Positive professor teaches students to have positive impact

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Professor Younes, who is chair of the social work department in UNK’s College of Natural and Social Sciences, has left a lasting impression on many students.

Passionate. Inspiring. Enthusiastic.

Those are just a few of the words Dr. Maha Younes’ students use to describe her.

Professor Younes, who is chair of the social work department in UNK’s College of Natural and Social Sciences, has left a lasting impression on many students. Ten years after learning from Younes, two of her students recall stories from the classroom as if it were yesterday.

Megan Patterson, now a school psychologist in Gering Public Schools, said the theme in the professor’s classes was this: You have the power to positively impact someone’s life, and here are ways that you can go about that.

Patterson remembers visiting Younes one day after hearing about legislation she thought was unfair. Younes sat there, nodding her head and listening.

Then she posed a question.

“Well, Megan, what are you going to do about it?”

Patterson said Younes instilled confidence in students so they could make a positive impact on the world.

Patterson described the professor’s commitment to the program and her students as amazing.

“I don’t think she ever sleeps.”

Even though Patterson is no longer working in the social work field, she continues to seek advice from Younes. They have the kind of relationship where you might not talk for a while, but when you do it’s as if you’d never stopped.

“What I remember most about her was that her enthusiasm was just infectious. You could take social welfare and policies class and just have it be absolutely dry as dirt. She came at it with such an enthusiasm and such a passion, you couldn’t help but have fun in her class.”

In 2009, Younes was named Social Worker of the Year by the Nebraska Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers.

Rebecca Czaja-Stevens also was taught by Younes a decade ago. She remembers the same sentiments.

“She not only taught social work, she practiced it.”

Younes would bring letters to class that she was writing regarding policies and ask for student feedback, encouraging the students to do the same. This had a huge impact on Czaja-Stevens, who continues to write letters to policymakers.

As a student in 2001, Czaja-Stevens went on a global policy trip led by Younes to Scandinavia with 19 others. They visited agencies to learn about their policies and practices firsthand.

On a tour bus one day, the group grew restless. So Younes grabbed the microphone and entertained everyone by telling jokes and singing “Old McDonald.”

“She was my first social work mentor,” Czaja-Stevens said. “It would be the ultimate career goal to follow in her footsteps and teach the subject that I love.”

“Personally, I had some difficult experiences during my undergraduate years. Younes and the other social worker professors were always there to lend a caring ear and support me in continuing my education. I could be in the social work area for any reason and she would invite me into her office to just talk about whatever.

“She was the type of professor that went more than the extra mile. If there was something that she could do to help a student then she would do it without thinking twice. She truly inspired me to develop a love for social work and she guided my success within the program. Because of this, I will be forever thankful.”

Patterson described being taught by Younes as one of the greatest honors of her academic life and said the professor’s impact has been like a stone thrown into a lake, forming ripples.

“Although she hasn’t directly worked with the families I’ve worked with,” she said, “her impact has been felt.”

Supporting the best and brightest faculty members – professors like the University of Nebraska at Kearney’s Maha Younes – is a priority of the Campaign for Nebraska. If you’d like to help, please give online or contact the University of Nebraska Foundation at 800-432-3216.

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