The Story of STEPs
The Story of STEPs
STEPs is the brainchild of our director and founder, Dr. Jeanette Harder, and is supported through the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s College of Public Affairs and Community Service and Grace Abbott School of Social Work. In 2011, Dr. Harder began in earnest the work of what would become STEPs. Throughout the next year, she and others worked tirelessly toward the goal of starting a research center at UNO. After many meetings and with much time, dedication, effort, and hard work from Jeanette and co-founder Emily Nguyen (MSW-MPA student), the decision was made to start a program evaluation center. Choosing a name, writing a mission statement, and developing policies were completed in 2013, and a few months later, STEPs moved to its current location in the Barbara Weitz Community Engagement Center on the campus of UNO.
Word spread about the useful work being done by Jeanette and Emily at STEPs, and interest in signing on began to grow. STEPs’ first two community partners were Nebraska CASA and Avenue Scholars. Emily graduated in 2014 and moved into the role of full-time employee as the number of new clients increased. Later that year, STEPs gained its first two faculty affiliates, Jieru Bai and Christina Batiotis, and shortly after had its first article published. Through the end of 2015 into 2016, STEPs launched a series of Program Evaluation Capacity-Building trainings and consultations, and later in 2016, STEPs hired its first full-time Operations Coordinator, Jon Stanton.
The rest, as they say, is history. The past two years flew by, and STEPs’ mission, vision, and focus were adapted slightly to more closely fit its growing body of work. There have been successes and challenges, and both have contributed to STEPs’ growth as a program and our growth as individuals. Through it all, our commitment to support social service programs and policies that transform and improve lives has only become more resolute, as has our ever-present and deep respect for the work and passion of our community partners to do just that – transform and improve the lives of those in the communities they serve.
What a journey it has been! Through these years the STEPs team has also grown and developed. We have learned and bonded through travel to and presentations at conferences. We have been honored as a program to have had so many of our Graduate Research Assistants recognized for their amazing talents and hard work in presenting at UNO Research Fairs. We even had a UNO Student Employee of the Year! Through holiday parties and outings, birthday celebrations, and a trip to the College World Series; through new hires and new roles, departures, and transitions; through IRB applications and acceptances, capstones, and practicums; through weddings and anniversaries, new babies, and graduations — here we are, looking forward, stronger than ever, and ready to help our community partners.
Our heartfelt thanks go to our community partners, to the Omaha community, to every amazing person who has been a part of STEPs in some way through these years, and to those currently (bold) on our amazing team: Jeanette, Emily, Samantha, Carl, Kristen, Jieru, Adam, Andrea, Christiana, Jennifer, Jon, Pam, Amy, Chris, Jodi M., Joe, Keyonna, Natalie, Craig, Tova, Jessica G., Lynn, Gaylene, Aaron, Kristinae, Jodi G., Claire, Brittany, December, Rachel, Dawne, Jessica W., and, myself, Jenni, who has had the great pleasure of compiling this story of STEPs.
We could not be more grateful for our journey, more proud of who we have become, or more excited to dream what the future holds for us here at STEPs.