By TYLER ELLYSON
KEARNEY – Grace Magill calls the University of Nebraska at Kearney her “home away from home.”
Over the past five years, she’s spent the majority of her time on the UNK campus.
It’s where she met some of her best friends; where she was encouraged to step outside her comfort zone and take on new challenges; and where she maximized her talents while gaining professional experience.
“UNK was kind of a one-stop location for me to do everything I wanted to do, and it was where I was most comfortable,” said Magill, who graduates Friday with a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a marketing emphasis and a minor in visual communication and design.
A native of Arnold – located about 90 minutes northwest of Kearney – Magill was drawn to UNK as a senior in high school.
She received the Ron and Carol Cope Scholarship and UNK Distinguished Scholar Award, which covered a large portion of her educational costs, and was impressed by the business program during her campus tour. Brewed Awakening, the student-operated coffee shop, definitely caught her eye.
Located in West Center, which houses UNK’s College of Business and Technology, Brewed Awakening gives students an opportunity to put their skills and knowledge to work in a true business setting.
Magill got involved as a freshman and made an immediate impact.
She initiated a proposal that added an espresso machine to the coffee shop so specialty drinks could be sold and met with the college’s dean to develop a payment plan for the purchase. Magill also led a project that replaced the business’ outdated cash register with a new point-of-sale system, negotiated with local vendors to bring new products to the shop, redeveloped the Brewed Awakening brand, improved marketing and communication and started a Valentine’s Day cookie promotion – all while working as a barista and covering open shifts.
“Because of Grace’s contributions, Brewed Awakening has reached many goals and is more successful than ever,” said Aliese Hoffman, the coffee shop’s adviser and assistant director of UNK’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Rural Development. “Running a business is demanding, and Grace did this as a volunteer. She sees the opportunity in challenges and made the best of her undergraduate career at UNK.”
Magill served as president of Brewed Awakening for three years, helping the business turn an operating loss into a small profit.
“There were so many ins and outs of the coffee shop,” she said. “Most people don’t realize how many details small-business owners must pay attention to. It was nice to see the work I put into the coffee shop make a difference financially.”
In addition to her commitment to the coffee shop, Magill was employed as a student worker in UNK’s Office of Financial Aid. As the student employment coordinator, she assisted fellow Lopers looking for part-time positions on campus or within the Kearney-area community and helped organize an employment fair during Blue Gold Welcome Week.
Last July, she accepted a full-time office associate position in financial aid, a job that allows her to do “a little bit of everything,” including the marketing and design work she enjoys.
Magill was also heavily involved in Greek life on campus. She joined the Gamma Phi Beta sorority after going through informal recruitment during her second semester at UNK.
“It was an eye-opening experience,” Magill said. “UNK’s Fraternity and Sorority Life is so much different than a bigger university.”
Through Gamma Phi Beta, Magill developed lasting relationships with her sorority sisters and gained confidence as a leader. She held three executive positions, including chapter president, studied abroad in Italy and helped organize fundraisers for McKenna’s Rae of Hope Foundation, the S.A.F.E. Center and Girls on the Run, a nonprofit that encourages young girls to develop healthy lifestyles and positive self-esteem through weekly lessons and running activities.
“It was nice to see the things I did could really have an impact on the community,” she said. “Once you realize you can accomplish all these projects and plan all these events, you feel like you can do anything.”
A former resident assistant and vice president of Enactus, a student organization focused on business and entrepreneurship, Magill’s involvement and dedication to UNK and the Kearney community were recently recognized by the UNK Alumni Association, which selected her as one of five Outstanding Seniors for 2020.
Hoffman describes Magill as someone who “puts her best into everything she does.”
“Grace is a driven individual who is very passionate about the organizations she was involved with during her time at UNK,” Hoffman said. “She is a proud Loper and a great example of how students find their ability to lead at UNK.”
Magill, who turns 23 on Saturday, credits her professors and mentors for pushing her to new levels while providing the support she needed to succeed.
“If I had to do it over again, I would always choose UNK,” she said. “It was a really great experience.”
That experience isn’t over yet.
Magill chose UNK again when she decided to enroll in the university’s Master of Business Administration program, which she’ll begin this summer.