While studying at Siena Heights University, Jenna Long envisioned herself becoming an elementary school teacher to combine her loves of education and art.

Then she worked at a children’s summer day camp.

“It was torture,” joked Long, an academic adviser in the School of Nursing. “I love kids, I still love kids, but I think I’ll really only be able to love my own.”

With that, she sought a different path that involved something she enjoyed doing as an undergraduate student without recognizing it was a potential career.

Jenna Long is an academic adviser in the School of Nursing
Jenna Long, an academic adviser in the School of Nursing, recently revived her passion and love for ceramics by enrolling in a class seven years after she last sat at a pottery wheel. (Photo by Scott Soderberg, Michigan Photography)

Long served as a resident assistant and helped with orientation, along with working in a “variety of different offices on campus” at Siena Heights. Michael Orlando, dean of students, encouraged her to consider higher education as a career.

With a bachelor’s degree in fine arts and Orlando’s encouragement, she enrolled at Kent State University and received her master’s degree in higher education.

After graduation, she worked for two and a half years in advising at Ashland University in northeast Ohio before coming to U-M as an academic adviser in the School of Education in December 2017. She moved to the School of Nursing the following October.

Away from U-M, she enjoys hiking with Millie, her 1-year-old Red Heeler Cattle mixed dog, camping and hitting national parks. One of her goals is to visit all 58 national parks, and she’s crossed seven off the list so far.

Then there’s art. She stumbled upon a passion for ceramics while taking an introductory course at Siena Heights and became good enough at it that she raised about $2,500 by selling bowls, mugs, cups and plates she made — enough to help finance a nearly six-week trip to Greece, Rome and France.

After essentially walking away from ceramics for about seven years, she joined a six-week class last month and sat at a pottery wheel for the first time in nearly a decade.

“It’s always been cathartic for me,” she said. “My first class back at it, I’m just sitting there at the wheel, and my brain, everything, just stops. I don’t even have to watch what I’m doing, I’m just doing it.”

She’d like one day to have her own wood-burning kiln, but that’s for another time and house. Just don’t expect her to let go of any of the wares she makes this time around.

“I never kept any of my work because I sold it or gave it away as gifts,” she said. “I really selfishly want to create for myself. I always think to do things for others and I don’t always intentionally think about myself.”

Her work at the School of Nursing is just the current step in a higher education career that began at Siena Heights and Kent State, where she was a graduate assistant in the School of Education, Health and Human Services and a learning community coordinator in the Learning Community.

At the Learning Community, she implemented and taught a “Leadership and You” course after which students would be eligible to become mentors and be assigned mentees.

“There’s a lot to navigate within higher education,” she said. “There’s the academic side, student services side, residents’ life. What I love about advising is I can have my toe in all of it if I wanted to.”

She has all 10 toes in, actually.

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She’s on the executive board of the Advising Council at U-M and oversees the Graduate Academic Advisor Committee. She’s also in her second year as a staff mentor through the Office of New Student Programs Mentorship Program. In her first year, she was named Staff Mentor of the Year.

As an adviser for graduate and non-traditional students, she assists students encountering an array of challenges, including divorces, marriages, pregnancies, military deployments.

“You’re there for the triumphs and the celebrations, but you’re also there for, ‘Jenna, these are the cards I’ve been dealt this semester. Help me make this work,’” she said.

In addition, she worked with the Center for Academic Innovation and Information and Technology Services to create an online orientation for the School of Nursing that launched last fall.

“I’m just that crazy motivated, aspirational person who has to learn how to say no sometimes but would rather say yes,” Long said. “What can I do to make this the best experience possible for a student at the university? That’s my primary goal.”