Story by Erik Potter

Kelsey Palmquist, BSW ’13, had just graduated from Mizzou and found herself teaching biology at a high school outside Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on a Teach for America fellowship.

Northeast High School sits on a two-lane rural road amid fields and grain silos. Its students are not wealthy, but they are ambitious. In addition to teaching, Palmquist helped some of them prepare for the ACT test to get into college. One student, to save money, wanted to go to community college, then transfer to Xavier University of Louisiana for a pharmacy degree.

Kelsey Palmquist, in mid-conversation, faces a student.
Kelsey Palmquist speaks to a student at an MU Student Unions Programming Board event.

Palmquist sat down with the student to help map out which classes to take, how to maximize financial aid and figure out housing. “There were a lot more steps than even I realized,” Palmquist says.

Palmquist has a family full of college graduates she could call on for help in such a situation, but what about a first-generation college student trying to figure it out? That’s when she decided she would focus her upcoming Mizzou graduate work on making college transferring simpler .

Palmquist is about to graduate with a master’s degree in educational leadership and policy analysis. In a campus internship with enrollment management this past summer, she made a suite of recommendations that the office is taking up, including hiring additional transfer admissions representatives, centralizing transfer-student services and strengthening ties with Missouri community colleges that send fewer students to Mizzou. She is also the graduate assistant for the Student Unions Programming Board, where she mentors the students on her staff.

Kelsey Palmquist, wearing a "Mizzou 18" long-sleeve T-shirt, stands in a row of her fellow honorees.
The inaugural Mizzou 18 honorees are revealed on Traditions Plaza Feb. 27, 2018.

Her involvement earned her membership in the inaugural class of Mizzou 18, a Mizzou Alumni Association program that honors 18 outstanding graduate students annually.

Palmquist is a third-generation Tiger, following her father, Edward Palmquist, who earned a bachelor’s degree in agriculture in 1989, and her grandfather, William Palmquist, who earned a bachelor’s in business administration in 1967 and an MBA in 1975. Her great-grandfather, Edward M. Palmquist, was a botany professor at Mizzou.

With that family history, the Mizzou 18 recognition was special for Palmquist.

“For me, Mizzou has always been home,” she says. “It’s where I’ve come into who I am today.”