Missouri State University
Public Affairs Blog

February Student Spotlight: Cindy Umaña

Cindy Umana

Cindy Umaña

Junior: Political Science, Honors College, President-Phi Alpha Delta Pre-Law Fraternity, V.P.-Model United Nations

Cindy’s passion for multiculturalism and social justice has created multiple opportunities to make a difference, both on and off campus.  Having an appreciation and understanding of the issues and pressures on immigrant families, especially children, Cindy has volunteered with local organizations such as the Hand-in-Hand Multicultural Center and Grupo Latinoamericano.  In conjunction with her Law interests, Cindy was able to assist Grupo Latinoamericano with cases and paperwork regarding D.A.C.A.-Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which helps provide a two year pardon from deportation to undocumented immigrant youth brought to the U.S. as children.  This allows many of these youth to apply for work and higher education opportunities.

Cindy encourages others to get involved in their community in some way, but do so with an open mind and an open heart, stating “…when you volunteer, you get to know others better, and in turn, learn more about yourself.”  Because of her impressive track record of campus and community service activities, we are proud to recognize Cindy as February’s Public Affairs Student Spotlight.

Posted in Featured, Public Affairs, Spotlights | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

February Staff Spotlight: Tara Benson

Tara Benson

Tara Benson

Associate Director PSU – Director Student Engagement

When Tara moved to Springfield in 2007, she knew she wanted to connect with others in a way that could make a big impact in her new community.  She found that avenue through the Junior League of Springfield (JLS).  On average, JLS members donate over 20,000 volunteer hours annually to Springfield organizations and projects.  Tara has specifically served the Doula Foundation, Ozarks Food Harvest and Isabel’s House’s Ozarks Parent Café in partnership with CPO.  Through JLS, Tara is preparing to assist their new Homeless Youth Project initiative.  With 891 (3.8%) homeless SPS students, she will be helping shed further light on this troubling issue and find ways we can all take action, large or small, to help our homeless youth.

In addition to her 5 years with the Junior League and serving as Youth Group Leader at her church, Tara also volunteers on the phones with Ozarks Public Television telethons and during its program, Sense of Community.  For all her contributions, we honor Tara Benson as February’s Staff Public Affairs Spotlight.

Posted in Featured, Public Affairs, Spotlights | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Board of Governors’ Excellence in Public Affairs Award

Faculty & Staff Nominations Now Being Accepted for 2016 

The Board of Governors’ Award for Excellence in Public Affairs was established at Missouri State University to recognize faculty and staff who excel at carrying out the public affairs mission.  Up to three faculty and three staff are selected each year to receive recognition by the Board of Governors and a $1,500 grant to be used toward their university public affairs work.

View the staff and/or faculty nomination procedures on the Public Affairs website.  Nominations due in February.  For questions please contact Dr. Rachelle Darabi at 6-8346 or StaceyTrewatha-Bach at 6-8832.

Posted in Excellence in Public Affairs Award, Featured, Public Affairs, Related Events | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Staff Excellence in Community Service Awards

Nominations now being accepted for 2015 Staff Community Service Awards!

Through October 23rd, the campus and area community are encouraged to nominate Missouri State University staff members for the Staff Excellence in Community Service Award.  Each year, up to two staff members are recognized for their excellence in volunteer work with nonprofit, charitable, church or similar organizations.  Awardees earn a $1,000 award and are acknowledged during the Staff Awards Recognition Luncheon in January.  More information and the nomination form can be found at  the Excellence in Community Service Awards webpage or contact Stacey Trewatha-Bach at 836-8832, staceytrewatha@missouristate.edu.

Posted in Excellence In Community Service Awards, Featured, Public Affairs | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Staff Excellence in Community Service Awards

September Staff Spotlight-Adja Jones & Alex Johnson

Adja Jones and Alex JohnsonAdja Jones, Academic Advisor, Dr. Mary Jo Wynn Academic Achievement Center

Alex Johnson, Director, Community Involvement and Service

This summer, MSU staff members Adja Jones and Alex Johnson volunteered their time and leadership talents to help inspire a group of 30 high school students attending MSU’s week-long Missouri Public Affairs Academy.  Assisting these students explore and understand the three pillars of public affairs, helped each become a more active Missouri citizen and begin developing the leadership skills necessary to be engaged problem solvers in their communities.  Both Adja and Alex said being involved with the Academy was a perfect match for their interests in working with teens – “it was exciting for us as mentors to see the students’ knowledge, skills and desires grow to a level that they wanted to get home and start making a difference in their own communities.”

We are proud to recognize both Adja Jones and Alex Johnson as September’s Staff Public Affairs Spotlight for modeling the pillars of public affairs and their dedication to today’s youth!

Posted in Featured, Public Affairs, Spotlights | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Congrats to the 2015 Faculty Excellence in Community Service Awardees


We congratulate Lora Hobbs and Paula Rector as the winners of the 2015 Faculty Excellence in Community Service Awards. A plaque and a $1,000 cash award are presented annually to two faculty in recognition of their volunteer work with charitable, nonprofit, church or similar organizations within the community.

Lora and Paula dedicate themselves to the betterment of their communities both locally and globally and we are proud to honor their work and commitment!

Posted in Excellence In Community Service Awards, Public Affairs | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on Congrats to the 2015 Faculty Excellence in Community Service Awardees

May Student Spotlight: Taylor Vinson

TaylorVinson1Taylor Vinson

Sophomore, Communication Sciences and Disorders

Through a variety of impressive activities, sophomore Taylor Vinson is living the public affairs mission through her voice, the pen and community activism.

Taylor is founder and president of the newly formed Untamed Tongues, an all-student performance poetry club devoted to creating a safe place for creative expression, community activism and academic achievement.  “We really strive to be more than just a poetry group. I firmly believe that poetry is activism and that we should act in more ways than our words.”  The group has held study halls open to the campus and will be volunteering at the Youth Writing Conference in May for 5-8th graders.  Taylor and two additional members recently performed on stage at the Gillioz Theater honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s birthday.

As Miss Black and Gold 2014 from the Sigma Theta Chapter of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Incorp., Taylor facilitated “The Outstanding Woman: Women’s Empowerment Workshop” designed for women of color on campus to engage in discussions on professional, social, civil, and civic issues such as building leadership, elevating self-confidence, combating sexism and racism in the workplace, and promoting community activism.

Taylor’s integrity, passion, and insight into diversity, multiculturalism, and social justice has led to multiple opportunities such as serving on the Student-led Diversity Task Force and presenting a session at the 2015 Statewide Collaborative Diversity Conference.  In addition, Taylor is also the Creative Writer for The Black Bear.  For her impact as a student leader, diversity champion and community advocate, we are proud to recognize Taylor Vison as our May Public Affairs Student Spotlight.

Posted in Featured, Public Affairs, Spotlights | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on May Student Spotlight: Taylor Vinson

May Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Shurita Thomas-Tate

ShuritaThomas-TateDr. Shurita Thomas-Tate

Assistant Professor, Communication Sciences and Disorders

Dr. Thomas-Tate personifies living the public affairs mission both in and out of the classroom.  A strong leader and notable expert in diversity and multiculturalism, Shurita currently volunteers in several capacities with the Springfield Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).  As well as Treasurer, she serves on the Education Standing Committee which is currently partnering with several local organizations to implement the national ‘NAACP reads’ project to combat the grade-level reading gap for children of color who are socio-economically challenged.

As the Advisor for the local NAACP Youth Chapter, Shurita is Chair for the local ACT-SO program that will be sending two students from Willard High School to the National Competition in Philadelphia this summer.  ACT-SO is the NAACP’s Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics – a yearlong achievement program designed to recruit, stimulate and encourage high academic and cultural achievement among African-American high school students.  The competition includes 26 categories in the sciences, humanities, business and performing and visual arts.

Dr. Thomas-Tate is actively engaged in her church where she gives her time and efforts toward outreach projects and teaching classes focused on identifying member’s gifts and passions and connecting them with opportunities to serve in the community.  Recently, Shurita’s heart for children led her to fulfill the call of becoming a foster parent and is now providing a full-time home to her first child in need.

Her passion for bettering the lives of the citizens in our communities incorporates the three pillars of cultural competence, community engagement and ethical leadership at all levels.  We are honored to recognize Dr. Shurita Thomas-Tate as May’s Faculty Public Affairs Spotlight!

Posted in Featured, Public Affairs, Spotlights | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

May Staff Spotlight: Brian Heaton

BrianHeatonBrian Heaton

Content Mgt Programmer/Analyst, Web and New Media

For over 31 years Brian Heaton has been serving the computer and web media needs for Missouri State University.  When not at work, you can find him serving his community in multiple ways.  A once casual occurrence is now a passion for Brian as he provides the ‘gift of life’ to those unknown.  “I have always viewed donating blood as a good way to give back to the community.”  After donating whole blood a few times, he started donating platelets, which are used by those going through cancer treatment, having surgery or a transplant procedure. Not everyone can tolerate the needle stick or a 1.5 hour donation stint, but Brian has undergone this type of donation over 220 times.

From 1997 through 2013 he averaged more than 13 donation visits per year yielding just over 500 blood product units (whole blood, platelets, plasma), with a peak four-year total of 79 visits and 219 units (23+ gallons).  Brian was inducted into the Community Blood Center of the Ozark’s (CBCO) Donor Hall of Fame in 2007 and recently reached 600 units (75 gallons) of lifetime blood product donated.

In addition to his CBCO donations and being of active assistance to his elderly neighbor, Brian also officiates collegiate, high school and club volleyball and holds National Referee certifications for PAVO (collegiate officials) and USA Volleyball.  Each competition level has different training and mentoring programs. Brian volunteers his time and efforts to create instructional materials for new officials, present on training topics, conduct on-court rating sessions and mentor new officials. “Having well trained and certified game officials is important because, as the saying goes, without referees it’s just recess!”

We are delighted to recognize Brian Heaton as the May Public Affairs Staff Spotlight for his significant community contributions and ethical leadership!


Posted in Featured, Public Affairs, Spotlights | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on May Staff Spotlight: Brian Heaton

April Staff Spotlight: Debra Horn

WLC_DebraHornPicDebra Horn

Academic Administrative Assistant II,  Modern and Classical Languages

A Debra Horn, a member of the Greene County Family Violence Task Force, partners with organizations such as the Springfield Police Department, the United Way, Harmony House, and the Victim Center to raise awareness regarding service and support needs in southwest Missouri. Recently, she helped create a training video used by local law enforcement on the benefit of using the lethality assessment tool for domestic violence situations.

Debra’s work has been recognized with the 2013 Newman Civic Fellowship and 2014 MSU Woman of Distinction award. Debra’s open and honest dialog about her experience surviving and breaking free from an abusive marriage gives a transparent perspective on where we stand as a community in dealing with this issue.  As April’s Public Affairs Staff Spotlight, we are honored to recognize Debra for her commitment to ethical leadership and community engagement.


Posted in Featured, Public Affairs, Spotlights | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on April Staff Spotlight: Debra Horn