Chi Epsilon scholarship eases challenge for Jorgensen's final year

Chi Epsilon scholarship eases challenge for Jorgensen's final year

Calendar Icon May 13, 2015      Person Bust Icon By Karl Vogel     RSS Feed RSS

UNL civil engineering student Shelly Jorgensen (second from left) and Oklahoma State's Aiden Carmichael (second from right) were chosen as Chi Epsilon national scholarship winners. They are joined by Glenn Goss, Chi Epsilon national executive secretary, and Deann Sanders, Central District councillor.
UNL civil engineering student Shelly Jorgensen (second from left) and Oklahoma State's Aiden Carmichael (second from right) were chosen as Chi Epsilon national scholarship winners. They are joined by Glenn Goss, Chi Epsilon national executive secretary, and Deann Sanders, Central District councillor.

Shelly Jorgensen knows the final year in her pursuit of a civil engineering degree at UNL will have unusual challenges, but an award she received recently will make things a little easier.

Jorgensen, who just completed her junior year in civil engineering, was selected to receive one of 10 Chi Epsilon National Scholarships. Chi Epsilon is the national honor society for civil engineering, which only admits students in the upper one-third of their junior and senior class.  “The money that came with the award,” she said, “will help ease what will be a slightly complicated final year.”

“It’s nice … very timely. Next year’s going to be expensive, because my family’s moving to California and I’m coming back here because I need to do that in order to graduate.”

Jorgensen by any definition is a non-traditional student. She’s married and has two children, one finishing his freshman year at UNL and the other a sophomore in high school. She also has two previous undergraduate degrees – one in pre-physical therapy from Utah State and one in food science and nutrition from Purdue.

Her husband Bert works for a California-based national laboratory, which sent him to Omaha on a three-year assignment as a special scientific advisor at STRATCOM – the U.S. Strategic Command based at Offutt Air Force Base, near Bellevue.

Bert, who has a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering, was an inspiration for Jorgensen to take up engineering.

“I have two degrees, but I stayed home with my kids. I thought that now that the kids are older and I’m no longer busy doing things at their schools, that I’m going to go back to school myself,” Jorgensen said. “My husband said, ‘You should study engineering. You’d be good at it.’ When we moved here, I decided to try it out. I’ve enjoyed it and it’s gone very well.”

This spring, her husband’s work assignment is ending and the family will be heading back to California.

Jorgensen won’t be taking the summer off, however. She’s eager to begin a materials engineering internship with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, which is east of the San Francisco Bay Area , in Livermore, California. The internship is something she sees as the beginning of an exciting and rewarding engineering career because “there are so many amazing opportunities at the laboratory.”

“When I finish with my bachelor’s degree, I’m going to get a master’s and a Ph.D. in materials engineering,” Jorgensen said. “I would like to work at the laboratory where I have my summer internship. Working at a national laboratory is my ultimate goal.”

But Jorgensen will return to Omaha in August to begin her final year of civil engineering undergraduate studies, without her family. The physical separation will be difficult, Jorgensen said, but her family is very supportive.

“It’s a big decision, sure,” Jorgensen said. “My younger son, who will miss me being at all of his high school football games fall semester, told me ‘You have to graduate.’ And that’s what I’m going to do.”