Ask an Antelope: Jen Harvey dedicates career to helping students reach their goals

Jen Harvey has been a Loper since she was an undergraduate student at UNK. The Minden native graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Education in 1998 and a Master of Arts in Education in 2005.

She began her career at UNK in 2001 as a graduate assistant working in Residential and Greek Life, where she served as the hall director at the former University Heights apartments. Harvey transitioned to another role within the same department in 2006 after finishing her graduate program. In 2008, she became program coordinator for the Thompson Scholars Learning Community (TSLC), a living/learning community for students who are awarded the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation Scholarship at UNK. She was promoted to director in 2010 as the community continued to expand.

Why did you choose this career path?
While I did choose to work in education, I didn’t plan this career path. My goal was to become a high school-level educator. I taught English and social studies between 1999-2001. I really enjoyed teaching those subject areas and met some incredible educators and students during those years.

When I became a graduate assistant at UNK, I felt drawn to work as an educator in higher education. I had some phenomenal mentors in my early years working at UNK, including Dr. Lois Flagstad, Anita Kucera, Gail Sims-Aubert and Dr. Robert Luscher. They helped me understand how I could use my educational competencies and experiences to assist students with the transition to college, as well as their holistic development at UNK.

What is the importance of TSLC? How does it serve our students?
It demonstrates that with financial support and educators trained and dedicated to how we best serve students, we can better support every student who wants to be successful in college. Research studies have been conducted about how TSLC validates students, and those practices can be duplicated at UNK and beyond. TSLC has a particular focus on helping at-promise students reach their goals. The learning community tailors the educational experience for scholars to navigate college knowing they always have dedicated educators who believe in them and will help them for the duration of their undergraduate journeys.

What’s the most enjoyable part of your job?
I love the relationships I develop with the students in the community while they are at UNK and beyond. It is extremely rewarding to meet them as they transition from high school to college, learn about their aspirations, and then collaborate with them over several years to reach their educational and personal goals.

Because TSLC focuses on serving students throughout their undergraduate experience, I get to know students very well. For most students in our community, I am a dependable resource, and over time, I become more of a trusted mentor. Some students even refer to me as “Mama Jen” and I take that as a compliment because I do think of the students in our community like family.

What do you love about UNK?
I love that I have so many connections with people through UNK. My husband, Rashawn Harvey, assistant director of Student Support Services/TRIO program, and I met during our undergraduate years and have built a life for our family in Kearney because we love this community and institution. As alumni and first-generation graduates, we have a deep appreciation for our success at UNK and have established a network over the years with many students, staff, faculty, coaches and administrators.

At this point in my career, I am particularly gratified to collaborate with fellow educators seeking to make higher education more accessible and equitable for all.

Share a fun fact about yourself:
My favorite film is the 1939 MGM classic “The Wizard of Oz,” and I have collected many “Wizard of Oz”-themed items that are displayed in my office. My favorite item is a large sign with a quote from author L. Frank Baum that reads: “You’ve always had the power my dear, you just had to learn it for yourself.” I love reflecting on that message with scholars as they have “aha moments” about their development or capabilities, especially with first-generation students.

“Ask an Antelope” is a Q&A series highlighting UNK faculty and staff and their impact on the campus and community.