and went to college, and I have a younger brother who is currently in college in Wayne. So that is three children with debt. My parents both have good-paying jobs, but this award helps lighten the load. I am really grateful for these funds, and if you are one of the people who gave, thank you.”

Thanks to UNO Fund donors, UNO was able to offer renewable scholarships to these students to cover much of their tuition through graduation. The more people who give, the more scholarships we can award to students who need and deserve them. Make your gift of $25, $50 or $100 to the UNO Fund today.

For more UNO Fund scholarship recipient profiles, read about the 2019 recipients here.

UNO Fund

You can help bring more students like these to UNO. The more people who give, the more scholarships we can award to students who need and deserve them. Make your gift of $25, $50 or $100 to the UNO Fund today.

UNO Alumni Card Goes All Digital

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Joel Gehringer

Starting this month, the UNO Alumni card goes fully digital.

Starting this month, the UNO Alumni card goes fully digital. The UNO Alumni card is issued to all individuals who give a gift of $25 or more to the UNO Fund. It provides access to a number of services on the University of Nebraska at Omaha campus, including Criss Library, the ability to purchase a membership to the UNO Wellness Center in H&K, discounted tickets to performances, the bookstore, and more. A full list of card advantages can be found here, though some of these privileges are currently limited due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The alumni card has been available digitally on the UNO Alumni smartphone app since 2018, supplementing the paper cards issued with donors’ gift receipts. This month, the University of Nebraska Foundation and UNO Alumni Association will discontinue automatically issuing paper cards on the receipts and will direct all UNO Fund donors to access their UNO Alumni card on the UNO Alumni app, available on both the Google and Android app stores.

The UNO alumni card is valid for one year after your gift is made. The app allows for easy tracking of this period and expiration date, as well as easy renewal of your alumni card before its expiration. The digital card cuts down the wait time for issuing cards, and it is also a convenient way to make sure you always have your card handy for use on campus and around town.

For more on the app, including links to download it, visit https://unoalumni.org/unoalumniapp

Those without access to the UNO Alumni app can email joel.gehringer@nufoundation.org to be issued a paper card. Please allow 1-2 weeks for delivery of the card after request.

The University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) will celebrate its first annual Wear Black, Give Back 24-hour celebration and giving day on Oct. 28-29.

UNO alumni and friends across the country and around the world are encouraged to wear their favorite black Maverick gear and consider giving to scholarships, colleges and programs, student groups and activities, inclusion and wellness, athletics or other areas of choice.

The celebration starts at noon on Wednesday, Oct. 28, and goes through noon on Thursday, Oct. 29. In addition to sharing Maverick pride with #WearBlackGiveBack, contributions may be made at givingday.unomaha.edu to help any area of UNO. Gifts are accepted now through noon on Oct. 29.

UNO Chancellor Jeffery P. Gold, M.D., said Mavs from across the nation will come together to show their support of the university by wearing their proud UNO colors and by making gifts to support access to exceptional education.

“There’s never been a better time to be a Mav, and we have much to celebrate,” Gold said. “Our incredible, resilient students continue to work hard to achieve their dreams, and our world-class faculty and staff are doing all they can to make it happen safely and effectively. I want to extend my thanks to everyone who gives during Wear Black, Give Back.”

Campus kickoff activities planned Oct. 28

To celebrate the event safely, two physically distanced activities will take place on Oct. 28 at UNO.

UNO employees can drive through one of two Wear Black, Give Back stations on campus to receive a donut in thanks for their service to the university. The first station is from 9-11 a.m. at the West Parking Garage on the Dodge Campus. The second station is from 2-4 p.m. on the Scott Campus in parking lot two.

On the morning of Oct. 28, 10 small, plush Durango mascots will be hidden across the UNO campus, each one with a gift amount attached to it. The UNO students who find the Durango mascots will then get to keep it and also choose which campus cause for Wear Black, Give Back will receive the assigned gift amount.

These hidden gifts, as well as various other challenge gifts planned throughout the celebration, are made possible by individuals and corporate sponsors of the event.

For more information, updates and image downloads go to givingday.unomaha.edu.

Wear Black, Give Back is planned in partnership with UNO, the UNO Alumni Association and the University of Nebraska Foundation.

For questions about the event and to learn about sponsorship opportunities, contact Joel Gehringer at 402-502-4924 or joel.gehringer@nufoundation.org.

About the University of Nebraska at Omaha

Located in one of America’s best cities to live, work and learn, the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) is Nebraska’s premier metropolitan university. With more than 15,000 students enrolled in 200-plus programs of study, UNO is recognized nationally for its online education, graduate education, military friendliness and community engagement efforts. Founded in 1908, UNO has served learners of all backgrounds for more than 100 years and is dedicated to another century of excellence both in the classroom and in the community.

Become a fan of UNO on Facebook and follow UNO’s Twitter updates.

Christensens to be honored with naming of concert hall in UNO Strauss Performing Arts Center

The newly renovated concert hall within the Janet A. and Willis S. Strauss Performing Arts Center at the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) will be named in honor of Chancellor Emeritus John Christensen and his wife, Jan Christensen, pending approval by the University of Nebraska Board of Regents on Dec. 4, 2018.

John Christensen led UNO for a decade as its chancellor from 2007 to 2017.

Originally built in 1973, the Strauss Performing Arts Center has undergone a complete renovation and the construction of a 25,000-square-foot addition to the facility. The center is home to UNO’s School of Music and has hosted hundreds of public performances for more than 40 years while serving as a learning and practice facility for students.

Alumni and longtime University of Nebraska benefactors Ruth and Bill Scott of Omaha provided a leadership gift to the University of Nebraska Foundation, which along with state and university funds, made the $18.3 million project possible.

The Scotts said honoring the Christensens with the naming of the concert hall is a fitting tribute to them, as they dedicated more than 40 years to the growth and prosperity of UNO and to its positive impact on the Omaha community.

“John Christensen has had a profound impact on UNO over many years,” Ruth Scott said. “This project was a priority for him during the final years of his tenure as chancellor. Because John and his wife, Jan, are a great team, it seems appropriate that we recognize the leadership and devotion they have provided to UNO.”

Under John Christensen’s leadership at UNO, the campus experienced significant investments in student and academic programs, as well as in facilities such as Baxter Arena; the Barbara Weitz Community Engagement Center; the College of Public Affairs and Community Service; Roskens Hall, home to the College of Education; Mammel Hall, home to the College of Business Administration; and the Biomechanics Research Building. Christensen garnered private financial support and community engagement which led to the success of these projects. Ruth and Bill Scott supported these projects and Christensen’s vision for UNO.

John Christensen said that he and Jan are touched by this tribute.

“This honor is especially meaningful to Jan and me because of our love for the University of Nebraska at Omaha,” he said. “It was a privilege to lead the campus and to witness the extraordinary generosity and humility of its philanthropic supporters, especially that of Ruth and Bill Scott and the entire Scott family.”

UNO Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, M.D., called the naming a very fitting tribute to Jan and John Christensen.

“Having their names adorn one of Omaha’s most beloved venues is a great way to honor their legacy,” he said. “UNO and the greater Omaha area as a whole owe a great debt to the Christensens for their longstanding leadership in service, education and community engagement.”

The center’s concert hall was renovated with several updates to improve its acoustical sound.

Additionally, its lighting system and entryway were updated, and the hall was made handicapped-accessible. The center’s new addition includes a recital hall, practice rooms, teaching spaces including studios for the keyboard, brass, percussion and technology areas, and a recording studio.

The new building addition to the center will be finalized in February 2019; the university is planning a celebration event on April 18, 2019.

About Jan and John Christensen

John Christensen was named interim chancellor of UNO on Sept. 12, 2006, and was named chancellor on May 8, 2007. However, his first interaction with the university dates back to the 1970s when he received a Master of Science in special education and speech pathology from UNO.

Christensen began his tenure at the university in 1978 as a faculty member in the College of Education’s Department of Special Education and Communication Disorders. He subsequently served as chair of the department, dean of the College of Education, as well as vice chancellor for academic and student affairs. He served as chancellor for a decade, stepping down from the position on May 8, 2017.

Jan Christensen is a longtime teacher and education administrator with Omaha Public Schools.

John and Jan Christensen married in 1972 and have three sons, all of whom are UNO graduates, and several grandchildren.

About the University of Nebraska at Omaha

Located in one of America’s best cities to live, work and learn, the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) is Nebraska’s premier metropolitan university. With more than 15,000 students enrolled in 200-plus programs of study, UNO is recognized nationally for its online education, graduate education, military friendliness and community engagement efforts. Founded in 1908, UNO has served learners of all backgrounds for more than 100 years and is dedicated to another century of excellence both in the classroom and in the community.

Become a fan of UNO on Facebook and follow UNO’s Twitter updates. You can also keep up to date on important UNO News by following the UNO News Center Twitter account.

About the University of Nebraska Foundation

The University of Nebraska Foundation grows relationships and resources that enable the University of Nebraska to change lives and save lives. Among U.S. public universities, total annual gifts in support of the University of Nebraska and its affiliates rank in the top 15, and its $1.7 billion total endowment is in the top 25. Ninety-nine percent of all assets are restricted by donors to a specific use by the university. The foundation was named to America’s Favorite Charities in 2018 by the Chronicle of Philanthropy. More information is at nufoundation.org.

New scholarship at UNO to benefit generations of IT professionals

Students studying within the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) College of Information Science and Technology will benefit from a new scholarship announced by SharePoint Saturday–Omaha through its non-profit parent, Alphabits Incorporated.

The SharePoint Saturday–Omaha Community Educational Scholarship Fund was established with a gift commitment to the University of Nebraska Foundation. The fund enables the college to award a scholarship of $1,275 annually to a qualified student to assist with his or her tuition. Qualified students must submit a scholarship application to the college, have a class standing of junior or above and have maintained at least a 3.0 GPA.

“We are absolutely thrilled to be able to offer this scholarship,” said David Petersen, leader of SharePoint Saturday–Omaha. “It has been in the works for many years now, and we are finally able to give back in a meaningful way to the University of Nebraska by providing this scholarship to students attending the University of Nebraska–Omaha, which has allowed us to use their facilities over the past six years to host our SharePoint Saturday events.”

The scholarship is the first of its kind in Nebraska for SharePoint Saturday–Omaha and Alphabits. The scholarship is fully funded for five years, and the organization has plans to fully endow the scholarship fund in the next five years and make awards available on all University of Nebraska campuses.

“We’re grateful for the generosity of SharePoint Saturday and its ability to lift financial barriers for our students,” said Hesham Ali, dean of the UNO College of Information Science and Technology. “We’re extremely fortunate to have the support of our community partners and sincerely appreciate their desire to invest in the well-being and success of our students.”

Deepak Khazanchi, associate dean and professor for the College of Information Science and Technology, added: “This new scholarship will mean all the difference for students interested in IT careers who will be entering the Nebraska workforce soon.”

SharePoint Saturday–Omaha is an annual event offering free training to users on SharePoint and Office 365.
The mission of Alphabits Incorporated is to provide free or low-cost technical training to the community.  It does this through monthly meetings of the Omaha SharePoint User Group, the annual SharePoint Saturday–Omaha, and other events like full-day, deep-dive workshops on SharePoint and O365 topics. Now, it’s also able to give back to the next generation of Information Technology professionals by offering this scholarship.

About the University of Nebraska at Omaha

Located in one of America’s best cities to live, work and learn, the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) is Nebraska’s premier metropolitan university. With more than 15,000 students enrolled in 200-plus programs of study, UNO is recognized nationally for its online education, graduate education, military friendliness and community engagement efforts. Founded in 1908, UNO has served learners of all backgrounds for more than 100 years and is dedicated to another century of excellence both in the classroom and in the community.