After many years of working behind the scenes and ensuring everything goes smoothly during commencement ceremonies, registrar staff members Scott Krienert and Mary Jane Morgan will be among those celebrating a graduation milestone as both earn master’s degrees in educational administration.
The co-workers embarked on the program two-and-a-half years ago.
“We had conversations about it, and when Mary Jane said she was considering it, I thought this was a good opportunity to go for it and have a study partner,” said Krienert, planning and advising systems coordinator. “And it was nice to have a sounding board to bounce things back and forth with.”
It was also beneficial to have a co-worker in a similar position — beginning their coursework in the spring of 2020, amid the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We were so overwhelmed in the office, that it was hard to even wrap our heads around trying to do something outside of work,” said Morgan, enrollment services coordinator.
Krienert, who was coordinator of graduation services previously, said registrar staff were part of many efforts to establish new processes for remote working, teaching and advising, and make a graduation meaningful for a group of students who could no longer celebrate with a traditional in-person ceremony.
“The end of spring and into summer was an incredible whirlwind — the logistics of everything, especially making graduation meaningful for 3,600 students while being remote, were incredible,” Krienert said. “It was a very difficult to have a work, study, life balance with all of that thrown into it.”
Despite that inauspicious introduction to their studies, both relished the experience. Morgan, who got her bachelor’s in K-12 music education from Drake University, realized she enjoyed the administrative side of education more than the classroom when she was hired by the Office of the Registrar in 2016. The master’s degree will allow her to continue her career and possibly create new opportunities.
“Education is really important to me — it’s something I’ve put a lot of time into and has a lot of value — and once I started here, I found this other side of education super interesting,” Morgan said. “There’s been a lot of things we got to dig deeper into in class that have been applicable to our jobs. The degree grants some mobility, but I think it’s also been really beneficial to me, this job, and our office.”
Krienert, who received his bachelor’s in history from Nebraska before working in several different industries, is following some advice from his dad, Gene Krienert, who had a 47-year career at Nebraska before retiring in 2017, two years after his son joined the university staff.
“My dad told me I really needed to do this,” he said. “He always wanted to, but never did because he had kids and other responsibilities. He said, ‘you have this benefit, you need to use it.’ But it took me a while to decide on a program.
“I feel like higher ed is my career path — and I’ve had a bunch of careers — but I wanted to do something that would accentuate that and help me along that path.”
Both Morgan and Krienert also credited the mentorship of their boss, Steven Booton, university registrar, with encouraging them to pursue a master’s degree, and specifically in educational administration.
“We have an awesome opportunity here with the free credits as part of our benefits, and I wanted to use it, and go into something that I would find interesting,” Morgan said. “And Steve encouraged us and told us it was a great degree.”
Krienert or Morgan each decided not to walk during the Dec. 16 graduate commencement ceremony, but they’ll be integral to the celebrations of those who do.
“I’m so used to being behind the scenes, it felt right to celebrate in the background,” Krienert said. “Right now, all the diplomas have been printed, and we’re doing quality checks on every single one of them. I’ll follow the diploma truck on Friday, like the Secret Service, to make sure everything is in the right place at the arena, and I’ll be back on Saturday at 5 a.m.”