MU swarms with graduations

Saturday, December 15, 2012 | 10:41 p.m. CST; updated 11:24 p.m. CST, Saturday, December 15, 2012
Commencement ceremonies were held at MU and Columbia College on Saturday.

COLUMBIA — Waves of new MU alum donned in caps and gowns streamed across campus after graduation Saturday.

Graduations for the Honors College, the School of Natural Resources, School of Health Professions, the College of Human Environmental Sciences, the School of Social Work, College of Arts and Science, College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources and the Graduate School were held Saturday.

Honors College

Alex Schoenbeck, a nursing student, was completely prepared for graduation. He arrived at the ceremony on time, knew the location of his seat and how to exit the stage. 

He didn't, however, think to wear his cap and gown.

"It was an honest mistake," his father, Charlie, said. "He wore it for his ceremony last night. He had to borrow one from someone else. It's kind of funny to think he graduated wearing a gown that wasn't even his."

Schoenbeck was one of 264 students who graduated with honors Saturday morning. The students were accompanied by their faculty mentors and received bronze medallions featuring an image of the Columns. 

Michael Middleton, deputy chancellor, presided over the ceremonies. 

Jim Gwinner, president of the Mizzou Alumni Association, told graduates in his greeting that they would always know to return the "M-I-Z" chant.

"You'll know how to respond when someone yells 'M-I-Z' across an airport terminal at you," he said. "Because you were that 'M-I-Z,' just as now you'll be that 'Z-O-U.'"

Chuck Genova said he was proud of his daughter, Alex, a textiles and apparel management graduate.

"It was a long journey," he said. "She went to Arizona State and transferred here. It only added on one more semester, which was very nice."

But, Genova did have one complaint. "I still think we should have had an 'M-I-Z' chant at the end of the ceremony," he said.

College of Arts and Sciences

Among the graduates walking across the stage in the Hearnes Center was a surprising sight: A small girl donning a miniature cap and gown, holding hands with an adult graduate. 

Addyson Flowers, 3, accompanied her mother, Alana Flowers, who was graduating, across the stage. 

"It was definitely a different experience," Flowers said, of walking with her daughter. "Being a mom in college was demanding but fun. But it is a blessing, and it feels amazing."

Flowers became pregnant while attending MU and made the decision to finish the communications program. She managed to graduate alongside many of her peers with whom she began the program.

"I completed a huge milestone," Flowers said. "Being a non-traditional student makes it mean so much more."

Flowers' story illustrates the messages Brian Foster, provost, and Justin Dyer, assistant professor and commencement speaker, touched on while addressing the 584 students who graduated from the College of Arts and Science.

"What is certain about life is that you can't know where it is going to take you," Foster said.

Dyer continued on in the same vain. He talked about how life can be difficult, tragedies can strike and some things are beyond an individual's control. He emphasized, however, that there is always hope for a better future, and time to strive for happiness.

"Happiness is not pleasure, or honor, or wealth. These are not the source of happiness," Dyer said. "What happiness is, is much harder to answer, but it can be found in your family, friends, and community. I wish you well on your own pursuits of happiness."

Graduate School

Of the 645 students receiving diplomas from the Graduate program, there were three who did not set foot on campus while pursuing their degrees.

Jessica Steward, who lives in Des Moines, Iowa, with her husband, Chris, completed her Master's degree in Career and Technical Education online while working full-time.

"I grew up in West Plains, Mo., and I have always loved MU," Steward said. "After I evaluated all of the programs, this one offered me a degree that would help in both education and business and I appreciated that I could do the entire thing online so I didn't have to travel."

Steward only had to travel four hours for graduation, which was the shortest trip of the three students.

"It is an accomplishment that, as a child, I never pictured myself achieving," Steward said. "I am so grateful for the opportunity because some people don't have these chances in life, but I have also worked hard to make this happen."

Adam Lewkowsky, who grew up in Missouri, came from Portland, Ore., to participate in the Graduate School commencement after completing his masters of arts in Library Science online.

John Hull of Elk Grove, Calif., made the trip thanks to a birthday present from his sister, Julie Hull, and his wife. Julie Hull and his mom, Shirley Hull, made the trek with him.

"I'm surprised, but here I am, graduating," John Hull said. "I actually did it."

John Hull graduated from the University of Northern Colorado in 1976 with a bachelor of Journalism and has spent the past 27 years working in radio and television. He currently works as a sports writer for the Elk Grove Citizen newspaper but has been teaching part-time as well since 2004. His desire to become a professor led to him getting his master's.

"Even with 27 years of experience in journalism, I cannot become a full time professor without a master's," John Hull said. "So I began looking for an online program. MU was the first place I looked because it is considered the best J-school, and I want to teach digital media and journalism."

All three online graduates expressed excitement, not just about getting their degrees but also about the professional opportunities that the degrees will help them pursue.

Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.

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