Brenna Petersen is one of four Spring 2016 Citation for Excellence in Teaching awardees. Maintaining a welcoming demeanor and her attentiveness to students is a quality that has not gone unnoticed in her ability to help students learn.

“Brenna is an assiduous student and an outstanding mentor to our undergraduates.  Her work ethic and passion for teaching epitomizes the high bar set by our TA program,” Jason Kautz, Professor of Practice, said. “She is a standard bearer of integrity and civility and is clearly one of UNL’s rising stars.”

Born in Kearney, Nebraska, Brenna has had a love for teaching and mentoring. She came to UNL, in 2014, on a Regents Scholarship to major in Chemistry and Chemistry Education.

With a life goal to become a high school chemistry teacher, Brenna was encouraged by Kautz in her freshman year to apply for a lab TA position.

“I did not know I would enjoy it this much. I really just fell in love with it and wanted to do the best job I could,” Brenna said. “I definitely have had experiences where students were not taking it seriously, but I try to understand and engage them to make them feel like part of the class.”

Her teaching style is one that encourages students to think on their feet, while trying to answer the questions on their own. Jogging their memory is a great tool Brenna uses.

“When students ask me a question, I like to give them a refresher concept, and give them small clues and have them figure out the rest on their own,” she said.

She relates well with the students who see her as approachable. Her technique is to “interact in a fun light-hearted manner while getting the work accomplished.”

The sophomore maintains a GPA of 4.0 while teaching General Chemistry (CHEM 109 & 110), tutoring students in the Resource Center, and being an Honors Program Peer Mentor assisting with weekly discussions about academic success and campus involvement.

Brenna’s star qualities go further as her thirst for knowledge takes her into Dr. Jian Zhang’s lab as a research assistant. In 2015, she became a UCARE researcher on two projects: Project 1, “Investigation of the Photophysical Properties of a Novel Cd (II)-Porphyrin Metal-Organic Framework for Photocatalytic Applications” and project 2, “Mixed Porphyrin MOF for Tandem Catalysis.” Brenna has also done undergrad research in Chemistry (CHEM 399) in summer 2015.

Outside of the classroom, she is a member of the Navigators, a collegiate ministry at UNL, and also volunteers her time at Grace Chapel. She also has a passion for music, which can be heard when she plays percussion instruments for the Cornhuskers Marching Band and the Percussion Ensemble.

Brenna anticipates a Spring 2019 graduation.

Additional Accomplishments

ACS Hach Excellence in Chemistry Education Scholarship                        Spring 2016
Milton E. Mohr Scholarship                                                                                    Spring 2016
Citation for Excellence in Teaching Chemistry                                                Spring 2016
Dean’s List, College of Arts and Sciences                                                            Fall 2014
UNL Regents Scholarship                                                                                        2014
Honors Program Textbook Scholarship                                                              Fall 2014-Spring 2016
Regent Devoe Scholarship                                                                                       2015
Ralph Nielsen Scholarship                                                                                       2015
UNL Rosa Peterson Fund Scholarship                                                                 2014