Barry McNamara  |  Published April 12, 2024

Senior Profile: Lina Jursa

Chemistry major has thrived because of one-on-one attention, opportunities for involvement.

LINA JURSA: The chemistry major has also been involved in music and spiritual life on campus. LINA JURSA: The chemistry major has also been involved in music and spiritual life on campus.MONMOUTH, Ill. – With an enrollment of 2,750 students, Homewood-Flossmoor High School in the south suburbs of Chicago is a behemoth. The Vikings’ boys basketball team just won a state championship in Class 4A, the classification for the largest high schools in Illinois.

It was from that environment that Lina Jursa turned her attention to schools like Monmouth College, where she’d get the type of personalized education she desired. Now that the chemistry major’s time on campus is almost up, she said she hasn’t regretted her decision to downsize one bit.

“I come from a really large high school – a lot of people,” said Jursa. “So I wanted to find a smaller college where I could get more of a one-on-one educational experience. I’ve loved my four years. I have no regrets.”

Scholarship recipient

A college fair at her high school, where she met former admission representative Julio Trujillo, put Monmouth on her radar, and she soon made her first visit to campus for the College’s annual scholarship competition.

“The environment here was just so welcoming. Some people remembered my name, and that was something I hadn’t expected,” said Jursa, who was awarded a Presbyterian Scholarship, in addition to a music scholarship.

“The environment here was just so welcoming. Some people remembered my name, and that was something I hadn’t expected.” – Lina Jursa

From the College’s point of view, both of those scholarships were worthwhile investments. Jursa has been a solid contributor to both spiritual life on campus and to the Monmouth Civic Orchestra, in which she plays the violin, an instrument she first began learning at age 5.

“I’ve enjoyed learning the music and developing my skill,” said Jursa. “Right now, we’re working on ‘Freya’s Chariot’ for our April 28 concert, and we’re all starting to get the hang of it.”

“Lina is wonderful to work with as a humble member of our violin section,” said orchestra director Rich Cangro. “She tries her best in rehearsals to play complicated first violin parts and laughs at my jokes. I am glad to have her in the group.”

Making, and breaking, bread

In Jursa’ early days as a Presbyterian Scholar, she worked closely with the chaplain at the time, the Rev. Teri Ott. Lately, she’s been a valuable asset to the new chaplain, the Rev. John Huxtable, as he navigates his first full academic year in the position.

“It’s given me a different view of campus,” said Jursa, who’s currently helping to plan events for a “Week of Kindness” observance. “I’ve been able to engage in a lot of different programs and done a lot of planning, getting to know what students want.”

“Lina is gifted at creating space for others to feel comfortable and always makes anyone around her feel appreciated.” – John Huxtable

“Lina is an amazing student who is completely dedicated to learning and growing in her faith journey as well as her academic journey,” said Huxtable. “She always is willing to give a hand at whatever we’re doing in the department. Lina is gifted at creating space for others to feel comfortable and always makes anyone around her feel appreciated. She is a true gift to our campus and the Religious and Spiritual Life Department.”

PREPARING COMMUNION: Jursa assists Huxtable at the final event of last summer's LUX institute. PREPARING COMMUNION: Jursa assists Huxtable at the final event of last summer's LUX institute.Jursa was part of the team that helped Huxtable assemble last June’s LUX Summer Institute for Youth Leadership. She even used her chemistry skills, baking the sourdough bread that was used for communion.

Her interest in sourdough also earned Jursa a trip to New Orleans last month, as she presented her research with other Monmouth students at the spring meeting of the American Chemical Society. She presented her poster, titled “Investigating the Microbiota and Molecular Composition of Sourdough Starters,” in the Division of Chemical Education’s Agricultural and Food Chemistry section.

“I love all the chemistry department. My adviser, Laura Moore, has been a great help,” said Jursa, who said Moore’s “Inorganic Chemistry” course has been her favorite class in her major.

During the same summer that she assisted with the LUX summer program, Jursa was also part of the College’s Doc Kieft Summer Research Program. Her research during the eight-week program showed that the sourdough starters she tested that originated in Illinois resulted in less sour bread than her outsourced cultures.

“I’ve learned a lot about independence and time management skills through my research. I had to make procedures for things that hadn’t been done before, which was challenging, but fun.” – Lina Jursa

She said she earned other important lessons along the way.

“I’ve learned a lot about independence and time management skills through my research,” she said. “I had to make procedures for things that hadn’t been done before, which was challenging, but fun.”

Change of plans

When she entered Monmouth, Jursa knew that science was important to her, but her original plan was to study biochemistry to become a cardiovascular perfusionist, the medical staff member who helps keep a patient’s blood flowing during open-heart surgery or related procedures.

But by the end of her freshman year, Jursa realized she wasn’t passionate about a career in medicine, so she veered off her pre-med path to one geared toward education. A class she took around that time from educational studies professor Craig Vivian convinced her to proceed, and her goal now is to teach high school chemistry. She’s looking for jobs either an hour or less from Monmouth, or the same distance from her home in Flossmoor.

“I’m working on finding a teaching job, and I’ll be doing my master’s degree work online,” said Jursa, who’s currently gaining classroom experience by assisting at Monmouth’s Central Intermediate School.

Jursa figures to soon be drawing up lesson plans for high school students, but before she does that, she was asked to speak to current high school seniors who will be entering Monmouth as the College’s Class of 2028.

“I’d advise them to do as many things as they possibly can. Take advantage of all the opportunities here.”

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