Missouri State University
Leadership Development Blog

LeaderBear Spotlight: Savanna Stanley

Savanna is our #LeaderBear this week. She is a Agricultural Communication major expecting to graduate in 2017. During Savanna’s first year at Missouri State University, she was selected to be a facilitator for the Student Orientation, Advisement and Registration Program during the summer of 2014. She was one of only nine freshmen chosen for this honor. This opportunity allowed her to strengthen her communication skills involving families from a wide range of backgrounds. She was an ambassador for the university supporting the three pillars of the MSU public affairs mission: community engagement, cultural competence and ethical leadership. During that same time period, she was chosen as an emerging leader and participated in our very own Commerce Bank Emerging Leaders Program. From this program she learned to effectively compliment a diverse field of co-workers. In addition to developing her leadership abilities, she also expanded her role in public relations relating to agriculture. From her speech class, she was selected to present at the Vicki Stanton Public Speaking Showcase. Her speech was titled “Organic vs. GMOs”. She has been published in the MSU Ag Review magazine and will continue writing articles about agriculture topics. Savanna is also working on reestablishing the Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow chapter on campus. She can’t wait to get this new club started to help our increasing amount of agricultural communications majors find their place on campus.

We asked Savanna to share a little advice for younger students. Here’s what she had to say:

“My advice to younger students would be to get involved in every organization that you are interested in and run with it! Find something that you are truly passionate about and make that the most important part of your life. Missouri State University has so many opportunities for students to get involved and I personally have grown so much through the Commerce Bank Leadership Program and through the SOAR leader position. I can’t wait to take on more leadership positions in the future!”




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LeaderBear Spotlight: Brad White

Our #LeaderBear this week is a PR major set to graduate next Spring. Brad participated in our Emerging Leaders program and has taken those skills with him to several other organizations and projects.

“This program [Emerging Leaders] taught me a lot about myself as a person and as a leader. I got the opportunity to learn what my personal strengths our and my weaknesses. This allowed me to develop my strengths more and work on my weaknesses. Also, I got the opportunity to work with other leaders to learn how I fit in a group and what roles I can take on based on my strengths to help the group succeed. I feel as though Emerging Leaders was a great stepping-stone for me during my freshmen year. It was a great building block for my college career and I can honestly say it is a reason that I am as successful and hard working.”

Currently, he is working hard to found a Best Buddies chapter on campus. Best Buddies is an international nonprofit centered around developing one-to-one friendships between individuals with and without Intellectual Developmental Disabilities. A chapter at Missouri State would be the first in the entire Show Me State. Brad got a quick start in campus leadership when he joined Phi Sigma Upsilon and served as their Fundraising Committee Head. He has also been very active in his fraternity, Pi Kappa Phi (Pi Kapp). As Pi Kapp’s Recruitment Chair Brad helped usher in the largest new member class his chapter had ever seen at the time. After doing a spectacular job in that position he was elected his chapter’s Vice President where he oversaw recruitment in a new role.

Outside of his own chapter, Brad has served the FSL community as Greek Week Committee Philanthropy and Service Co-Chair. In this position Brad helped the FSL community donate 15,000 lbs of food to Ozarks Food Harvest and 400 items to Ronald McDonald House. Who better than such an involved leader to talk with new students? First year students may recognize Brad from SOAR last summer. He will serve as a SOAR Leader for the second time this upcoming summer and help welcome our new Bears to campus yet again. Chief Communications Officer for Student Government is another job Brad does on campus. We asked him to share a little advice for younger students:

“Missouri State University gives you the opportunity to develop yourself as a person and leader; all you have to do is take on those opportunities. Getting involved here on campus will allow for you to grow yourself more than you would ever imagine, and it supplements your college career. Leadership Development Programs are a great place to start to develop yourself as a leader to enhance your college career and make you a better candidate for jobs when you graduate.”



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LeaderBear Spotlight: Leah Reitmayer

Leah is a Dietetics major at Missouri State with minors in exercise biology, chemistry, and biomedical science. She is set to graduate in 2016. She has been involved with our Emerging Leaders program as both a participant and facilitator.

“The emerging leaders program helped me to learn more about my self, not just as a leader, but also as a person in general. I learned more about how I handle my self in different situations and learned how to change myself for the better.”


As a Field Hockey player for the university, Leah has a slew of accomplishments. In addition to receiving All-Conference All Academic Honorable Mention FieldHockey MAC Conference, she has also been listed on the Athletic Director Academic Honor Roll several times. We are very proud of Leah’s 2014 recognition as a Missouri Valley Conference Leadership & Service Award recipient. This prestigious award is given to athletes, chosen by their universities, who are in good academic standing, demonstrate good citizenship through sportsmanship, and have significant community service experience. Each year, only 30 students in the entire Missouri Valley Conference receive this significant honor.

Off the field, Leah manages to serve in a number of ways. She is a member of SDA and SAAC representative Senator for SGA on campus. In the community she also volunteers atCox Health. Leah is also the Co-creator of Healthy Heroes. This is a four week long youth program created to teach young people about the importance of starting healthy habits early. Hey Leah, what advice would you leave with younger students?

“I would tell younger students to take every experience they encounter, whether good or bad, and learn something from it, to later be able to positively impact the lives around you.”

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LeaderBear Spotlight: Brandon Simpson

This week’s LeaderBear is a Film Production major and member of Phi Gamma Delta (FIJI) fraternity expecting to graduate in December 2016. Brandon has been through our Emerging Leaders and Distinction in Public Affairs programs in is time here at Missouri State. We asked him to share a little about those experiences:

“Programs such as Emerging Leaders and Distinction in Public Affairs taught me more about my leadership style and myself as a person. Emerging Leaders taught me to be more confident in myself and the decisions that I have to make through my involvement in other organizations. Also, I have made lifelong friendships with some of the other participants in this program. Distinction of Public Affairs allowed me to explore more about Missouri State’s public affairs mission, where I have learned to apply these pillars into my life. By doing so, I believe that I have become a more confident person. The most important impact that this program has taught me was to have more empathy for others that are different than myself. Cultural competence was the most important pillar that has impacted me because I am still learning how to be more culturally aware of others in my community.”

You might see him all over campus in the summer leading new students as they make their way through Student Orientation Advisement and Registration (SOAR). When he was a new student himself, Brandon served as the Philanthropy Chair for Phi Sigma Upsilon, the Junior FSL Council on campus. Student Activities Council is another area he has worked with as he’s served on the Lectures and Cultural Affairs committees. Brandon loves his own fraternity but also works hard for the entire fraternal community here at Missouri State. Last year he served as the Interfraternity Council’s Director of Social Awareness and this year he serves as the Vice President of Membership Development. In his time with IFC Brandon also created FSLSA, a student organization committed to social change in the fraternity and sorority community.

Just this semester Brandon was awarded the huge honor of being awarded the 2o15 Wayne S. Calvin Outstanding Undergraduate Award. He was recognized for this honor by the Association of Fraternal Leadership and Values. Outstanding leaders like this Bear always have great advice for younger students:

“Advice that I would give to younger students is to step out of their comfort zones in any setting while still here at Missouri State. I had to step out of my zone during leadership positions and have taken risks, because of this I have become a more confident person and leader. Being here at Missouri State is the time to take the risks and learn from them, so that after graduation, you will be more prepared for the professional world.”



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LeaderBear Spotlight: Caitlin Polley

Hall Council President, Resident Assistant, and Assistant Hall Director are all positions you might have seen on Caitlin’s name tag around campus. Caitlin Polley is set to graduate in 2016 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Special Education. She completed our Centennial Leaders program and has held several leadership positions in Gamma Alpha Lambda.

Caitlin says the connections she made with people were huge for her as a participant in our programs. Further, she learned a lot about herself as a leader which made a big impact.

“I still talk to and hang out with the friends that I made through the Centennial Leaders program. I also think the activities that we did within the program allowed me to find out who I was as a leader and has helped me in the positions that I have had since then.”

As a self-proclaimed “super senior”, Polley had a little advice for younger students about making the most of their time at Missouri State:

“If I were to give younger students advice I would tell them to embrace the Public Affairs Mission. Every place you look at on campus can represent the Public Affairs Mission, whether it be Cultural Competence, Ethical Leadership, or Community Engagement. All of these pillars allow you to get involved and find your place at Missouri State, and that is what the college experience is all about!”


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LeaderBear Spotlight: Jordan Fisher

This week we’re featuring a special Alumni Bear! Jordan graduated from Missouri State in 2013 with a Bachelor’s Degree in History. While she was at Missouri State she honed her leadership skills in our Emerging Leaders and Distinction in Public Affairs programs. Somehow, she also made time on campus to be a Residential Programming Assistant and Peer Leader. Phi Sigma Pi members have known her as an Alumni Advisor but she was also Social Chair and Historian during her undergraduate career.

Jordan just couldn’t get enough of our great university, though. She stuck around to serve as the Assistant Hall Director of Scholars House and the Advisor for Scholars Hall Council. She says being a part of our programs taught her to focus on her strengths instead of her weaknesses as a leader.

“…taught me to focus on what I am good at rather than what I’m not good at, while also teaching me how to use my strengths to benefit others. Furthermore, it taught me how to appreciate other’s strengths and how to use their strengths to help build a successful team.”

Naturally, a campus leader like Jordan has some advice. Especially considering her post-graduate roles as an advisor and mentor to many students!

“I would encourage students to reflect on their experiences in the classroom and in their extra-curricular activities. You are probably getting a lot of experience that can help you in the future; sometimes it just takes a little reflection to realize how those experiences can benefit you and the future you are working towards.”



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LeaderBear Spotlight: Francis Ahrens

“My biggest advice for students is to take chances and risks in college when it comes to getting involved or being a student leader. I have definitely failed in getting some positions on campus but I have also succeeded and fallen in love with other organizations. You will never be able to “Follow Your Passion” on campus if you haven’t found it. So find your passion and then find your place on campus.” -Francis Ahrens

Wise words from a senior who will be graduating in the fall. Francis is a Public Relations major who has completed all of our leadership programs. He has also served as a facilitator for Emerging and Centennial Leaders. While he spends a good deal of time with the Leadership Development folks on campus, Francis certainly hasn’t limited himself to one area. A member of Pi Kappa Phi fraternity, he has served on his chapters’ executive board and will be biking across the country this summer to benefit people with disabilities! In addition to that heartwarming work, Ahrens has been a Resident Assistant and is currently a University Ambassador for which he just finished a term as Recruitment Co-Chair. Francis was also on Homecoming Court last year which is an enormous honor that very few students receive. He got his start at Missouri State in Leadership Development programs, so we wondered what our programs have done for him.

“The biggest impact that the programs have had on me is the chance to meet so many student leaders on campus. I have gotten to see how other people work in different situations and what their leadership styles are.”


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LeaderBear Spotlight: Reina Hill

This week we are featuring Reina Hill, a member of Alpha Chi Omega and leader on our campus. Reina is a Public Relations major set to graduate next fall whose strengths include: Woo, Positivity, Communication, Strategic, and Adaptability. Hill learned about and developed this skills in our 2012 session of the Commerce Bank Emerging Leaders program! Additionally, Reina is a member of Entertainment Management Association where she works to better herself professionally. As a SOAR Leader Reina has worked as the Family Panel Coordinator. Of course, she knows how to get ahead at Missouri State but also how to stay out of trouble; she’s served on the Campus Judiciary Board. Public Relations majors spend a whole lot of time in Craig Hall and Reina spends a little bit more than the average PR student as she works for the Dean of the College of Arts and Letters. We took a little time to ask Reina what our programs have done for her:

“The Commerce Bank Emerging Leaders program impacted me most by expanding the knowledge of myself and helping me grow as a leader, this knowledge is something that I have taken with me my past four years in the university, not only within the organizations I am involved in but with school work as well. I think the training I received was invaluable and helped me learn so much about myself and others. Being a part of the program remains one of my favorite parts of my college career, and I always encourage any freshman or sophomores to apply and get involved.”

The current sessions of Emerging Leaders and Distinction in Public Affairs are already up and running but you could have an experience just like Reina! Keep an eye out for the LeaderShape application – a new program Missouri State is bringing this summer. If you want to follow in her shoes, you could also take a little advice from this senior:

“I would tell younger students to take a leap of faith and go out and meet new people through university organizations and clubs around campus. The people you meet and relationships you develop cannot be traded for the world and throughout the process you will learn a tremendous amount and grow as a person. I would tell them not to be afraid to experience something new because it might end up being one of the best decisions of your life.”



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LeaderBear Spotlight: Emily Cassimatis

This week’s LeaderBear has quite a few Missouri State experiences under her belt. Emily Cassimatis, an Interior Design major set to graduate in 2016, has completed our Commerce Bank Emerging Leaders and Distinction in Public Affairs programs. When we asked her to tell us a little about what those experiences meant to her, she said:

“The most impactful thing I have experienced throughout the leadership programs I have been a part of has to be the relationships I have made with students across campus! It was so refreshing to get the chance to work with people that had different ideas and views than what I had.”

Emily is a member of Alpha Delta Pi sorority on our campus and has served as their Historian. In this role she helped lead her chapter to another great year full of success and sisterhood. In addition to her work with ADPi, she serves as a University Ambassador. In this role, Emily may be spotted giving tours to potential new students and their families or you may catch her on a student panel in the Plaster Student Union. A dedication to service is certainly important to Cassimatis which is evident through her work with Fall and Spring Break emersion trips for she and her peers.

This past summer, Emily was chosen as one of 5 students – along with Courtney Pfluke, Blake Shepheard, Caleb Hearon, and Kelsea Fink – too attend the LeaderShape Institute. This is a weeklong leadership institute where students from across the country come together and grow together as leaders and change agents. Emily is now working with the other students who attended this conference to plan a LeaderShape Institute for Missouri State students this summer. Keep your eyes peeled for that awesome opportunity!

Outside of leadership positions and planning wonderful service trips, Emily has achieved some personal goals as well. She ran a marathon last fall and the gentlemen of Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity liked her so much, they made Emily their Dream Girl. Naturally, we had to ask Cassimatis to leave us with a little advice for younger students, and she didn’t disappoint.

“My advice is: Go beyond your comfort zone! Try everything that sounds interesting to you regardless of how different it may be from what you have done in the past. Even if you don’t like it in the end, you won’t have the regret of not trying it at all.”



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LeaderBear Spotlight: Tyler Mathenia

This week’s #LeaderBear is a Junior here at Missouri State. Tyler has chosen Biology as his major and will pursue a career in Optometry upon completion of his undergraduate work. Of course, like all of our LeaderBears, Tyler has been through some of our leadership development programs. Specifically, he completed Distinction in Public Affairs and Emerging Leaders. In addition to completing two of our three programs, he served as a Centennial Leaders Facilitator this past fall and helped our freshmen scholars develop as leaders as well. This future optometrist has also been a Peer Leader, volunteers in the Oncology Department at Cox South, and is actively involved in his fraternity. As former Corresponding Secretary for Phi Gamma Delta (FIJI), Tyler was able to contribute to his chapter in a big way. After finishing that position he was elected Recruitment Chairman by his chapter and is currently serving in that role.


“Being involved in programs such as emerging leaders and centennial leaders, I have learned useful skills that I now use to impact what I do in my everyday life”, says Mathenia of our programs. Tyler also mentions that Emerging Leaders has played large for him as a leader in his personal life and on our campus. He thanks the program for many skills it helped him develop. When it comes to leadership, however, Tyler does not just focus on his own development. He says that as a Centennial Leaders Facilitator he was able to help students discover their own leadership style and seeing them grow in that way was definitely a memorable experience. A leader like this has some sound advice for younger students:

“Take time to find things that you’re passionate about. Missouri State is a huge campus with hundreds of organizations to get involved in, find something you love and are passionate about and devote your time to it. Keep an open mind and be nice to people. The more involved that you are on campus, the more incredible people you will continue to meet. Stay humble, work hard and stay focused.”

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