A tribute to my alma mater and the class of 2020

Congrats to the Mizzou class of 2020!

I arrived on campus in the fall of 1992. I was a biology major determined to go to medical school in 1996. Instead, I graduated with degrees in English and Secondary Education, with a minor in history, in the spring of 1997.

I never could have predicted that change, or the many other wonderful experiences I had through the University of Missouri. I never thought I would join a sorority, but some of my Alpha Phi sisters are my closest friends to this day. I never thought I would leave my home state, but my time studying abroad in London gave me a global perspective that I strive to remember as an American.

That lesson — the one of embracing change and learning from it — has followed me through my adult life. I have lived in 8 different cities in the U.S. I’ve had two careers and am in graduate school again for a third. Most careers are not a straightforward trajectory — they are full of zigs and zags, hits and misses, highs and lows. Pay attention in those valleys; the lessons you learn will serve you well as you recover and succeed.

The one constant in all of my transience has been Mizzou and the Mizzou Alumni Association. I’ve served on two local alumni chapter boards in New York and Atlanta, and I’ve been a member of the Griffiths Leadership Society for Women since 2011; I joined the board last year. These chances for leadership with fellow alums across the country have given me experience, a network to turn to for professional advice, and, most importantly, myriad friends in a variety of cities.

I cannot imagine what it must be like to have your collegiate experience come to an end like this. But I can say that while I left Missouri 20 years ago, Mizzou will always be home.

M-I-Z!

mizzou atlanta: meet courtney manning

Every once in a while, I get to indulge my inner Tiger and celebrate both my alma mater and its fantastic students. As a member of the board for my university’s alumni chapter here in Atlanta (I launched and maintain the website for Mizzou Atlanta), I got to be a part of selecting our scholarship winners for this fall and posting their profiles on our website.

I interviewed our main scholarship winner, Courtney, who received $1,000 a year for four years. Not only was she impressive on paper, but despite our 20+ difference in ages, we seemed to have similar interests. The most noticeable was her interest in studying in London, which was where I studied in 1994. I immediately put her in touch with a couple of fellow program alums, one closer to my age and one closer to hers. (I’m also crossing my fingers that her father Joe isn’t terribly upset that I’ve encouraged this detour from Columbia for a semester.)

It’s interactions like this that make me proud to be a graduate of the University of Missouri, and proud to be involved with the university. I wouldn’t be who I am today without experiences like my sorority and my months in London, both of which I owe to Mizzou. It’s a big reason I am happy to give back and help others have the same experience on campus.

Read about Courtney and our other scholarship winner, Amanda, at mizzouatlanta.com!

mizzou atlanta website is launched!

I am happy to announce that mizzouatlanta.com is now online!

When I moved to Atlanta from New York (where I worked on mizzounyc.com for three years), the first thing I did was search for the local Mizzou alumni chapter’s website… which did not exist. Because our move coincided with Mizzou’s move to the SEC, our alumni association has unsurprisingly wanted a stronger presence here in Atlanta, and I was more than happy to join the team of volunteers to help make that happen.

Within the last year, we’ve gone from a barebones existence to Capstone status, an achievement that will allow us to give out several scholarships and receive a decent funding from the alumni association, all of which will allow us to continue to grow. I’m proud to say that I began working with Alumni Spaces, the team behind the site’s design, back when they formed the company in New York just as we were leaving in 2011. I gave them feedback on their original layouts and promised to contact them should I be able to serve the Atlanta chapter as Secretary. A year later, they were helping us build our site; a few months after that, they signed a contract with the MAA to work on all Mizzou alum sites. I’m so proud to have known them throughout this entire process, and glad that they were able to help us build our own site.

mizzouaphi blog: meet April Diaz de Leon

I continue to be amazed by the next generation that’s been attending my alma mater, Mizzou, and, in particular, the women that have been active members at my sorority, Alpha Phi. It had been suggested a few months ago that I profile a recent alum that had published a children’s book, and I agreed that we should promote it. And then I looked her up. She’s 23. And self-published. And is working on 2 more books.

Clearly I haven’t accomplished enough. Must get to work.

Fabulous Alum of the Month: April Diaz de Leon

April Diaz de Leon ’06 may be young for a published author (she’s only 23), but she’s certainly accomplished. She finished dual degrees in Strategic Communications (through the J-School) and Graphic Design (through A&S) in December 2010 while remaining active at the house doing skits for Homecoming and Greek Week. In addition, she spent a lot of time at Mizzou’s Craft Studio, where she took and taught various classes. As she remembers it, “It was the perfect space to experiment with different techniques outside of the classroom. (And it kept my ‘art messes’ out of the Annex living room.)”

Her book, If You Live Here, came about as a project for her Senior Show at the art department at MU. After some positive feedback at the showcase, she submitted it to several large publishers… who told her that she needed to be a published author to be considered for publication. While most people might give up there, it drove April to publish it on her own through Author House, a self-publishing company based in Indiana.

Read the full entry at mizzouaphi.com!

mizzouaphi blog: the Griffiths Leadership Society

While we lived in the New York area, I became very involved with the local Mizzou alumni chapter. This led to a dinner in Manhattan with, among other people, the chancellor at MU, Brady Deaton, and his impressive wife, Anne Deaton.

It was an enjoyable evening, discussing both Mizzou topics and the Deatons’ travels around the world (they met on a missionary trip to Africa). Those of us from the chapter told them a little about both our professional lives, as well as what we contributed to the New York chapter, and I had a nice conversation on the side with Anne about her speech at the Alpha Phi Centennial in 2010.

A few weeks later, I received an invitation to join the Griffiths Leadership Society for Women, a somewhat exclusive mentoring and networking subgroup of the Mizzou Alumni Association. Extremely flattered, I sent in the paperwork and am preparing to attend my first conference in April 2012, which made the email later that month to post this entry about other Alpha Phis in the prestigious group quite apropos.

Phis Join Other Women From Mizzou
at the Griffiths Society Conference in Columbia

In 2005, the Mizzou Alumni Association created the Griffiths Leadership Society for Women, a subgroup of the MAA devoted to lifelong learning, leadership development and mentoring. Membership is open to both current students and alumnae, and each student member is paired with an alum that shares a common bond, whether it’s a common field of business, a shared hometown, or even a familiar need to balance work and life.

In October, younger members like new alum Kelsey Kotur ’07 and current Mizzou student Sydney Ferleger ’09 got to mingle with and learn from older alumnae like Val Lawlor ’71 and Susan Chaffin Matthews ’69 at the Griffiths Society Fall Conference. The two-day session encouraged mentees and mentors to bond at breakfasts and dinners while organizing presentations on such topics as breaking the glass ceiling, women in science and politics, and establishing yourself as a brand.

Read the full entry at mizzouaphi.com!