December 1, 2023

Griffin builds varied, impactful career across university

From teaching in the classroom to earning degrees of her own, Professor Jemalyn Griffin has made use of every moment she’s spent on UNL’s campus.

From teaching in the classroom to earning degrees of her own, Jemalyn Griffin has made use of every moment she’s spent on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s campus.

Jemalyn Griffin’s contributions to the university span nearly a decade and extend to departments across campus, culminating in a leading role in the development of the College of Journalism and Mass Communication’s Experience Lab.

“In all my roles across my career, the common thread is developing young leaders and seeing them change and influence new generations,” said the assistant professor. “That’s really what drives me to do what I do.”

Though Griffin received her five-year service award in October, her work at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln began in 2013. She first worked as assistant director of recruitment for the Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts before serving as the marketing and communications director for the Office of Graduate Studies.

Before coming to the university, Griffin honed her public relations skills in her home state of California, running strategic communications for clients that included healthcare and nonprofit organizations, a former NFL player, education and more.

According to Griffin, these intensive and varied communications experiences translated seamlessly to student recruitment at Nebraska U.

“It was a natural progression for me that also allowed me to mentor young people and see them evolve as leaders — and that really inspired me,” she said.

Griffin’s years at Nebraska are divided in half by a stint at Harvard University, where she served as the Director of Content and Digital Marketing Services in the Division of Continuing Education there. Even after returning to Nebraska, Griffin continued to connect Husker students with the vast network she’s built across campuses and coasts.

“Having connections helps me do my job better — I find I’m a better professor of practice if I can put my money where my mouth is and connect students with the industry,” she said.

Nebraska’s mission brought Griffin back as a professor in 2018 (“I missed the Grit and Glory,” she said). The emphasis on the power of every person resonated with her on a personal level, connecting back to her own family’s values.

“Being first-gen and growing up low-income, you learn to take education seriously because you realize it’s a path to make your life better. Education has literally changed my life and my family’s life,” she said.

She cited her ability to help her brother attend UNL during a difficult time of transition in his life as one of the many ways Nebraska lives out its values, setting her brother up for a successful career as a teacher. Griffin also took advantage of the university’s educational opportunities herself, utilizing tuition remission to earn her master’s degree and pursue a doctorate.

“It makes me emotional, because that’s exactly what the university system is for and why I love land-grant institutions like UNL. They’re meant to serve the people and create opportunities,” Griffin said.

Service, both to Husker students and to the Nebraska community, informs much of Griffin’s approach as an assistant professor in CoJMC. A co-creator and inaugural co-director of the Experience Lab and executive director for the student-run ad agency, Jacht, Griffin has helped create countless experiential, real-world opportunities for Huskers across strategic communications, journalism advertising and public relations.

“Helping develop the Experience Lab was a highlight in my career,” she said.

The work done by students in the Experience Lab not only bolsters their own resumes and skillsets, but also has tangible, lasting impacts on the local businesses and clients they support. Griffin takes pride in this bridge between the classroom and the community.

“Jacht worked with a local here in Nebraska who started a business building high-end cutting boards, helping him raise $250,000,” she said. “Talk about changing a Nebraskan’s life. That’s the power of experiential learning. You’re not just talking about things theoretically — you’re implementing them.”