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Megan Nelson, a spring 2006 graduate of the University of Nebraska at Kearney, is one of only 40 students in the nation to be selected to receive a $2,000 Phi Kappa Phi Award of Excellence fellowship.
The Phi Kappa Phi Award of Excellence is given to students who will be attending graduate school in the fall. When notified of her selection for the award, the Ord native said she was excited and flattered.
“Initially, I just felt honored to be selected to represent UNK, since there were several other students from UNK with just as impressive credentials who applied,” Nelson said. “To be named a winner in the national competition was something that I really didn’t expect, so it came as an exciting surprise.”
She will attend the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha this fall where she plans to earn both a Pharm.D, for pharmacy practice, and a Ph.D. in pharmacology. When asked why she chose UNMC, Nelson said, “I had the opportunity to interview at several other pharmacy colleges, and although I may be a little biased since I’m a lifelong Nebraskan, I can honestly say the people at UNMC were 10 times friendlier than they were at the other schools.”
After earning degrees from UNMC, Nelson plans to work in the pharmaceutical industry, possibly as a researcher.
“I enjoyed my research experiences at UNK so much, and that really helped me to realize that a career in research may be for me,” Nelson said. “The great thing about a career in pharmacy is that the field today is wide open, and there are so many career paths you can follow. I’m excited to explore all of my options.”
As a student at UNK, Nelson was recognized with numerous honors. She was named both the Co-General Chemistry Student of the Year and the Co-Organic Chemistry Student of the Year, which are awards given to the top students in the respective classes as decided by the chemistry department. The biology department also selected Nelson to receive the Deanna Delaet Memorial Scholarship for two years. In addition to earning a place on the Deans’ List all eight semesters at UNK, Nelson also was a member of Phi Eta Sigma honor society, Phi Kappa Phi honor society, the National Deans’ List and the National Scholar’s Honor Society. Finally, Nelson scored in the 98th percentile on the Pharmacy College Admissions Test.
“She is a real gunner,” said Dr. John Hertner, chair of the UNK biology department. “She is very charming, articulate and has a great sense of humor.” Dr. Hertner said that if the UNK grading scale gave fractional credit for A+ grades as is done for B+ grades, Nelson would have graduated with a GPA well above a 4.0. “As it is, she graduated with ‘only’ a 4.0,” Dr. Hertner said.
Praise for Nelson is not just limited to Dr. Hertner. Dr. Don Kaufman, UNK professor of chemistry, said of Nelson’s academic performance, “Whether judged by campus or national standards, Megan was an exceptional student.” Dr. Kaufman said that Nelson was an enthusiastic learner who exuded her courtesy and cheerfulness in the classroom.
“She is a mature, confident young lady whose honesty and integrity I fully trust,” Dr. Kaufman added.
Dr. Kaufman ended his description of Nelson’s character by saying, “Megan truly is among the best of the many fine students that it has been my privilege to have in my classes during my many years at UNK. I’d take a ‘whole room full of Megans’ in my classes any day.” The admiration between Nelson and her professors is mutual.
“I honestly believe that these professors are some of the best anywhere. Not only do they spend time teaching class, running labs, doing research, and learning more and more about their field, but they also put in the time to get to know each and every student. They are real teachers, as well as brilliant people,” Nelson said.
A biology major and chemistry minor, Nelson said she chose to attend UNK for undergraduate work after an exhaustive college search. “I knew that I could excel in a place where I wasn’t just a name or number, but an actual person with strengths and weaknesses,” Nelson said.
At the UNK campus, Nelson was actively involved as the secretary of Mortar Board and a member of the Honors Program. Nelson served two years on the executive board of the Conrad Hall Council, where she helped plan and put on Conrad Hall’s first two Sand Slam volleyball tournaments. She was also a member in the Student Alumni Foundation for three years, as well as the Health Sciences Club for a year.
When asked about student life at UNK, Nelson said, “I really enjoyed my time on campus the past four years, and would recommend campus living to anybody. It really allowed me to open up to new people and step into leadership roles that I wouldn’t have done otherwise.”
Complementing Nelson’s extracurricular activities was her community service. She volunteered at food drives, blood drives and recycling drives. Additionally, Nelson participated in Habitat for Humanity and Hurricane Katrina relief efforts, and read to the elderly at nursing homes and to elementary students in the Reading Rendezvous program, which is sponsored by the UNK Honors Program.
Nelson also worked through college. She worked at Hogan’s Sporting Goods for two years and Haeberle’s Pharmacy for one year. She also worked full-time at Morris Press for one summer.
As for advice, Nelson said what helped her through college was time management. “I set a clear list of priorities when I first started college, and they never really changed over the four years. Always at the top of my list was school, because that is what I came to college for, and I had a lot of people that I didn’t want to let down. Also near the top was a part-time job, not really because I wanted it to be there, but merely out of necessity. After those two, I just proportioned my time out to as many other campus groups and activities that I could fit in, while still leaving myself a little down time for family and friends,” Nelson said.