Seminar Spotlight: Jenny Keshwani
We're excited to join in on today's interactive seminar about the importance of increasing diversity in agriculture and natural resources, presented by Cultivate ACCESS, an innovative program that can help connect current high school freshmen, sophomores and junior students with mentors (via distance) and help them discover and find a place for themselves within the agricultural industry. The program is designed to help Nebraska students from diverse backgrounds and who have a particular interest/aptitude in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) and agriculture-related areas to discover career path possibilities and network with current industry professionals and university students. Members of the team include Deepak Keshwani, Leah Sandall, Julie Bray-Obermeyer, Sydney Everhart, Yi Xuen Tay, Taylor Nielsen, Olivia Drennon and Jenny Keshwani, who we are spotlighting today.
Where is home for you? Where did you receive your education?
I grew up on a sugar beet farm outside of Fargo, ND. I attended UNL for my BS and MS in biological systems engineering and then moved to the University of Missouri-Kansas City to pursue an interdisciplinary PhD in oral biology and engineering.
Tell us a little about your path to where you are now.
While I was a student at UNL I had a few different opportunities to experience leading groups and presenting in front of people. Despite always being on the quiet/shy side I realized that I really enjoyed asking people tough questions and getting them to think about topics in new ways. Because of these experiences I decided to pursue a PhD to become a professor. Throughout my education I always spent my personal time helping educate others – I was a physics tutor, helped lead summer camps, volunteered at an urban learning center, mentored refugee women sell their produce at a farmers market. Empowering others has always been something I enjoyed doing. When I graduated with my PhD I had an opportunity to move back to Nebraska for a position within Extension teaching engineering to youth and K12 teachers. This meant giving up my research career in biomedical engineering, however I was able to make my hobby of empowering others part of my job – which was a pretty cool opportunity. Since starting with Nebraska Extension I’ve had many unique opportunities to empower others through project such as Cultivate ACCESS.
What is something people don't know (or that you wish they knew) about where you're from?
Every time I mention that I’m from Fargo people will ask if it’s like the movie, Fargo. Fargo is nothing like the movie, haha. In fact, the movie was primarily filmed in Minnesota.
The Red River Valley of the north (not to be confused with the Red River in Texas…) is one of the flattest places on earth. I always giggle a little bit when people say Nebraska is flat – it’s not North Dakota flat.
Are you engaged in currently or have you been a part of any international work?
We are currently exploring opportunities to expand Cultivate ACCESS, a virtual mentoring program, to Rwanda.
Why is it important for institutions like the University of Nebraska to create opportunities to hear from people with diverse experiences?
Learning from others is an opportunity to build empathy, practice thinking creatively, gain perspective on our own struggles and successes, and identify tools to solve the big challenges of our world. Building empathy can help us promote civil dialogue/discourse that respects differences and learn more about ourselves in the process.
What is one piece of advice you would share with students?
Take advantage of the amazing opportunity you have during college to try lots of new experiences. Join clubs, travel, meet new people, try different jobs, explore research. As a college student, you have a lot of freedom to explore and find your interests and passions. Even if you try something that you later realize you do not enjoy – that is a valuable lesson that will guide your future endeavors.
Please be sure to join us for the conversation about increasing diversity in agriculture and natural resources, November 5 at 12:00 p.m. If you miss the live version, we will post a recording on this link if it is available.