CPACS senator transitions from soldier to student


By Jackson Booth, Reporter


Given junior Jennifer Short’s upbringing, it seems unusual that she joined the military. 

Short, 29, was born in Winthrop, Iowa, a town of barely 850 people. Her father is a cattle farmer and her mother is a schoolteacher. 

Despite her fairly typical Midwestern childhood, Short has always had an interest in world affairs. 

When Short was in fifth grade, her family hosted Polina, a foreign exchange student from Kazakhstan, a country formerly ruled by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). Polina came to the United States not long after communism fell in the USSR and Kazakhstan was declared an independent state.  

This was one of the first experiences Short had meeting someone with different cultural experiences. Before she graduated from high school, she was given another opportunity to experience new cultures. She was encouraged by her parents to take a three-week trip to Italy, Spain and France to develop her language skills. 

After coming back to the U.S., Short consulted with some extended family members who had served in the military and eventually decided she wanted to take that path. 

“It kind of came out of left field,” Short said. 

Coming from a small town, Short said joining the military was a rarity; however, it was one of most important decisions of her life. 

Short started basic training in June 2001 and graduated in August 2001. She was sent to Monterey, Calif. to take part in an intensive 47-week Russian language program at the Defense Language Institute (DLI). 

The program was eight hours of Russian language and culture a day, Short said. Oftentimes, students took quizzes every few days over 70 to 80 different vocabulary terms. 

“Over the course of 47 weeks you build a very robust vocabulary,” Short said. 

Throughout the program, Short grew to have a deep appreciation for her instructors.

“They had the most amazing stories,” Short said. “I grew to have an affinity for the culture and people [of Russia] because they are so resilient.”

Short graduated from Monterey in October 2002 and followed that by doing six months of training in San Angelo, Texas and one month of Prisoner of War Training. She was then stationed in Omaha in 2003. 

While Short was stationed in Omaha, she started taking UNO classes at Offutt Air Force Base.

“I was always very impressed with how UNO facilitated their coursework for military members,” Short said. 

On one occasion, Short said she was taking a natural science class and during the last month of the course, she was deployed. The professor put the entire final exam online for her. Short was very thankful. 

“I like how they treat military service members,” Short said. “I knew when I finished, I wanted to finish my degree at UNO.”

During her time serving, Short was a Russian Linguist in the Air Force and was then promoted to Airborne Analyst, where she relayed critical information from ground forces to the air. One of the major missions Short served on was Operation Enduring Freedom, in Afghanistan.

Short was deployed eight to nine times throughout her career averaging about two to six-month rotations, along with several other short-term deployments. 

“We were deployed in support of the heroes [ground soldiers]. Our main prerogative everyday was to keep them safe,” Short said. 

A few months ago, Short officially retired from the military and began taking classes again at UNO with the assistance of the Continuing Studies Program at the College of Public Affairs and Community Service (CPACS). She is majoring in psychology and hopes to continue with graduate studies concentrating in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). 

“Over the past few years I have seen the need for PTSD counselors,” Short said. “We’re seeing so many people coming back from the Middle East, even if they weren’t directly fired at, just being in that conflict area, seeing things they’ve seen, hearing things they’ve heard, they’ve taking a brutal beating.” 

After becoming more comfortable with UNO and getting back into the routine of being a student, Short decided she wanted to become involved with an organization on campus. Short’s family is very politically active. Her parents have always encouraged her to be involved with the community in some way. 

As a result, Short applied for and was appointed the CPACS senator position on Student Government earlier this fall.

One of the main areas Short wants to work on as a member of the Student Services Committee is providing more awareness to counseling services offered at UNO. Ranging from domestic violence issues to depression and alcohol abuse, there are numerous counseling services free of charge at UNO that Short hopes to shed light upon. 

In addition to Student Government, Short is a member of a fellowship for the Obama for America campaign, which is also connected with the Political Science Internship course with Dr. Paul Landow

Given her time and service to the country and specifically in the UNO community, Short has found that it’s important no matter what your platform, to give a voice to everybody.

“I have a deep-rooted belief that our government represents us and I think it’s very important to give a voice to everybody,” Short said.