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By Connie White
Jennifer Davis feels at home in Nebraska.
“It’s not too crowded. It’s not too big,” she said.
She likes driving into the city to attend classes at the University of Nebraska at Omaha then taking the half-hour drive home through the countryside to Louisville. She even appreciates Nebraska’s unpredictable, if-you-don’t-like-it-just-wait-five-minutes weather.
“I like the weather,” she said. “I like how you go from winter to spring, and you really get to enjoy the different seasons.”
That’s why Davis plans to stay in Nebraska after she graduates in May with a civil engineering degree.
Though Davis attends classes on the UNO campus, her degree will be from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. As the state’s only engineering college, UNL’s College of Engineering offers classes on the City Campus and East Campus in Lincoln and on the Scott Campus in Omaha.
Davis, 22, has lived all over the world. Born in Landstuhl, Germany, near Ramstein Air Base, Davis moved nine times as a child with her family, including stays in Spain and in five U.S. states, as her father, Air Force Col. Randy Davis, received new assignments. Davis said she considered following in her parents’ footsteps (mom Marjorie was in the Air Force for six years) and serving in the military.
But Davis wanted to build her career in Nebraska, where her father grew up and her family relocated after he retired from the Air Force in 2012.
Davis attends UNO on a full-tuition Regents Scholarship. She also received an honors scholarship her freshman year that came with a laptop. The scholarships “took a lot of stress off of us,” Davis said, noting the financial assistance has allowed her to complete her degree without student loans.
After graduation, she hopes to use her engineering degree to safeguard one of Nebraska’s greatest natural assets.
While in high school, she read several books about clean water and its importance to community health. Those books lit a spark — one that put purpose behind her interest in biology and math and led her to study civil engineering.
She sees water as a blessing and wants to ensure that the water coming out of the kitchen faucet is safe to drink and that the wastewater going down the drain is properly treated before flowing into rivers and streams.
“It’s invaluable that we have access to water in the U.S.,” she said. “Look at other areas in the world —you can see that they don’t have that access to water.”
Davis said she feels at home on UNO’s Scott Campus, where she spends most of her time in the Peter Kiewit Institute. Her classes are small, with typically 20 to 30 people, so she knows her classmates. She has participated in research relevant to her field, including a project to monitor COVID-19 in wastewater. In addition, she completed an internship with the Missouri Department of Transportation and is currently working an internship with Olsson, an engineering and design firm.
Davis spends one day a week at a wastewater treatment plant in Lincoln that is being updated to run more efficiently. She said she likes the combination of outside experiences and engineering coursework.
“It’s good, experience-wise, to do an internship, go back to class, and see ‘oh, that’s why they’re teaching this,’” Davis said.
Next summer, she plans to marry fiance Nate Andres, a cyber security major at UNO, and start her civil engineering career in Omaha or Lincoln, ideally in the field of wastewater treatment.
“I want to make sure our water is being cleaned as well as possible to help protect the environment and just to be good stewards of what we have been given,” she said.