April 20, 2014, I started my job at Missouri State, coordinator of Parent & Family Programs. I moved to Springfield from Tampa, FL, only knowing one person in town. The position was fairly new to the university, and I was very excited about the work I would get to do with families and with our students. I came in with the theme Engage, Educate, Encourage for my program. Why this theme? Family members are key to our students’ success in college. And as a partner with families, I believe engaging you, the family member, with Missouri State; educating you on the resources available to you and your student; and encouraging you as your family transitions to having a student in college, is very important.
As the mother of two college graduates (one now in the process of completing her doctorate) and a recovering helicopter parent (yes, I do admit I was a helicopter parent at times during my daughters’ high school days), having someone that had “been there, done that” was very helpful to me as my oldest started her journey as a college student. And it is a journey for both the family and the student.
From the day I started to the first one-day SOAR session was about six weeks, so my goals were to meet the offices I would be working with across campus (a one-person office has to collaborate to get anything done), put together the family orientation for SOAR (a new presentation called Letting Grow and the Family Lounge, introducing #FlatBoomer to the campus), plus plan my first Family Weekend here (only the date had been set when I started my job), and settle in to a new town and find my place here at Missouri State. I was following my passion, working with family members. By the way, when I started working here, the branding was “Follow Your Passion, Find Your Place.” It was a whirlwind. But one I loved! Missouri State was so welcoming and it felt like home immediately.
In June 2014, SOAR started and members of the Class of 2018 came every two days for two months for Orientation. I can barely remember anything from that summer because it seemed like I blinked and it was over. I met so many great family members and their students. Everyone was so excited about the prospect of attending Missouri State. I took lots and lots of photos in the Family Lounge of families sending messages to their students for the first day of classes. I worked with 45 SOAR leaders who impacted my life in ways that I never dreamed students could. It was amazing.
So fast forward four years…the Class of 2018 will graduate in eight days. What?? How did that happen? I know those of you who have students graduating from MSU also wonder where the time went. Luckily, we have lots of photos on the family Facebook page that you can look back at and see the progression. BEAR with me as I get a bit sappy!
Let’s take a look back at the last four years at Missouri State through my eyes and see the changes.
- We were re-branded – Make Your Missouri STATEment encompasses the full experience for our students. They are making their STATEment on campus and in the “real world” as they leave and go do great things across the country.
- Lots of construction since 2014 – The 3rd floor of the Plaster Student Union was redone with beautiful and comfortable furniture and a very cool “selfie” Bear head. If you haven’t seen that, you should stop by the next time you are on campus. Glass Hall, the home of the College of Business, was renovated and re-opened in October 2017 with remarkable spaces for our students to learn and grow in. Ellis Hall renovations have been finished and the new music hall is just gorgeous. And just this spring, the new health and wellness center, the Magers Family Health and Wellness Center, has reopened, and it is incredible. So many more services are now provided in this state-of-the-art wellness center. Missouri State is constantly working to improve and offer our students the best and most affordable education possible.
- Enrollment keeps increasing each year. We’re over 26,000 students now. Wow! But, if you ask a student, they will tell you “it’s a large school with a small school feel.”
- I’ve taken more than 10,000 photos of our Bears across campus since I started in April 2014. It has been so much fun to take photos of our students with their organizations, hosting philanthropy events, enjoying May Day, Homecoming, hanging out in a hammock, our student-athletes and so much more. #FlatBoomer has been in half of all the photos I have taken.
- I’ve gotten to watch the Class of 2018 do amazing things here in the past four years! From students voting to fund the new Magers Family Health and Wellness Center, to the AD Team winning national and international awards, to four years of #CitizenScholars and #CitizenBears working hard to make the local and national community better by going out and helping people they will never know, changing the community one Bear at a time, our students are amazing! I learn from them each and every day.
- We implemented the Ursa Experience – Maroon and White Overnight, a new tradition for our incoming Bears. Under the direction of Dr. Dee Siscoe, Vice President of Student Affairs (and my personal mentor and friend), this program has grown from 50 students to the 250 students we will take this summer to the Ursa Experience. It is an amazing program that introduces our new Bears to other new Bears and upperclassmen, plus teaches the students about our traditions, the Public Affairs Mission and what it means to #BearUp. You can learn more about the Ursa Experience here: missouristate.edu/ursa
I am that person who is excited to go to work every single day! I love everything that I have the opportunity to take part in and the people I work with are truly special and 100% dedicated to our students! They work early in the morning, late, late at night and on the weekends supporting your students’ success here at Missouri State. There are too many to name but I want to give special recognition to my director, Joe Morris; Dr. Thomas Lane, the Dean of Students; Dr. Dee Siscoe, VP-Student Affairs; and President Clif Smart for supporting me so much these past four years!
I have to close with a shout-out to some very special students. Sam Siebert, Brandon McCoy, Lily Cozad, Conner Aller, Drew Geer, Caitlyn Schaefer, Clara Jungermann, Kaley Brandt, Hunter Lafeber, Joy Sharp, and Jewel Perkins (I’m sure I am forgetting someone), THANK YOU for making these four years amazing! I will miss seeing y’all around campus. You’ve made me laugh, taught me lessons and you have worked incredibly hard as SOAR Leaders! I can’t wait to watch the next chapter in your lives.
Then there is Justin Roberts and Zoë Pixler. Justin, my first Family Orientation Specialist, is graduating with his masters and heading back to his home state of Texas. Justin and I started working together in June 2014 and we have worked together since then. He is the son I never had. We have grown together, changed the Parent & Family program together and just had tons of fun along the way. Justin, you will be missed more than you know! And Zoë, my Family Orientation Specialist for the past three years, is graduating with her bachelor’s degree. Zoë has embraced her job and taken it to levels I would have never dreamed we would reach. She has worked so hard for you, our families! She’s just amazing. Justin and Zoë are a part of my work family and my real family! My daughters think of them as siblings! Their families are my family now! So, I’m going through another transition as they head off to their life after college.
Thank you, family members, for allowing me to work with y’all! It’s truly an honor to know you and your students. Missouri State, I love ya!
Now on to the next four years and welcoming the Class of 2022!