We are very excited to welcome Max Wagner, MSU 2016 graduate, to New Student & Family Programs. Max, our Parent & Family Program Specialist, will be assisting this semester with Parent & Family Programs, the Ursa Experience and SOAR. Take a minute to get to know Max! He is #BearUp!
Tell us about yourself. Where are you from? Do you have siblings? Where did you go to High School? I was born in Kansas City, MO and grew up in Overland Park, KS and I have 4 younger siblings (2 on each side of my family). My high school was Shawnee Mission South which had a little over 1600 students. We were the smallest high school in my district at the time, believe it or not. Additionally, I was the only one from my graduating class of over 350 to come to MO State for college. I graduated this past December with a degree in Administrative management and a minor in History. This coming summer, I will begin my next academic journey in the Student Affairs in Higher Education Master’s program here at MO State.
You graduated in December 2016. How did it feel to graduate from Missouri State? Was it bittersweet? Graduation was a huge day for me. I had a very rough time my first semester. At that time, I was strongly considering leaving Missouri State because I really felt like Missouri State wasn’t the right place for me. However, my family and best friend pushed me to stay one more semester before I made my final decision. I went into my second semester with very low expectations, but I was really going to try to make the best out of it. That February 1st, I started dating my amazing partner Amanda, later that month I accepted a job as a Resident Assistant (RA) in Blair-Shannon House, and in April I got appointed to the Cabinet of Student Government Association (SGA). The rest is history after that. Today I can’t fathom how I believed that MO State was the wrong choice back then. To me, walking across that stage was symbolic of my journey from almost transferring to becoming a proud alum and my first big steps toward my future.
Why are you interested in the Student Affairs in Higher Education program? What are your goals for the future? Where do you see yourself in five years? I want to make a positive, lifelong impact on college students and help develop them into our future leaders. Student Affairs is the vehicle with which I can achieve this life mission. Being a Student Affairs practitioner will give me the ability to facilitate student development, collaborate cross-functionally to continuously improve student life and higher education, and assist emerging leaders in finding their purpose beyond academics. My leadership experiences inspired my interest in Student Affairs and have given me vast, diverse experiences and professional connections in the field already.
My professional goals are fourfold. First is constantly broadening my knowledge, skills, and experience to be the best contributor to the field I can be. Second is to have a career in which I will interact with students on a daily basis and help create student leadership and mentorship programs. Third is to be involved in professional student affairs organizations such as ACPA, NASPA, and NODA and be able to attend and present at one or multiple their respective conferences. Lastly is to become a Vice President of Student Affairs or equivalent position who also teaches classes. I want to be able to lead a higher education administration someday and inspire the next generation of Student Affairs professionals.
In 2022, I see myself after my first few years of my career as a Student Affairs professional. I see myself in at a 4-year university in a full-time position that is somewhere within a department similar to New Student & Family Programs. In my position I hope I can interact with students every day, develop student leadership and resource programs, and work on, or create, a program similar to Ursa. Ursa is an incredible program and I really hope that I can continue to work on extended orientation programs like it in the future.
What were you involved with at Missouri State? Why is out-of-class involvement important for college students? I was very involved during my undergraduate life in a variety of organizations such as Freddy House Hall Council, Residence Hall Association, the Blair-Shannon House RA staff, Student Government Association (SGA), Advocates, Traditions Council, and the Ursa Experience. I served in leadership positions in many of these organizations. Most notably, I served on the Cabinet of SGA for 3 consecutive years and as an Ursa Major for the first 2 years of the program. Additionally, I served on 10 university-level committees in a variety of areas.
It’s critical for students to find their purpose beyond academics. I’m a strong believer of the phrase “It is what you make of it”. Getting involved, even in just one thing, can fundamentally transform your college experience and the person you are. Furthermore, involvement gives you another dimension of education. Involvement expands your worldview, connects you to others and something greater than yourself, and gives you hands-on experience to develop skills in leadership, communication, collaboration, organization, time management, and so much more. I truly believe I am a much more educated person as a result of my wide involvement on campus. Everyone can find something to get involved in on campus that they will love. It really can change your life.
For the last two years, you were a facilitator (a Major) for the Ursa Experience. Why is the Ursa Experience an important program for incoming freshmen? What did you learn from being a Major? Ursa is important because it inspires passion for our university and gives the tools for incoming students to excel in the classroom, as leaders, and beyond. It achieves this in the following ways. First, Ursa allows incoming students to make connections with each other and our university before they are put into the full swing of their first semester. As a result of Ursa, they are able to make friends, connect to important resources, and develop wide knowledge of our university and traditions. This preparation allows them to be confident transitioning into college. Second, Ursa inspires the next generation of bears to become leaders on campus and in their communities. What they learn in Ursa helps them begin to find their larger purpose outside the classroom and gives them direction on how to start their journey once school begins. Lastly, this gives the students a great foundation going into their first semester that they will build upon during their college life and inspires their pride to be bears.
I was fortunate to serve as both a large group leader my first year and small group leader my second year. Leading large group activities as a large group leader challenged me to make the sessions as impactful as possible while managing time well. Being a small group leader was a greater challenge for me as I was responsible for ensuring that my group of 10 incoming students and the other Ursa minors I interacted with were being benefitted from the Ursa Experience and making connections with each other and Missouri State University. Overall, the three biggest things I learned as an Ursa Major were how to break out of my shell as a person, how to effectively lead different groups of people, and how I can make an impact on individual people.
What advice do you have for Missouri State students? First, find something to get involved in. As I discussed previously, it is probably the most important thing you can do to get the most out of your college experience. You’d be amazed to see the great experiences you can have by getting involved. Second, never be afraid to change your major. If you aren’t happy with what you are studying, you need to change it. I changed my major 5 times as an undergrad so I was very academically indecisive. It’s ok to be indecisive for a while. You’ll find the right program eventually after you explore your interests. It’s better to stay in school longer to get the degree you want than graduate with a degree you hate and be stuck with it then have to start over again. Lastly, always look for opportunities to grow. Every step you take in your college journey will open doors for you. Keep your eyes open for those opportunities and capitalize on them. Like I said before, you can be amazed where things can take you.
What is your favorite Missouri State tradition? Why? My favorite tradition is Fountain Day in the Spring. The fountain is one of the most iconic parts of our campus and it is really exciting to see it on display. In the past, a small celebration was done for the day it gets turned back on. However, last year Traditions Council made Fountain Day a huge campus event and it was very successful. As a result of their work, Fountain Day has immensely improved as a tradition and it has became my favorite tradition.
What is the last movie you saw? Would you recommend it to others? Why or why not? The Big Lebowski. My stepdad and I watch it every Christmas as a tradition. I strongly recommend this movie because it one of the top cult classic movies ever. It is directed by the legendary Coen brothers and has a star studded cast of Jeff Bridges, Julianne Moore, Steve Buscemi, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Sam Elliott, and, of course, MO State grad John Goodman. It’s a hilarious, wacky, and thrilling movie and it never stops being funny.