Faculty Spotlight: Ashley Mueller

Ashley Mueller
Ashley Mueller

About Ashley Mueller:

I grew up in Geneva, Nebraska, and I moved to Lincoln to earn my undergraduate degree in food science and technology at UNL. Following graduation, I pursued my master’s degree in agricultural education at Purdue University. Educational and professional opportunities kept my husband Nathan (cropping systems Extension educator) and me on the move to Kansas, South Dakota, and finally back to Nebraska. I have held positions with Kansas Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom, Great Plains Interactive Distance Education Alliance, and SDSU Extension prior to joining Nebraska Extension in fall 2014.  

What is your position at UNL? 

I’m an Extension Educator, and I serve as Disaster Education Coordinator. In that role, I get to work with faculty and staff in all our Extension program areas help Nebraskans prepare for and recover from disasters and widespread emergencies. I do this by offering support to county-based faculty and staff, providing or sharing situational awareness to my colleagues and Extension partners, and developing disaster education programs, resources and trainings. I’m Extension’s point of contact for the Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN) and Nebraska Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NE VOAD), and I represent Extension on a variety of task forces and working groups.

What drew you to UNL? 

Nathan and I took the long way home. We both attended UNL—he for his undergraduate and master’s degrees and me for my undergraduate degree. We greatly value our CASNR degrees, and we always said that if an opportunity came up to move home, we’d do it.  Just over two years later, we’re so happy we did. We get to work for an institution with a great reputation, collaborate with and learn alongside some of the brightest and amazingly talented people, and most importantly to me, bring the University to people across our great state.

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

Clearly, based on my professional background, I enjoy education! Learner is one of my top five Strengthsfinder themes. I like being able, through Extension education, to help Nebraskans address issues they care about. And I also like being part of an educational community that encourages me to be creative and pushes me to be my best every day. There’s always something new to learn or an opportunity to consider, and I think that makes working in an educational setting so much fun.

What do you consider your greatest achievement? 

Doing what has felt right. It’s led me to pursue two degrees of which I’m greatly proud, encouraged me to say “yes” when Nathan called and asked me on a date, helped Nathan and me raise our boys Garrison (6) and Kase (4) through those hard, yet fun infant and toddler years, guided me to surround myself with supportive, solutions-based people and to avoid those who aren’t that way, and allowed me to say “no” to good opportunities so that I could say “absolutely” to great ones.

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

I think food is fascinating. My undergraduate degree is in food science. I enjoy developing new recipes. And I really love food writing. I adore Clementine Paddleford’s writing style. Paddleford was a Kansas State University alumna who mastered the art of culinary journalism before it was really even a thing. Just before Nathan, the boys, and I moved from Manhattan, KS, to Brookings, SD, I had the opportunity to visit the K-State Library’s Cookery Collection, which is a collection of thousands of cookbooks and related volumes. I spent a morning (not nearly enough time!) looking through the Clementine Paddleford Papers with one of her biographers who is also a K-State archivist. Reading her handwritten—in cursive, mind you—notes about regional cuisine, personal responses to “Letter to the Editor” mail, and instructions to the Herald Tribune test kitchen staff was such an amazing experience. And if you’re wondering, How America Eats is one of the most-cherished books I own.

What is your life like outside of work? 

It’s fun! Nathan and I enjoy cheering for our boys at their soccer and baseball games. We spend plenty of time at my in-laws’ dairy farm helping Garrison get his calf ready for the dairy show at the Washington County Fair. I volunteer to support causes that are important to me. I’ve got a big garden thanks to Nathan and the boys. Cooking and baking are my therapy. And so are DIY projects and Netflix (Friday Night Lights and Parks and Rec, anyone?). And one of the best parts about being back in Nebraska is that I can spend time with my family and Nathan’s family.