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Jennifer Henniges of Penn State Wilkes-Barre -- Why NEPA? image
May 12, 2020
Jennifer Henniges of Penn State Wilkes-Barre -- Why NEPA?

“The personality of this area very much suits me.” -- Jennifer Henniges

Long, drawn-out winters are nothing new to this NEPA newcomer. Jennifer Henniges, Penn State Wilkes-Barre’s Strategic Communications Specialist and St. Paul native, has survived a blistery Minnesota winter or two. Of course, she went and softened her hard-earned frosty toughness for nearly a decade in considerably warmer, yet not quite balmy Germany.

She started in TV news, then ditched that racket for the life of an educator abroad. A love of travel, an affinity for history, an explorer’s spirit and, of course, Kolsch led her to Central Germany. There, she fell in love, got married, and so on and so forth… Ironically, it was her German husband who brought her back to the states.

We met Jennifer at Penn State Wilkes-Barre’s gorgeous Nesbitt Academic Commons for a chat. There, we got the scoop on this adventurous Upper Midwesterner’s take on her new life in NEPA.


How long have you lived in NEPA?

We moved here on May 24, 2019. So, not even a whole year yet.


What brought you to NEPA?

Yeah, so like I said earlier, my German husband brought me back to the U.S. (Laughs) It was literally his job. He had several opportunities, or, promotions if I’m being honest, across the world. There was one in Canada, one in Tennessee, one here, one in Mainz, Germany (where we lived) and one in Malaysia. And I said, “Let’s do Malaysia” (laughs). And he was like, “No, that’s too big for me. I’ve never lived outside Germany”.  So, we visited to make sure Northeast PA was a place we could see ourselves. And, we could. So, we made the decision to come.


What’s your favorite thing to do in NEPA?

I think it has to be just exploring all that there is to do. It reminds me of Germany a little bit in that people are pretty humble about what there is to do in this area. There’s actually a lot, but you have to kind of dig around to find it. People don’t brag about it. So, part of the fun is talking to people. And there’s a lot of like, “Wait, what was that? What did you do? And where is that?” And then, we go out and experience it. And we bring Harvey along, of course.

Note: Harvey is the Henniges’ adorable Papillon/Chihuahua mix rescue. And they never leave home without him.


Did anything surprise you about NEPA?

Yes. A little bit. I would say… the hardness. And, don’t get me wrong. That’s also what I like about it. The people are tough. They have an edge. And also, this is just my personal observation, but the remnants of the coal industry and the impact it’s had on, I guess, the infrastructure, on the neighborhoods and on families. It’s still very visible. And, I just wasn’t expecting that, because it’s not how I grew up. I mean clearly, almost everyone here has been touched by this history. I was taken aback by it, honestly. I find it fascinating.


What’s next for you?

Well, we’re still trying to settle in here. So, that’s what’s next, I guess. It takes a while when you make a move like this to just catch your breath. You know? We moved. We both started new jobs. And I think it’s all just catching up to us. So now we really just want to enjoy where we’re at, and start – well, Leadership Wilkes-Barre has given me a leg into the community, and I learned about the Kirby Center, and all of these amazing things that I wouldn’t have known about – So, we’re finally ready to start enjoying all those things. Yeah. So, the immediate next, it this (Laughs). It’s just being here.


Where do you see NEPA heading in the future?

That’s an interesting question. I see it moving into the future, but I also see NEPA always holding on to that resilience, and that toughness that’s given this area its personality.  There are always changes, of course, with technology and communication and work. And, I hope… I know this isn’t how you asked the question, but I hope this area never loses its personality and what makes Northeastern Pennsylvania what it is. You know – the toughness, the resilience, the down-to-earth people. That’s what makes this place so special.



Hmm… Why not? No. That’s too simple, right? (Laughs)

The people here are accepting. They’re tough, but welcoming. And, there’s something about that that I really like, because it’s real. I would much rather know where I stand, then to have somebody be like, “Oh my God, I love you. How are you?” And then you never hear from them again. I can’t stand that. And, it hasn’t been like that here. I’ve met some of the most wonderful, kind-hearted people in just the short time I’ve been here. It’s taken a minute, of course, but that’s OK, because then I know it’s real. And I like that.