Helmink discovered career path helping peers as a Husker undergrad
Marybeth Helmink is being honored for 20 years of service to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, but she’s been helping Husker undergraduates since she was a student.
Just after her freshman year here, Helmink — now an adviser for the Department of Psychology — became a volunteer orientation leader for New Student Enrollment, and then became president of Love Memorial Hall.
“I just really liked working with the students,” Helmink said.
For her service to students and the university, Helmink will be honored along with more 1,000 university employees at the Celebration of Service Sept. 25.
After graduating in 1986, Helmink pursued a master’s degree at Kansas State University in adult and occupational education, with a specialty in student personnel development.
In 1987, she began as assistant to the dean in the College of Human Resources and Family Sciences, which is now part of the College of Education and Human Sciences, but quickly moved to student advising.
“I discovered advising is really my bent,” she said.
Helmink has continued advising in some capacity ever since. In 2003, she left full-time work to raise her son. Two years later, she began advising students in the Explore Center during the summer months. This temporary work lasted 10 years.
“That allowed me to stay connected to the campus, my colleagues and the students,” she said.
She joined the psychology department full-time in 2015, where she advises about 300 students, meeting with 10-15 students each week. With each student, Helmink takes an individual approach.
“I think they’re so bombarded with information, that it can be difficult to hone in on what they’re really interested in, so my view of that, is ‘how do you build your story at UNL?’ That’s what I talk with them about,” she said. “I ask, what are your gifts and talents? What do you love to do?”
Since starting her university career in 1987, Helmink has seen a lot of changes, from college mergers to budget cuts to the extinction of paper registration forms. One of the biggest shifts is the relationship between students and parents.
“More parents now have college degrees and so they have a more vested interest in the college experience of their children, and I think this generation is much more connected to their parents in a positive way,” Helmink said.
Helmink also knows first-generation students have a different experience and may not have that parental knowledge and support system. She’s thankful the university has adopted a vigorous approach to helping first-generation students.
“That’s been great,” she said. “I love all the programs we offer those students.”
Besides the fulfillment she gets from working with students on a daily basis, Helmink also finds enjoyment in working with her advising colleagues. She is active in the university’s Academic Advising Association and was co-chair of its 2017-2018 conference committee.
“We’re a well-connected group, and the College of Arts and Sciences and the university both do a good job of keeping us up-to-date on the resources available for students,” she said.