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Public Affairs Blog

Five awesome Public Affairs Conference sessions for students

The 2017 Public Affairs Conference schedule is filled with sessions, speakers and fun. Here is a list of five that you don’t want to miss!

How did we get here? An historical perspective on our wild 2016 electionamerican flag

There is no better way to kick off the 2017 Public Affairs Conference than to talk about hottest topic right now. Let’s discuss the topic everyone is tweeting about, including the president.

Presidential historian, journalist and best-selling author Doris Kearns Goodwin takes the Public Affairs stage with a unique political background. Previously serving for Lyndon B. Johnson, she will give us an insight and rich history on a political climate that was much simpler than the one that exists today.

Goodwin will offer hope in our lasting democracy that remains as the strong stilts in a seemingly broken political culture. Come experience the energy and excitement at 7:30 p.m. April 4 at Juanita K. Hammons Hall for the Performing Arts.

Don’t fear the faucet or the swimming hole

What does the Earth, your brain and a living tree have in common? Each of these is mostly composed of water. Although the Earth is covered with liquid, nearly 97 percent of Earth’s water is undrinkable.

This session will discuss our citizen responsibility to conserve and protect this resource which is essential for life. As water becomes less plentiful, the risks become greater. Let’s learn how to find our capes and save the resource that saves us.

John Bongiorno, President of WorldServe International, is among one of the presenters at this this session at 10:30 a.m. April 5.

Majority norms and minority communitiesstudents walking on campus

We are all on the pursuit of happiness, so how can we create an environment for all to reach happiness? Since our society is consistent with majoritarian norms, this means others are expected to adapt accordingly.

Diversity is one of America’s greatest assets, but there are several obstacles that accompany differences. Let’s discuss the friction and work toward creating a sandpaper to ensure the pursuit of happiness for everyone.

This presentation will include four presenters from experts around the world in race, sexuality, religion, economics and politics. Starting at 3 p.m. April 5, join us in talking about these hot topics.

On mental health

Facts first: The National Center for Health Statistics reports that suicide rates have increased nearly 25 percent over the last 15 years.

Let that number sink in and then ask yourself: What is fueling these alarming figures? How is this crisis being addressed and even more importantly, how important can your role be in mental health?

Mental health is invisible to the eye, so it is a topic that demands thorough investigation and understanding. Let’s come together and aim to remove any stigma tied to mental illness in hopes of changing our campus, community and world.

You won’t want to miss this session at 10:30 a.m. April 6 to explore mental health and your part in changing the first fact.

Is it possible to become happier and, if yes, how?smiling students on campus

“Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” is a well-known phrase in the Declaration of Independence. But what is happiness? What are we chasing? How will we reach it? We are on the same pursuit, but our destinations could be entirely different.

According to plenary speaker Sonja Lyubomirsky, not only does happiness feel good, it is good. In this session, Lyubomirsky will unload research and simple practices to increase happiness for all individuals.

This session has the power to transform your life, so you will want to be at the PSU at 7:30 p.m. April 6.

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Four interesting facts about the Public Affairs Conference plenaries

We have invited four experts to highlight the Public Affairs Conference as plenary speakers. Who are they?

Doris Kearns Goodwin

Goodwin is the ultimate trifecta — a biographer, historian, and political commentator. Her time as a White House Fellow during the Lyndon B. Johnson administration was the flame that ignited her literary career.

She has appeared on several television shows ranging from Meet the Press to American Horror Story. From Massachusetts, she brings her love for the Boston Red Sox to Springfield, as she was the first woman journalist to enter their locker room.

Goodwin will bring her unique first-hand political insights to the podium and shine a spotlight on the changes in our political system over the past 150 years.

Nadine Strossen

Let’s talk about our right to talk. Freedom of speech/press are hot issues in a world full of hostility, terrorist violence and hate crimes. Strossen, an expert of constitutional and human rights, will bring her expertise to the Public Affairs Conference to discuss a greater danger than the abuse of free speech: the government’s power to suppress it.

Pervez Hoodbhoy

Global terrorism and religious revivalism are phrases that pack a punch. What does life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness look like in an age of global terrorism? Hoodbhoy, one of the top 100 most influential global thinkers by Foreign Policy Magazine in 2011, is bringing his expertise to the podium to discuss the topics that are shaking some of the strongest pillars fueling human progress.

Sonja Lyubomirsky

How do I get happy? Lyubomirsky, professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside has the answer to increase happiness. She will deliver new research on the “how” of happiness and the secret formula to transform into a happier and more flourishing individual.

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Five reasons to join the Public Affairs Conference

public affairs statue

The 2017 Public Affairs Conference is packed with fun opportunities for students, faculty, staff and the public. We are going to tell you why this conference matters, and why you should take some time to join us on campus April 4-7. Let’s go!

It’s a public affair!

Missouri State offers a unique opportunity to experience diversity from a clear lens. Thousands of miles have separated students, but the Springfield campus is a temporary home to approximately 50 states, the District of Columbia, the Virgin Islands, and 83 different countries.

You do not have to travel the world to tap into the culture, experiences, and perspectives from around the world. This unique opportunity to be together allows us to bring our backgrounds and cultural struggles to the forefront.

For example, look for yourself at the international programs happening here right now. This campus is an international melting pot!

Let’s jump to the hot topicspublic affairs speaker

Let’s get to the point and talk about what matters. Human rights, the presidential election and the pursuit of happiness are three on the menu this April.

The 2017 Public Affairs Conference theme is “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness: Perspectives on Self-Government.”

This popular phrase from the Declaration of Independence is the cornerstone for all topics that will be explored. Come out and learn about real, important ideas from the experts on these issues.

Starting at 7:30 p.m. April 4 at Juanita K. Hammons Hall for the Performing Arts, Doris Kearns Goodwin will entertain and educate in her session on the historical perspective on our wild 2016 election and how we got here.

Want to get happy?smiling girl on campus

“The pursuit of happiness” is more than lyrics by Kid Cudi or a movie with Will Smith. It is a goal, destination and hope for us all. We know what it means to be happy, but how do we get there? What does it look like for each of us?

Missouri State is bringing in Sonja Lyubomirsky, the expert on happiness, to unveil the secrets to the pursuit that is far from a secret. You will not want to miss this session because it may change your life.

Campus is alive

The Missouri State campus is beautiful. Come walk around and enjoy the John Q. Hammons Fountain, new facilities such as the Davis-Harrington Welcome Center and O’Reilly Clinical Health Sciences Center and the renovated Plaster Stadium.

We also have tweeting bear statues, a cool new statue of Jackie Stiles and several food options in the Plaster Student Union.

Share your experiencestudents walking on campus

While you’re participating in the conference, don’t forget about the Twitterverse! Use the #CitizenBear hashtag on your social media channels to join the digital discussion. Posts that include the #CitizenBear hashtag are pulled into a Tagboard.

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Public Affairs Team Spotlight

Meyer Library

What would you do with 10,000 donated books? The Meyer Library has the answer – create a library!
picture of The Fairbanks Library room.
Andrea Miller and Jir Shinboey at The Fairbanks

Meyer faculty and staff answered the call when The Fairbanks had no idea what to do with a donation of 10,000 books.  The creation of a new library has become the public affairs outreach project for Meyer employees.  Using their professional and creative skills, every employee has a role in creating The Fairbanks Library from room renovation, devising simple cataloging and circulation systems, technical set-up and skills training so the library becomes a self-sustaining program.

Jan Johnson, Distributed User Support Specialist notes that neighborhoods such as Grant Beach have various types of access barriers to the city’s Library system.  “Many neighborhoods are basically library deserts with no plans by the city to open new branches. It is our hope that our library model at The Fairbanks will be replicated in other neighborhoods which will allow unrestricted access to books, resources and fun for everyone.”

Creating a library from the ground up takes time.  Meyer Library employees are committed for the long-term and volunteer their time when possible to plastering, painting, gathering supplies and resources and of course creating an inventory and barcoding those 10,000 books. Jan says, “working together as a single project team gives us greater power to create and accomplish much more for our fellow citizens in the community.”

For their commitment to implementing the public affairs mission and putting ‘Team CitizenBear’ into action, we are pleased to Spotlight the entire staff and faculty of MSU’s Meyer Library!

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Public Affairs January Staff Spotlight: Scott Schneider

Scott SchneiderScott Schneider

Director, Business and Support Services, West Plains Campus

Scott embodies the public affairs mission through his numerous volunteer efforts in the West Plains community.  A passion to help and mentor children, as well as the citizens of his community, he serves on several boards including the West Plains Chamber of Commerce, the Rotary Club of West Plains and Ozark Independent Living, which provides services to those with disabilities.  Scott takes on many roles to help ensure that programs and services remain viable and available to those in need.

Since 2009 Scott and his family has served as a host family for exchange students through the Rotary International Youth Exchange Program where he also assists as a Counselor and main point of contact for students while in the U.S.  And if you happen to miss seeing Scott on MSU’s campus, you can also find him volunteering with the local school band or in church as a youth group driver and children’s leader!

For his commitment to community engagement, ethical leadership and cultural competence, we are pleased to honor Scott Schneider as the January 2017 Staff Public Affairs Spotlight!

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Public Affairs Staff Spotlight: A’dja Jones

November Staff SpotlightA’dja Jones

Academic Counselor, Dr. Mary Jo Wynn Academic Achievement Center

“Giving back to others brings fulfillment and meaning to my life” says A’dja Jones.  A’dja first began community volunteer projects in high school, which continued through her MSU college career as a member of Alpha Sigma Alpha.  She says that over time she has come to understand how important even small actions of volunteerism are toward impacting specific local programs or even larger issues within a community.

Helping to strengthen families and prevent child abuse and neglect is a personal passion of A’dja’s.  After researching the Springfield area, she found Isabelle’s House to be a perfect fit.  In June 2016 she committed to volunteering three hours per week.  Whether it’s helping with homework or giving hugs, she is able to help families and children in crisis feel safe, secure and healthy during their stay at Isabelle’s House.

In addition, A’dja has volunteered as a trained Victim Impact Panel facilitator with The Center for Dispute Resolution.  This program benefits young people who have committed nonviolent property or assault offenses by helping them gain valuable insights and empathy for how their crime has impacted the victim, their families and the community.

In 2015, A’dja was presented with the ultimate opportunity to give of herself and help another.  Having listed her bone marrow in the national registry just a year earlier, she was successfully matched to a young boy with leukemia and subsequently provided him a lifesaving bone marrow transplant.  She has now become a strong advocate for bone marrow donor registration, and is called upon by multiple groups and organizations for in-person and radio interviews in support of bone marrow registration drives and becoming listed in the national registry.

For all her contributions and dedication to living the public affairs mission, we are proud to recognize A’dja Jones as the November 2016 Staff Public Affairs Spotlight!

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Public Affairs Spotlight: Dr. Ashley Leinweber

Dr. Ashley Leinweber

Assistant Professor, Political Science Department

Dr. Ashley Leinweber, Assistant Professor of Political Science, has used the public affairs mission as a guidepost for teaching, research and service on campus, in the Springfield community and beyond.

Stemming from her passion of African studies and international politics, she began serving as a Congo expert in human rights asylum cases in 2013.  Her pro bono work includes reviewing legal documents, conducting research, writing expert affidavits and testifying via phone and in-person about country conditions, human rights abuses and the merits of the particular asylum request.  Ashley says “This work is very time consuming and emotionally difficult, but I am grateful to serve in this capacity. My greatest reward so far was a Congolese university professor being granted asylum on my birthday.”

As a Peace Corps volunteer in Niger, West Africa from 2002-2004, Ashley became actively engaged in reviving the Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV) group here in Springfield.  As a group they meet monthly and volunteer time together within the community.  Ashley coordinates local members and events, and serves as a liaison between other Missouri RPCV groups and the regional recruiter in St. Louis.

Public Affairs is honored to recognize Dr. Ashley Leinweber as October’s Faculty Public Affairs Spotlight!

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October Staff Spotlight: Alisa Garbisch

Alisa GarbischAlisa Garbisch

Assistant Director, Residence Life-Student Success Initiatives, Residence Life Housing & Dining Services

Since 2010, Alisa has been serving in Springfield as a Volunteer Advocate at The Victim Center.  In that position she says, “it’s my job to show compassion, provide resources, offer services, and assist the victim to see hope.”  She responds to crisis calls received on a 24-hr hotline extending emotional support, crisis intervention, accompanying victims to the hospital after an assault and assistance with Ex Parte Orders of Protection.  Volunteers are required to attend agency training.

Moving to Missouri to work at MSU, she sought opportunities to get connected with her new community, and found the Victim’s Center’s mission to be near and dear to her heart.  While living and going to school in Wisconsin, Alisa began cultivating a passion for helping those affected by domestic violence.   Through the years she has made the most of sexual assault education, prevention and advocacy opportunities and volunteering at local domestic violence shelters.

The Victim Center serves men, women and children of all ages who have been victims of violent or sexual crimes.  Violence knows no boundaries, is not discriminatory, and is found in all socio-economic levels.  Alisa states, “the opportunity to serve others, give hope, and show compassion during what could be an individual’s darkest time of their life, is why I give of my time to this amazing organization.”

We are proud to recognize Alisa Garbish as October’s Public Affairs Staff Spotlight!

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MSU Talks explores the two party system

Student members of the MSU Holt V. Spicer Debate Team will explore the 2016-17 public affairs theme in debate format.  Debaters will present researched arguments that address policy or issues regarding rights and responsibilities as citizens in a modern democracy.  Audience members will have the opportunity to ask questions and make their own suggestions regarding the stated position(s).

Tuesday, 4 pm Meyer Library 101

Check out the video.



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