Missouri State University
Public Affairs Blog

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!

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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.

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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!

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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!


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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.


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April Faculty Spotlight: Carol Daniel

CarolDanielPicCarol Daniel

Clinical Instructor, Nursing Department

Carol has a heart for the homeless.  Her influence on the health needs of the homeless and underserved is felt throughout the Springfield community as she actively volunteers with the Kitchen, Inc., Victory Mission, the Salvation Army and Rare Breed.  Not only does she serve on boards and provide fundraising efforts, she offers direct care to those in great need such as annually providing a medical clinic for the Rare Breed Sleep-Out to help raise awareness for homeless youth.

Most recently Carol’s dream of creating a medical respite center, where homeless women can recover after being discharged from the hospital, is developing into reality.  After a successful pilot program, Carol and a fellow nurse from Mercy, are moving forward to raise funds, space, volunteers and employees to give a safe place for recovering women to receive nutrition support, transportation and assistance in following doctors’ orders.  The respite center covers a gap in services where many are not sick enough to be in the hospital, but are too ill or frail to recover from physical illness or injury on the streets.  In the future, they hope to expand services to help men as well.

As an extraordinary example of living the public affairs mission, we are honored to recognize Carol Daniel as April’s Faculty Public Affairs Spotlight.

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April Student Spotlight: Samantha Nichols

Samantha Nichols top right

Samantha Nichols

Senior, Religious Studies Department

As she nears graduation, Samantha is a great example of how students are living the public affairs mission while at Missouri State.  Inspiration to create Linked, a newly formed student interfaith service organization, came from attending Interfaith Youth Core’s (IFYC) Interfaith Leadership Institute in Chicago, the summer before her junior year.

Linked brings together young people of different religious and moral traditions for cooperative service and dialogue around shared values.  Student members take part in various volunteer activities in the community as well as campus projects such as working with Myer Library to create monthly displays that will boost interfaith literacy on campus. Samantha says, “It’s been awesome to see our mission come alive on campus as we work to make interfaith cooperation a social norm. We don’t gloss over differences, we explore and celebrate them while also discovering shared values.”

Samantha has been selected as a member of the IFYC National Leadership Team and coaches and mentors other interfaith leaders to help shape and model the interfaith cooperation campaign.  We are proud to recognize Samantha Nichols as April’s Public Affairs Student Spotlight for her cultural competence and community engagement to create a sustainable impact on campus and in the community.


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March Staff Spotlight: Addie Douglas

AddieDouglasAddie Douglas

Custodian I, Foster Recreation Center

Addie has a long history of serving her community. While her contributions are numerous, below are a few of the projects and activities that Addie finds ways to serve and give back:

  • MSU’s American Cancer Society Relay for Life.
  • Parent Teacher Association
  • Coaching local youth sports programs.
  • Local 5K’s, the Diva Dash and marathons for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society
  • Girl Scouts of America as a scout leader
  • Miracle League Network creating scrapbooks
  • The Meals-A-Million annual event
  • Adopt a Family program during the holidays

Addie has long provided support to our military by sending support letters through Operation Write Home, and since 1996 has been volunteering at Crosslines of the Ozarks within the holiday store and serving Thanksgiving meals. As a colleague states, “Addie’s drive and selflessness makes her an asset to every organization she helps!” As the March Public Affairs Staff Spotlight we are pleased to recognize Addie’s dedication to making a positive difference and serving as a great example of living public affairs mission!


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March Faculty Spotlight: Dr. David Johnson

Dr David JohnsonDavid Johnson

Associate Professor, Political Science Department

David lives the pillars of civic engagement and ethical leadership through his devotion to improving the safety and security of both man and animal in Springfield, Greene County and SW Missouri.

Since 2009, David has been volunteering with the Springfield-Greene Co. Office of Emergency Management (OEM). His initial involvement as a volunteer evolved into serving as a Community Emergency Response Team member. He soon transitioned to the OEM reserve, where he supports the staff in the event of a disaster and takes part in several responses, drills, and exercises.  His passion for animals has David devoting time caring for the animals housed at Springfield’s Castaway Animal Rescue as well as being a driving force to develop a county-wide Animal Response Team.  David recently wrote a $5,000.00 grant for needed equipment and training.

David also volunteers with the Region D Incident Support Team as a Geographic Information System Specialist and Unit Leader.  During the Joplin tornado in 2011, David’s interest in amateur radio gave him the opportunity to assist in communication efforts via the Greene County Amateur Radio Emergency Services.  He is also called upon during natural and other disasters as a member of the US Health and Human Services National Disaster Medical System to help ensure medical care provisions during a disaster. In 2001 he headed a medical strike team to the World Trade Center attack and another to provide coverage for the 2006 State of the Union address.

Beyond this, David is a Lay Eucharistic Minister for All Saints Anglican Church and voluntarily working toward ordination as a deacon.  We are delighted to recognize David Johnson as the March Public Affairs Faculty Spotlight for his significant contributions both locally and nationally!

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March Student Spotlight: Scott Berndt

Scott-Mar2015Scott Berndt

Senior Economics major, Sigma Phi Epsilon, MO ETA Chapter

Scott thought he’d simply volunteer and go home, but instead that first experience with Community Partnership of the Ozarks (CPO) has led to a passion for serving and opportunities to cultivate key leadership skills.

Making the most of his free time, Scott volunteers the hours he has to assist with CPO fundraising events by helping wherever is needed most.  After he was the only student volunteer to return to CPO for four weeks to help finish what was started during an MLK Day of Service, he recruited 25 of his Sigma Phi Epsilon brothers to help complete the construction of a miniature golf course, which is the centerpiece for CPO’s Golf Tournament.  As this fundraiser finances a major portion of CPO’s educational, drug prevention and community development projects, Scott’s dedication to seeing the job through to completion was a significant factor in the success of the fundraiser, says Will Carter, CPO Director of Communications.  Scott and his fraternity brothers have continued their service commitment by providing much needed manpower for this year’s miniature Golf Tournament as well as volunteering with the HOPE Connection event where they assist with set-up and meal service to Springfield’s homeless.

“I’ve learned that the more I put in to my volunteer experience, the more I get out of it in terms of tangible results and personal satisfaction.  Opportunities to coordinate, supervise and lead others have made the experience even more meaningful” says Scott.  As a great example of living the public affairs mission through community engagement and ethical leadership, we are proud to recognize Scott as the March 2015 Student Public Affairs Spotlight.

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