Welcome to Love Academically, a Nebraska Today series that snuggles up with the stories of Husker couples: how they met, how they wound up at Nebraska U, how they balance relationships with careers or studies at the university. Because love may be patient, kind and blind, but at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, it’s also academic.
It was shortly after breaking up with Crystal Bauer that Amanda Bergeron realized the two might have a future together.
She was right: Marriage, a son and careers at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln were awaiting the couple. Early in 1999, though, Amanda had eyes only for France.
The Lincoln native had stayed home to become a Husker, but as a freshman majoring in communication studies, Amanda was yearning to study abroad in the land of bicycles, Bordeaux and baguettes. Aside from money, there was just one complication: a new girlfriend.
Their story began at a laundromat. It was there that Amanda’s friend and Crystal’s sister got to talking. Crystal and her sister had recently moved to Lincoln from Brady, Nebraska — a town three hours west, one with fewer people than Amanda’s graduating class at Lincoln High.
Still, both Crystal and Amanda were single, 19 and gay. So the sister and the friend had a thought: Why not get the two kids together and see what happens?
“It was the week before Valentine’s Day,” Amanda said. “(My friend) Nicole introduced us then on purpose.”
Coffee at Perkins turned into hangouts at Amanda’s dorm room in Abel Hall, which Crystal once visited with flowers in hand.
“Not only did I think she was beautiful,” Crystal said, “I was impressed with her smarts. She was just a really interesting person to talk to. I wasn’t used to being around people like that. Most of my people were a little different than Amanda’s personality.”
“Amanda is a very — don’t take offense,” she said, looking over to her now-wife, “just a really loud, loud person. That took me a little while to get used to, because my family’s not—”
“I project,” Amanda corrected her, loudly.
“Yeah… That’s what it is,” Crystal said. “She’s definitely way more outgoing than I am.”
The introvert and the extrovert were getting along famously. But a plan — one still almost a year from fruition — was already nagging at Amanda.
“I was going to spend spring of my sophomore year in France, and I knew I was going to have to save a lot of money,” she said. “I was going to move home for the fall of my sophomore year. I was going to work two jobs in the summer. I was going to be a full-time student. I was going to be busy.
“And I was like, ‘I can’t have a relationship in the middle of all that.’ I think we’d been together, like, six weeks when I broke up with her. That lasted three days. I might not have been in love (yet), but it was, ‘If you don’t really want to break up with her, there’s something there.’”
Europe was still beckoning, but the relationship now had a passport. In early 2000, Amanda went to France. The relationship followed.
It took some doing. Crystal set up her first email account — sometimes biking to the local library to check her messages — and sent Amanda a gift on Valentine’s Day, the one-year anniversary of their decision to formally start dating. Amanda called from phone booths after nights at the bars in France, catching Crystal as she was getting off work.
“We would just talk until the phone card ran out — usually about two hours,” Amanda said.
A few months after Amanda returned to the States, the couple moved in together. In 2003, Amanda finished her bachelor’s in communication studies. The former benefited from the latter, Crystal said.
“In a way, it helped us have a stronger relationship and helped us grow,” she said. “I learned a lot from her by listening to her talk about her studies and felt like we were able to apply some of them to our relationship.”
After graduating, Amanda took a job as a recruitment and retention coordinator for the Office of Graduate Studies. It wasn’t long before she was also a Husker student again, pursuing and earning a master’s degree in educational psychology.
Crystal, meanwhile, had landed a job cooking at the same Abel/Sandoz Dining Hall where Amanda ate as an undergrad. She continued there until 2009, when Amanda gave birth to their son, Emmett. Looking for a day care center, the couple met with Tish Roland, then director of the UNL Children’s Center. The center wasn’t scheduled to open for another few months, so Roland gave the new parents a glimpse of the floorplan.
“She said, ‘That’s the kitchen. You’re probably not really interested in that,’” Crystal recalled. “And I said, ‘Well, I work for UNL in a kitchen.’ And she’s like, ‘Do you want a job?’”
“(Tish) was ready to climb across the table, she was so excited,” Amanda said. “Because she hadn’t known who they were going to get to be the cook.”
Crystal applied and got the job. Her first day at the center was also Emmett’s. Soon she was cooking him breakfast and lunch, with an added benefit: getting to play with him over her own lunch breaks and peek in on him during spare moments outside the kitchen. She was also getting to know his classmates and burgeoning friends.
“My favorite part of my job is the kids. I have the best job in the center. I don’t have to make lesson plans or anything — and no diapers, nothing,” she said with a laugh. “And there are a lot of siblings who come through (the center). Watching those siblings grow, it’s really fascinating to see how different they sometimes are.”
The job, which Crystal still holds, has helped the family in other ways. When Emmett was still a toddler, Crystal and Amanda were struggling to meet other same-sex parents. Then a lesbian couple enrolled their child at the day care — the first of a few Crystal and Amanda have gotten to know through the center.
“We were able to get connected with other families,” Amanda said. “It was really beneficial for us and nice just to get together (for playdates).”
Amanda’s career eventually wound through the School of Natural Resources, as an undergraduate recruitment coordinator, to the College of Education and Human Sciences, where she’s now an academic adviser. The insights into learning and development that she gained while earning her master’s degree from the college, she said, have proven especially useful in guiding the students now enrolled in it.
“I really enjoy working with college students — getting to see them go from being freshmen who don’t know what they’re doing, to being juniors who really know what they’re doing, to seniors who are like, ‘Oh my gosh, what am I going to do now?’ It’s just a really exciting time in people’s lives,” she said. “I enjoy hearing students’ stories and seeing those ‘aha’ moments.”
She isn’t done learning, either. With a bachelor’s and master’s from Nebraska in hand, Amanda is now pursuing her doctorate in leadership studies.
“One of the things I love the most about Amanda is her drive to want to know more and learn more, so I’m lucky to see how much she continues to grow,” Crystal said. “I’m even luckier to have her share that with me.”
“I just think the university has been the backdrop of our life together,” Amanda said. “There are only two years, of the 22 we’ve been together, when one of us didn’t work here or wasn’t a student here. Our whole relationship, the university’s been a part of our lives.”