Saunders’ thesis inspires the Husker Hub to develop a video series to aid students
22 Sep 2021 By Dijon DeLaPorte
When Kristy Saunders came to UNL to begin graduate school, she didn’t envision that 3 years later she would produce a 100-page document that would help spur the creation of a video series that would help first-generation students at the Husker Hub where she now works. Back in 2018, Saunders moved to UNL for the Master of Arts (M.A.) in educational administration program with a specialization in student affairs administration. The program is often referred to as “the student affairs program”. “I was really attracted to the program because of the social justice focus,” Saunders said. Saunders’ previous work with first-generation students, especially minoritized students, motivated her to pursue her education so that she could advance in the field of higher education.
The specialization in student affairs administration is an on-campus program that is 43 credits in length. The program is designed for students to be enrolled full-time for two consecutive academic years and hold graduate assistantships. Students in this program have the option to complete six credit hours of electives and a capstone course or to complete and successfully defend a thesis. According to Saunders, about 4 people out of the 20 students in the 2020 class pursued the thesis option that year. “It was a lot of work, but I was not alone,” Saunder stated when speaking about her support group of classmates who were also working on a thesis.
Saunders’ thesis explored first-generation students and their experience navigating the financial aid process. During her work in a financial aid office, Saunders often observed barriers with first-generation students that other non-first-generation students didn’t struggle with. These barriers included a lack of parental knowledge about the financial aid process as well as limited time to visit university offices due to their work schedules. These barriers often led to first-generation students seeking answers solely online and utilizing resources that were not university-specific and thus not applicable to their institutional-specific situation. This last issue stuck with Saunders as she started her position with the Husker Hub in 2020. Shortly after successfully defending her thesis and graduating, Saunders decided to see if she could address this information access issue through her role at the Husker Hub. Saunders explained that she decided to develop a video series to help educate students and their family members about the financial aid process. With this in mind, Husker Hub Explains was born. The video series allows viewers to learn more about the Nebraska Promise program, how to enroll in direct deposit, as well as other topics. More videos are being recorded and will be added in the future. "The thesis was a lot of work, but it allowed me to pursue a topic that I was passionate about and served as a tool of my own personal and career growth,” Saunders said. Sauders’ thesis First-Generation College Student Experience in the Financial Aid Process can be accessed through the Digital Commons at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Originally from Montana, Kristy moved to Lincoln, Nebraska in the Summer of 2018. Kristy earned her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the University of Montana and her master’s degree in Educational Administration from the University of Nebraska - Lincoln. Kristy has worked in multiple student services positions with a background in financial aid, new student orientation programming, and retention programming for first-generation college students. Kristy joined the Husker Hub staff as the Assistant Director in Spring 2020, where she supports staff members to provide student-centered service for students and their families for questions regarding financial aid, student accounts, the registrar, and bursar.