Natalie Jones is wistful and proud when she speaks of her family’s homestead, Diamond Bar Ranch.
As a fifth-generation Nebraskan and rancher, she hopes to eventually move back and help run the sprawling cow-calf operation, established in 1901 north of Stapleton in the Sandhills. But for now, she’s happy to be giving back to the institution that has been her second home and will soon be her alma mater.
After she graduates Dec. 20, she’ll take a much-needed breath back on the ranch before returning to her office in Agricultural Hall Jan. 2 to launch her career as a media specialist for the IANR news division. Since her freshman year, as an agricultural and environmental sciences communication major, she has been a student worker for IANR news. The new position will be a seamless transition.
“It feels a little bit like my college career came full circle. I chose my major freshman year and I never thought about switching,” she said. “I’ve always been interested in taking photos and sharing our story of life on the ranch. It’s so picturesque and beautiful there. When I heard about this major, I thought it sounded awesome. It just kind of fit naturally with my interests.
“One thing about my parents is that they’ve always been supportive and they’ve always been amazing and encouraged all of us to go out and gain new experiences. It’s not easy to know I’m not going back to the ranch, because I love it there, but I know I’m going to continue to grow here, as a person and professionally in my career, and that’s exciting.”
There was never any question of where she’d go to college. Much like the ranch, Jones’ family connections here run deep. For as long as she can remember, Jones spent days in Lincoln as her grandparents and parents purchased tickets for the family to attend athletic events and spoke fondly of their experiences on campus.
“My dad was a CASNR graduate and my mom was interior design,” Jones said. “And both of my grandparents on my dad’s side came here, which isn’t as common. My grandpa always said how important education was. He played football for the Huskers and my grandma and her three sisters were members of the Alpha Xi sorority so I followed that legacy.”
Jones’ sister is a sophomore at Nebraska and is also a member of Alpha Xi, and her two younger brothers, who are still in high school, are likely to be Huskers, too.
“It was super scary to leave my hometown of Stapleton, which has 305 people, but I love it here,” she said.
Jones quickly became enamored with East Campus and made it home. She threw herself into her classes and also worked for agricultural companies. Jones served as a communications intern for Superior Livestock Auction in Fort Worth, Texas, and is currently finishing up a remote internship for Certified Angus Beef in Ohio, which aligns with her minor in the Beef Scholars Program.
“It’s been a balancing act, but I think one of my biggest strengths is just my perseverance and my work ethic,” she said. “Growing up on the ranch, you know, you have to be resilient. Even when times get tough, you have to keep going. I just always try to stay positive and just keep working hard.”
Jones said she values the time she’s spent as a student here, especially the opportunity to meet so many people with diverse backgrounds.
“It was a huge eye-opener for me, and I really respect and value all the different perspectives everyone has,” she said. “That’s one thing I would tell incoming students is to network and make connections, and be proud of who you are because everyone is coming from a different background.”