Ask an Antelope: John Gibbs helps students navigate their academic and career journeys

John Gibbs didn’t have a clear career path when he enrolled at UNK as an undergraduate student.

“I spent the first year and a half of college as a deciding student. I liked a lot of career fields and majors, but I had a tough time figuring out which one would be the best for me,” he said. “It was through my various college experiences where I learned about working on a college campus professionally, and that led to me pursuing my master’s degree and seeking out positions available at UNK.”

A Lincoln native, Gibbs was active in the Thompson Scholars Learning Community, Admissions Office, Phi Delta Theta fraternity, Mortar Board honor society and Catholic Newman Center. That involvement influenced his decision to work in student affairs.

Gibbs earned a bachelor’s degree in sports administration with a coaching minor in 2015 and completed a master’s degree in student affairs two years later. He currently serves as director of UNK Academic Advising and Career Development.

What positions have you held at UNK?
I started working for UNK as an undergraduate in the Thompson Scholars Learning Community as a peer mentor. From there, I worked in the Admissions Office as a New Student Enrollment leader for two summers and a tour guide for the remainder of my undergraduate career.

Professionally, I worked as an admissions counselor recruiting students in the Lincoln and Omaha areas before I transitioned to Academic and Career Services, now called Academic Advising and Career Development. I have served as an adviser, assistant director, associate director and now the director.

How does Academic Advising and Career Development support students?
There are many services within AACD that students take advantage of to aid in their success. Ultimately, we help students make informed decisions. We want them to understand their options, so we encourage students to get involved on campus and complete informational interviews, job shadows and internships. We assist by making sure they are ready for each step. We help students get their resume prepared, establish an online presence with various platforms like Handshake or LinkedIn, polish their interview skills and understand how to conduct a job search.

Tell us about your role as director:
I enjoy numerous aspects of my current role in AACD because I have many touchpoints with students throughout their academic and career journeys. Navigating the college environment and career expectations is challenging, so I try to meet students where they are and provide the guidance they need to be successful.

On the advising side, I help students who are deciding or changing their major, students who are going to graduate with a Bachelor of General Studies, students who need help with their transition to college and students who are academically suspended. On the career side, I enjoy giving presentations about interviews, building your resume or establishing your professional network. I also critique resumes and run through practice interviews with students.

In AACD, there is a lot of collaboration. I work with colleagues to follow through with various projects like student-athlete support, faculty adviser training, career and internship fairs, graduate placement data, freshman hold meetings, adviser changes and anything else that comes up.

What do you love most about UNK?
Hands down, the students. When I work with a student who enters my office stressed out and overwhelmed and leaves feeling like a weight is lifted off their shoulders, I know that I have made an impact. Being a small sliver in their success is what I enjoy most and what keeps me coming back to UNK.

Share a fun fact about yourself:
It was during my time studying abroad in Ireland when I got hit with all the “feels” for my close friend back at UNK. I ended up marrying that friend, Kerri (Gill) Gibbs. After 8 1/2 years, we have three kids and will add a set of twins to the family. Gibbs, table of seven please!