Marti Rosen-Atherton

Profile By: Angelika Walker


Part Two Serving the School

Marti’s first job out of graduate school was as a therapist at Jennie Edmundson Hospital and at a psychiatric office in Council Bluffs. What followed was a trying year—she underwent a divorce, lost her beloved grandmother, turned 40 years old, and lost her job, all within a four-month period.  Fortunately, Marti again had “an incredible support system” to help her through this difficult time (Interview 2011). Part of that incredible support system was her graduate school mentor, Bob Butler, who directed her to a grant-funded position at Iowa Western Community College (IWCC). Along with all the other things she had learned from Bob, his support at that critical time taught her “the importance of networking and what it means to have somebody believe in you” (Interview 2012). While working at IWCC, she saw an advertisement for a position with the UNO Counseling Center/University Division in the local newspaper. Feeling fate, or bashert, at work for a second time in her life, Marti applied and interviewed for the position, and on August 13, 1984, she began her new career at UNO as Professional Counselor, Academic Advisor, and, in spite of having said she would never teach, a college instructor.

Learning that her position would entail teaching caused Marti a significant amount of anxiety. She was terrified of speaking in front of groups, but with the support of colleagues and the UNO chapter of Toastmasters International (an educational organization that helps members improve their communication, public speaking, and leadership skills), Marti stood in front of her first class exactly one week after starting her new position and has been teaching ever since.

Marti at a Summer Luncheon with colleagues Sandra Franklin, Mary Mudd, Lois Deily (hidden), Marion Fortin-Wavra, and unknown.

Along with almost three decades of teaching freshman seminar courses, she says that one of the most rewarding experiences of her UNO teaching career was her opportunity to teach Health Concepts of Sexual Development as an adjunct instructor in the College of Education for twelve years. Through the instruction of this course, Marti also became a member of the Women’s Studies faculty and served on the Women’s Studies Committee the three years preceding her retirement.

Marti with the other members of the Women’s Studies Committee. From left to right: Angela Eikenberry (Public Administration), Jody Neathery-Castro (Political Science), Marti Rosen-Atherton (Counseling Center and University Division), Robbin Ogle (Criminal Justice), Bridget Blomfield (Religion Studies), Karen Falconer Al-Hindi (Geography), Laura Grams (Philosophy).

Marti was made Director of UNO’s Counseling Center and University Division in 2003 and held this position until her retirement in January 2012. As the director, Marti was first and foremost focused on supporting students’ emotional and intellectual growth so that they could reach their personal and life goals and potential. The Counseling Center provides professional counseling services to students, faculty, and staff.

University Division is the academic home for exploratory first-year students who have not yet declared a major, a feeling with which Marti can easily empathize.Helping students find the right “fit” in academic majors and potential careers, she hopes they will make more informed, purposeful choices than she did during her own “choose a major by default” undergraduate experience.

Constantly seeking new ways in which she can give back to the UNO community, Marti served as one of three University Ombudspersons 1993–2007. Students, faculty, and staff can seek out the service of the ombudsperson to mediate and resolve problems and concerns. Being a UNO ombudsperson “was both challenging and rewarding … It allowed me to meet people across campus that I wouldn’t have met any other way” (Interview 2012).

“It is tremendously satisfying when we can find win-win resolutions to problems … That is one of the things that keeps me interested” (qtd. in Kenney).In 2007, after fifteen years as a University Ombudsperson, Marti stepped down from the position to devote more of her time to the rapidly increasing demands of the Counseling Center.


Marti also coordinated the creation of the First Year Experience (FYE) Program, which is comprised of one-credit, ten-week introductory courses across UNO colleges, also known as University Seminars, that are designed to help new students transition into life at the University.  According to Marti, the FYE course evolved from a one-credit Academic and Career Development course that started in the early 1960s (Interview 2012). The courses focus on college success strategies and incorporate a wide array of subjects, from money-management to relationships and planning for the future. Marti says the FYE program and these courses are crucially important because “we believe in student development—the holistic development of our students—intellectually, emotionally, physically, and socially” (Interview 2010). Anything that can reasonably be done to ensure the academic success of our incoming freshman at UNO should be done. Because Marti believes “learning is more than what happens in the classroom,” she is pleased that there has been an increasing awareness of the importance of teaching these lifelong dimensions of growth and development at UNO (Interview 2011).

Marti retired from UNO as Director of the Counseling Center and University Division in January of 2012. Only three months later, she returned to UNO, accepting a position in the Department of Continuing Studies as an academic advisor for two days a week. Marti describes her career at UNO as “coming full-circle. It’s been fascinating … My whole career at UNO has been advising incoming freshmen who have not yet decided on a major … I am now advising adults who are ready to graduate … It’s very exciting to me” (Interview 2012).


Up Next

Part Three Changes on Campus

When asked about changes she has seen at UNO since she came as a graduate student in 1978, and then as a counselor and advisor in 1984, Marti laughed with less-than-fond memories of registering for classes at the Field House, card in hand, hoping her wished-for classes would still be open when she got to the front of the line (Interview 2011). Technology has not only streamlined online registration, which she describes as “absolutely fantastic,” but has also brought distance education, web-based instruction, in-the-moment communication with peers and professors, and a wealth of information and resources to students’ fingertips (Interview 2012). She painfully recalls the days of writing papers on legal pads and agonizingly correcting typed copies with whiteout and erased carbon copies. Word processing, much less submitting a paper electronically, was unimaginable!

Marti has also witnessed a growing sense of