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An Unplanned Pathway to Success

An Unplanned Pathway to Success

May 8th , 2019

Jessica Rehtus has come to find that in life, some of the bests paths end up being the ones you least expect to take. Growing up in Minden, Nebraska, she always wanted to be a teacher. In high school, psychology interested her. A person with talent to perceive potential in others, and a strong core of beliefs around the importance of family and her faith, it seemed logical that teaching or counseling children might be a good match. When contemplating her college options, she had never seriously considered Midland University. She came for a visit anyway. That was when many unexpected discoveries took place.

On her initial visit to Midland, Jessica did not expect to walk away thinking, “This is where I belong.” But, once she took a tour of campus and met golf coach Warren Kuhl, she had found her home for the next 4 years. “I could tell he really cared, not just about the athletes on his team, but for them as students and as persons. He wanted me to find the best fit and to be successful. I wanted to stay.”

Golf Coach Kuhl had this to say about Jessica, “From day one on campus you knew we had gotten lucky! Her dedication and drive to be her best, in golf and in the classroom was so obvious. She worked so hard. And while she worked, she never forgot teammates and friends. She was always there for them. Her faith and family have given her solid values which she has used throughout her years at Midland. Whether you look at her outstanding GPA or her hole-in-one at a conference meet, she was always the same caring and hard-working person!”

Jessica entered into Midland University as a Psychology Major. As she completed some Sociology courses, she found another area of great interest. “Professor Megan Nielsen made them so interesting! I loved those courses.” She added a second major and began to think about her career options and internships. Double majoring in Psychology and Sociology, there were many career options to consider. She decided to further explore social service work through a summer job shadowing experience at a foster care agency. While she highly respected the work that was done there, she also discovered that social work was not her greatest passion.

As she continued to explore her options, she poured herself into her courses. She took advantage of the opportunity to conduct research that focused on childhood factors that affect later life success, and discovered a passion for researching. Says Dr. Nielsen, “Jessica has amazing potential. She is one of those genuinely bright students who also tries really hard and is going to push to not just get the A but the A+. Although she is not always necessarily the first person to answer the question in class, you know she has the answer but is just keeping it to herself. I've seen amazing growth throughout her time at Midland, including pushing herself to present at the Nebraska Undergraduate Sociological Symposium in Crete, Nebraska last November and at the Midwest Sociological Society conference in Chicago, Illinois just this April.”

Jessica built her resume through her research and presentations, and through leading, volunteering, and being involved on campus in such groups as the Anderson Leader Program, Psi Chi international honor society for psychology students, and the Pi Gamma Mu international honor society for students studying the social sciences, taking on the role of treasurer in both Psi Chi and Phi Gamma Mu. She worked part-time as a Midland work study for 2 years in the collaborative partnership with Washington Elementary school, and 2 years as a test proctor in the Quiz Lab. She enjoyed participating in the Midland University Golf Team.  She explored graduate programs in social psychology and sociology, and she searched for an internship that would help her to further discern her career path.  All the while, Jessica was building on her talent to organize, plan, prioritize, communicate, and be a collaborative teammate in classroom groups and on the golf course.

When Dr. Nielsen told her about the “Hands of Hope” internship with the Casa de Esperanza organization in Houston, Texas, a non-profit organization that provides residential care to children birth through six who are in crisis due to abuse or neglect, Jessica immediately did her research on the opportunity.  She applied and was offered the internship, which begins after her graduation in May of 2019. She is thrilled at the prospect of completing this internship with her fellow Midland classmate, Karli Mohler. Through this internship, she hopes to have many opportunities and experiences to learn and discover her true calling, and to work with and help children.

Dr. Nielsen recently honored Jessica as the “Sociology Student of the Year”. As she presented the award to Jessica, she said, “I have no doubt that Jessica will be able to apply her academic knowledge from Sociology and Psychology in this position, as well as expand on her interpersonal and relational skills. It will also provide valuable insight and experience to hopefully lead to a graduate program the year after. There are many different potential paths open for Jessica and I'm excited to see where life takes her!"

Dr. Jamie Simpson, Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences at Midland, echoes those sentiments, “One of my favorite things about working with Jessica is her sincere passion for learning.  She is naturally curious and committed to doing her absolute best in all of her work.  This year Jessica has really found a passion for social science research.  It has been fun to watch her explore her passions and thrive in the Psychology capstone course.  I am very excited that she has decided to complete the "Hands of Hope" internship for the upcoming year.  I think it will give her an incredible opportunity to get some hands on experience before applying to graduate school.”  

As Jessica prepares to leave Midland University and begin her work in Texas, she looks back fondly on her experiences in college. “Midland is a small school. That is one reason why I chose Midland. My faculty knows ME…my interests and my goals.” Jessica’s advice to future Midland University is, “Everyone here wants to work with you and help you to be successful. Take advantage of that, and be open to exploring your passions and interests.”

Whatever path – expected or unexpected - that Jessica chooses for her career, we can be certain that hard work, determination, and success will ensue. Best wishes to Jessica in all her future endeavors!