grad 1

Jackie Powell graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 1977. She now owns her own financial planning and advisory firm in Pennsylvania, and she’s a mentor in Cather Circle, a women’s networking program for UNL students and alumni.

Daily Nebraskan: What memories stand out from your time at UNL?

Jackie Powell: I majored in university studies — basically a liberal arts major. I was from Grand Island, so coming to the university was pretty big step. I lived in Smith Hall. HSS were the new dorms at that time, and there was always a sense of community. I remember when it came time to choose your classes, there was no computer programming. You had to punch cards. You’d pull cards in the union to choose your classes, and when the cards were gone the class was full. You’d go and stand in these long, long lines and pull cards.

I go back a couple times a year. It’s wonderful how the campus has continued to grow and make UNL a world-class institution. It’s really wonderful. Weekends were your fun time. My boyfriend then – my husband now – there were racquetball courts under the stadium, and we’d play on Friday nights then walk downtown to Godfather’s and get pizza and beer. We’d go to Duffy’s and play shuffleboard and drink beer. The drinking age was 19 then, so it was a little different.

The university experience is what you make of it. At the time, you feel you’re so stressed. But you have to take advantage of all the things on campus. Intramurals were always really fun. It’s sort of that common bond. A lot of things center around football on Saturdays, but there was just a lot of pride. I always felt my professors were engaged with us, even in abig class. If you reached out, they were willing to help you. Everybody finds their niche.

My husband and I met as new student orientation hosts sophomore year. We got to tour the students around and take them to the football field, that was the highlight.

DN: What did you think of the dorms and facilities at the time?

JP: We thought they were wonderful. My recollection was the start of the cafeteria being food-friendly where you had more options, like a salad bar. Schramm Hall was co-ed, which was relatively new. They were new and clean and nice, just a little further from the rest of campus.

DN: When you graduated in ’77, what did a degree from UNL mean in the workforce?

JP: Student internships. They were a stepping stone. Employment is contingent upon the opportunities you take, not just the degree. I remember looking for jobs, and it was difficult. I started out in financial planning and stayed in it because I liked it so much. A degree from UNL is definitely worthy, but it comes down to what the student does with it.

I worked in Lincoln for a while after I graduated; then we moved. My husband went to dental school on an army scholarship. We were stationed in Pennsylvania and stayed because I started my practice. Where I am now, it’s quite rural. One thing I’m really proud of is Midwest sensibilities, being from the Midwest where values are important and people are kind and look out for others. Those things are ingrained in us, and they really do make a difference.

DN: What are your thoughts on the 30,000 enrollment goal?

JP: The expansion, I think it’s very forward thinking. I like the idea of not replacing everything that’s old but making sure things are upgraded and contemporary and we remain competitive. My son went to UNL, actually. He got a journalism degree in ‘09, then a degree in science teaching and graduated last year. We visited some places on the East Coast and just felt like UNL was way ahead on facilities.

DN: Do you think UNL can meet the goal?

JP: It’s like any business. You’re planting the seeds down and figuring out how to accomplish it. How that would stress the infrastructure, I’m not really sure. But I do know as far as alumni, everybody’s trying to band together to promote UNL to people who live outside of Nebraska.