York College’s winter commencement held in the Bartholomew Performing Arts Center on December 16 was one for the record books as fifty-seven graduates received their master’s degrees, the largest graduate study class in the college’s history. While more than half of the graduates were from the Midwest, with Nebraska representing the lion’s share, they hailed from as far away as Gulf Shores, Ala., and Brentwood, Calif. For many, this was their first time to be on the YC campus, having taken all of their coursework online. Others were not able to be at the ceremony due to distance but still received their cherished diploma in the mail.
For Jane Nincehelser, reigning 2021 Mrs. Nebraska America, the 128 miles separating the small northeastern town of Oakland and York was worth the two-hour drive to celebrate her second master's, this one in education. She was able to meet some of her online classmates, shake President Smith’s hand, and accept the ceremonial hooding by Dr. Cheryl Couch, master of arts education program director, and Dr. Shannon Leinen, dean of online learning and academic initiatives.

This week, Nincehelser received a package in the mail from the YC registrar and posted on her personal Instagram, “It’s official! I received my MA degree in the mail today!”

That Instagram post tagged York College and was seen by Eryn Conyers, communication officer for York College. When Conyers read some of Nincehelser’s other comments about her journey, she realized it was a story worth sharing.

The Oakland-Craig elementary teacher entered the 2021 Mrs. Nebraska Pageant back in April of 2021. For those who are unfamiliar with the title, the following is a description of the obligations: As Mrs. Nebraska, your role is to serve as an ambassador for the contemporary married woman. The only requirement is that you advance to nationals and compete for the title of Mrs. America. This title is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity; it’s up to you what you achieve during your reign.

Nincehelser, who is married and has two adorable children, made a clean sweep of the main categories: swimsuit, evening gown, and the interview portion of the Mrs. Nebraska Pageant. She was also awarded Mrs. Congeniality and told the Oakland Independent, “This was a big honor, as this is voted on by the contestants themselves, so knowing they thought highly of me and my character meant a lot.”
Upon winning the crown, Nincehelser stayed active in her community and used the platform to carry with her a message across the state of the importance of early screening for colon cancer, having lost her father to the disease.

Nincehelser went on to represent the state of Nebraska in the Mrs. America Pageant held November 20, 2021, in Las Vegas and placed in the Top 15. Less than four weeks later, she is trading her crown for a mortarboard and walking across the stage at York College to celebrate yet another milestone.

“When I think about when I started this MA program my babies were 1 and 3 and then I look at them now and how they’ve grown!” she said. “It’s crazy how fast it went!”

Along with a picture of her pageant crown on top of her graduation cap, she posted this on her Mrs. Nebraska Instagram account, “Wearing these two hats hasn’t always been easy, and I couldn’t have done it without my amazing support system, my family, and most importantly, the man behind the scenes, my husband, Clayton. Thank you babe for always believing in me, keeping the kids out of my zoom meetings, and cheering me on the whole way.”

Then she added, “I’m happy to say I can take the one “hat” off! Master’s Degree No. 2 is in the books! I’m excited to see what new opportunities come my way with this additional degree. AND I’m looking forward to continuing to wear this crown to represent Nebraska in the months ahead!”