Member of the Month - June, 2017 - Jill Choate 

Jill Choate@dgomtnmom
Area of Study:  BS in Elementary/Special Education, MA in Special Education/Behavioral Disorders, and a Ph.D. in the area of Special Education Administration 

Background: My passion is ensuring that all students have access to learning no matter what they bring to the classroom be that disabilities, giftedness or just the crazy adolescent brain!  I have taught students with disabilities for 20 years in the public schools with 6 years in Ogallala, Neb. and 14 years in Durango, Colo. I am currently an assistant professor at Fort Lewis College, a small liberal arts college in Durango, with my focus being on students from a variety of backgrounds with different learning styles and needs. My current research interests include adolescent brain development and creating growth mindsets in adolescents, specifically during the middle school years. However, growth mindsets are pertinent to all of us at any age and helps to ensure the ultimate goal of being a lifelong learner through continual growth!

What is your favorite NWLN memory?

Choosing just one memory is difficult because I create a new favorite after every conference! I always enjoy the wide variety of programming we receive at each conference, which is refreshing. They are typically quite different than the professional development I receive as an educator, but they are always applicable to some facet of my life and always stretch my thinking. However, I believe my favorite memories are making connections with my fellow Nebraskans and hearing their stories. Last conference, I met someone who grew up with one my best friends, and it was fun to share stories about our memories of small town Nebraska.

What is the best advice you have ever received?

“Follow your heart, it will never lead you astray”  I have found this to be true personally, professionally, and in all of life’s adventures! Although this is not an easy task to do sometimes, as we often follow the logical side of life, if we have the courage and strength to truly follow what our heart tells us, true happiness will come.  

If you had one wish, what would you wish for?

If I had one wish for myself personally, it would be that I lived closer to Lincoln so that I could attend the many functions and opportunities the NWLN offers along with those from this fine university. Professionally, my wish would be that ALL students have equal access to educational opportunities while also feeling supported and understood in the classroom. Many of our students bring significant needs to our educational system and though I don’t believe teachers should be solely responsible to meet all these needs, I would like educators to have more freedom to build curriculum and instruction around the individual needs our students bring. When a teacher understands their students, amazing things can happen!





May 30, 2017
Mentoring Monday: How to be a great mentor

There are so many considerations when deciding how to be a mentor, but some are better than others. We have comprised a list of the top four qualities that a mentor should possess to create a strong bond with their mentee:

  • Take an interest in your mentee’s passions

    The better you know someone, the more likely you are to give good advice. Alongside this, a mentor-mentee relationship is personal and calls for a certain level of engagement. By sharing hobbies and interests, you can build a much stronger relationship to start the relationship.
  • Let them grow and give guidance when needed

    As we heard at the conference, it is sometimes best to allow your mentee to feel complexity so that they can learn and grow. This is tricky because you will need to gauge whether to help or back off when they encounter a problem. This will come with time and practice, so make sure to keep track of what you do.
  • Be honest about mess-ups

    Honesty is necessary in any relationship, especially between mentor and mentee. Honesty builds trust and trust is why your mentee will want to take your advice to heart. I am sure there are some career difficulties that you encounter, so share those with your mentee and help them to avoid similar pitfalls.
  • Be supportive!

    Everyone needs encouragement, and your mentee is no different. Be excited for them when their career plans work out and encourage them when they don’t. Your show of support may be all that they need to get back up and try again.

Mentoring is a road of learning and can be challenging at times. Make sure to practice our four tips to become a great mentor!






May 15, 2017
Mentoring Monday: Is it Time to End the Relationship?

When meetings become either unproductive or are no longer beneficial, it may be time to end the mentorship. This doesn’t mean that you cut off all ties with each other, but you should schedule a meeting to talk through your concerns and ways to stay in touch. Here are some helpful tips to move through the transition.

  • How to know if it’s time

    Most mentor-mentee relationships begin with goals that each individual wants to accomplish. Give yourself some time to go through each of those goals to truly assess their current relevance for both the mentor and mentee. If you have completed those goals or your priorities have changes, consider transitioning out of the relationship.
  • Share what you have learned

    In your final meeting, have both mentor and mentee share how they grew in the relationship and any changes that you noticed in the other person. This helps the mentor to improve on future relationships as well as give guidance to the mentee for when they take on the mentor role with a new individual.
  • Provide closure

    As a mentor, make sure to ask the mentee if they want to continue a friendship in the future. This gives them an option to display their opinion without any future awkwardness. Make sure that both parties are clear on why the relationship ended and what a potential friendship will look like.

When the mentor-mentee relationship has officially ended, dynamics will of course change. Both parties must assess whether you have the time and are prepared to take on a new mentee. This will be a big change for the original mentee, so give it thought and step into the ring with confidence! 

For more information on mentor-mentee relationships, click here. »





Member of the Month - May, 2017 - Olivia Beier 

Olivia BeierJunior Undergraduate Student
Accounting and Economics Major

What is your favorite NWLN memory?

My favorite memory is the connections I was able to make with others on campus as a freshman. The first few months of school, I was feeling very lonely and lost; however, through NWLN, I was able to get to know many other women with similar interests to mine on campus and around the nation. 


What is the best advice you have ever received?

The best advice I have ever received is a little cheesy, it is that you either succeed or you learn, meaning that every failure is a chance to better yourself. 

If you had one wish, what would you wish for?

If I had one wish, I would wish for more wishes! Or, I would wish that individuals could see the impact that providing education to our society has on the community.





April 24, 2017
Mentoring Monday: Maintaining the Relationship

Your first meeting is under your belt and the initial introductions are out of the way, but what happens next? Maintaining the high energy and efficiency of your first meeting may be challenging, but it is necessary to create a beneficial relationship. We have compiled a few helpful suggestions to keep your meetings productive and helpful for both mentor and mentee.

  • Maintain reliability

    Continue to have regular meetings. This way the meetings become habitual and easy to plan for. Remember that things do come up every once and a while, so give them a heads up of at least 24 hours. You want to respect the other’s time. Another way to do this is by showing up 10 minutes early to settle down and get everything ready for your meeting. If you have an agenda, arriving early will keep you stay on task.
  • Have assignments ready

    Growth is a big part of the mentor-mentee relationship and one way to initiate that growth is through assignments. Mentors, give your mentees assignments that will build skills or knowledge to accomplish the goals they told you about. These might include creating a LinkedIn account, resume review, or a task that is major related. Think about what you wish you had known when you were their age and help them with that.
  • Try new things

    If your meetings are becoming mundane or even boring, ask your mentor/mentee to go out for lunch or take a walk instead of heading to yet another coffee shop. Mixing up the routine can add some well needed life to a relationship, and keep the both of you looking forward to future meetings.

With all of this in mind, remember to be patient. A strong mentor/mentee relationship takes time and trust to build, so it isn’t going to occur over night. Some relationships can last up to 20 years if maintained correctly, so keep at it and work for your goal!





April 17, 2017
Mentoring Monday: Setting up a Meeting

Mentees, this one’s on you. You now know who your mentor is, so it is time to reach out to them. Whether it is by phone or email, begin by introducing yourself and asking for a time to meet up for about an hour. If you happen to be a very busy person, make sure to write down what times you have open to cut down on future back-and-forth conversations. Mentors, give your mentee some time to reach out to you first, but be willing to make first contact if they forget. Giving them the opportunity to practice professionalism is very beneficial to their growth.

You now have the meeting scheduled, so what’s next? Have a plan of what each of your expectations and goals of the relationship are. These won’t always match up, but they help to get a sense of what each person is thinking in regards to the relationship. For mentors, let your mentees know if there is something that you are not able to do for them. It’s better for them to know limitations right away so that no one is disappointed later on. Shown below is a potential run-of-show for your first meeting and what each person should do to prep for it.


  Mentees Mentors
& Cover Letter Exchange
 (15 min.) 
Share your professional experiences and academic background.  Share your experiences, especially those relevant to your mentee's experiences and aspirations. 
Review Goals (15 min.)  Share goals for your professional development and mentoring relationship.  Reflect on which goals you're best positioned to assist with, and in which ways. Let mentee know which you cannot help with, and point them towards alternative resources, if possible.  
Refine Goals and Develop Strategies (15 min.) Discuss with your mentor which goals you can work towards together, and the required first steps. Determine the focus of your next meeting. 

With mentee, choose a few goals and first steps.

Establish Meeting Times (10 min.)  Discuss times, dates, and places for meetings.
Plan to meet for 60 minutes, at least once a month. 
Discuss with your mentee your preferences for between-meeting contact (email, office visits, etc.) as well as your availability. Ask them about their constraints; do not assume that they do not have preferences. 
Wrap Up (5 min.)  Express appreciation! Thank your mentor for his or her time and effort. Recap what you'll be doing to follow up, and what you'll be discussing at your next meeting.   Review and confirm any commitments you've made to mentee.  



Now you are ready for your first meeting! Take a deep breath and go into it with confidence. Good Luck!





Member of the Month - April, 2017 - Jill Brown 

Jill BrownBachelor of Science Degree in Agricultural Journalism
Masters in Educational Administration
External Relations, Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources

What is your favorite NWLN memory?

I love campus. Always have, always will. Anytime alums come to campus and get to see what I see every day, that’s my best day and memory. Let’s make another memory soon!


What is the best advice you have ever received?

10-80-10 – 10% of the world is always for you, 10% is working against you and 80% have no particular opinion about you.  Be very thankful every day for the top 10%, let the bottom 10% go and focus on the 80%.

If you had one wish, what would you wish for?

The ability to remember names! Names are personal and powerful. There’s no greater feeling than when someone calls you by name. I wish I could recall the name of every person I’ve met, that would be fantastic.







March 13, 2017
Mentoring Monday: Elevator Speech

They say ‘you never get a second chance to make a first impression,’ so why not be prepared? An elevator speech is a thirty second summary of who you are, what your aspirations are and what you have to offer to your listener. This pitch is also a great tool to have during networking events, like the NWLN spring conference. Here are some helpful tips to construct a killer elevator speech for any situation.

  1. Set a goal
    What do you want to leave your listener with when you finish talking? Do you want to connect with them or are you job searching? Whatever you decide your goal to be, make sure it is clearly alluded to in your speech.
  2. Give some background
    This part covers the basics of introductions: your name, where you grew up, where you work, your position, or even where you went to school. These will of course change from person to person depending on where you are in life, so use your best judgement as to what you want people to know.
  3. State your highlights
    It’s okay to brag a bit. People have a knack for remembering random and unique aspects of others, so use that to your advantage. Ask yourself what makes you unique when compared to everyone around you. This is a tough question, so give yourself enough time to think carefully about your selling point to gain the result that you want. 

If you have remaining time after your pitch, don’t forget to follow up with a question. They showed interest in you, so give them a chance to talk about themselves. You never know where a conversation may lead you!






Member of the Month - March, 2017 - Jenna Brende 

Jenna Brende

Senior Undergraduate Student
English Major with a Business Minor

What is your favorite NWLN memory?

I am not sure if I have just one—but two that come to mind are receiving the NWLN Internship scholarship that allowed me to take an unpaid event planning internship with the nonprofit, Downtown Sioux Falls, where I got to help plan and volunteer at events that ultimately help upgrade and enhance the vitality of our downtown and encourage community involvement. The other is being able to network with so many empowering women that want to help other women succeed!—including my mentor, Amy Goodburn.  


What is the best advice you have ever received?

I’ve received a lot of great advice in my life, but my favorite is to “always be a little kinder than necessary.”

If you had one wish, what would you wish for?

That’s a really tough question—but if I had to limit it down to only one wish, I would wish for everyone to have the opportunity for an education. Now more than ever, we need global citizens with the capacity to empathize with others from diverse backgrounds different from our own and with the social and political happenings in our country and world today.  We need to lift each other up.






February 27, 2017
Mentoring Monday: I don’t know how to talk to my Mentor!

If you find yourself saying, “I want to learn from my mentor, but have no work experience to relate to them,” then don’t worry! For many students starting their first mentor-mentee relationship, knowing what to ask is the most difficult part in preparing for the meeting. That’s where we can help. We have compiled a few questions to steer you away from “What do I say” to “I can do this!”

  1. F.O.R.M.
    You probably already do this without realizing it. When you meet new people one of the first questions we ask is, “Where are you from?” or “What do you do?” Simply put, FORM is just an acronym for family, occupation, recreation, and motivation. These are all topics that give a background to both yourself and your mentor as well as locate something that you two have in common. This often catapults into our next question.

  2. “If you were in my shoes, what would you do?”
    This is another starter question that puts both mentor and mentee on the same level, making initial communication easier. They have been in your shoes before, so why not ask them what they did? Maybe it was speaking to a professor about your shared hometown or possibly an organization in which your mentor met a future employer. Either way, it opens up a new horizon of possibilities for you to then go do.

  3. “My greatest weakness is ____, how do I work on this?”
    Yes I know, this is a tough one. No one enjoys casually talking about what they do poorly, but what a great way to get advice on how to improve! The mentor-mentee relationship is one of trust and encouragement. Being vulnerable can be difficult, but the rewards (and advice) outweigh the costs!

Read more here. »


Member of the Month - February, 2017 - Kari Schmitz 

Kari Schmitz

Claflin, Kansas
B.A. in Political Science, International Studies, and Pre-Law with minors in music and Spanish M.A. (2007) in Political Science

I worked at Kansas State University as an Admissions Representative for four years before moving onto the International and Selective Admissions Manager position for the next five years. After that I began working at GTM Sportswear as the Executive Assistant to the Owner and CEO for four years until I moved back to Lincoln, Neb., working at Nebraska DHHS as an Operations Consultant. I am currently attending University of Nebraska College of Law (2L) and working as a law clerk at Hudl and UNL General Counsel.

I’ve been married for six months to Bryan, who works at Kidwell, and we have a dog named Oliver.

What is your favorite NWLN memory?

I am SO IMPRESSED with NWLN - and jealous it doesn’t exist at my former alma mater! It has tremendously lifted my pride in being a Husker. I’ve been involved with the Network since 2015, and each of the conferences I have attended has strengthened my professional network, renewed my spirit, and inspired me to connect with fellow members. I loved hearing from Brittany Jones-Cooper at our most recent conference, and the personal messages she shared from the women who impacted her life caused me to reflect on how fortunate I am to also have strong women who have positively influenced my life.

What is the best advice you have ever received?

I need all the help I can get! I have received valuable advice throughout my life. Something that has always stuck with me is a gem of wisdom from my former boss, Dr. Pat Bosco, Vice President of Student Life at K-State. I requested a short meeting with him to go over some market share reports. We sat down at his desk and I saw the piles of papers, messages to return, and unanswered emails. He had a million things going on, and here I was, a 22-year-old newbie in my first job. I apologized for taking up his time since he was obviously busy and asked him how he dealt with distractions and remained focused enough to get anything done. He replied that when he meets with someone, that person is his #1 priority. He said to sit down, look the person squarely in the eyes, and listen intently to what the person has to say. Nothing else is more important at that moment than that person; people should always come first. They want to be heard. This advice has served me extremely well in so many ways, and I always strive to give people my full attention and make them feel valued.

If you had one wish, what would you wish for?

Selfishly, my wish right now is to do well on my upcoming law school exams! Ha! Aside from that, I wish that there was a 24-hour waiting period before a social media post was made publicly/privately available. I think giving people a chance to rethink their position and responses outside of the heat of the moment could reduce some of the negativity and bullying I see on social media.





Member of the Month - January, 2017 - Gloria Mwiseneza 

Gloria MwisenezaFirst Year Student 
Integrated Science

What is your favorite NWLN memory?

My favorite memory was the dinner during this year’s fall conference!

What is the best advice you have ever received?

The best advice I have received is to love and listen to each and every person.

If you had one wish, what would you wish for?

I would wish to be independent and useful to my community.





Member of the Month - December, 2016 -  Alyssa Amen

Alyssa Amen

Graduate Student
Master’s Degree in Integrated Media Communications
College of Journalism and Mass Communications

What is your favorite NWLN memory?

I just joined NWLN in September of this year, so I’d have to say my favorite memory is how easy it has been to get connected with other women! My mentor, Liz, has been fantastic. Liz lives in Dallas, Texas, and we met up several weeks ago while she was in town for a football game; she and her husband are big Huskers fans! It is so great knowing you have other women in your corner supporting you and wanting to see you succeed.

What is the best advice you have ever received?

I’ll go with the most recent advice that stuck out to me. I was reading a recent ESPN article on Husker coach Mike Riley (funny, because I don’t follow football at all—but I love a good feature story). In the article, his wife talked about why she admired Mike: He’s not a worrier, but rather, he focuses on ‘the next right thing.’ I love that, and I think it’s also great advice. Yes, it’s great to plan and be proactive about the future. But ultimately, life is also a series of small next steps. Staying focused on ‘the next right thing’ sounds like the perfect antidote whenever you feel overwhelmed with the size of your to-do list, the scale of your career ambitions, or whatever else it is you’re facing.

If you had one wish, what would you wish for?

That’s a tough question! There are so many compelling issues, from poverty to gender equality. However, if I could just have one wish, I would want everyone to have an opportunity to take a trip of their choice. Through travel, I’ve experienced such rich personal connections and natural beauty—from National Parks to foreign countries to adventures in my home state (Nebraska). I think there’s something really special about traveling that allows you to see “home” through a new lens and makes you even more appreciative of the adventure in your own backyard.






Member of the Month - November, 2016 - Genon R. Murray

Genon MurrayFacebook Name: Genon Rost Murray 
LinkedIn: genonmurray

Genon offers an eclectic background with BS in Education, an MA in Counseling and MFA in Creative Writing. She has over twenty-five years of experience developing and delivering projects for private business, education, health and entertainment through her storytelling company. Her work includes original creative concepts, brand story development, digital marketing content, broadcast communication content and training curricula development. Notable clients include Universal Orlando, Walt Disney World, Nickelodeon, Lockheed Martin, Melia International, WestGate Resorts, Arizona State Parks and IBM among others. In addition, her background and experience in counseling offer next level understanding of demographics, coaching and team building. Genon’s specialties include creating original stories and engaging communication tools, leading diverse teams of professionals toward achievement of storytelling and business goals, and facilitating group work in self-development and team building. Genon is a Nationally Certified Counselor who holds a certification in Digital Storytelling from the University of California – Berkeley and certification from the Gallup organization as a CliftonStrengthsfinder assessment provider and coach.

What is your favorite NWLN memory?

My favorite NWLN memory is difficult to choose. Each conference I have attended has provided me with inspiration, professional development, trending insights and best of all – fellowship with some of the most amazing women ever; many of whom have become dear friends. I do have a few moments that stand out including a long phone call from my first mentee when she was choosing between internships, running into a fellow member by accident at a function in New York and sharing the experience together and the Gallup EP10 workshop that led me to coaching. I think the common thread of these experiences for me is the incredible power of the fellowship of this collective group of dynamic women as well as their impact on me both professionally and personally. My life has been permanently and positively changed by the NWLN.

What is the best advice you have ever received?

I received some of the best advice I have ever been given at the beginning of my career. It came from Bob Meyers who was at that time the Executive Vice President of Special Projects for Viacom Networks. He told me to “never underestimate the power of being brave, staying genuine, remembering to be kind and believing in (my) dream”. I think the fact that I could see he lived those words on a day to day basis had as much impact on me as his taking time to share them with me. 

If you had one wish, what would you wish for?

If I could have one wish, it would be achievement of the United Nations' goal of reducing the number women and children effected by extreme poverty by half through global gender equality and global availability of primary education to all children. I really believe that by maintaining a strengths based focus of supporting and mentoring each other, women worldwide including those of us who are members of NWLN can be the leaders in ending the cycle of poverty, and I continue to watch for opportunities to do my part in making this wish come true!





My own personal map quest 

By Jane Hirt

When I was in Paris this spring, I walked 180 miles.

At least, that’s what my iPhone said (and my sore feet back it up).

I’ve visited Paris many times, but recently I’ve become curious to know what it would be like to live there. And this year, my husband and I had the opportunity to try it for five weeks.
There are so many wonderful things about that city—from food to history to culture -- but I think walking is my favorite thing. 

Every day, I set out from our apartment in the 2nd arrondissement toward something new.
I walked down street after street, up to 10 miles some days.  I took unknown routes through charming passages and abrupt lefts down tiny streets flanked by medieval buildings. When I got really lost, I got out my phone. But after weeks of wandering, I slowly but surely started to know where I was.

Bit by bit, the dizzying Paris grid – if you can call it a grid—started to connect in the  map in my head. And soon I no longer had to consult the map in my phone as often. I kind of knew where I was going.

In that way, walking Paris was a little like career networking: Each path taken contributes to a larger map; new routes lead to better places, until eventually you kind of know where you’re going and can march on with confidence.  

Now, if career networking only included more chocolate tours, it would be exactly the same. 
I managed to activate my Nebraska Women’s Leadership Network while I was there. My husband and I rented a big enough apartment so friends and family could visit. No fewer than three members of The Network stayed with me for some of the time. My friends of 30 years Shannon Harner and Shaun Vanneman came to stay, as did one of my mentees, Hailey Konnath, who is currently traveling the world on her post-grad gap year.

So five weeks and 180 miles later, my networks are stronger – the human kind and the brain kind. 

And I’m looking forward to the day when I can go back and add another 200 miles to my Paris map.