Dr. Jenny Mueller-Roebke will leave her post as provost of Concordia University, Nebraska this week after nearly four decades of service to the university, the last 10 as provost.
After growing up in Seward, Mueller-Roebke never planned to come back once she left for college. She began her academic career as a student at St. Paul’s College, Concordia, Missouri. After the death of her father, she came home and completed her teaching degree at Concordia.
“My mother was hired first as the college’s first dean of women. My father was an English professor and academic dean from 1947-71. I grew up across the street from campus and we were always involved in student activities,” said Mueller-Roebke.
Following graduation, Mueller-Roebke answered a call to teach in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, but she met her husband, Stanley, who farmed in Staplehurst so she returned to Nebraska to teach 9th grade English at Seward Junior High School in 1974. It wasn’t long before she was asked to adjunct a writing course at Concordia and in 1982, joined Concordia’s English faculty full-time teaching general studies classes and freshman seminar as well as writing and literature.
Mueller-Roebke earned a master’s degree from Concordia in 1982 and a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 1990. By the mid-1990’s she was serving as chair of the Department of English, Communication and Theatre Arts. “Some might say ‘what a narrow perspective you have since you have been in one place for so long,’ but being able to live the ‘life of the mind’ has been a wonderful experience for me. I’ve had lots of opportunities. I’ve never been bored,” Mueller-Roebke said.
In 2008, she was called to be the university’s chief academic officer, as provost. During the 10 years she has served as provost, Mueller-Roebke has hired over 50% of current faculty. “Things have changed dramatically in the 10 years I’ve served as provost,” Mueller-Roebke said. “Hiring faculty that are a ‘good fit’ and that understand the mission has been crucial. Higher education has completely changed. We’ve developed new programs and tried to be on the cutting-edge of curriculum decisions.”
During her tenure as provost, Concordia University opened the Fallbrook (Lincoln) campus for graduate and adult education and partnered with Online Program Managers to offer online graduate courses to enhance the current on-ground and blended programs being offered. The university now offers more than 30 graduate degrees.
“One of my goals has been to increase the diversity on campus,” Mueller-Roebke said. “I conducted several listening sessions with students then planned several cultural proficiency workshops as well as hiring a multicultural program specialist. We’ve made positive strides in this area but there is more work to do to make all our students feel welcome and valued.”
While she looks forward to retirement, she will miss her colleagues and the higher education atmosphere. “What a privilege it has been to be at a place with such a deep commitment to mission. It has been the best gig in the world. I will miss all these folks,” she said.
“As both a member of the faculty and University provost, Jenny has embodied the very best of Concordia,” said Rev. Dr. Brian Friedrich, president of Concordia. “Her intellect, grace, winsome leadership and relentless pursuit of excellence as an academician and administrator have made an indelible mark on Concordia. We are grateful for her many and significant contributions across every aspect of the University’s operation. She leaves a legacy of new faculty, new programs, new facilities, new pedagogies, new technologies, new accreditations, and new student initiatives that will continue to bless Concordia for decades to come. It has been an absolute joy and privilege to work and serve with Jenny. We thank God for her and for the abundant blessing she has been in our midst.”
Mueller-Roebke and her husband Stanley have two grown children. Their daughter, Madeline Roebke, is an attorney for Union Pacific Railroad in Omaha and their son, Dr. Patrick Roebke, is a psychologist in New York with a dual appointment with New York University and Bellevue Hospital.