With spring commencement drawing near, we caught up with non-traditional student Jordan Freeman as he prepares to graduate and begin a new academic adventure this fall at UNL's College of Law. While a student in the College of Education, Jordan found a way to combine his passion for fitness and service through his pursuit of a Physical Education - Exercise Science degree and a Certificate in Gerontology.
"From a very early age, I have been passionate about living a healthy lifestyle and decided on a major where my personal life and professional life could intersect," Jordan explains. "My desire is to help people age more gracefully through physical activity."
Jordan has been involved with many leadership roles beyond his academic responsibilities, including serving as President of student organization Physical Education Exercise Science (PEXS) and working as a COBRE Research Assistant in the Biomechanics Research Building. He also became a new dad last year to a now 10-month-old baby girl, Liberty, and he is learning how to balance parenthood and coursework through prioritization, dedication, and keeping a positive attitude. One of the mantras that drives him is, "Each day will find new joys; let those drive you when the days start getting long."
What did you do prior to coming to UNO and what made you pursue a career change?
"Prior to UNO, I was a law enforcement officer in the U.S. Air Force. My job took me all over the world and on several tours in support of our nation's war efforts. My final duty at Offutt AFB is ultimately what brought me to Omaha. My assignment at U. S. Strategic Command was very unique and when my time was up, I opted to get out of the military while at the top of my career. The career change was definitely 180 degrees, but I desired to use my brain, instead of my brawn to help those in need. The military helped me mature; thus, preparing me to see my vision, of improving health disparities through physical activity, come to fruition."
Who has helped you find your academic direction or has been a great supporter in your life?
"My mother has always been health conscious and was influential in my direction. Although, my wife is currently my best supporter. She stood by me throughout this journey, providing crucial encouragement during the times I would question myself. Dr. Jenna Yentes, the BEST faculty mentor EVER, inspired me to step outside my perceived comfort zone. She taught me how due diligence and passion for the right cause always allows you to persevere. Without her guidance, I would not be preparing for graduation at this time. What I liked best about Dr. Yentes is that she didn’t attempt to influence me in one direction over another, she helped me determine which niche would best suit me."
What is your experience with being a student and a dad?
"Of course, I was a little apprehensive at first, as are many people when going into the relative unknown. However, that was immediately quelled once I was able to put everything in perspective. Although I was a student before a father, my daughter comes first. Being a dad is awesome and permanent, while being a student is necessary and temporary. Fortunately, I am in a major that I am passionate about which makes the long nights a bit easier. At first, when I would get home and play with Liberty in the evenings, I felt guilty for not studying, but then I realized how important the early months of her life were. I opted to sacrifice sleep and spend time with my new family. You always hear people say parenting is 'tough' and even though each person’s experiences are unique, once you outgrow growing pangs, you gain your stride. I have always been optimistic and able to see the big picture and those characteristics helped me persevere."
What awards have you received while at UNO?
"During my time at UNO I have been on both the Dean’s and Chancellor’s lists. I was awarded the HPER Outstanding Undergraduate Service Award in exercise science for the past two years. For two consecutive years, I was awarded a FUSE grants for my balance related research in COPD populations. This year I also earned the best undergraduate poster presentation at UNO’s Research and Creative Activity Fair. Also for my research, I received two additional undergraduate presentation awards at the 1st Annual Human Movement Variability Conference and an honorable mention for my abstract for Posters on the Hill (Council for Undergraduate Research). Last year, I was awarded the Helen B. Hewitt Scholarship. I also received the Georgians for Nebraska Scholarship for several years, since I am originally from Georgia. Lastly, a local news station highlighted me in a segment: 'Making Seniors Sweat,' which detailed a physical activity program I implemented at the Intercultural Senior Center, a local non-profit."
Is there anything else you'd care to share with your fellow students?
"Our life is one long learning process and there are lessons to be learned from all situations, even the difficult ones. Through the years your strategic worldview will widen, which will better enable you to persevere and be an inspiration to others. While motivation is temporary, simply modifying a behavior, inspiration can transcend a lifetime, as it can change a person's character."
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