Missouri State University
Public Affairs Blog

April Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Ed McKinney

Left - Ed McKinney with Sunnyside Up
Left – Ed McKinney with Sunnyside Up

Dr. Ed McKinney

Professor and Chair, History Department, West Plains Campus

“Ozarks Music Preservation”  


Dr. Ed McKinney holds a life-long interest and passion for the old time music of the Ozarks.  In his spare time he works tirelessly to promote and preserve bluegrass and folk music through leadership, education and entertainment.  Ed is well known for his band “Sunnyside Up” and playing back-up rhythm guitar for old-time fiddlers, where he previously won 3rd place overall in Missouri at the State Fair Fiddlers’ Contest.  Ed states that Sunnyside Up strives to entertain, uplift and encourage audiences at the Old Time Festival in West Plains, the HOBA Bluegrass Festivals, fundraisers, retirement groups and nursing homes.  He shares his passion with multiple generations through workshops, shows and other activities, especially mentoring and educating the younger generation as they learn the music’s history and the art of playing old time music. 

For over 20 years Ed has been active in the Heart of the Ozarks Bluegrass Association serving as both President and Board Member and also serves as Master of Ceremonies for a weekly local jam session where both young and old are encouraged to sing, pick, dance or simply sit and enjoy the great area talent. He is a fine luthier, building and repairing acoustic guitars and mandolins at his home in West Plains. Replicating unique construction techniques of the past, it can sometimes take years to complete an instrument.   Dr. McKinney strongly believes that the music of the Ozarks is a unique and special branch of folk music, and works to see the genre preserved and expanded in a time when trends are focused on popular music.  Folk music is the lyrical language of common folk, and McKinney says “there are more of us common folks than any other group.” 

We are pleased to recognize Ed McKinney as April’s Public Affairs Faculty Spotlight for his civic and cultural engagement to preserving the musical legacy of the Ozark’s and for sharing his passion to the next generation of folk and bluegrass musicians. 

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April Staff Spotlight: Brian Kincaid

2012 Academy
2012 Academy - Brain Kincaid far right

Brian Kincaid

Business Incubator Coordinator, The eFactory

“Missouri Public Affairs Academy”


From student to Missouri State staff member, Brian Kincaid has been living out the Public Affairs mission.  One particular passion is his involvement in MSU’s intensive week long Missouri Public Affairs Academy (MPAA).  Years after having participated in the program as a high school student, Brian now volunteers during a week’s vacation to serve as Assistant Coordinator for the program. Each summer the Academy brings talented high school students from across the state to develop their understanding of public affairs and their role as citizens working “for the greater good.”  Through activities, projects and speakers including community leaders, government officials, journalists and university professors, young students begin to learn the leadership skills necessary to effect positive change in their communities.

Professionally, Brian assists individuals and businesses in efforts to strengthen the local economy.  His role as mentor at the MPAA is an extension of that effort by helping develop future leaders within our communities.  Brain says that in many ways, successful economic development entails a commitment to community organizing and public outreach and that is what we are instilling in these young students.   Brian has inspired and mentored over 90 high school juniors and seniors to become involved and educated citizens through civic engagement and leadership. 

We are proud to recognize Brian Kincaid as the April Public Affairs Staff Spotlight for representing the pillars of public affairs and helping inspire today’s youth to become active and engaged citizens.    


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April Student Spotlight: Alexis Carter

AlexisCarterCloseUp2Alexis Rivierre Carter

Senior, Fine Arts major

“Storm Drain Reveal Project”


Fine Arts senior, Alexis Carter, is being showcased for her engagement to help protect and improve water quality in the Ozarks.  Alexis was chosen as one of the artists to participate in the 2014 Storm Drain Reveal Project, a joint effort by the City of Springfield and the James River Basin Partnership to educate the community that whatever goes down a storm drain, leads directly to our rivers and other water resources.  Storm drains in downtown Springfield have been transformed by local talented artists from plain drains into beautiful reminders of our connection to our waterways. 

Outside of classes and producing works for the Brick City Gallery student art exhibition in May, Alexis has spent hours first planning and designing the message and then producing the artwork on the storm drain located on the corner of St. Louis St. and Jefferson Ave.AlexisCarterPic

Alexis states, “I think many times the Visual Arts get overlooked as a way to communicate and be of service to the community, as it has the ability to encourage, inspire, teach and influence all.  Being a part of this project is just one way I can personally give back to the community and to raise awareness of how careless actions leave a footprint for years to come on our water quality and resources.”

Thank you Alexis for living out the public affairs mission through your community engagement and artistic gifts to bring awareness to an important community issue.  We are pleased to recognize Alexis Carter as our April Public Affairs Student Spotlight!  

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March Staff Spotlight: Tim Datema

TimDatemaPicTim Datema

Shipping & Receiving Supervisor, Missouri State Bookstore

“Street Survival Teen Driving Program”


From sleeping with matchbox cars as a child to now owning his own Formula Vee racer, Tim Datema has long had a passion for cars and speed. Tim became one of the youngest members of the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) while still in high school and is currently one of the youngest SCCA board members as current Regional Executive of the Ozark Mountain Region chapter.

Last year over 5,000 teenagers died in motor vehicle crashes, the leading killer of American youths aged 16 to 19, accounting for more than 40 percent of fatalities in that age bracket. Because the need is real and the cause compelling, Tim, his wife Virginia and the Ozark Mtn SCCA chapter held the first Tire Rack Street Survival program last November. The primary emphasis of the Tire Rack Street Survival teen driving program is to provide teens a “hands-on” driving experience using their personal car that they drive every day. Teens are taught the skills and the physics behind basic car control in order to avoid accidents and stay alive behind the wheel. Held at the Ducks Stadium in Ozark, 17 students from Springfield, Rogersville, Branson and Harrison, AR attended the program. Tim states that, “Street Survival is unique because it teaches critical thinking and control skills that young drivers desperately need through one-on-one instruction. Our chapter typically holds performance-driving events like autocross, rallycross, and circuit racing, so we have a talented group of members that are very eager to put their driving skillset to instructive use for the good of the community.”

Over 101 Street Survival programs were held across the country in 2013. Tim notes that one of the most satisfying parts of being involved is watching the transformation of a teen from the start of the program through to theTireRack3Datema finish. “Students arrive early in the morning thinking their parents have signed them up for an all-day Drivers Ed course, so they are obviously less than enthused. Within the first circuit of the exercises as they slide their cars through panic lane changes and threshold braking, they realize this is way more than Drivers Ed and begin to have a lot of fun and gain respect for the power of their vehicle.”

Because speed plays a large part in teen fatalities, it’s Tim’s hope that by providing a structured outlet for teens to understand and respect how speed affects their car’s ability to maneuver, they will become a safer driver and not a statistic. The Ozarks Mountain Region SCCA chapter intentions to hold another driving school later this year.

For his ethical leadership, civic engagement and dedication to providing a safer community we are pleased to recognize Tim Datema as the March 2014 Public Affairs Staff Spotlight!

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March Student Spotlight: Bailey Keith

University of Granada's Center for Modern Languages
University of Granada’s Center for Modern Languages

Bailey Keith

Junior, Management/International Business Administration major, College of Business

“Study Away – Spain”


Bailey Keith is living out the MSU Public Affairs mission this semester in Granada, Spain. Management/International Business Administration majors are required to study abroad for one semester and after much research and preparation, Bailey says it’s all been worth it. She has found the perfect opportunity in Spain by attending classes at the University of Granada’s Center for Modern Languages through the end of May. Bailey states, “Whether I am exploring historical sites or sharing stories over dinner with my host family, I don’t think there is any better way to gain cultural competence than studying away and being immersed in a new environment.”  She says some of the hardest transitions are simply getting used to the daily routine, as well as the language barriers.  Main transportation is on foot – dinner isn’t until 9:30pm – and her host family never goes to sleep before midnight, so it makes for a really long day.   Since her host family doesn’t speak English, she says that they have “a lot of theatrical conversations and what used to be the easiest of tasks have now become the most difficult like using an ATM, working a TV guide, and buying allergy medicine!”

“This experience is definitely giving me a new appreciation for all the international students that attend Missouri State because it can be extremely scary.  I admire the hard work that the international students put into their studies, and now that I have been the international student, I have a better understanding on what they are going through.  I think one of the greatest issues for any student studying abroad is getting integrated with the “locals” rather than always staying with the other international students. I have witnessed this at Missouri State just as much as I have experienced it here in Spain. Living with a host family has helped me a lot, and many students here take advantage of the Intercambios that are held every week.  Just stepping out of that comfort zone can be the hardest part of the whole process.”

We are proud to recognize Bailey Keith as the March 2014 Public Affairs Student Spotlight as a courageous example of how to live out the Missouri State public affairs mission abroad!

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March Faculty Spotlight: Olen Greer

Team with Roger, 2011
Team with Roger, 2011

Olen Greer

Professor, School of Accountancy, College of Business

“MS Bike: Ozarks Ride 2014 Bike-A-Thon”


Olen Greer doesn’t consider himself a ‘cyclist’, yet he and his bike have traversed nearly 4,000 miles in the name of friendship and a cause. September 6-7, 2014 will be Olen’s 25th consecutive ride as captain of the “Roger’s Riders” team in the MS Bike: Ozarks Ride 2014 Bike-A-Thon (previously known as the MS 150). The debilitative realities of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) made its first impact on Olen in 1980 when Roger, his close friend, MSU alumnus, and team’s namesake was suddenly diagnosed with MS. Having been a recreational rider for many years, it was in 1989 that Olen’s nephew contacted him about trying to complete the MS 150 – and the rest is history.

The purpose of the more than 100 nationwide Bike MS rides is to raise money for multiple sclerosis research and other services supported by the National MS Society. The rides typically take place over the course of two days and are generally around 150 miles long.  Bike MS events aim to pull the whole community together by gathering support from local businesses, elected officials, residents and people living with MS.  “Roger’s Riders” are part of the Ozark’s branch of the Mid America Chapter where their annual two-day ride passes through Missouri’s prairie and into the scenic Ozarks countryside traveling from Clever to Joplin and back. The Ozarks branch is ranked 3rd in the country in fundraising efforts, with Olen alone raising over $6,000 last year.

Olen (bottom left), sister Eva,  son Steven (top right)
Olen (bottom left), sister Eva, son Steven (top right)

To keep his 25 year consecutive run alive, Olen himself has had to overcome multiple health issues such as kidney disease and major injuries incurred during a five bike accident in the 2012 Bike-A-Thon. However, everyspring he starts his bike training routine no matter the pain or consequence. “I’ve been blessed with a high tolerance for pain” Olen says. “Completing the MS Bike-A-Thon is cause driven and an intense personal commitment that I keep as an annual goal for myself. Last year, I rode 180.2 miles in 2 days.” Olen’s team consists of friends, associates and family members including his son, Steven who wears a leg prosthesis and his sister, Eva.

For his inspiration, his dedication to raising awareness for MS and his leadership in community involvement we are proud to recognize Olen Greer as the March 2014 Public Affairs Faculty Spotlight! Happy Silver Anniversary!


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February Staff Spotlight: David Caravella


David Caravella

Classroom Coordinator; Faculty Center for Teaching & Learning

David has always been an avid outdoorsman appreciating both hunting and fishing.  After his own battle with cancer, David has found a passion that pairs his love of the outdoors, with his desire to help others cope with their cancer recovery.  In 2010, David became the first Missouri Coordinator for Reel Recovery, a program that introduces men in the cancer recovery process to the healing powers of sport fly-fishing, while providing  a safe, supportive environment to explore their personal experiences with other men who can relate through their own cancer stories (www.reelrecoverymo.org).

After attending an Arkansas Reel Recovery retreat in 2008, David realized the vital role the organization played for men with cancer and soon began volunteering. In 2010, he was asked to serve in the volunteer position of Reel Recovery’s Missouri Coordinator, a position he was honored to accept. David made a commitment to organize and fund raise to bring annual Reel Recovery retreats to Missouri.  David states, “there is no charge for the three-day retreat held in Rockbridge, MO and we not only serve men in our State, but also Kansas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, and Georgia. We welcome any man who currently has cancer or is in remission.”

Reel Recovery was founded in 2003 by a group of avid fly-fishers, inspired by their fishing buddy’s ongoing battle with brain cancer. Witnessing first-hand the beneficial impact fly-fishing provided their friend, they

2012 Retreat, Rockbridge, MO
2012 Retreat, Rockbridge, MO

created Reel Recovery to provide the same opportunity for other men battling the disease. Combining expert fly-fishing instruction with directed “courageous conversations”, the organization provides men with all forms of cancer a unique opportunity to share their stories, learn a new skill, form lasting friendships and gain renewed hope as they confront the challenges of cancer.

For his passion, inspiration and leadership in community involvement we are pleased to recognize David Caravella as the February 2014 Public Affairs Staff Spotlight!

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February Faculty Spotlight: Carmen Boyd

Boyd’s student distributing food in Tanzania.

Carmen Boyd

Instructor; Dietetic Program Director

Carmen’s courageous leadership, cultural exchange and community engagement both locally and abroad, is a wonderful model of living out the Public Affairs Mission.

On an international level, Carmen states, “my most interesting experiences have been with Convoy of Hope, a local international relief agency, with whom I have been volunteering my nutrition services for their feeding programs.”  Carmen works with Convoy of Hope by providing general nutritional guidance for a variety of different feeding center populations around the world.  Additionally, she has been able to extend cultural and practical learning opportunities for her students to work in Haiti, El Salvador, and Tanzania as well as assist with others in Africa and the Philippines. Carmen states that, “COH is a wonderful agency to work with and I appreciate the opportunities provided to me and to my students.”

Carmen is also very active with a variety of local historic preservation and veteran groups.  She serves as the registrar for the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), is on the Tent Council for the Daughters of Union Veterans (DUV) and is a member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.  These groups work hard to preserve historical and genealogical records, assist with Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield events and provide assistance to veterans and wounded warriors.

Carmen says one of the more fun things she has begun working with recently, is as a volunteer for “Find-A-Grave.”  Its mission is assisting in finding, recording and presenting final disposition information from around the world as a virtual cemetery experience.  “Photographing cemeteries and tombstones (especially the older ones), recording information, putting it online, as well as assisting others in their search for ancestors, has been a very rewarding experience” states Carmen.  All these activities help promote patriotism and provide a historical knowledge to children and adults.

In addition, Carmen is active in many church volunteer projects and coordinates “Fish Day” offered through Crosslines of Springfield, where volunteers serve one day on designated months to assist their clients in the selection of appropriate and healthy food items.

We are proud to recognize Carmen Boyd as February’s Public Affairs Faculty Spotlight for her dedication to improving lives and communities both locally and abroad!

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February Student Spotlight: Nii Kpakpo Abrahams

MLS Board of Directors

Nii Abrahams

Senior, Communications major with emphasis in Ethical Leadership / minor Sociology


Nii is living out the MSU Public Affairs mission both on and off campus.  As a participant in 2008, Nii is now a member of the volunteer Board of Directors for the non-profit fundraising organization called Missouri Leadership Seminar (MLS).  MLS provides a leadership discovery experience for selected Missouri high school sophomores.  The free, three-day event immerses students into an environment designed to enhance their communication and critical thinking skills, discover their strengths, and recognize their true leadership potential.  Nii states, “Our whole goal is to redefine what leadership is to them.  It’s not just a boring weekend, but a really unique approach of various teambuilding activities, expressing opinions on today’s issues, interacting with business professionals and giving back through volunteer projects.  Students tap into their own leadership potential and see their talents, strengths, and unique personalities as a way for them to lead and give back to their communities in their own special way.”     The entire MLS staff spends hundreds of hours each year planning and fundraising for this incredible weekend.

MLS Student Team

Having volunteered in many different MLS staff positions over the years, Nii says that one of the most rewarding aspects are the opportunities to speak to high schools across Missouri on topics of leadership and diversity — “those opportunities have meant the world to me because I have such a passion for not only communicating, but also simply being a part of high school/college age students’ lives — it’s incredible to think this has all happened because of MLS!”  

We are pleased to recognize Nii Abrahams as February’s Public Affairs Student Spotlight for his inspiring work of modeling and mentoring young students to become ethical leaders and positively engaged our communities.

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December Student Spotlight: Emily Couture and Headbands for Hope

View More: http://thezieglersphotography.pass.us/headbands-for-hopeEmily Couture already had a small headband-making business when she learned about a friend’s sister who had a brain tumor.  After having to shave some of her hair the sister had taken to wearing headbands and wanted to order one from Emily, who promptly donated two headbands to her.  Emily took this practice to a new level after reading Blake Mycoskie’s Start Something That Matters, MSU’s common reader.  Inspired by the challenge to use her business to help others, Emily started Headbands for Hope.

“‘Headbands for Hope’ is a headband company where I custom design and make a headband for $20 and then for every headband I sell I will donate one to a cancer patient,” writes Emily, “Because every woman, every young girl deserves to feel beautiful even if they’ve lost their hair.”  The morning after she launched her new business on Facebook, Emily had already wracked up over 130 “likes” on her page and more than 20 new orders.  You can learn more about Headbands for Hope at her Facebook page, or at her Etsy shop by the same name.

Emily is living the public affairs mission through ethical leadership and her dedication to improving our community.  We are proud to honor as December’s Public Affairs Student Spotlight.

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