UP Brings Academics, Athletics Together
Randy York's N-Sider
Husker coaches who made Saturday’s sweep of Columbus, Grand Island, Kearney and North Platte on the Union Pacific Big Red Express Tour were amazed about the camaraderie factor imbedded in a 17-hour day among colleagues. “Those of us who are academic administrators got plenty of quality time with each other that we don’t often get, and in a relaxed manner,” said Donde Plowman, the James Jr. and Susan Stuart Endowed Dean of UNL’s College of Business Administration.
Brian Hastings, President and CEO of the University of Nebraska Foundation, and Plowman conducted some business while the train wheels were moving, plus they had a lengthy conversation about the ups and downs of trying to lead change in their respective organizations.
Plowman’s time with UP executives Saturday created even more quality time because Union Pacific “hires many of our students and is a major partner for both CBA and Engineering,” she said. Tim Wei, UNL’s Dean of the College of Engineering, was also aboard the Big Red Express, representing Nebraska after earning his bachelor’s degree from Cornell, his master’s from Lehigh and his Ph.D. in aerospace engineering from fellow Big Ten Conference institution Michigan.
Tim Miles Gives Donde an iPhone Lesson
Count Plowman as an academic administrator who cherished her informal time with Nebraska’s coaches and especially with Miles, who looked at her broken iPhone and asked why she had not had it fixed. “He then threw his iPhone on the train floor to demonstrate the quality of his phone case, which he was promoting, and proceeded to tell me where I could get the glass fixed in Lincoln for $50,” Plowman said. “He claims to use the service all the time with his kids’ broken phones.”
Plowman, a tenured professor in UNL’s Department of Management as well, is sharp enough to position the “No Place like Nebraska” comment herself: “Where else,” she asked, “would a dean get that type of seemingly trivial but very human kind of exchange with a head coach?” Plowman catches herself with a connected thought. “Nowhere in the country would a dean get asked to accompany the coaches like that at an event,” she said.
“One of the most unique things about Nebraska’s national brand is we recruit student-athletes who are really good students,” Plowman said. “We lead the nation in Academic All-Americans, and the coaches talked about that at every stop on Saturday. Shawn Eichorst talks about it constantly. The coaches are trying to recruit athletes who are looking at universities where academic reputations are huge. As a dean, I’m working hard to raise the stature and the visibility of our college. Our goal is for the top-tier student-athletes to attend UNL and study business. We want it to be an easy choice for any student, whether an athlete or not.”
Plowman presents CBA diploma to Husker offensive lineman Jeremiah Sirles.
Chmelka: Hey, That Selfie is My Sister
At each Saturday stop, alums from UNL’s College of Business “would come up to me and say: ‘I graduated from your school,” Plowman said. “I pulled a Tim Miles and did a selfie with each one of them. For them, it wasn’t like getting an autograph from Bo, Tim, or Connie, but each seemed to like the idea that the dean wanted their picture.”
Talk about a small world. When Nebraska Men’s Gymnastics Coach Chuck Chmelka saw Plowman taking a series of selfies, he felt connected. “That CBA alum you just took a picture of is my sister,” Chmelka said.
We have the perfect ending for a dean who has teaching experience at the graduate, undergraduate, doctoral and executive education level in organization theory, strategic management, organizational decision-making and organizational behavior.
Let the record show it was after 10:30 p.m. when Plowman and her husband stepped off the bus in Nebraska’s North Stadium parking lot Saturday when she got another surprise from another head coach – a hug from Bo Pelini, who said simply: “Nice to get to know you.”
"What a day," Plowman said. "It was simply amazing."
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