Many feel a strong connection toward the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, but Brittany Brakenhoff, a research sssistant professor in the Center on Children, Families and the Law, can claim something few others can — she’s been a Husker since preschool.
When she was four years old, Brakenhoff attended a head start program at the Barkley Center on East Campus. She later returned to NU as an undergraduate in the Child, Youth and Family Studies program, where she found research opportunities that inspired her to pursue a career in academia.
“I participated in the McNair Scholars Program, which helps underrepresented groups like first-generation college students and BIPOC students enter into doctoral programs,” she said. “The program introduced me to academic research, which I ended up really enjoying, and is what set me on the path to pursuing a Ph.D.”
The research Brakenhoff participated in as an undergraduate focused on substance use and homelessness, a community service-oriented field that resonated with her. Her desire to pursue research would eventually lead her away from Nebraska — though not forever.
“I went to graduate school at Ohio State, and that’s where I got my Ph.D. in Couple and Family Therapy,” Brakenhoff said. “But it was always my hope that I would be able to move back to Nebraska and build a career there.”
Now with the CCFL, Brakenhoff applies her research — centered on youth experiencing homelessness — to the Lincoln and Nebraska U communities that have helped her get to where she is now.
“It’s a meaningful fit for me because a lot of the work at CCFL is about improving the systems of care for disadvantaged groups in Lincoln,” she said. “Thinking about myself growing up in a disadvantaged family, it feels good to now be in a position to improve the systems that help families like mine.”
Brakenhoff remains thankful for the opportunities she received through Nebraska that have allowed her to bring things full circle and give back to the Husker community.
“It feels good to show that these programs work, because they really are made to help students,” she said.