Missouri State University
Arts & Letters Expressions
An online publication for the alumni and friends of the College of Arts and Letters

Mitzi Kirkland-Ives recognized with General Education Assessment Award

The Council on General Education and Interdisciplinary Programs (CGEIP) has selected Dr. Mitzi Kirkland-Ives for the 2017 General Education Assessment Award for her leadership in assessment for improvement and for employing effective and innovative practices to help students achieve success in general education in ART 274: Survey of Asian Art.

In 2016-2017, CGEIP reviewed 99 annual reports and selected seven general education course coordinators for this honor. Dr. Kirkland-Ives was recognized for this achievement at the All-Faculty Recognition Ceremony on May 2.

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Overcoming obstacles as a first-gen student

Shelby Morrison
Shelby Morrison

First-generation college students – those who are first in their family to go to college – face many hurdles in their quest for a higher education.

For Shelby Morrison, the biggest struggle was the financial burden.

“I’ve had to pay for college solely on my own, so I’ve taken out quite a bit of student loans for my degree,” said Morrison, a senior from Wood River, Illinois. “It hasn’t been easy, but it means making a better life for my family and myself, and making them proud.”

Morrison is pursuing a major in health communication, one of the newer programs at Missouri State University. This degree gives her the ability to work in the health care field and interact directly with physicians.

“My mentors and professors helped me to find the health communication major, and I ended up falling in love with it,” said Morrison. “I love the fact that I will be able to help people through health care.”

Challenges of being first-generation

Besides cost, another obstacle Morrison faced when she chose to go to college was not having anyone at home to help her plan for it. She had to discover many of the processes on her own.

“It was difficult getting prepared for college as my parents weren’t sure how to help me. It was quite an experience learning how to fill out a FAFSA, apply to college and get everything ready for the move,” said Morrison. “That was definitely challenging.”

But she never gave up because she always wanted a college education.

“I’ve never thought that college was a ‘question’ for me. I’ve always known I wanted to go,” said Morrison. “I want to make a good life for myself and my future family. My high school English teacher was the biggest inspiration to further my education. She helped me to believe I was totally capable of getting a college education.”

First-gen student at graduation

Advice from a soon-to-be alumna

Morrison had to find her own way and do the research on her own to succeed, but she does not want that to be the case for future first-generation college students. She seeks to inspire and help them.

Morrison is co-founder and current president of MSU: I’m First. Started in August 2015, the organization helps to ensure the success of first-generation students on campus. It provides resources such as faculty mentors and financial aid and scholarship workshops.

“My advice to future first-generation students is to definitely do your research. It’s always better to know too much than to not know about a form, deadline or event that could be very beneficial to you,” said Morrison, who will graduate this August. “Don’t be scared. This is a huge, brave step in your life and it will be worth it, even on the tough days.”

Despite having to overcome many different challenges compared to her peers, Morrison’s upbeat attitude has helped her achieve success. Her words of encouragement to any first-generation student is, “Never lose hope and always think positive!”

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Catherine Jolivette recognized with FCTL Award in diversity

Catherine Jolivette
Dr. Catherine Jolivette is the recipient of the FCTL Teaching Award in Diversity

Dr. Catherine Jolivette, professor of art and design, is the recipient of the 2017 FCTL Teaching Award in Diversity. According to the FCTL website, “This award recognizes faculty who focus on culturally responsive teaching and faculty who demonstrate a scholarly approach integrating diversity into the classroom.”

Jolivette said, “Diversity, for me, is getting to hear all the voices of our collective story. It’s always been part of the conversation I’ve wanted to have as an educator.”

Jolivette, a sculptor and art historian, integrates diversity into her classroom by selecting a broad range of work for study and including reading assignments from non-traditional sources. For example, in her course Women in Art, she selected essays from grassroots journals and statements from emerging artists in addition to more traditional readings from scholarly journals. She also assigned an essay from LOGOS, Missouri State’s journal of undergraduate research.

“Students like to read things written by their peers,” she said.

Her classes also present opportunities for students to express their own ideas through short writing responses, which Jolivette said reveal a broad range of experiences within the student body. “Everybody’s story is unique,” Jolivettte said, “in terms of their family caregiving, religious background and other circumstances.” She believes that, “the more ways we embrace our students and the different circumstances in which they arrive on campus,” the more effective the learning environment is for all students.

Diversity and critical thinking

Jolivette is confident that the diversity of her curriculum not only allows students to engage with a wide range of perspectives, but also enhances their critical thinking. Her conversations with students address questions such as, “Which texts do we take to be foundational? Who gets to write the story of an event or time?” Jolivette said, “I’m encouraging students to think about which perspectives we privilege in our discourse.”

She continued, “The more we think about different ways of experiencing the world, the deeper our understanding will be, which is part of the university’s Public Affairs Mission.”


Jolivette’s commitment to diverse curriculum has deep roots. One significant influence has been Canadian nonprofit Art Starts, where she volunteered as an artist and educator twenty years ago. “Their philosophy and educational strategies helped shape my own pedagogy in teaching about art within a social capacity,” she said.

She also credits the leadership of her department head, Vonda Yarberry, and the support of the entire art and design department, which has made diversity a curricular goal.

Jolivette will be recognized for this award at the All-Faculty Recognition Reception on May 2.

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Communications asset: quote graphics

The COAL Com Team developed and implemented a new communication tool, quote graphics, to help promote a recent reading and book signing with New York Times bestselling author George Hodgman.

A quote graphic is a “social media ready” format that incorporates appealing design or images with a quote. We selected quotes from George Hodgman’s book, Bettyville, and used Missouri State brand elements to create the COAL quote graphics.

COAL Com Team designer Ashley Breuer used embody bars, a brand design element, and Missouri State colors maroon and white to create the prototypes below.

Quote graphic examples

Quote from Bettyville: "The sky is our see here, our object of contemplation in all its moods and shades."

Quote from Bettyville: "Turns out I am a person who needs people. I hate that."


We received a lot of positive feedback about these quote graphics, and data indicates they increased social media engagement with the event. For example, a Facebook post that featured one of the graphics had three times the engagement of any other post about the event.

The Com Team is looking forward to building on this positive start by using quote graphics for other events and initiatives. They’re a great fit for events like the George Hodgman reading, and we’re also considering using them to highlight COAL-created content about our faculty and students.

If you have questions about quote graphics or other COAL communication services, reach out to the Com Team.

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Staff Appreciation Night at Tent Theatre

Staff Appreciation Night at Tent Theatre

The College of Arts and Letters invites Missouri State staff members to join us Tuesday, June 13, 2017, for Staff Appreciation Night at Tent Theatre.

This year’s performance, She Loves Me, is a joyful musical in which the identities of anonymous romantic pen pals are revealed.

Each staff member may reserve two tickets, and each ticket comes with a voucher for Andy’s frozen custard, served during intermission.

To reserve tickets, contact Barb Jones via e-mail at BarbaraJones@missouristate.edu or by phone at 836-6605. Seating is limited, so reserve early!

Tickets will be distributed beginning June 1, 2017.

For more information contact Barb Jones.

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Becoming a language learner

A maroon globe

The Foreign Language Institute at Missouri State University often gets phone calls and emails about language learning. Students and community members alike are interested in learning a new language, but are concerned about what that entails.

“I could go on for days about the benefits of learning a language,” said Kelly Schlinder, coordinator of the Foreign Language Institute. “Perhaps one of the most important for students are the cognitive benefits language learners receive.”

An event for the community

On April 21 from 6-7 p.m., the Foreign Language Institute and the department of modern and classical languages will host a Community Language Open House at the Jim D. Morris Center. During the open house, language instructors will provide 20-minute lessons on various languages.

These short lesson “bursts” will give attendees an opportunity to understand what learning a language is like and what to expect during a typical class.

“We’ll have 16 language instructors present as well as representation from every language offered at Missouri State,” said Schlinder.

“We’ll also have representatives from the student language clubs on campus. It’s important that students practice language outside of the classroom. Clubs are great resources to learn from and with peers. Many of these clubs are also joined by native language speakers, which is a huge plus for language learners.”

Lessening the pressure

Though the institute has never held an event like this before, it is hopeful the open house will benefit all prospective learners.

“Maybe potential learners have a personal connection to a language but don’t know what learning a language looks like in a classroom setting,” said Schlinder.

“Maybe they aren’t sure which of two languages might benefit them most, or maybe they’re not sure if they have the aptitude to learn a language. It’s a scary prospect to attempt to learn something so big, so we want to lessen the pressure and give them an idea of what they can expect in a language class at Missouri State.”

Many of the classes are held after 4 p.m., making them ideal for community members, high schoolers and other potential students.

For more information, contact Schlinder at 417-836-5497.Infographic on language learning

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Interdisciplinary team filming in Jordan

Dr. W.D. Blackmon, English department head, co-authored Inside Syria — A Phyisician’s Memoir with the book’s subject, Dr. Tarif Bakdash. This collaboration became the foundation for a multimedia, interdisciplinary project that now includes faculty, students and alumni from the department of media, journalism and film.

Blackmon is currently in Jordan with Dr. Andrew Cline, associate professor in media, journalism and film, and a group of alumni — members of the documentary production team Carbon Trace Productions. The team is working in conjunction with the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS), filming the work of Dr. Bakdash and others in Jordan’s refugee camps.

The team is gathering footage for a documentary with the working title Syrian Doctor. They’re also recording interviews with SAMS doctors, and Andrew Twibell, assistant professor in media, journalism and film, will direct a group of students in editing the interviews.

Crew reassures friends back home

Given current events, many people have expressed concern about the Syrian Doctor team’s security. Cline assured us that he and the rest of the team feel safe. “We have no extra security concerns because Jordan is a stable U.S. ally,” he said, “and we are more than 200 miles from where the strike occurred.”

The team getting a tour of the city's history before we get to work. #Amman

A post shared by Carbon Trace Productions (@carbontrace) on

Follow their experience

Keep up with the Syrian Doctor team while they’re in Jordan by following them on social media:

Posted in Alumni News, English, Faculty & Staff Accomplishments, Faculty News, Media Journalism & Film | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Interdisciplinary team filming in Jordan

Interim dean announced

Dr. Shawn Wahl
Dr. Shawn Wahl

Provost Frank Einhellig is pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Shawn Wahl to the position of interim dean of the College of Arts and Letters. Dr. Wahl joined Missouri State University as the head of the department of communication in 2012. Prior to joining Missouri State, Dr. Wahl was the department head of communication, mass media and theatre at Angelo State University.

In addition to his service as department head at Missouri State, he has represented the department heads in Academic Leadership Council. He recently completed a term as president of the Central States Communication Association, and he completed a Management Development Program Fellow experience with the Harvard University Graduate School of Education in 2016. Dr. Wahl has maintained an active national research profile; he currently focuses on communication education, college teaching, university leadership and the intercultural dimensions of higher education. Dr. Wahl will assume his role as interim dean on July 1, 2017 when Dr. Gloria Galanes retires.
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COMWeek provided practical learning opportunities

COMWeek is one of the communication department’s signature events: a week-long immersion in some of the biggest topics in the field. It also includes plenty of opportunities to network and socialize with communication scholars, professionals and students.

Each year, visiting scholars present their research, and the week concludes with an alumni panel so that current communication students can learn from the professional perspectives of recent graduates.

Dr. Shawn Wahl, communication department head

Real-world experience

This year, COMWeek also provided professional training opportunities for four students, who served as the PR intern team. They gained practical experience with many of the most sought-after skills in public relations, such as event planning, promotion and coordination.

The student team consisted of Jacob Burke, Megan Hayes, Bryar Keyes and Tina Pham, who first began working on the plan as part of a class project.

According to Dr. Shawn Wahl, communication department head, “The students proposed a public relations and marketing plan in COM 379: Writing for Public Relations. Several of them wanted to gain more experience by actually executing the public relations and marketing plan they worked on during the Fall 2016 semester.”

After considering the students’ proposal, Wahl agreed to give them a huge stake in one of the department’s most important events.

“We were biting at the opportunity to get more responsibility,” team member Bryar said.

Learning to work within a brand

Just as communication professionals must learn to work within specific branding guidelines or creative directives, the COMWeek team was tasked with building a PR plan around Missouri State’s brand.

“Working with the brand was a big thing,” Bryar said. “It was a lot of fun because it gave us so much to go with. But we had to incorporate it and follow all the rules and guidelines in a specific way.”

Uniting the promotional materials around a consistent theme wasn’t always easy. During many months of planning, the students had to challenge themselves and stretch their skills into new areas of design, writing and organization.

When asked how they pushed through moments of doubt and exhaustion, team member Tina said they’d remind each other, “this is a big thing for our department, one that we love, so we’re going to get back into it. And we’d just take off again. That was the only way to do it.”

Mentorship and support

While COMWeek offered the student team the chance to exercise their professional skills, they got to do so within a supportive environment, where they were surrounded by expert mentorship.

In addition to Wahl’s guidance, the team also relied on instructor Didem Koroglu, who first proposed they create the PR plan in COM 379, and they shared that all communication faculty provided support, as did administrative assistant Suzanne Moskalski and Dr. Gloria Galanes, dean of the College of Arts and Letters.

“I think that’s what really helped us get through COMWeek,” Tina said.


Naturally, they experienced pre-event jitters. Team member Megan said, “The first day it started getting down to time, and we were like, ‘Guys, is anyone going to come?’”

“You know those butterflies,” Tina agreed.

But the team had nothing to worry about. Not only did people come, but according to Wahl, “Communication Week 2017: Make Your Missouri Statement was the most successful event in department history. I am so proud of the work of the public relations students. Overall, they did a wonderful job executing the public relations plan.”

And Wahl’s instinct that the students were ready for this challenge paid off. “I have confidence,” he said, “that this applied experience in public relations, marketing and event planning will help them as they compete for the best jobs across industries.”

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