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Seven Doane women "Inspire" Lincoln

Seven Doane women "Inspire" Lincoln

Elsbeth Magilton '08L (right) speaks with Brie Frickenstein (left)

Out of more than 212 nominations for women across the Lincoln metro to receive one of the 12 Inspire: Celebrating Women’s Leadership awards, seven Doane women were named finalists and three announced winners during the Sept. 21 awards ceremony. 

Dr. Susan Fritz, trustee | Retired

Winner — Excellence in Education

Finalist — Woman of the Year

Judi gaiashkibos ‘00L | Executive Director, Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs

Winner — Excellence in Government Service

Finalist — Woman of the Year

Dr. Betsy Tonniges ‘06 ‘09E ‘11E | Primrose School of Lincoln at Wilderness Hills

Winner — Excellence in Business (Small/Medium - 100 employees or less)

Emily Goodman ‘16C | Sounding Board Mental Health

Finalist — Excellence in Entrepreneurship

Mindy Rush ‘04L Chipman | Director, Lincoln Commission on Human Rights

Finalist — Excellence in Government Service

Elsbeth Magilton ‘08L | University of Nebraska College of Law

Finalist — Excellence in Business (Large - 101 employees or more)

Finalist — Excellence in Education

Jaci Foged ‘12E | Early Childhood Team educator, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Nebraska Extension

Finalist — Excellence in Education 

We spoke with several of the finalists and winners about the awards and their incredible experiences. 

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Dr. Susan Fritz, trustee | Retired

Winner — Excellence in Education

Finalist — Woman of the Year

Dr. Susan Fritz

After 32 years at the University of Nebraska and University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Dr. Susan Fritz retired in June 2021. She has served as executive president and provost for NU, and as interim president for six months prior to the appointment of Ted Carter in 2019. Fritz started at UNL in 1989 as an instructor in the department of agricultural leadership, education and communication, and she’s also been the university’s associate dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, associate vice chancellor of the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and interim dean and director of the Agricultural Research Division and the Nebraska Agricultural Experiment Station.

Fritz is a Crete native and resident, with a farm located outside of town, and has long been familiar with Doane — many of her family and friends are Tiger alumni. She first joined Doane’s Board of Trustees in 2017, and again in 2020, sharing her incredible wealth of experience and knowledge from both the faculty and administrative sides of a university. She’s on the board’s building and grounds committee, and the business and audit committee. She served on the presidential search committee and was recently appointed to the shared governance committee.

“Doane is appearing a lot on my calendar. And that is wonderful,” she said. 

This is the second year she’s been nominated for the Excellence in Education award by a long-time mentor, and she found out around the end of August that she was both a finalist for the award and a finalist for Woman of the Year. 

“We all have a philosophy that we bring to the effort. And I’m really excited about seeing other people succeed, and seeing them achieve at a level they never imagined possible,” Fritz said. “The fact that others appreciate that about me is pretty humbling. And for me, it is just who I am as a leader.”

Even in retirement, raising others up continues to be a priority for Fritz. She is the chair of Women Investing in Nebraska, a nonprofit philanthropy that collects and awards grants to area nonprofits and University of Nebraska initiatives. She is a Fulbright selection committee member. And she now has seven grandchildren and a room dedicated to art projects set up in her Crete home. 

“Always an educator, you know,” Fritz said. 

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Dr. Betsy Tonniges ‘06 ‘09E ‘11E | Primrose School of Lincoln at Wilderness Hills

Winner — Excellence in Business (Small/Medium - 100 employees or less)

Dr. Betsy Tonniges

Dr. Betsy Tonniges is the owner and principal of Lincoln’s first Primrose School, which she opened in 2019. It’s the only Nebraska location in the national system of accredited private preschools west of Omaha. 

“There are so many wonderful women leaders in Lincoln,” Tonniges said, and that it was a pleasant surprise to be nominated, and then announced as an award winner. 

Prior to opening Primrose, Tonniges was an elementary school teacher and principal. She recognized a need in Lincoln for more early childhood education, in part because her own children were beginning preschool. 

“I was looking for something a little more robust, that had some research behind it, and that provided families more opportunities to be part of a family,” she said. 

Operating a small business is different from the education world, she said, but that the liberal arts backbone present during courses for all three of her Doane degrees helped prepare her for the challenge.

Having a small business also gives her more flexibility to spend time with her own family — her children are enrolled at Primrose and her husband, Jesse, has since joined the leadership team. Primrose has also played a part in supporting other families in Lincoln. The COVID-19 pandemic hit just about six months after the preschool opened its doors, and Tonniges knew many of the families they served were first responders who couldn’t take a break or work from home. 

“We thought, if we could provide a safe place where we could have systems in place to prevent as much spreading in any capacity, then we would stay open,” she said, and worked with staff and families to develop a plan, then communicate and adjust as needed. “Our families did a fantastic job, our staff did a fantastic job.” 

Now, Primrose faces a new challenge. There’s a waitlist for students to get into Primrose’s programs, which is exciting as evidence of the business’s success, and also heartbreaking as Tonniges has to tell families to wait for openings. But it does give the business a solid foothold for its next goal — continued growth.  

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Emily Goodman ‘16C  | Sounding Board Mental Health

Finalist — Excellence in Entrepreneurship

Emily Goodman

It was a surreal experience when Emily Goodman found out who else was nominated for the Excellence in Entrepreneurship awards. 

“Is this what it feels like to be in ‘the group?’” she joked. 

Of the six women who were finalists for the award, Goodman partnered with one for her business’s branding (Christine Weeks at Eleanor Creative) and works out with two others (Stacy Orsborn and Stasi Grenfell at Victress).

“It’s a testament to ‘you are who you surround yourself with,’” Goodman said. “We’re all five [businesses] connected somehow.”

And maybe that shouldn’t be a surprise. Goodman, as a clinical practitioner and perinatal mental health counselor at Sounding Board Mental Health, is a feminist and a strong believer in women supporting women. She opened Sounding Board in June 2020.

But let’s start at the beginning. Goodman actually started her career in banking after getting her associate degree in business administration, and worked in the field for around seven years. Then, she jumped into a new field, starting in September 2010 at the Nebraska Department of Corrections as one of seven women in an otherwise all-male facility. She earned her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. 

From there, she became a child and family service specialist with the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services and made a connection that would ultimately lead to another degree and career trajectory. She met Dr. John Herdman, who encouraged her to consider becoming a therapist or counselor. 

Goodman realized then that throughout her career path, one thing had always been consistent — she had always enjoyed listening to people, as a bank teller, as a corrections officer and in the DHHS. 

“I’ve always been a therapist,” she said, and enrolled in the Master’s of Arts in Counseling program at Doane. 

The program was just what she needed, emphasizing both in-class learning and experience. She interned with Herdman and then joined his private practice, Parallels, after graduating. Many of her professors and instructors are now her peers, she said. 

“I spent five years with John (Herdman), and he’s still my best friend and mentor,” Goodman said. 

Working at Parallels was great, but wasn’t what set her on fire — a major focus for the office is substance use and Goodman wanted to go a different route. At Sounding Board, she can broaden her focus, although she is drawn to post-partum support for both women and men, treating ADHD and helping women find empowerment through therapy. And she can also provide treatment in the wardrobe of her choice. 

“You should be comfortable in your own skin,” she said, and comfortable clothing is a good place to start. 

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Elsbeth Magilton J.D. ‘08L | University of Nebraska College of Law

Finalist — Excellence in Business (Large - 101 employees or more)

Finalist — Excellence in Education

Elsbeth Magilton

Elsbeth Magilton is the executive director of space, cyber and telecom law, and the Nebraska Governance and Technology Center (NGTC) for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Law. But her story starts at UNL’s Center on Children, Families and the Law (CCFL), where she was doing web development and training lawyers on how to best represent children. 

She graduated from Doane-Lincoln in 2008 with a degree in graphic design that was put to use at the CCFL to update and maintain an interactive training website as part of the Through the Eyes of the Child initiative. But in spending all her time around lawyers, Magilton also found herself drawn toward law. 

“It sounds non sequitur but felt really natural,” she said of her educational path.

Throughout her education, she knew she wanted to do something with technology. As it turned out, there was a growing need for lawyers with that knowledge, too. She received her J.D. in 2011 with a concentration in cyberlaw and went on to become director of the law college’s space, cyber and telecommunications law program, building key connections for funded research by the Department of Defense, NASA and U.S. Strategic Command, among others. 

Next month will also be the first anniversary of the NGTC, which Magilton helped create. The NGTC studies the relationships between law and technology, and frequently works with start-ups. 

Magilton’s love of technology extends beyond her work hours, as well — she is the board president for Girls Code Lincoln and serves on several other boards. 

It was a surprise, she said, when she heard she was a finalist for two of the Inspire awards. Once she learned the names of the other finalists, it was an honor.  

“In both categories, those women have accomplished things in their careers that I haven’t even thought about,” she said

Magilton said the nominations have made her feel good about where she is, and have inspired her to do even more. In fact, a line came up during the awards luncheon that she connected to: “carry while you climb.”

It’s a guiding value she’s incorporated throughout her career, although she said she uses a similar adage that often gets eye rolls from her students: “A rising tide raises all ships.” She takes this mindset to every networking opportunity, every conference and every interaction.

“I think about what I can do for them versus what they can do for me,” she said. “The worst-case scenario is that I helped a lot of people.”