Undergraduate Spotlight: Johnathan Kelly

Meet Johnathan Kelly, a senior environmental restoration sciences and water sciences double major from Northglenn, Colo.
Meet Johnathan Kelly, a senior environmental restoration sciences and water sciences double major from Northglenn, Colo.

Hometown: Northglenn, Colorado

Major: Environmental restoration sciences and water sciences

Anticipated Date of Graduation: May 2023

Why did you decide to come to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln?

I decided to come to UNL without even visiting the state of Nebraska! “Quite a bold move,” I hear you say… and that is absolutely correct! 

Being born and raised in Colorado, I was nurtured in the values and customs of Colorado. I know that the world is an incredibly large place, full of many different cultures, so staying in Colorado would only restrict my cultural exposure. For my undergraduate education, I wanted to live in another state and immerse myself in the culture that the state has to offer (as the best way to experience the culture of a place is through living there). 

After sending out my college applications, I had a variety of states to select from. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln heavily recruited me and believed in my academic success. After careful consideration of many different factors (environment, course load, scholarships, culture), I chose UNL as my undergraduate college of choice! I am proud to say that after my three years at the university, I made the correct decision. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln has been a fantastic place to explore and grow as a person!

What is your favorite thing about the University of Nebraska-Lincoln?

My favorite aspect of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is the ability to forge your path. UNL has a myriad of opportunities to choose from, all at the tip of your fingertips! While my majors are in CASNR, I also have minors in mathematics and dance. Within a week on campus, I get to explore life through scientific, artistic, and cultural lenses. 

Even outside of academic course loads, I have many experiences. For one, I am a member of the UNL Soil Judging Team, a team that competes around the country to analyze soil profiles and understand the environmental implications of soil characteristics. I’ve competed in soil judging competitions in Missouri (a virtual competition during our Fall 2020 pandemic semester) and Minnesota (a live event in Crookston, MN), with an upcoming competition in Iowa for Fall 2022. 

In addition, I participate in various dance performances, creating and presenting various modern and postmodern works. I’ve attended masterclasses of choreographers from across the world, connecting many genres of dance. I’ve also had a special opportunity to co-create “Garden of the Wilis” with both choreographer Michael Sakamoto and fellow dance majors and minors. My goal for this coming year is to experience a variety of dance styles through performances.

On a more physical side, I am a member of the UNL Rowing Team (yeah, we have a rowing team! How cool is that!). We compete across the Midwest throughout the school year, rowing on a variety of lakes and rivers. I usually row in 4s and 8s, but I hope to get into sculling this year! We have large ambitions to compete and excel at more events this coming year.  This sounds like a large commitment, especially having a full course load, and again, you would be correct. One thing that I believe is that you should dive head-first into life. These experiences enrich all aspects of my life (academic, physical, mental, cultural, environmental, etc.). These experiences make my life complete! 

What about diversity and inclusion is important to you when you think about your CASNR experience?

Inclusivity is one of my core values in life. As such, inclusivity is what I strive for. Thankfully, every person at CASNR values inclusivity as well! A student will blossom if they are in an environment that embraces their uniqueness and loves them for who they are. This statement applies to every single person, no matter their prior experiences. I know that this applies to me as well. 

Coming to UNL the first year, I did not know a single person (in the state even!). Not having an established friend group from high school to college was difficult. Having my freshman year interrupted by the pandemic was both jarring and highly unusual. Despite these situations, I’m still excelling in life! A large reason for my success is that I was accepted as a member of the CASNR community. Every teacher has looked out for my well-being and ensured that I became an integral part of the class. I made friends that brought out the best in me. Even in my darkest moments, I’ve had a community---a family--- to help me soar! 

The best part about CASNR is that I’ve seen this careful attention to student well-being everywhere I go. Every student, professor, and staff are family in CASNR! We support each other to ensure that we all reach our greatest potential!

Exposure to cultural differences is a huge part of college. What activity have you recently participated in that is different from what you are used to in your culture? This could be something you read, listened to, watched, eaten, or otherwise taken part in. What did you learn from this activity?

I have to say that my entire experience in Nebraska has been fascinating to look at. Before attending UNL, I thought that the only thing in Nebraska was “CORN!”. In hindsight, this was a huge misconception. While Nebraska has a lot of corn (we are the Cornhusker State), Nebraska has so much more! Nebraska is filled with hard-working citizens, an intense fervor for college football, and horizons that stretch for miles. I’ve started to understand the important role that agriculture plays in society. A field that you drive past on I-80 is the culmination of the farmer’s choices, the management techniques, and the environment. There is still wonderful culture to explore as well, from the Lied Center to the museums that chronicle history and innovation. 

What is your favorite class you have taken so far and why?

This is a tricky question. It is like choosing your favorite child! I’ve enjoyed all of the courses that I have taken thus far! They all challenge me to look at the world in a new and exciting way! For this question, I’ll list off a few different courses (in no particular order) that have surprised me in exciting ways:

-NRES 220 “Principles of Ecology”: I was thoroughly impressed by the breadth of topics that we explored. Ecology is the study of how an organism interacts with its environment. I use the principles that I’ve learned constantly, even outside of an academic setting. This course has truly opened my mind to the wonders of life!

- ENSC 220 “Introduction to Energy Systems”: I’ve taken the impacts of energy generation for granted. This class encouraged me to look at energy in a more disciplined manner, understanding that all energy sources have positive and negative aspects to them. 

- BSEN 355 “Introduction to Ecological Engineering”: I loved examining the different ways that ecology is being implemented in engineering design! I have been noticing so many different Low Impact Developments (LIDs) around cities in both Colorado and Nebraska. 

- SOIL 279 “Soil Evaluation”: Soil is best learned in the field, which is what this course emphasizes. I’ve discovered so much about landscapes by inspecting the soil. I even inspect soils in my free time. 

What are your plans post-graduation?

Honestly, I’m still trying to figure that out! I want to teach at the collegiate level (and learn much more…), so graduate school is in my future. I do not know where I want to complete my graduate studies, but I want to have the same freedoms in my undergraduate studies such that I can pursue classes in the natural resources, education, and performing arts. 

The best part about not knowing my plans is that I have the freedom to choose! Life is so wide, so let me enjoy and savor the opportunities that come my way! The thrill of the unknown is exciting!

What’s life like outside of school?

Outside of academic studies, I perform in many extracurricular activities (Soil Judging, Rowing, dance rehearsals, choir rehearsals). I love experiencing the performing arts within Lincoln and Omaha, whether it be performing or visual arts (I’m thrilled that Legally Blonde is coming to the Lied Center this year!). Otherwise, you can find me running, biking, hanging out with friends, or playing video games. 

More details at: https://snr.unl.edu/undergrad/meetourstudents.aspx