Missouri State University
Leadership Development Blog

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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The Leadership Development Team Bids Farewell to One of Our Own

MarissaAt the conclusion of the Fall 2014 semester the Office of Student Engagement (OSE) and Leadership Development Team said goodbye to an integral part of both areas, Dr. Marissa LeClaire Weaver. It is only fitting that we honor Dr. Weaver as this week’s LeaderBear. Marissa had been a part of the OSE at Missouri State for nearly 15 years when she made the decision to embark on a new journey in her life and pursue a career at Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Ozarks as the Executive Vice President.  As sad as it is that we must say farewell, we must express our upmost appreciation for her, as the legacy she leaves at Missouri State will not soon be forgotten. When asked about her experience she said, “working at MSU over the last 14 ½ years has been such an amazing journey. I always felt like the luckiest person to work with students who wanted to learn more about being a great leader.”

Marissa began her career pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication from Southeast Missouri State University.  Upon graduation she went on to complete the Master of Science in Education for Counseling and Student Development program at Eastern Illinois University.  After receiving her Master’s degree, it was on to her first full-time job, which happened to be at Missouri State University as the Assistant Director of Student Engagement for Greek Life.  At this time there were 26 fraternities and sororities which Marissa advised.  She stayed in this position for five years until a very unique opportunity arose.

In 2005 Marissa had the opportunity to create her dream job at the university, the Associate Director of Student Engagement. With this job she was able to create her own position and bring to the university her love of leadership. The leadership development area was born and with it came the creation and implementation of the three leadership programs that we still use today.  Marissa created from the ground up the Commerce Bank Emerging Leaders program (2003), the Centennial Leaders Scholarship program (2005), and the Distinction in Public Affairs program (2010).  For anyone who has been through our programs you know this involves creating the curriculum and organization of the programs as well as developing all of the skill building activities that are implemented throughout the sessions. Through the years each of these programs grew to great success and have become very sought after. This year over 175 students applied for the Emerging Leaders program alone. None of this would have been possible without Marissa’s hard work and dedication.

Her dedication to leadership does not stop there. She does everything from serving as the president of the Parent & Teacher Organization at her daughter’s school to being a victim advocate at the Victim Center. Here are some of the other accomplishments and positions Marissa has had during her 15 years at Missouri State:

  • Member of the Leadership Springfield Board of Directors (8 years)
  • Received the Springfield Business Journal 40 Under 40 Award (2010)
  • NASPA Rising Star Award recipient for Missouri
  • MSU Master in Student Affairs Outstanding Practicum Supervisor (2013)
  • Presenter and Facilitator at multiple national conferences including ALP, AFLV, UIFI, St. Louis Gateway Leadership Conference, and more
  • Member and chair of numerous university advancement committees
  • Director of Leadership at People Centric Consulting
  • High and low ropes course facilitator at Leadership Ranch
  • Member and Advisor Trainer for Delta Delta Delta Fraternity

In 2012 Marissa completed her Doctorate of Education degree in educational leadership from the University of Missouri and became Dr. Marissa Weaver. During her time at the university Dr. Weaver was one of the most inspiring and influential staff members there.  She would always push students to be the best they could be whether she was serving as their supervisor, advising them, or teaching them.  Students loved the opportunity to work with her because she went above and beyond her expected role.  Students would walk away with numerous skills they would use in the future, a great networking connection, and a feeling of being a more well-rounded individual.

When asked what the enjoyed most and will take with her from her time working at the university she said:

“One of the best parts of my job was connecting with students when they were just a freshman and watching them evolve over the years. Not only seeing them step into various leadership roles, but staying in touch after they graduated has been really fun.  I love helping people become more successful. This was a great fit in my position at MSU, but it is also a great fit for me at Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Ozarks. We help children realize their potential and build their futures. We also help the mentors grow and make our community better.”

Marissa’s most prominent strength was definitely the maximizer strength. It was a running joke that anything you collaborated on with Marissa or ask for her advice on would get instantly “maximized.” But this pushed people to do their best possible work and is one of the main reasons everyone enjoyed working with her.  Her other top five strengths include; arranger, individualization, significance, & command. People that know Marissa at all will tell you how big of an advocate she was of strengths and how much she used them in everything she did.

Here are two last pieces of advice Marissa wanted to share with students:

“Know how to market yourself-The students who get selected for positions, awards, etc. are not necessarily better than the ones who don’t. The key is to be able to explain your strengths and how they connect to what it is that you are applying for at the time. It sounds simple, but speaking from experience, very few people do this. Don’t say you are organized, talk about a time that you organized a project similar to what they are looking for.”

“Don’t be afraid to ask questions-Seriously. Faculties, staff, leaders, whoever, love to engage with others that are interested in what they are interested in. For instance, you may see a job that you would like to possibly have one day. Ask the person if you could sit down with them sometime and learn about their position and journey. You will not only learn a lot but make an invaluable connection in that area.”

Although Marissa will be greatly missed in the Office of Student Engagement at Missouri State, she is not gone for good.  She will still be teaching a leadership class at the university and will surely stay involved behind the scenes.  Her former colleagues are very excited and happy for this new journey Marissa is embarking on.  We are thankful for everything she did for our office, Missouri State, and each one of us individually.  She inspired each one of us with her passion, and that is what will be missed the most.  So farewell Dr. Marissa LeClaire Weaver and good luck on everything you do!

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LeaderBear Spotlight: Courtney Baker

courtney bakerMeet Courtney Baker, the LeaderBear who we like to refer to as the “Queen” of walking backwards. So what exactly does this mean? We’ll she is the current president of the University Ambassadors organization. That’s right, the tour guides who walk around campus backwards giving tours to incoming and prospective students.  Courtney found her passion with this organization nearly 4 years ago when she joined as a freshman! This is her third term on the executive board as well having served as the Social Chair and Vice President of Regular Tours as well.  If you have ever met Courtney she also shows excitement and a great personality that she passes along to her tours and her fellow University Ambassadors.

Being a UA isn’t all Courtney likes to spend her time doing though.  She graduated the Commerce Bank Emerging Leaders program  in 2013. She is also a very active member of the Alpha Chi Omega sorority where she has served as the Banners Chair, Social Chair, Recognitions Chair, and Assistant Greek Week/ Homecoming Chair. She is always looking for ways to show off her school spirit and give back to the school. Her intentions are to graduate in 2015 with a degree in Early Childhood Education and Family Studies.

To help her out, Courtney relies on her top strengths of Achiever, Communication, Developer, Positivity, and WOO.

When asked what about our programs impacted her the most she replied,

“I was tremendously impacted through my participation in the Emerging Leaders Program. Learning my strengths as a leader allowed me to focus on those aspects and utilize them to the best of my ability. Rather than trying to change myself to be a different kind of leader, I have been able to take great strides as a person, by emphasizing the characteristics that come naturally to me.”

Her advice to younger students:

“My advice to younger students would be to get out of your comfort zone! Some of my favorite interests have come from trying something I never thought I would like or would be good at. College is a time to test your boundaries and truly find out who you are- take advantage of the opportunities presented to you!”

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LeaderBear Spotlight: Zane Clark

Zane ClarkOur featured LeaderBear this week is Zane Clark, and he has a knack for being a leader. He was recently elected as the president of the Interfraternity Council for the 2015 calendar year.  Interfraternity council is the governing body of the 17 (soon to be 18) fraternities that are a part of Missouri State’s Fraternity and Sorority Life.  Zane will be the head of the 11 man council that works to monitor and improve the fraternity community.

Before taking on this role Zane was the president of his own fraternity, Pi Kappa Phi. Under his presidency his chapter was named Missouri State University’s Fraternity of the Year and was recognized by Pi Kappa Phi national headquarters for outstanding governance. He has also been involved in other areas of campus besides Fraternity and Sorority Life. Zane is a current member of SGA serving on the Wyrick Comission, a SOAR leader returning for his second year next summer, and a current district intern for U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill.

Zane has also recently represented the university on the 2014 Homecoming Royalty Court and was named FSL Male Sophomore of the year for the 2013-2014 school year.  To help him in his many leadership roles, Zane relies on his strengths of Strategic, Achiever, Futuristic, Individualization, & Focus. Oh and did we forget to mention he graduated the Commerce Bank Emerging Leaders Program in 2014.

When asked what about our programs impacted him the most he replied,

“The Commerce Bank Emerging Leaders program allowed me to network and develop my leadership abilities alongside other great leaders at Missouri State. I learned how my strengths fit in and mesh with those who have strengths on many other ends of the spectrum of leadership. Through this program I made many lasting connections on the Missouri State campus and developed strong bonds of friendship and respect with the other participants. All this is to say that through this program I was able to discover how I may best lead and serve those I work with on a daily basis through self-realization and humility.”

His advice to younger students:

“The first step in becoming a strong & ethical leader is simply taking on a position of responsibility. If will dig deep within yourself to find the willingness to take this first step you will surpass all expectations you ever had for yourself regarding your capabilities. There is a leader within every individual because you have valuable experience and ideas to bring to any situation. The key is identifying your strengths and how you may best translate those experiences and ideas into the format best suited for your current situation.”

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LeaderBear Spotlight: Azure Marhanka


A December 2011 graduate of Missouri State, this week’s #LeaderBear has finished an accelerate nursing program in Kansas City, MO and will continue her education to receive a Doctorate of Nursing Practice. She works now as an Oncology Nurse at The Research Medical Center. Ultimately, Azure hopes to start a foundation whose main focus will be to sponsor events that will raise money to benefit cancer research. Her experience in leadership programs, such as Commerce Bank Emerging Leaders both as a participant and facilitator, has definitely helped her get to where she is now.

“The Emerging Leaders program molded me into a very confident leader by challenging me to think outside of the box and exposed me to topics that I didn’t even believe to be within the realm of leadership. The activities and discussions were highly stimulating and I learned something new every single day. I continue to utilize several of the tools and activities I learned in the program to this day. I also really love that the leadership programs facilitate interaction among a wide variety of students on campus, which allows values, ideas, and leadership styles of all kinds to be shared throughout the program. This helped me grow into a flexible leader who understands and appreciates differences among people.”

Her advice for younger students is to try as many things as possible. Whether it’s a class, experience, or another opportunity – try new things. Go outside of your comfort zone and don’t hesitate to try new things. She says that exploring things we don’t know is a positive way to live.

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LeaderBear Spotlight: Riana Sears

RiannaOur #LeaderBear today is an alumni of Missouri State University. Riana Sears graduated in May 2014 with a degree in Public Relations and is now the National Recruiting Coordinator for American National Insurance in Springfield. Her role there requires her to market for and recruit insurance agents for her company. However, like any good LeaderBear, Riana is also using her time to give back to Springfield! She is most excited right now about getting involved with Big Brothers, Big Sisters of the Ozarks.

While at Missouri State, Riana was on the executive board for Student Activities Council for two years. She also served as the Chief Communications Officer for the Student Government Associations 2012-2013. Riana served our campus and potential students/families as a University Ambassador. From participating in Emerging Leaders to helping facilitate the program as an upperclassman, Riana certainly knows our programs through and through. From disaster relief efforts like Haiti and Japan to the Public Affairs Week Planning Committee, her dedication to this university is unending. Riana says these experiences help transform and challenge students to reach their full potential. For her specifically, the Emerging Leaders program set the stage for her interactions at work and in her personal life. She gained a lot of communication and conflict management skills that she otherwise would be without, in her words. What words of advice does a leader like this have for younger students? Let’s see it:

“Care about something. Nothing compares to feeling that you are important to a cause or an organization. Dedicating yourself to something will translate into all areas of your life and you’ll find yourself caring more about the people and environment around you. Missouri State is unique because the students feel responsible for its future. Take advantage of every leadership opportunity available to you on campus. You will gain invaluable skills that you can carry throughout your life and will build relationships with incredible students and mentors.”


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LeaderBear Spotlight: Ellie Edwards

A Global Studies major and Spanish minor, Ellie Edwards is this week’s #LeaderBear. Ellie has gone through our Emerging Leaders and Distinction in Public Affairs programs during her time here at Missouri State. We can only imagine what she will do before she graduates in 2016; she’s already done so much! Ellie is the former President of Alpha Chi Omega sorority but she’s a member of another greek letter organization as well, Rho Lambda Women’s Honors Society.

Ellie says that our programs have given her, “the confidence I never had when I was in high school. They helped me learn more about myself and my leadership abilities, which has given me the courage to step up and take on leadership roles within different organizations.” She also loves that these programs are lead by older students with whom she has developed mentor-like relationships. Ellie’s advice to younger students is definitely encouraging:

“My advice to younger students is to never let the fear of failure keep you from doing what it is you actually want to do. Yes, you will make mistakes, but be kind to yourself, forgive yourself, and then keep going! The only things you’ll regret when you’re older are the things you didn’t do, so participate in everything you can. You may not like it, you may end up loving it, but either way you learn a little more about yourself in the process. Also, reach out to your peers and get to know as many people as possible. Everyone has a story and you will be surprised by what you can learn from others just by simply listening to them. Remember that everyone has bad days, so build others up as much as possible, support those close to you, and help whomever you can!”

Keep up the good work, Ellie! We’re proud to have you as an alumni of our programs. If readers would like to get the same experiences Ellie has had at Missouri State, check out Emerging Leaders and Distinction in Public Affairs.


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LeaderBear Spotlight: Christina Adams

christinaOur #LeaderBear this week is Christina Adams. You may have seen Christina around campus doing work with Planned Parenthood, at SGA meetings, in ResLife happenings, or when she ran for Homecoming Queen last fall! Christina is expecting to graduate this month with a Bachelor’s in Hospitality and Restaurant Administration, a Bachelor’s in French, and two minors – Ethical Leadership and Technical Writing. While that Ethical Leadership minor has certainly prepared her for a life beyond Missouri State, so have our leadership programs!

Christina is an alumni of the Commerce Bank Emerging Leaders program and Distinction in Public Affairs. These programs will help her in whatever career path she chooses and no doubt her experience on campus will too. In 2010 Christina was the youngest nominee for the Missouri State Women Student of Distinction Award. She also won the 2014 RA/RPA Programmer of the Year Award and received the Midwest Asian American Students Union’s highest award in 2013. Christina is a graduated sister of Alpha Sigma Alpha sorority on Missouri State’s campus and has been involved in various other cultural, political, and honors organizations.

“When I first began in Emerging Leaders, I had been involved on campus, but I struggled with confidence and communication skills. The Emerging Leaders program focused on my strengths and provided resources to lessen my weaknesses. All of the leadership programs provide amazing connections, and I am glad that I had the opportunity to work as a participant and a facilitator in their programs.”

-Christina Adams

Christina’s best advice for any younger students reading this is to “apply for everything.” Get out of your comfort zone and apply for thing because it will lead to many opportunities around campus, in the community, and further. Each opportunity, she says, will be a thrilling and memorable experience.


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LeaderBear Spotlight: Andrea Green

andrea greenWith the fall semester winding down, many first year freshman have a lot of new experiences to look back on from their first semester at college.  Missouri State senior Andrea Green says some of her best memories are planning events for new freshman the first week that they are here on campus to help them have the best experience possible! Our LeaderBear this week has been very involved with the MSU Student Activities Council in her three and a half years here on campus. She was a member of their executive board for most of her time on the council serving as the Vice President of Marketing and Vice President of Operations.  Now that she is in her last year she still a member of the general council and stays very involved in the organization.

When I asked her what some of her favorite events that she help plan were, she replied without a doubt, it was the events the council holds on opening week.  SAC puts on an event every night of the first week students are here, starting the Friday of Welcome Weekend.  When responding to why these events were her favorite Andrea said, “It is so much fun to be there for the incoming freshman and watch as they make new friends, come out of their comfort zone, and really experience college.” Many of the students finishing up their first semester probably have some great memories of these events that Andrea helped put on.

Next semester will be Andrea’s last semester at Missouri State as she finishes up her student teaching to receive her Bachelor’s degree in elementary education in May. She looks forward to being able to teach a classroom full of diverse students in the future. In her time at MSU she not only was very involved in SAC but also served as a student leader for CRU and attend CRU regularly. She completed the Commerce Bank Emerging Leaders program during her sophomore year in 2013. Her top five strengths that she uses everyday are: achiever, includer, responsibility, belief, and developer.

When asked what about our programs impacted her the most she replied,

“Learning about other people and leadership styles has impacted me the most. I think learning about others lets you really get to know and appreciate them for who they are and accept them. Everyone is different but if we do not recognize those differences and appreciate them we will never learn from them and learn to appreciate them. I am going into education and I will have the pleasure of teaching diverse students one day. What I have learned about diversity in these programs I have been involved in at Missouri State will help me to become a better teacher for my diverse students.”

Her advice to younger students:

“I would tell younger students to get involved in something while they are in college. College is a time to grow and experiment, by getting involved they may find a new passion or hobby or they may find a great friend they will keep in contact with for years to come. Getting involved can totally change the college experience a student will have and I think it can make all the difference.”

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LeaderBear Spotlight: A’dja Jones

Adja JonesA’dja attended Missouri State as an undergraduate and graduated with her bachelor’s from the university in 2011. For her, MSU was the perfect place to stick around and get a Master’s in Student Affairs in Higher Education. Upon graduating from that program in 2014 she began work as an Academic Counselor in the Athletics Department here at MO State!

Where did this Bear start out? She completed and facilitated the Commerce Bank Emerging Leaders Program as an undergraduate student. A’dja reflected a little on what impacted her about our programs:

“Looking back at the time and dedication given to myself and other emerging leaders by the faculty and staff I worked with was truly astounding. They, themselves, led by example and invested so much energy into empowering us to find our strengths and helping us to understand the meaning and power of leadership.”

Jones uses the skills she learned in Emerging Leaders to work with student athletes now. Not only is this a rewarding experience but one that A’dja, no doubt, is making an impact on student leaders at her alma mater. Her advice for younger students is simple. First, get out there and take risks. A’dja wants younger students to understand that leadership “is about finding the best way to empower others and make things happen.” Lastly, she says, get comfortable with feedback. Instead of taking it personally if it happens to be negative, Jones suggests that you use this feedback to make improvements.

A’dja was also a member of Alpha Sigma Alpha during her time at Missouri State.

Her top 5 strengths are: Significance, Competition, Harmony, Focus, and Achiever.


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