Name: Kerri Gibbs
Title: Registered Nurse, Platte Valley Medical Group, Kearney.
Education: Bachelor of Science in Nursing, University of Nebraska Medical Center at Kearney, 2014; Undergraduate studies, University of Nebraska at Kearney, 2010-12; Cozad High School, 2010.
Family: Husband, John, admissions counselor at UNK; Infant son, Logan.
By TODD GOTTULA
KEARNEY – Confidence. Independence. Opportunity. Accessibility. Motivation.
The words Kerri Gibbs and others use to describe the Thompson Scholars Learning Community come easily.
“Thompson Scholars and the Buffett Scholarship made such a difference in my life,” says the Cozad native and 2014 University of Nebraska Medical Center at Kearney graduate. “It made me the person I am today.”
Now working as a registered nurse at Platte Valley Medical Group in Kearney, Gibbs attended University of Nebraska at Kearney for two years as part of the Thompson Scholars program before getting her UNMC nursing degree.
She credits Thompson Scholars for changing her life.
“It helped me become more outgoing. Coming in to college, I was a very shy and introverted person. I was really nervous about college and making friends,” she said. “Living on Mantor third floor gave me a comfort zone and brought me out of my shell.”
Gibbs is one of the hundreds of students to participate in Thompson Scholars, which is celebrating its 10th year at UNK.
A living/learning community for students who are awarded the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation Scholarship, the program began in 2008 at UNK, University of Nebraska Omaha and University of Nebraska-Lincoln through a partnership between the University of Nebraska and Buffett Foundation.
The learning communities are named in honor of former UNO Dean William H. Thompson, the father of Susan Thompson Buffett.
There currently are 429 students enrolled in the UNK program, and more than 900 have entered the program in its first 10 years. Approximately 100 new UNK students receive the Buffet Scholarship each year.
The Thompson Scholars community promotes academic, civic, social and leadership development to help students achieve academic success, become engaged in campus life, and graduate from college. The program focuses primarily on the first year, when students are transitioning to college, but it also provides services to second- through fifth-year students. First-year Thompson Scholars are housed together in Mantor Hall.
They are assigned mentors who are academically a second-year student or above. These mentors also are Thompson Scholars who live within the Mantor Hall community. They play an integral support role in giving academic advice, connecting scholars to UNK resources and building relationships, said Jennifer Harvey, the program’s director.
“Living together during the transition to college provides students the ability to build relationships alongside peers with the same academic and scholarship expectations,” said Harvey.
By sharing academic pursuits, students are more able to connect their academic course work to their personal lives, providing for a more meaningful college experience, added Harvey.
“Alumni tell me they always think of themselves as Thompson Scholars, which tells me they take great pride in the community and legacy they are part of.”
Gibbs is one of those students who speaks proudly of her Thompson Scholars experience. She met her husband, John, through the program, and he continues to work for UNK and promote it as an admissions counselor.
“We owe so much to the program and everybody involved with it at UNK,” Kerri Gibbs said. “I grew personally and academically. It offers so much encouragement, and so many resources, to so many people.”
Many Thompson Scholars students are the first in their families to attend college and have a financial need for access to college.
While in the program, students practice fundamental skills such as time management, social development, academic success habits, professional communication, cultural awareness and civic responsibility.
“I have so many stories of students overcoming incredible odds to stay in college and to graduate,” said Harvey. “Some of my favorite stories are about Thompson Scholars alums who connect in the world with our current students, and the confidence that gives current Thompson Scholars that they can reach their goals, too.”