The Donald and Lorena Meier Foundation of Chicago is making a major gift to the University of Nebraska Foundation to create four endowed student scholarship funds and to expand and permanently endow 14 existing scholarship funds. The scholarships will benefit students across the University of Nebraska system who meet the criteria of each.
This article originally appeared on Nebraska Today.
To contribute to any of these Universities and specifically CoJMC at UNL, see the links below:
An additional gift of $755,000 from the Meier Foundation will support the construction of a new television studio and newsroom at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s College of Journalism and Mass Communications. It replaces an existing studio and will include a newsroom, television control area and three separate news sets. It will incorporate cutting-edge technology that supports live broadcasts or one-person productions.
A 1941 Husker alumnus, the late Donald “Don” Meier used estate planning to direct assets from his charitable foundation to provide significant support for the University of Nebraska. During their lives, Meier and his late wife, Lorena, gave regularly to the university and established 14 student scholarship funds, the first one being created in 1999.
“The generous support from Donald and Lorena Meier — during their lives and through planned giving — will help make the university even more accessible and affordable for thousands of students,” Chancellor Ronnie Green said. “Support for a new, state-of-the-art TV studio and newsroom will also offer a truly professional experience for journalism students.
“The philanthropic mark made by Don and Lorena on our students and the entire University of Nebraska system will continue for generations.”
The Donald and Lorena Meier Foundation has committed to transfer assets to the University of Nebraska Foundation over the next several years to fulfill the Meiers’ wishes of helping young people achieve their educational goals.
“Don and Lorena Meier cared deeply about Don’s alma mater and assisting students in achieving their own career success and enjoyment,” said David Shoub, president of the Donald and Lorena Meier Foundation. “Over the next 25 years, the foundation plans to provide an estimated $10 million in support of student scholarships to fulfill the charitable wishes of Don and Lorena. We’re pleased to be carrying forth their aspirations in making a University of Nebraska education possible for more promising students for generations to come.”
Don and Lorena Meier had distinguished media careers that included the production of award-winning national network television shows, the most popular and long running being Mutual of Omaha’s “Wild Kingdom” and “Zoo Parade.”
“Wild Kingdom” was an Emmy-winning wildlife documentary program starring Marlin Perkins that aired from 1963 to 1971 on NBC, after which it entered syndication. Episodes of the program air on RFD-TV, with new and updated content across many of its digital properties.
Meier also produced “Zoo Parade,” a 1950s NBC program featuring animals from the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago. Prior to producing these programs, Meier served as an NBC producer for several local programs and events, including television broadcasts of Chicago Cubs and White Sox baseball games.
Don Meier’s interest in supporting student scholarships was influenced by his own experience at the University of Nebraska. During his lifetime, he considered different ways to support the university but was especially drawn to opportunities for scholarships or other projects that directly benefit students.
“I had no other dream than to go to the University of Nebraska,” he told the university in 2008 in announcing his plans for significant support of student scholarships.
Don Meier’s dream did not come easy. He worked off and on during college, sometimes taking up to a year off to work or to return home to Oshkosh, Nebraska, where he had a job as a high school librarian. He completed his college education in six years.
“I remember my own struggles to complete my college education,” he once said. “In those days, back in the 1930s, they didn’t have a lot of scholarships. I just remember how tough it was for me to make it. It became apparent to me as I pursued my own career that the main thing is not only the support, but it’s important to get kids into college, and I agree with my wife who says that all students should seek to expand their potential by seeking full development of their talent.”
Lorena Meier died June 22, 2018, at age 100, and Don Meier died July 13, 2019, at age 104.
The Donald and Lorena Meier Foundation has committed over several years to support new and existing scholarship funds that were established by Don and Lorena Meier. Students enrolled in the following colleges and areas of the University of Nebraska who meet certain scholarship criteria are eligible:
University of Nebraska–Lincoln:
University of Nebraska at Kearney:
Any University of Nebraska campus:
More than 40 businesses and non-profits joined representatives from UNO, Omaha, and the State of Nebraska to launch a new program granting unprecedented access to paid internship opportunities for our students.
This story originally appeared on UNO News.
A new partnership between the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) and employers across the greater Omaha area will provide UNO students with unprecedented access to paid internship opportunities.
UNO Career Connect is a new collaborative program pairing UNO with area companies and organizations to guarantee paid internship positions for many UNO students. This mutually beneficial program provides Mavericks with a direct path from college to career experience while also ensuring that area employers are able to hire the interns they need to support operations.
UNO Chancellor Joanne Li, Ph.D., CFA announced the new program at a news conference held Monday at UNO’s Barbara Weitz Community Engagement Center. Nearly 50 employers have pledged to join the partnership, guaranteeing students internship positions with Fortune 500 companies, small and large businesses, and nonprofit organizations. Participating employers include Union Pacific, Mutual of Omaha, Heartland Family Service, Dundee Bank, CQuence Health Group, and dozens of others.
“Employers must be quick to adapt to their shifting workforce needs to stay competitive. As Nebraska’s urban institution, UNO moves quickly, too, adapting our curriculum and our partnerships to meet ever-evolving needs for both employers and our students. UNO Career Connect is a monumental step toward that goal, ensuring that graduates are well-prepared to be not only successful employees, but leaders in their organizations and in our communities. Guaranteeing access to paid internships ensures our students can grow personally and professionally while also being able to support themselves and their families,” Chancellor Li said.
Li was joined by representatives from the Mayor’s Office of the City of Omaha, the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce, and the Governor’s Office of the State of Nebraska at a news conference Monday to announce the new program.
“UNO Career Connect looks to be another winning move by the university to train the next generation workforce and keep them here in the Omaha area, filling jobs and supporting businesses in our community,” David Brown, president and CEO of the Greater Omaha Chamber said. “Today’s announcement connecting students to paid internship opportunities is the next step toward strengthening a thriving business community here in the Omaha area. Internships open doors to opportunities for students, provide organizations with top talent and fresh ideas, and more often than you might realize, lead directly from internship to full-time career.”
To take part in UNO Career Connect, employers must pledge at least one paid internship position for a UNO student in their organization. The internship program can apply to students in any field of study at UNO; however, in alignment with the state of Nebraska’s workforce needs, the university is particularly focused on filling internship positions with area employers in fields designated by the state as high demand, high skill, and high wage occupations. These often include positions in industries reliant on STEM, or science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
Students looking for additional information on internship opportunities through UNO Career Connect can find information on Handshake. This platform, provided by UNO’s Academic and Career Development Center, enables UNO students and alumni to find internship and job postings. Students seeking internship opportunities should use the “Internship” filter in the job search section to see all available positions.
UNO will continue to expand its network of employer partners as part of UNO Career Connect. Interested companies and organizations who can pledge to provide paid internships for UNO students, regardless of the number of positions available, should visit careerconnect.unomaha.edu for more information.
Anthony Goins, Director, Nebraska Department of Economic Development
“Internship opportunities, and specifically paid internship opportunities, set the stage for graduates to succeed after college. That, in turn, sets the stage for growing Nebraska. That makes this program essential, and deserving of our recognition, support and appreciation. I want to commend UNO, Chancellor Li, and everyone involved for committing to the students here at UNO, and for answering the call to help build Nebraska’s workforce for the future.”
Mike Cassling, President and CEO, CQuence Health Group
“Professional experience in information technology and computer science can be the boost they need to launch their career. Most importantly, paid internships mitigate potential financial burdens in the process. For all these reasons and more, we are big believers in paid internships at CQuence Health Group and proud to be part of the UNO Career Connect program.”
Tom Warren, Chief of Staff for Mayor Jean Stothert, City of Omaha
“Developing, recruiting, and retaining a talented workforce here in the city, particularly as students wrap up their undergraduate degree programs, is a big piece of the puzzle. I have the great honor of joining you today not only to share with you how excited Mayor Stothert is about UNO Career Connect, but also to take action. I’m proud to share that the City of Omaha will be joining UNO Career Connect as one of its employer partners.”
Mike Cassling, President and CEO, CQuence Health Group
“Professional experience in information technology and computer science can be the boost they need to launch their career. Most importantly, paid internships mitigate potential financial burdens in the process. For all these reasons and more, we are big believers in paid internships at CQuence Health Group and proud to be part of the UNO Career Connect program.”
This post originally appears on the UNO website.
UNO faculty, staff, and students are playing a key role in ensuring a future where the aviation and aeronautics industries are more diverse, representative, and receptive.
The saying goes that the sky is the limit, but in the aviation and aerospace industries, the trajectory of careers for women has remained largely grounded. Becky Lutte, Ph.D., associate professor at UNO’s Aviation Institute, like the many women currently in these fields, has been working to make aviation a more inclusive field for across gender lines and for other underrepresented communities.
Lutte is one of the statistically small number of women who make up just 20% of the aviation workforce. Across the industry, women only make up 2.6% of maintenance technicians, 4.6% of air transport pilots, 11.6% of aerospace engineers, and 15.6% of aviation higher education faculty according to a recent report produced by Lutte.
“There’s absolutely no doubt based on multiple studies that bias, discrimination and harassment is still a deterrent is still a deterrent to our recruitment, retention, and advancement of women,” Lutte said.
Those trends don’t just impact veterans of the industry, they have heavy influences on the next generation as well.
“Lack of representation is a strong invisible barrier. We don’t get a lot of opportunities to see other women in aviation in our area, and it can feel isolating,” UNO aviation student Gwendoline Dunlop, president of UNO’s Women in Aviation chapter, said. “I often feel like I’m somehow representing all women when I am the only one in the class.”
Lutte said one of the several obstacles preventing women from entering and staying in the aviation or aerospace industries is a culture that lacks flexible scheduling and family-friendly policies that disproportionately affect women. Other hurdles include outright discrimination.
In response, she has dedicated herself to researching the recruitment and retention of women in aviation and serves as an advocate for greater representation in the field.
“It’s been my great honor to be able to help bring light some of this data, because as we say, ‘what gets measured gets done,’ and you can’t fix what you don’t see,” Lutte said. “If we’re not measuring it and putting that information out there, we’re not going to be able to move the needle on those numbers, and we know we need to change culture.”
Beyond research, Lutte is continuing her work as an advocate. Since 2020, Lutte has served on the Women in Aviation Advisory Board (WIAAB), which presented recommendations and strategies to encourage women to enter the aviation field to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Congress.
At UNO, Lutte has been an advocate for expanding diversity – ensuring that more students with diverse backgrounds can feel confident in pursuing an education in aviation.
“We’re trying to help create communities of support for underrepresented groups in aviation and continue to support our students to find that place where you’re not the ‘only’,” Lutte said. “UNO has been fantastic about providing support.”
This includes encouraging groups like UNO’s Women in Aviation chapter, as well as the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals, so that students of different backgrounds can have communities to support them.
“These organizations do so much for us. It helps bring together the few women in the program and make stronger connections,” Dunlop said. “Women in Aviation is open to people of all genders, so the men who join us help bridge the social gap.”
Among the support provided to students by UNO’s Women in Aviation chapter includes support for attendance at the Women in Aviation International conference, which allows for networking with professionals, as well as identifying opportunities to apply for national scholarships.
“Belonging to an organization like this as a student gives a very good head start to a career in aviation,” Dunlop said.
To continue reaching out to women and other minorities in the field, the Women in Aviation chapter also hosts an annual Girls in Aviation Day, specifically aimed at girls in middle and elementary school.
“Numerous outreach programs have been implemented to try to reach females earlier,” said Michaela Lucas, associate director of the NASA Nebraska Space Grant, which supports engagement in research, education, and public service programs related to aeronautics, space sciences, and technology across the state. “This event takes place through Women in Aviation Chapters all over the country and the world to introduce girls to the exciting careers aviation has to offer.”
On top of initiatives to diversify the field and support underrepresented communities, it is also important for those who make up the majority of the aviation industry to be allies to underrepresented groups.
“When you have strong support and strong male allies and mentors, which I certainly have, that is also really helpful for the overall culture and creates just a better environment,” Lutte said.
The work for more equity and inclusion for women and other groups in the aviation field is far from over. However, with people who are committed to understanding and overcoming representation on all fronts, the aviation industry can become more equitable and inclusive to everyone who wishes to participate.
“I have such a passion for this field, and women in aviation face certain barriers to entry in this field, even in terms of retention and advancement,” Lutte said. “So, for me to have any kind of voice in that conversation to help not only identify those barriers but make recommendations to address those barriers is incredibly rewarding.”
Want to support the Aviation Institute at UNO? Then consider making a gift to the College of Public Affairs and Community Service!
This article originally appeared on CBA’s News Center
When UNO CBA alumna Alissa McMahon launched her boutique clothing business with fellow students Kat Slump and Keegan Mahoney in 2017, it was originally a side hustle while the trio completed school. After Slump and Mahoney graduated on to other adventures, McMahon knew she wanted to hang on to their business, called Mauve, and take it to new heights.
McMahon relaunched Mauve in 2019 with an emphasis on instilling confidence in women through their experience and options at the boutique. Using techniques learned from marketing and management classes at CBA – she says she recalls techniques from her marketing coursework almost daily – McMahon built Mauve’s online presence and garnered a solid customer following. Now, just a year and a half after the relaunch, Mauve has opened a showroom – pulling off the feat of sustaining a physical location even during the COVID-19 pandemic.
To take Mauve to its newest levels of success, McMahon has continued her entrepreneurial education. She learns from other entrepreneurs and participates in online classes whenever possible. Above all, she views all of her entrepreneurial experience as valuable, leveraging insights from the first years of her business into strategies for the future. This hands-on technique is something she recommends to all young entrepreneurs.
“I would tell any young entrepreneur to just go for it! No one is ever 100% ready and you’ll never have all the knowledge, as you learn so much just from the first-hand experience,” said McMahon. “Find a mentor who is also in the entrepreneurial space, learn as much as you can about that part of business, and just go for it!”
This attitude has paid off for McMahon, who adapted her business model to the pandemic and used it to Mauve’s advantage. The business now enjoys both a thriving online presence and loyal in-person customers, who have enjoyed the showroom since its opening in November 2020. McMahon has every intention of keeping up the momentum.
“My goals for Mauve are to continue our online growth, as well as opening another store!” said McMahon. “We have seen so much growth through our Instagram, so that is how we plan to achieve expansion. We also plan to continue collaborating with other businesses to always be spreading the word!”
Do you want to support students like Alissa? Then head on over to the College of Business Administration page to learn more!
You can explore Mauve’s continued growth on their Instagram at @heymauve or at heymauve.com. Visit their showroom at 11430 Davenport Street in Omaha.
Anna Wesch is on a mission to prove to her three children that, with a little hard work and determination, everyone can make a difference.
“I am a married mom of three, so obviously not a traditional student. This is my first college experience,” she said in a recent interview via videoconference. “My son is 24, and my daughters are 20 and 16. The older one has not gone to college yet, but I keep telling him, if I can do it, you can do it. This can be done. It can be difficult, but it’s a great experience, and I really appreciate it.”
As Anna works to set an example for all who dream of achieving their bachelor’s degree, hundreds of donors to the UNO Fund for Student Scholarships are setting an example, too. Their generosity allowed the University of Nebraska at Omaha to award Anna a scholarship this fall. She is one of 2020’s seven recipients of the scholarship, receiving financial assistance thanks to hundreds of generous alumni and supporters of the university.
“When I got the email that I received the scholarship, I was reading it and I was telling my husband, ‘do you think it’s real?’” she said. “I barely made it through high school, so to get something like that and be acknowledged for something like that, I was like, ‘I don’t know if this is real!’ So when I realized it was, I was super excited.”
While there are many scholarships at UNO, the UNO Fund for Student Scholarships is the only one that sees hundreds of alumni and supporters come together to make gifts — last year as low as $5 and as high as $5,000 — to give directly back to students. Thanks to UNO Fund donors, UNO was able to offer Anna a renewable scholarship to cover much of her tuition through her expected graduation in the fall of 2021.
Anna’s path toward that impending graduation date has been an unconventional one, but one paved with determination and grit. An Omaha native, Anna’s education journey started when got a job in the health office of an elementary school, going back to work once her youngest was able to go to preschool.
“I ended up really enjoying some of the kids that would come visit the health office that were from the special education room, so I asked to be moved,” she said. “I was a special education paraprofessional for about six or seven years. I did that while the kids were young, and then when my son was a little bit older and could help me with my younger daughters, I went and got a full-time job. I did that for a couple years, but I really missed the kids and the school community.”
Anna also felt that she could make an even greater impact on the lives of young students with special needs if she had her four-year degree.
“I kind of always thought about going to college, but I never was good in school, so I didn’t really know that it was something I could do,” she said. “Then my mother-in-law passed away, and then a year later my dad passed away. And I was like, ok, life is short, and if I want to do something, I have to do it. So I decided I would start taking a class at Metropolitan Community College, and if I made it through that class, maybe I would take another one, and then maybe I would take two classes. So I kind of started out that way, and then I was like ‘ok, now I’m here and I’m doing it, so I’m just going to keep going.’”
Anna pushed forward and made the transfer to UNO last fall. Today, she is working on her bachelor’s degree in education, studying in UNO’s early childhood inclusive program. Despite the added challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, Anna said she has found the faculty, staff and students at UNO very helpful in navigating the program.
“The advisors at UNO have just been super awesome and super helpful,” she said. “The teachers have all been really great. I’ve had a really, really great experience.”
She is also grateful for the encouragement and support she’s received from her family.
“My husband has been my biggest supporter,” she said. “I would not have been able to even start on this path without his support.”
Anna also said she’s found inspiration from receiving the UNO Fund scholarship and knowing that donors both large and small have confidence in her and want to help her succeed.
“It’s just so unexpected,” she said. “I’m so very grateful, and it’s so very thoughtful to give something like that for people who are working toward their goal. It definitely helps to make things a little easier and makes it a little more like, ‘OK, I can do this,’ and to know that there’s people that believe I can do it too and make me successful, that’s just really cool.”
Soon Anna will begin her practicum, and she is excited to return to the classroom, as her true passion lies in the impact she can have on her young students.
“There’s a certain energy in an elementary school with kids, and it’s just so much fun, so I cannot wait to be back in a school,” she said. “I was doing some volunteer work, and then the pandemic hit, so I wasn’t able to do that anymore. I’m just ready to be back and helping and making a difference. Even as a para, you’re making a difference — it could be very small, but it’s amazing to be a part of. I’m ready to be doing that again.”
If all goes according to plan, Anna will graduate with her degree in December of 2021. With this degree, she’s be qualified to teach both regular and special education classes from birth to third grade. While she’s still considering which next step might be best for her and her students, her ultimate goal is to become an early childhood intervention specialist.
Anna also clearly recognizes the significance of her achievements and studies. As the first in her family to attend college and achieve a degree — all while raising kids and working part-time — she knows her quest to make an impact on the lives of young children will also make an impact on those who are in her same situation.
“I’d take a class, and I’d be like this is really hard, I don’t think I can do it,” she said, “but if I don’t do it, what kind of example am I setting? So I just keep pushing along.”
Anna thanked all who have given to the UNO Fund scholarship for helping to make her journey possible. She hopes their example, as well has her own journey, inspire others to continue to support this program so more students like her will have the opportunity to achieve their own educational goals and dreams.
“I’m really excited to be here,” she said. “Nobody in my family has gone to college. My parents didn’t go to college, so I’m the first in my family to actually try it out. It’s been kind of a wild ride!”
For a student who loves communications, cultural studies and travel, Beth Hoyt has found life as a college student during COVID-19 both challenging and intriguing.
“I’ve always been fascinated with the world and how we talk and how we communicate, and especially with the pandemic, how is that going to affect our communication?” she said in an interview, appropriately held via video conference. “I like learning about different cultures and how we interact and communicate with different cultures, so it’s been super, super interesting to learn about that right now.”
Born and raised in McCook, Nebraska, Beth attended Mid-Plains Community College, earning her associate’s degree before transferring to the University of Nebraska at Omaha in the fall of 2020. Her father is a farmer, her mother is a teacher and she has three siblings, including a younger sister who is also pursuing a degree. It was very important for Beth to find the right university that could help her explore her interests while also being an affordable option for her and her family.
“One of the things that I was really worried about as a transfer student was how that was going to affect my ability to get a scholarship,” she said. “My parents are helping to pay for two kids going through college, so I wanted to get whatever support I can so I can afford it and my parents can afford it.”
After looking at a few other schools in the area that didn’t seem to offer much financial support, Beth heard from a former community college classmate who loved her experience in UNO’s communication studies program. Beth also discovered that UNO’s tuition rates were among the lowest in the region, giving her a chance to keep costs down while also pursing a course of study she loves.
Beth moved into the dormitories at UNO in the fall, but like many college students, the pandemic has limited the college experience she was expecting. Additionally, after holding a job since she was 15 years old, she found herself struggling to find employment until just a couple months ago when she secured a job with Barnes and Noble.
Imagine Beth’s relief when she learned recently she was one of seven recipients of the 2020 UNO Fund Scholarship.
“I wasn’t expecting it at all,” she said. “I got the email and saw how much it was for, and I was like ‘oh my gosh!’ I immediately texted my mom, and she was like ‘yes!’ and they were so excited. It was really, really cool. I was surprised and so excited.”
While there are many scholarships at UNO, the UNO Fund for Student Scholarships is the only one that sees hundreds of alumni and supporters come together and make gifts — last year as low as $5 and as high as $5,000 — to give directly back to students. The scholarship will provide financial assistance for Beth through her expected graduation in May 2022.
“It made life a lot easier,” Beth said. “It lightened the financial load a lot. My family has always put a lot of value on higher education, and I’m just so incredibly grateful for the opportunities I’ve had to pursue a bachelor’s degree. Having that help with tuition and paying everything off, I’m so grateful I won’t be in debt for a long time afterward. That 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.”
The scholarship is just one of many reasons Beth expressed happiness with her decision to attend UNO. Despite the challenges of pursuing a bachelor’s degree in 2021, Beth said that UNO has protected its students while trying to preserve a fulfilling college experience. She appreciated socially distanced events like drive-through celebrations during Durango Days and drive-in movies offered in the Baxter Arena parking lot.
“I really appreciate that UNO has put together events like that, because obviously we can’t all be together and do career fairs and Durango Days like we normally do,” she said. “It was something I was really looking forward to, including meeting other people. But even though we can’t technically do that, I really appreciate that they still encourage you to get out and be involved.”
Beth was also excited that, through careful COVID-19 measures, UNO has been able to continue its choir program, in which she enrolled as a way to continue her passion for music. The lessons, classes and performances have been both virtual and socially distanced, in-person sessions.
“I love singing,” she said. “I did it all throughout high school and junior high. Even though I didn’t pursue that as a major or career choice, I love that I’m still able to improve my singing skills as a hobby and extracurricular.”
While online learning isn’t her preference, Beth said she’s nevertheless become fascinated with her communication studies program thanks to engaging and helpful faculty and staff.
“I had a professor last semester named Abby Syrek,” Beth said. “She was my intro to communications professor, and she was incredible. I never actually got to meet her in person — it was a strictly online class I had with her – but she was so helpful and so encouraging. I had to write a couple of essays for that class, and she was so helpful in critiquing with like, ‘this is what you can change, and this is what you can put in your portfolio for later,’ for internships and things like that. She was so understanding and wonderful.”
Beth noted that she’s taken an interest in how communication has changed during the pandemic, whether because people can’t rely on nonverbal communication due to face masks, or because digital forms of communication have changed how we all interact. She said her studies have already changed how she herself views and interacts with the world.
“That’s one thing that I love about my communications studies — I’m applying what I’m learning,” she said. “I can see what I’m learning in my job, when I’m talking to my friends, when interacting with other people. I can put what I’m learning to use and see how it’s actually working in the real world, which is really cool.”
Beth expressed gratitude that the UNO Fund scholarship has made these experiences possible for her, all the while relieving the financial pressure on herself and her family. Now, she can focus on her coursework this semester, as well as her planned summer courses. She’s expecting to graduate with her bachelor’s in communication studies by May 2022.
“Careerwise, I’m not 100% sure yet what I want to do,” she said. “I’m not super set in any one direction. Communication is very broad, which is another thing I love about it, so there’s a million different directions I could go. It’s kind of scary but also kind of exciting.”
Anna Buchannan carries a motto that we can all relate to right now.
“My motto right now is that if I could just get through this year, that would be enough,” she says, speaking via videoconference, which the pandemic has made ubiquitous for college students.
It’s been a year of changes for Anna — a move from Metropolitan Community College to the University of Nebraska at Omaha, a switch in majors, a new job and, of course, adjusting to the new virtual life of a college student in 2020-21. But she’s not letting these challenge slow her down from achieving her goal of a UNO degree.
“Because I transferred majors, I’m a little behind on my classes, and I want to graduate with my class — that’s a really big focal point for me,” she said. “I know for others, it’s like, ‘who cares if you graduate later?’ But that is not me. I want to graduate with my class.”
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. This fall, Anna became one of seven promising UNO Fund scholarship recipients, receiving financial assistance thanks to hundreds of generous alumni and supporters of the UNO Fund.
“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!”
While there are many scholarships at UNO, the UNO Fund for Student Scholarships is the only one that sees hundreds of alumni and supporters come together to make gifts — last year as low as $5 and as high as $5,000 — to give directly back to students. Thanks to UNO Fund donors, UNO was able to offer Anna a renewable scholarship to cover much of her tuition through her expected graduation in 2022.
An Omaha native and Millard West High School graduate, Anna initially struggled with deciding on a major. She started her collegiate career at MCC, defaulting to nursing because she held a CNA certification. After some time working in the field, however, she questioned whether it was the right career for her.
“As I was almost done finishing my gen eds for nursing, I had gotten my second job as a CNA, working inpatient, and I just had a total change of heart in what I wanted to do,” she said. “I felt like it wasn’t for me to do that for a long time.”
Anna switched her major to business, which offered more options to transfer credits to a four-year institution. She graduated from MCC in the spring of 2020 and started taking courses at UNO in the fall to pursue her bachelor’s degree in business, with a concentration in human resource management and a minor in marketing.
“UNO has a really good business program,” she said, “and I have a million things I would love to do [with the degree].” For the time being, she’s keeping her options open, mentioning that she could envision herself working in human resources, medical sales, nurse recruiting or in management at a hospital or clinic. Additionally, she’s excited to see what opportunities her summer internship will bring. Through a UNO business class, Anna secured an internship with Werner Enterprises in summer 2021, allowing her to get real-world experience in human resource management and recruiting.
“I’m really excited for that because instead of me just being a sidekick, I’m going to be almost like an actual employee getting a full-on, hands-on experience,” she said.
The UNO Fund scholarship and its donors are helping make these experiences possible for her. Currently, Anna is living at home and working part-time to pay for her classes. Before she learned she was a recipient of the scholarship, she was worried she wouldn’t have the funds to pay for her classes and graduate on time.
“I didn’t know how I was going to pay for my spring semester classes,” she said. “I was going to have to take out a loan. Instead, with the scholarship, I got reimbursed for the fall semester, and I used that money plus the money for the scholarship for spring to pay for spring classes.”
“I think as a college student one of the biggest things and one of the biggest stressors we worry about is how we’re going to pay for classes — whether we’re going to have to make payments on it, or if we’re going to have to take out a loan, which then affects years and years of your life,” Anna said. “For me, this scholarship helped me out so much. I’m taking five classes now, and that’s the most I’ve taken here at UNO. I like to focus more on school. Prior to me finding out about this scholarship, I was going to have to work a lot more, so I was trying to figure out how I was going to balance school and work and studying and get everything on the same page. For me, this took off the stress of one, having to pay a debt for this semester, and then two, having to work even more than what I am now. So I got to keep the same work schedule because I was able to have this semester covered for me, so I get to focus way more on my studies.”
The scholarship allows Anna to focus on her course load and catch up with her graduation timeline. Thanks to the supporters of the UNO Fund, Anna expects she’ll earn her degree and graduate next spring.
“I just want to say thank you, because working as a college student and trying to do college in a work-life schedule is seriously so much stress,” she said. “Knowing that people are able to donate money for us to have our school covered and not have to worry about loans or debt or working as much so we get to focus more on our school and our studies is a huge relief, and I’m very thankful for it.”
Anna added that one day, she hopes to pay the generosity forward with her own gift to the UNO Fund scholarship.
“I would definitely consider becoming a donor myself, especially if I’m in a place where I can. Because I’ve been in the position, I would definitely like to relieve that stress for someone else, because I know how big a relief it is.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States, many Americans, especially senior citizens, were faced with fear and uncertainty. But Leah Stednitz was moved to action.
“I have a passion and am driven to work with our aging population, especially the baby-boomer generation,” Leah said. “I love and respect them. They are mentors to me, and we have so much to learn from them as a society. I want to honor them for their contributions to society.”
A native of Springfield, Neb., Leah graduated from high school in 1999 and earned an associate degree in respiratory care from Metropolitan Community College. With her clinical experiences in the years since, she knew she could be helpful to those most vulnerable to the virus. However, she wanted to take her abilities to make an impact to the next level by earning her bachelor’s degree.
“I don’t think it’s going anywhere anytime soon,” she said, “so I want to be a part of the solution to making life better and more socialized for the residents.”
For the last 17 years, Leah has lived all over the United States with her husband and three daughters. Leah married her high school sweetheart, and he attended the University of Nebraska at Omaha before joining the United States Air Force.
“I practiced respiratory therapy for several years, but with raising a family, being a single parent at times and moving every couple of years, I chose to put my career on hold and my family first,” she said. “All three of our daughters are now in school full time, and my husband can retire from the military in three years, so I have chosen to make myself a priority again and figure out what I want to do when I grow up.”
Leah had been putting her professional skills to use by volunteering with elderly citizens when the 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.
Of course, 2020 had to throw extra challenges her way. She simultaneously had to become a homeschooling teacher to her two youngest daughters — teaching fourth grade and kindergarten — and later in the year, her family battled COVID-19. Throughout it all, Leah managed to keep up with her classes and maintain a 4.0 GPA.
Doing all of this on one income was no cakewalk either, so when Leah learned that she was one of 2020’s recipients of the UNO Fund scholarship, she was beyond thrilled.
“I remember calling my husband on the phone and jumping for joy,” she said. “I was so excited and humbled that it brought tears to my eyes.”
While there are many scholarships at UNO, the UNO Fund for Student Scholarships is the only one that sees hundreds of alumni and supporters come together to make gifts — last year as low as $5 and as high as $5,000 — to give directly back to students. The scholarship will provide financial assistance for Leah through her expected graduation in December 2021.
“I am proud to be a part of UNO and have enjoyed my experience,” she said. “I will be the first in my family to graduate with a bachelor’s degree.
“I was honored and truly appreciative to receive this scholarship; it helped ease the financial burden of being a one-income family, the costs of raising three daughters and, of course, not having to live on as tight of a budget. This scholarship brought a peace of mind to help ease the guilt of my financial burden with my student tuition to complete my degree. I also have been able to spend more time with my family in the evenings, being an active mom that they need and deserve. I can designate my daytime hours while they are at school to working out, doing schoolwork, volunteering and giving back to the community.”
Leah’s daughters are back in school now, and she has been able to resume her volunteer work, serving two days a week at Hillcrest Health Services in Bellevue, working with hospice patients. With graduation coming soon, she has ambitious plans for her degree and her experiences working with older populations.
“I may apply for a master’s program,” she mused, “but I know 100% that I want to work with the aging population. I would love to take this degree and run a long-term care facility here in the Omaha metro. 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. Especially during these tragic times, our geriatric populations have been the most impacted by COVID-19.”
Leah especially wanted to thank the donors who have enabled her to pursue her call to service and to achieve her dream of a UNO bachelor’s degree.
“Thank you so much for your contribution to make the UNO Fund scholarship possible,” she said. “This scholarship has helped me further my education dream and helped make it a reality. It means a lot, especially for us nontraditional students who don’t get as many opportunities for scholarships as high school seniors. I truly appreciate the generosity and compassion that you have for donating to help fund scholarships for other UNO students.”
The University of Nebraska at Omaha Marion Marsh Brown Writers Lecture Series has featured some of the world’s most well-known authors, bringing names such as John Grisham, Cheryl Strayed, Lee Child and Nicholas Sparks, to Baxter Arena.
Sara Pedersen hopes to someday join that list.
“That would be an amazing accomplishment,” she said. “That’s when you know you’ve really made it, to be recognized in that way.”
Sara is an aspiring author herself. She crafts stories in the horror and mystery genres, taking her inspiration from Stephen King and R.L. Stine. Last summer she even won a tall tales writing contest hosted by her hometown library in Norfolk, Nebraska. It’s a thriller about a deadly young girl, and it ends with a hair-raising twist.
“I don’t want to spoil the ending for you,” Sara said.
Interestingly, Sara’s own story got a twist of its own recently when she was awarded one of eight UNO Fund scholarships for 2020.
While there are many scholarships at UNO, the UNO Fund for Student Scholarships is the only one that sees hundreds of alumni and supporters come together to make gifts — last year as low as $5 and as high as $5,000 — to give directly back to students. The scholarship will provide financial assistance for Sara through her expected graduation in May 2022.
“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.”
Born and raised in Norfolk, Sara graduated from Pierce High School, then attended Central Community College for three years. She has always enjoyed literature and spends a considerable amount of time at her local library, where she finds joy in discovering new works as well as helping others find what they’re seeking. Sometimes she even makes recommendations.
For these reasons, she wants to become a librarian. She started studying library services at CCC but knew she would need a four-year degree to achieve her dream. In the winter of 2019, she took an online course from UNO (“just to see how it worked — I passed,” she deadpanned). Comfortable with the experience, she enrolled as a full-time student the next fall and is now working toward her library sciences degree.
Furthermore, Sara hopes to complete her degree entirely online. She still lives in Norfolk, and the fact that UNO has one of the best library sciences programs around, coupled with its expansive online course catalog, attracted her to the school.
“I’m trying to get all my electives out of the way, so I haven’t technically taken library classes yet, but I will,” she said. “I’ve taken some sociology classes — my minor is in sociology. For this semester, my classes are astronomy, technical communications, anthropology, sociology and a creative writing class for graphic novels.”
She’s also continuing her own creative writing and considering submitting her work to 13thh Floor Magazine, UNO’s student-run literary journal.
“Even if I am not accepted, it would be great experience, because if I don’t get used to handing in my stuff and getting rejected or approved, then how am I going to get into the life?” she said.
With a full course load and an eye on her career, Sara said there can be a lot to keep track of, but the UNO Fund scholarship has made it so she can focus on her studies and achieve her intended graduation date of May 2022.
She expressed her thanks to all of the supporters who gave amounts both large and small to the scholarship.
“Thank you for picking me,” she said. “Thank you for giving me this opportunity to show you that I’m worth the scholarship. I hope that with my academic career and with my later job as a librarian, that I will make you proud.”
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.