A new home for good business and for the business of doing good

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A new home for good business … and for the business of doing good

Take a tour of Hawks Hall through the eyes of a student

Surprised to feel a bit nervous, Brenna Backemeyer walked to the plexiglas podium and looked out at the crowd. She knew this was an important crowd.

She knew this was an important message.

She cleared her throat.

Good evening, everyone! On behalf of every student, every faculty member and ever staff member with the Nebraska College of Business, welcome to our house!

Welcome to Hawks Hall! …

Brenna, a junior in the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s College of Business, served as student emcee this past October at the University of Nebraska Foundation’s Annual Meeting of Trustees, held in Howard L. Hawks Hall, her college’s new home.

Maybe she felt nervous because she knew all the people before her represented everyone who’d ever supported the University of Nebraska, year after year, dollar after dollar. She knew donors like these people, through their gifts to the foundation, had paid for every sandstone block and pane of blue glass in Hawks Hall, every tile and table and piece of technology.

Why? Because they wanted to help the state and students like her, the workforce of the future — students they didn’t even know.

She didn’t want to blow it.

She smiled.

… I hope you enjoyed exploring Hawks Hall earlier. As you certainly know, this magnificent, $84 million facility was made possible through philanthropic generosity. This is simply amazing — more than 1,900 people donated gifts of every amount to make this dream possible. …

Brenna, who grew up in Elmwood, Nebraska, had spoken to many crowds before. In high school, she’d won second place in the National Future Business Leaders of America Competition. When she came to UNL and its College of Business, she’d joined the collegiate version of FBLA and became its president. She’d spoken to her high-achieving cohorts in the college’s Business Honors Academy.

The academy was, in fact, a big reason she chose UNL over Brandeis and Emory universities or any of the other schools beckoning her to leave the state.

So was Hawks Hall.

… I was fortunate to be recruited by various other business schools. I ultimately chose Nebraska Business because I knew I would be part of the historic opening of this new facility and because of the care I could tell this campus has for its student. ….

She’d felt in awe just a few weeks before as she walked into Hawks Hall for her first time, on the first day of fall classes. Other students were in awe, too, she could tell, because they were looking up and around instead of down at their phones. She walked into her Supply Chain 350 class and noticed right away how the chairs and the tables were movable, which made it easier for students to rearrange them to collaborate. The technology was neat, too. Everything was neat.

She wore a T-shirt that day, the typical student uniform. But this night, she wore a dark blazer and a dress, and she’d felt a bit odd walking into Hawks Hall in heels.

Her voice grew strong.

… Students have four or five years to grow and prepare for the rest of our lives. Hawks Hall is the facility to help foster this growth and creativity. This is because of its collaborative classrooms, breakout study rooms, convenient location, high-end technology, cafe and much more …

Brenna already knew the value of giving back. She saw it in high school when she’d helped organize a community fundraiser for a business teacher whose grandchild was born with a terminal disease. She saw the tears in the teacher’s eyes when they surprised him at school with a check. That experience taught her that she had a knack for bringing people together to do good in the world.

In college, she became philanthropy chair for her Honors Academy cohort and started a blog called “Home Is Here,” which tells the stories of local refugee families. She saw how stories mattered in making people understand the value of giving back.

That’s why she felt happy to stand at the podium and tell her story.

… This brings me to an important point: No matter where a student may choose to study business or many other programs — whether it be in Kearney, Omaha or Lincoln — they are assured of an education that will prepare them well for their career. Often, this quality education is because of you. …

Brenna got to sit at a reserved table near the front. She sat with a few College of Business alumni. She had fun hearing their stories about what it was like back in the day and about their business journeys through life. They asked her what she wanted to with her life, and she told them she was majoring in marketing and business education and that she’d like to become an entrepreneur and educator someday. She told them she’d learned a lot about herself already in the college’s Clifton Builder’s Program — housed in Hawks Hall — that teaches leadership and entrepreneurship skills, based on students’ strengths, that will help them go out and change the world.

That’s what Brenna hopes to do. Change the world, in some way.

And maybe someday, years from now, she’ll be sitting here in Hawks Hall again as a proud supporter of the university, and she’ll be listening to a student deliver an important message from the heart: Gratitude.

… Many of you have contributed — or you contribute to other university programs of meaning to you. … So, with deep appreciation from me and my fellow scholars, thank you very much!

Needs and opportunities are ever-changing at Nebraska, and through the N Fund, you choose to support what you think is most important. The N Fund allows alumni and friends to contribute to priority funds that support specific Nebraska colleges, as well as broader areas of need like student scholarships, faculty development and campus libraries.

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