Story by Erik Potter and Sarah Sabatke
No straight line exists between Move-In Day and commencement. This December, 2,243 students will earn degrees from the University of Missouri. Their journeys are as unique as the students themselves.
Student Affairs caught up with four soon-to-be-alumni, who agreed to share a little of their path to graduation and where the road leads next.
While senior Madison Baker is studying in his room in the Delta Chi fraternity house, he leaves his door open. By the end of the night, the room is filled with people. He strongly values the openness and real human connections.
Three years after joining Delta Chi in spring 2016, Baker recently finished his term as president of the organization. His main goal was to keep the organization moving upward and to encourage members to be actively involved on campus. His openness also showed him the power of listening, a skill he has carried over into other activities.
“I am more compassionate toward individual people and individual stories than ever before in my entire life,” he said.
Baker, a senior from Greenville, Missouri, will graduate with a political science major and art history minor.
He joined the Civic Leaders Internship Program (CLIP) through the Office of Service-Learning in the spring of 2016 and participated in various internships through the program for two years. He went on to work for the House Republican Campaign Committee in Jefferson City and helped with several campaigns.
“Your time may be crazy, but it’s something different every day,” he said. “That’s what I like about it.”
Baker’s overarching policy interests focus on education and agriculture. He is currently transitioning to working as a field representative for U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt and will relocate to Cape Girardeau, Missouri, after graduation.
Whether on the campaign trail or leading his fraternity brothers, Baker said listening to people and showing compassion is key. He experienced this firsthand – one year ago, he went to MU professor Dr. Stephanie Logan for help. He was surprised when she put everything aside to listen to him. She referred him to the MU Counseling Center and said they would check back in in one year – a milestone happening this month.
Baker advises incoming students to “push yourself to the most uncomfortable that you have ever been,” especially if it means seeking help when needed. “Vulnerability creates who you will be.”
Mark Boyd was trying to figure out where he fit as a computer science major. He was doing well in his classes, but he knew he didn’t want to earn a living sitting at a computer and coding all day.
He was still unsure what he wanted his career to look like when he took a student job in June 2016 as a digital marketing assistant in what is now the Student Affairs Marketing and Communication office.
Boyd started out working with student clubs and organizations to get their events listed on the division’s online calendar.
“I realized I liked talking to people and liked PR and strategy,” says Boyd, from St. Louis.
He learned as much as he could in the new job — how to write copy, how to optimize copy for each social media platform, and how to read and present social analytics to clients.
By spring 2017, he switched his major to interdisciplinary studies, where he kept his emphasis in computer science and added an emphasis in communication.
He knew he’d made the right decision when he came back that fall and started doing more social media marketing. Many of the messages he was writing were aimed at freshmen, so he purposely struck up conversations with freshmen around campus to find out what they were nervous about and what they wanted to know.
“Their needs are always changing, so being able to go out and find that information is valuable,” he says.
After he graduates this weekend, Boyd will start a full-time job at Mizzou as social media manager in the Joint Office of Strategic Communication.
On any given day, Dana Smith can be found among the wooden tables and coffee mugs of Uprise Bakery in downtown Columbia. She prefers to get her work done in this atmosphere — a bar to one side, record store to the other, Ragtag Cinema in the back of the building.
Early on in her time at MU, she spent time seeing films at Ragtag. The senior from St. Louis came to Mizzou to study psychology and film studies.
Smith got involved with the Missouri Students Association activities department in the spring of 2016, first joining as a member of the films committee. She worked her way up to chair of the films committee and then assistant director. She continues to be involved with event planning through the new Campus Activities Programming Board.
“It’s really taught me how to be organized and manage my time,” she said. “The best way to know what was going on on campus was to just be a part of it.”
After graduation, Smith will move to California to work on the production of an app. Eventually, she would like to attend graduate school.
“I’ve learned a lot about myself [at Mizzou], about where my interests lie, what I’m capable of and how much I can surprise myself,” she said.
Luke Schroeder came to Mizzou from Minneapolis for the campus culture. He liked how students were passionate about their school and how 60,000 fans rallied around their team during football games.
He also came thinking he wanted to go into the culinary arts. But during his first semester, in fall 2015, Schroeder saw the power of ordinary people, connected through social media, telling their story.
Schroeder doesn’t do social media, but he was inspired to learn how to “tell stories truthfully.”
He chose digital storytelling as a major, eventually adding anthropology as well. In digital storytelling, he makes short films with minimal directorial or editorial fingerprints. “I was big into theater in high school,” Schroeder says. “There, it was about an actor’s truth. When something is fake, you can immediately spot it.”
Even though his stories are fiction, he lets the truth of the performances guide his on-screen directing and post-production editing.
A similar mindset helped him during his three academic years of being a resident adviser in Residential Life. His role was to help his freshmen students adjust to college and figure out where they fit. At first, his inclination was to yell “cut!” when he saw them making different choices from what he would recommend. He quickly learned that jumping in was putting too much responsibility on him and not allowing the residents enough space to grow. The experience taught him the value of patience as a leadership tool.
Schroeder graduates this December, after which he will head home to direct a musical at his former high school. Then he hopes to land a job editing movie trailers for a company in Burbank, California.
Alumna Breanna McCaughey takes her passion for music and community involvement with her to the Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra.
Jack Schimpf’s leadership of Beta Theta Pi taught him lessons — and won him a national award.
Taylor Cofield found her passion at Mizzou. Three national fellowships and scholarships later, she’s taking that passion across the world.