Executive Director Update: Meet Dr. Jessica Naber!

Executive Director Update: Meet Dr. Jessica Naber!

May 8, 2024

Dr. Jessica Naber is pictured with her family.

Dr. Jessica Naber has been named the new Executive Director of the Honors College at Murray State University. As a former Honors student herself, she is excited to help our current students find their home within the Honors community.

We are so excited to welcome Dr. Jessica Naber as the new Executive Director of the Honors College at Murray State University. Her Honors experience began in 1997 when she came to Murray State as a Presidential Scholar, and she will now shape the educational journey of the next generation of Honors students. Meet Jessica!

Many Honors alumni have met you already, but we're all excited to get to know you better. Please tell us about yourself!
I am originally from Carlisle County in Western Kentucky, and my dad and both sisters are Murray State alumni. I attended Murray State from '97-'02, where I was a student in the Honors Program (now the Honors College). I majored in Nursing, and moved to Louisville after graduating from MSU. I worked at Jewish Hospital in downtown Louisville for a few years and got my Masters in Nursing Education at Bellarmine University before moving back to Murray with my husband, also a Murray State grad. I worked for a while in Home Health, and then I was fortunate enough to get hired at Murray State to teach Nursing in 2007. I got a PhD in Nursing from University of Tennessee in 2011, and I have taught Nursing for the past 17 years. I am married to Casey, an attorney here in Murray, and we have three kids, Sydney (a student at Murray State in the Honors College), Aubrey (high school), and Collin (middle school). I love the outdoors, including gardening, hiking, kayaking, swimming, fishing, and exercising, I love cooking and traveling, and I love time with family and friends!

You've been at Murray State for a while but in a different role. Could you talk a little about your career and your research?
I worked as a nurse after I graduated from Murray State's BSN program. I worked in Louisville at Jewish Hospital in a post-op cardiac setting, and then I did home health in Western Kentucky. I started teaching Nursing at Murray State in 2007, so I have taught nursing for 17 years and have loved it. I have taught in our BSN program, RN to BSN program, and DNP program, and I have been teaching Research, Concepts, and Philosophy of Science for a number of years. I have really enjoyed leading several study abroad programs (to Greece, Italy, and Hungary) while here at MSU, and I have also loved being involved in Research. I have worked with a lot of honors students on their theses, and I have worked with DNP students on their scholarly projects. I also try to get BSN students involved in research when they are interested. For the past 8 years or so, I have been studying National Geographic's Blue Zone initiative, looking at areas of the world where people live longer, healthier lives than here in the US. I have had several students working with me on this project, looking at Blue Zone lifestyles and visiting those areas.

You were an Honors Program student, right? What was your Honors experience like, and how did it shape your decision to pursue the role of Executive Director?
I was a Presidential Scholar (now Presidential Fellow) when I was a student, so I was part of Honors from day one. I felt like I immediately had a community and family when I set foot on campus. I was from a small town and didn't know a lot of students at MSU before I came, so the Honors Program was my immediate home away from home, and I made lifelong friends in that community. I got involved with Honors Student Council, learning about leadership and getting closer to members that way. Additionally, I got so much out of the Honors classes I took. The seminar-style, discussion-based classes helped me with confidence, preparedness, in-depth reading and comprehension, and eventually with my Masters and PhD programs. The honors thesis that I did started me on a Research trajectory that I have continued until now. The study abroad program I went on (KIIS Bregenz) started my love for and passion for international travel, eventually leading to me directing programs and being the study abroad ambassador for the School of Nursing and Health Professions. I feel such a connection to the program because of my personal experience, and I have a strong desire for its continued success and impact.

Jessica Naber is pictured in front of the Arc de Triomphe.

Jessica Naber is pictured in front of the Arc de Triomphe during a recent trip.

What aspect of leading the Honors College excites you the most? Do you have any specific plans for the first year, or are there initiatives you're interested in starting?
I think the part that I am most excited about is working with Honors students. I love all college students and their energy, passion, drive, and the anticipation of planning their futures. I am excited to get to be part of these Honors students' college experience and help them in any way I can to grow and find their way (and also have fun!).
One thing I am interested in looking into this first year is a way to help those incoming students who have a lot of college credits to transition into honors. We currently have the Honors Diploma and Honors Focus options, and I am interested in looking into a third option (or combining options) for transfer students and/or those with an abundance of hours. I want it to be feasible for students who want to do honors to do it, and I want to encourage those who are not considering honors to consider it.

What can we, the Honors alumni community, do to help you and the Honors College during this first year?
I think during this first year it would be helpful if all of those in the Honors alumni community would be willing to answer questions that I have! I have no doubt that you all will be patient with me as I work to understand the ins and outs, and I think you all will be an excellent resource for me in the learning process.

Just for fun, what random thing do you know an embarrassingly large amount about?
One thing that I feel like I am always trying to learn about is plants! I grew up working in the garden with my family and working on farms every spring and summer in my hometown, and I am really thankful that I had that experience. I plant a big garden every spring (that seems to be expanding each year), and I always experiment with some new and unusual vegetables each time. I can a lot of vegetables and love to learn about and teach others about the process. We have harvested our own maple syrup the last few winters. We also recently planted an acre of wildflowers at our house and got our own bees, so I am learning about pollinators. I hope to have my own greenhouse in the future and "garden" year round!

Dr. Jessica Naber

Dr. Naber is pictured during recent travels.

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