Central DeWitt High School graduate Jenni (Keil) Brost knows what it feels like to enter college, not knowing exactly where your career path may lead.
That’s exactly why she loves her new job as the Director of New Student Enrollment at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln so much.
Brost gets the chance to help ease the transition process of going to college for students — as well as their parents.
“My favorite part about my job is at the end of a student’s orientation day when they are excited to come back to campus in August,” said Brost. “It is our job at new student enrollment to make sure every student feels like a part of the Husker community.
“We also make it a priority to talk to parents about how they can effectively support their students. New student enrollment is just as much for parents as it is for students.”
The daughter of Kevin and Janet Keil of DeWitt took over the position in May, after having worked within the department for seven years.
Brost, 36, attended the University of Iowa after graduating from Central DeWitt in 2000.
Her educational and professional experience gradually groomed Brost for her new role.
When she started at Iowa, she knew she wanted to study different forms of media and was a communication studies major.
It was during her junior year that Brost added a health and sports studies major, given her experience working at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
“I knew at that point I wanted to seek out a career working for a professional sports team in marketing or event management,” she explained. “I loved working in event management for sporting events.”
After graduation, Brost took an internship with the Quad City Steamwheelers arena football team. It was there she realized how much she missed working on a college campus.
Brost learned there was a master’s program in student affairs she could pursue, which would allow her to work in a variety of student-service areas on college campuses.
After applying to different graduate programs across the country, the very last program Brost visited was Nebraska.
It was the right fit.
“Everyone was so nice, it was impossible for me to say no,” she related. “During my graduate program, I held graduate assistantships in campus recreation, office of the registrar, and the university health center. It was actually during a volunteer experience as a student academic advisor in the college of business that I found my passion.”
After applying for full-time positions in academic advising, Brost was hired by the College of Arts & Sciences at Nebraska.
She held the position of academic advisor for five years. It was the joy she got from working with incoming freshmen the led her to apply for the assistant director’s position in new student enrollment, which is the orientation office on campus.
“Because orientation is very heavy in event management, I look back at my time at Carver-Hawkeye Arena and think about how I am still doing things in large-scale event management. I love running large events and serving large groups of people.”
Leslie Reed, Director of Public Affairs at the university, said Brost was an ideal choice for the job.
“NSE Director is an important post at the university,” she wrote in a press release. “Jenni will serve as the ‘face’ of the university to incoming students and their families. Her team provides incoming Huskers with programs, information, and resources they need to acclimate to campus life. [Brost] was chosen after a nationwide search, and we couldn’t be more pleased with her selection.”
As dedicated as she is to her career with the university, Brost, who lives with her husband, Zac, and their three children in Lincoln, said in her heart she’ll always be a Hawkeye.
“I love my job and I love welcoming students to UNL, it’s a great university. But nothing will compare to being a Hawkeye. I grew up going to Hawkeye games with my dad, and I always knew I would go to school there. I am glad that every year the Huskers and the Hawks play. I will always be in my Hawk gear. My husband is a UNL alum, and all my kids love the Huskers since they were born and raised in Lincoln. I always try to get them to cheer for the Hawks, and I will never stop trying.”
Brost said someone who was a big influence on her growing up was her basketball coach, Pat Meade.
He pushed her and the rest of his players to be better every day, and could make a cohesive team out of any mix of players. It’s something Brost keeps in mind when she is forming her orientation leader student team that welcomes all new students.
As for what advice she would give high school students trying to find the right college, Brost said success in college is much easier when you are part of a community that fits your needs — whether it’s big or small — and gives you a sense of belonging.
She also insists, it’s OK if incoming students don’t know what area of study they want to pursue.
“The average number of times that a student changes their major is three,” Brost noted. “College curriculum is often built so that students have the freedom to explore different disciplines. Taking time freshman and sophomore year to find your passion if perfectly normal and encouraged.”