Faculty Spotlight: Jason Pawlenty

Jason Pawlenty
Meet Jason Pawlenty, food, nutrition and health assistant Extension educator in Polk, Platte, Butler, York and Seward Counties.
October 25, 2021

About Jason 

I am originally from upstate New York and settled in Nebraska when my father retired from the Air Force. I received my undergraduate degree in dietetics from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where I focused on building a career in sports nutrition. I went on to earning my Master of Science in nutrition and human performance from Logan University in Missouri. The older I get the more I am drawn towards academia, I love the scope and depth of the conversations I can have with my colleagues and the inspiration I gain from them.

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

I am a food, nutrition and health assistant Extension educator. I am a county-based educator that serves Polk, Platte, Butler, York and Seward Counties. My work revolves around promoting healthy lifestyles for children and youth, increasing consumer confidence in food, and increasing food access for all.

What drew you to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln?

When completing my undergraduate degree at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln I also worked in the Athletic Department teaching sports nutrition. Ever since I graduated, I have had an eye on the university and someday working here. When a position with Nebraska Extension became available, I jumped on it because it checked two boxes; a job with the university and the informal teaching style I became accustomed to.

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

Extension is great because every day is different. You also have a lot of freedom to implement and grow programs within the system. It has a very entrepreneurial feel to it with the backing and support of an amazing network of colleagues at the university. I love how it can change perspectives too. I came in very focused on sports nutrition but have since become passionate about food equity and promoting locally grown foods.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Academically I was an average student during undergrad. During grad school I was rewarded with the honor of being valedictorian of my graduating class. Hard work pays off. That’s my greatest achievement to date. My sister is about to finish her doctorate degree at UNL, which is a big achievement in our family and a source of inspiration for me.

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

I brake for squirrels. Whenever I’m on East campus I get a kick out of how many there are and how close they’ll come to you. There was one at my house that I eventually got to take nuts from my hand. I also read a lot. I read history, biographies and fiction and average about a book per week.

What is your life like outside of work?

Outside of work I have become quite obsessed with backcountry camping. I’ll be going on a trip to Badlands National Park shortly and had to cancel a trip I had planned in the Sierra Nevada’s because of the fires out West. I enjoy the challenge of carrying everything you need on your back for a few days and walking into the wilderness. It’s great when you can hike out and see parts of the country where the land has been unworked by humans. Also, anything I can do with my dog Hadley, she’s my shotgun rider.