An especially loyal employee

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UNO graduate Trisha Ponce, who now works for Union Pacific, was once the recipient of its scholarship.

You feel it right away when you start working at Union Pacific, she says – the culture of caring for others and for the community.

You feel it, she says, when you step on the elevator and there stands an executive, acting like just another part of the team.

You feel it and you realize that this culture is making you a better person, too.

“I feel very proud to work for a company that isn’t only focused on their bottom line,” UNO graduate Trisha Ponce says. “They care about their communities, and they are making positive impacts. That has really helped to shape my loyalty to Union Pacific and in turn, my work ethic.”

Trisha is 25. She graduated from UNO with an accounting degree in 2011 and now works as a business manager for Union Pacific’s Mexico sales team. A former intern, she works at the company’s headquarters in downtown Omaha. Her job takes her to Guadalajara, Monterrey and Mexico City.

The first time she felt the company’s generosity was when she received a Union Pacific scholarship as an undergraduate. It helped her achieve her dream of being the first in her family to graduate from college.

“My mom was very proud,” she says. “She has always encouraged me to pursue my education, and receiving the scholarship also reflects on her hard work bringing me up as a single mother.”

Trisha says Union Pacific executives get involved in the community and encourage employees to do so, too. She recently joined two local nonprofit boards: The Heartland Latino Leadership Conference board and the board of ALPFA Nebraska, a Latino association for business professionals and students.

She feels good knowing how much Union Pacific has given over the years to students like her at UNO and how much it has given to UNO in other ways. Among them:

* Union Pacific created the Union Pacific Community Chair in Computer Science Education at UNO last fall. The first recipient of the endowed chair is Dr. Brian Dorn, who left the University of Hartford to take it. He will use it to promote and enhance computing education locally, regionally and nationally. (Dorn, a Nebraska native, was especially thrilled to have the Union Pacific name associated with the chair. “It’s where my grandfather spent his entire career,” he said.)

* Union Pacific is one of the three main donors to the new Barbara Weitz Community Engagement Center, which officially opened on campus in April. The CEC, located south of Criss Library, serves as the front door to the campus and is a signature venue for community outreach. The center supports university-community partnerships and helps meet growing demands for community meeting and planning space. Its atrium bears the Union Pacific name.

* Union Pacific is one of the major donors to the new UNO/Community Arena, which is being built on South Campus.

* Union Pacific’s former CEO Jim Young, a UNO graduate himself, served as UNO’s campaign chair for the University of Nebraska Foundation’s current fundraising initiative, the Campaign for Nebraska. Young died earlier this year after a two-year battle with pancreatic cancer.

Trisha remembers the first time, as a new employee, she met Young in person. This was a few years back. She was nervous.

“He was a very down-to-earth guy, grew up in South O, attended UNO and became CEO of a Fortune 200 company. He was the type of person to inspire trust in others right away.

“We celebrated the life of Jim Young at Union Pacific, and everyone can tell you that he really cared about the people, about the employees of Union Pacific.  He helped create the culture that we have here today, where you’re not just an employee, but a person.”

Trisha is one of about 750 UNO graduates who work at Union Pacific. Current president and CEO Jack Koraleski also graduated from UNO.

Says Koraleski: “Jim Young and I were raised in South Omaha, had similar, middle-class childhoods and spent our careers working for Union Pacific. We had many similarities, but one that stands out is where we chose to receive our business education: UNO.

“This world-class university, which happens to be right here in our hometown, equipped us with the skills we needed to compete in the global marketplace and end up leading one of America’s greatest companies.”

Trisha’s dream is to continue to grow with Union Pacific. When she started, she was surprised to have so many people tell her that they’d been working for Union Pacific for more than 30 years.

It’s obviously a great company, she says, and that’s why people stay.

“I appreciate what Union Pacific did for me as a student as well as the support I continue to receive as an employee,” she says. “Every dollar invested in scholarships for students is an investment in our country’s future. There is so much talent out there, we can’t allow it to be held back simply because of a financial challenge. … Private companies like Union Pacific donate money because they want to help. This helps create a stronger workforce.

“It’s a win-win for everyone – the company, the schools, the students and the community.”

Student Support is a priority of the Campaign for Nebraska, now in its final year. Since it began in 2005, the campaign has raised about $197 million for UNO and has created 623 new funds, including 267 for student support, as of July 31, 2014. If you also would like to help, please consider giving online or contact the foundation at 800-432-3216.

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