Faculty Spotlight: Gina Matkin

Gina Matkin
Meet Gina Matkin, professor in the Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education, and Communication and undergraduate leadership program coordinator.
December 7, 2020

About Gina

I am a first-generation college student from very rural southeast Missouri. I always loved the trees, hills, and rivers and grew up exploring them with many friends and family members. I went to two different community colleges, and then received a scholarship to Southeast Missouri State University, where I received a bachelor’s degree in education with biology and general science endorsements. After teaching a couple of years, I trekked to the “big city” of Ames, Iowa and worked my way through a master’s degree in combined areas of women’s studies, sociology and adult education. Though I still love the life sciences, it was there I learned to love all things leadership and social justice, and so packed my bags and made my way to the even larger “big city” of Lincoln, Nebraska in 1989 where I was the first full-time coordinator of the Women’s Center, then accepted a position as the first assistant director for training and development for the Nebraska Unions. I took advantage of tuition remission and earned my doctorate in human sciences with a specialization in leadership studies. I was hired in 2005 in the Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education, and Communication and have loved working here ever since. 

What is your position at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln? 

I am a professor in the Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education, and Communication. I am also the undergraduate leadership program coordinator, so I get a chance to work with students from the moment they show an interest in our program until they graduate. It is very fulfilling work! 

What drew you to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln?

Honestly, I had heard such great things about Lincoln in general and specifically about the university as a welcoming place. I wanted to be part of that and to help develop leaders who work to create inclusive and welcoming spaces in the work they do.

What aspect of working in an educational setting do you enjoy the most?

Helping others do things they never thought they could. In addition to my love of working with undergraduates, I have had the privilege of working with many graduate students who are working to make a difference in the world. They have come from educational settings, health care, the military, businesses, non-profits and more! What they all have in common is that they are passionate about leadership and creating a more inclusive space that values what we have in common and cherishes our uniqueness!

What do you consider your greatest achievement? 

I’m not sure I can point to just one thing professionally as there are so many, so I’ll talk about a personal accomplishment. I always wanted to get a college degree and be a teacher, but given my background and situation, never even dreamed of the possibility of a doctorate degree and working in higher education. It was the many people who supported me along the way, encouraged me, pointed me to resources to help make it possible who I credit with making that happen. Oh, and a whole lot of hard work! I talk about this with my students because I want them to know that even if you do not think graduate school is possible – think again. I often refer to myself as a statistical anomaly in that I was not your typical doctoral student as a non-traditional, first generation, low income and more student, but with some perseverance and a whole lot of support, it can happen!

What is something that most people don’t know about you?

I love music! I love listening to music, playing music on the instruments of guitar, ukulele and Native American Flute and singing. In my earlier years I sang at weddings and coffeehouses but decided that I mostly love to sing for pleasure rather than performance. Since then music has become my meditation and a huge coping strategy during this COVID-19 work at home time. Our house is filled with music and dancing almost every day.

What is your life like outside of work?

In addition to music, I love hiking and walking. I typically walk twice a day in the morning and evening and then add some yoga to the mix in the middle of the day. I am an avid gardener and love preserving the bounty from my garden and from some long-time providers at the farmer’s market. Additionally, I love driving vacations! We drive to remote areas (mostly in the mountains) for hiking, camping, or “cabining” as we call it, whenever possible. It’s fun to stop in small towns along the way to experience new foods, cultures and art. Ask me about “Ruby’s rolls” sometime! It’s a fun story from a random stop along the way. Most of all, I love life and hope I never “arrive” as the journey is much more fun!


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Ag Leadership | Education