Seniors of Mizzou

Graduating Tigers reflect on their experiences.

“Seniors of Mizzou” was inspired by Brandon Stanton's “Humans of New York.” We approached members of Mizzou's class of 2016 and simply asked the questions that every senior has thought about: Where am I headed? How has Mizzou changed me? What do I regret? What will I remember about this place? And what would I pass on to the people who follow me?

The last few weeks before graduation are full of nerves and excitement — and also reflection. They present a brief moment in time to consider the university experience while also embracing an ambiguous future. The combination of accomplishments, mistakes and discoveries contributes to a greater wisdom. Here is a look into the thoughts shared by a few of this year's seniors of Mizzou.

Katie Leingang, elementary education major.

Katie Leingang, elementary education major
"I love kids and people and want to help the next generation come to know who they are and to experience that joy in helping them come to know who they are. I've wanted to do it since first grade, but Mizzou helped me get there, no doubt."

Ashley Richardson, health sciences major.

Ashley Richardson, health sciences major
"I want to do nursing, so I'll probably get a C&A job and work my way up from there. Mizzou had an influence on that. I didn't get into the traditional program, so I had to find a way, like applying to the accelerated program. I like listening to people, I like the human body, and science is my favorite subject."
"It's cool to meet a lot of different people at Mizzou, internationally too. It's a big campus, but I'm cool with it; it means there are just more people."
"I would say don't be afraid to switch majors in the middle or find something that you're good at because it might end up being the best thing in the world to you. You might really enjoy it; you might not. So at least you can see what you like and what you don't like."

Joe Sampson

Joe Sampson, art major
"The advice I would give is to be friends with your teachers. Get friendly with them, and be personal with them. Talk to them face to face because there will be a lot more leniency when it comes down to crunch time with finals and stuff when you're like, 'Ah, I need more time to get this done!' Also, don't get too dead set on one thing. I, for instance, was trying to do physics and psychology. Expect to change your degree at least once or twice. I did, and that's something I didn't expect. Check out all of the club sports. There are a lot of club sports here and a lot of things people don't know, like I'm on the paintball team for Mizzou! Every time I tell someone that, they all have the same reaction, like 'The school has a paintball team?!' They have a Quidditch team, a hockey team, a rally car racing team. It's crazy!"

Emily Buretz, journalism major.

Emily Buretz, journalism major
"My advice is to treat college like what it is, which is temporary. Think big picture, and apply yourself in all the things that will add up to what you imagine for yourself in the future. Whether it be your degree, your friendships, what you get involved in — all should all reflect who you are. I was lucky to know I was absolutely a journalism student, but I put myself out there and spent a lot of time with students in organizations like Camp Kesem and Alternative Spring Break, and those things made my college experience feel fulfilling. Now, as a senior, I can trust that the friends I've made will be friends for life. I'm proud of the influence this place has had on me. So my advice is to embrace feeling uncomfortable, break down your 'comfort zone' and don't let anything define who you are except yourself."

Mary Kate Metivier

Mary Kate Metivier, journalism major
"Do things that make you uncomfortable. When I started doing things alone, like going to Ragtag Cinema, going to certain resource centers, taking classes alone and not basing them on my friends, that’s when I really figured out who I was. By doing things alone, you discover your chosen family, which is so important for people who belong to marginalized groups, and I definitely found that at Mizzou. I’m lucky that journalism is a profession that revolves around moral and ethical questions. I’m constantly surrounded by people who are asking the questions that matter to me. Asking these questions in your profession carries over to your life. You start to think about why you’re doing certain things the way you are. Definitely journalism school has done that for me. Mizzou has been really great. I consciously made the choice to be uncomfortable and think beyond what I knew as somebody who was Catholic, from a small town, and only around white people all the time."

Amy Cantrall, English major.

Amy Cantrall, English major
"Everyone assumes I want to teach, but I really like researching. I like knowing things. I worked with a professor, Dr. Nancy West, and she really helped me form my likes and interests that have to do with the English major but don't necessarily have to do with teaching. I took a memoirs class with her last spring, and there were only five girls, so it was a close, tight-knit group where we could get really open with each other. This spring I did a thesis with her, and she was definitely a mentor for me." "My best advice is to go with the flow and go where life takes you. I came in as a junior; I only did two years because I transferred here. I really didn't feel like I fit in completely, but once I sort of went with the flow, everything went a lot better. That's something I'm hoping to do with my future. I'm always so worried about it, but I want to not plan it out for once. As a researcher, I feel like I need to plan everything, and this is the first time in my life I can't do that."

Daniel Stewart, strategic communication major.

Daniel Stewart, journalism major
"Mizzou gave me a sense of purpose. As in, I didn't know exactly where I belonged out of high school when it pertained to what I wanted to do. I still don't think I did everything I wanted to do here, but it did give me a sense of direction and authenticated who I was. Through journalism, I found graphic design and was like, 'Wow, I really like illustration,' and I was immersed into being a more authentic person. You can find that here: people who want to help you be that authentic person."

Kelsey Denker, accounting major.

Kelsey Denker, accounting major
"Homecoming is a way for the entire campus to come together. It doesn't really exclude one organization or the next. There's truly something for everyone to do with Homecoming to celebrate the university, and without a doubt I'll come back for it.… I love Mizzou so much, I chose a major that takes five years."

Aaron Hartfield, physics and electrical engineering major.

Aaron Hartfield, physics and electrical engineering major
"The electrical engineering department here is really good because the professors are really knowledgeable… This past semester working with my capstone team and the project we worked on — I would say that was my favorite memory. We created Bluetooth automated night lamps." "If I had to give advice, I'd say don't be too focused on your grades because that's not what makes you; I know that for a fact. It's all about the experience and not what grades you get in college because you can always learn."

Jillian Deutsch, journalism major.

Jillian Deutsch, journalism major
"Make sure to take your time. Don’t follow the exact path that you have planned to do. Enjoy your time here. Make sure you’re having fun while challenging yourself, too."
"Best experiences? True/False Film Festival was one of my favorites. Working at the Women's Center was big for me because it was a community of really educated, empowered women who really pushed me. Certain professors really helped me make sure I was living and doing the kind of work, ethically, I that I want to do."

Brianna Coleman, health sciences major.

Brianna Coleman, health sciences major
"Don't be afraid to try stuff. Just do it. Try it. It might not be for you, but at least you don't have any regrets. As I prepare for graduation, I think there is a lot more I wish I would have done. I didn't because I let fear get in my way — fear that I'm not capable of doing certain things. Like Nike, just do it. Apply. Try it. Definitely when it comes to involvement in several different organizations — even like Greek Life, clubs, different things — just try it."

Alec Weine, strategic communication major.

Alec Weine, journalism major
"My favorite Mizzou memory is when Mizzou won the SEC Championship the first time against Johnny Football, the year he won the Heisman, and we rushed the field and I kissed the 50 for the first time."

Rona Navales, strategic communication major.

Rona Navales, journalism major
"The majority of the professors I've had here have always been willing to go out of their way to help. That made the experience really worth it, especially for my first year here. I was very homesick, and I'm the kind of person that it is really hard for me to be away from my family. I grew up in San Francisco and moved to L.A, six hours away, and I still went home. So, being the first in my family this far away was really hard, but once I started to gain those relationships and find people who cared about my well being, it's like I have a family here, too, that I have created, a support system. Over time, slowly but surely, it felt like home."

Maddie Vasta, nursing major.

Maddie Vasta, nursing major
"I came to Mizzou knowing they had one of the best nursing programs, but it's really competitive, and that's what helps it stand out from the rest. Since I've been here, they have become the nation's best nursing school, and I know going into my field that telling people I'm a Mizzou nurse is something that people respect and sets me apart from anyone else. I'm really proud to say I'm a Mizzou nurse, and I'm happy that Mizzou gave me the extra support and skills to excel in the future."

Sam Maasen, health sciences major.

Sam Maassen, health sciences major
"Although I come from a family that has been Mizzou through and through for as long as I can remember, I was worried about going somewhere so close to home. With that being said, my Mizzou family now includes people far more diverse than I ever imagined. I've enjoyed Greek life and tailgating for football games as much as, if not more than, I had hoped. I've also had the pleasure of gaining close friends of completely different backgrounds from all over the country. I can't really think of another or better place to have enjoyed my college experience."

Maghan Gampper, business major.

Maghan Gampper, business major
"Don't take anything for granted because it goes by way too fast. And don't be afraid to travel to new places or try new experiences. Study abroad if you can because it's completely worth it."

Trei Walton, arts and sciences major.

Trei Walton, arts and sciences major and football player
"I'm graduating next week and it's been kind of surreal. Looking back, Mizzou had a lot of good times, good vibes, good friends. I met a lot of people. I branched out. I was on the football team and striving into the next adventure of my life. It's kind of crazy to think about, and reflecting on the past four or five years of college, it's some of the best times you'll have in your life. You have to really make sure you stay on the right track, focus on school and your studies, whatever you want to do, to find out what you want to do in the future. It comes faster than you think. You want to be able to get it going in your head and do things every day while you're coming up as a freshman and sophomore to get to that goal that you had from the very first day. The quicker you find that out, the better your future will be. So find that goal, and do something every day to get to that."

Kayla Lewis, education major.

Kayla Lewis, education major
"Be spontaneous. Don't be scared to do something because you're like 'Oh, I don't have the money' or 'I don't think it will work out' or 'I don't think that it will be fun.' Try and take any chance that you get to do something. We went to Atlanta for a football game; we just did it. We went to Kansas City. Just go somewhere. Be spontaneous, and take all the advantages you can. Once you have a job, you can't do that anymore because you have a big-person job."

Jessi Laday, journalism major.

Jessi Laday, journalism major
"I would say I'm one of the few that is ready to graduate. I'm ready to start my life and move on. But looking back, it's been fun. My mom actually came for mom's weekend for my sorority, and my mom was like, 'Wow, I've actually never gotten a full tour of this place,' and I'm a tour guide! So I was showing her around and I had a moment. Freshman year, I was at Wolper's, and it isn't even here anymore. It just shows how much has changed. Overall, I would say it's been a good four years. I know for sure that I've changed as a person. I've become way more mature, and I see more of the world than the little bubble I came from… Coming to Mizzou, the different kind of people here made me wake up and grow up, which I needed. Honestly, so many opportunities through theater, my sorority, and tour team football — that's my job now; they hired me! So, I'll be working under recruiting for Mizzou's football team, and I love our football team, so I'm very excited to do that." 
"Focus on yourself. Don't be a loner for four years, but don't let other people's journeys drift you away from yours. These are your four years. If anyone ever says, 'College is going to be the best years of your life,' they're lying. Don't let college be the best years of your life. Let that be the time that you grow so you can have a badass life. That's how I lived it. That's how other friends that I have lived it. Do you. Have some experiences. If you do it the right way, you'll be ready to start your life."

Jake Wallach, business major.

Jake Wallach, business major
"Mizzou has changed me and made me grow into an adult. Being from Chicago, coming to a new place like this was a really cool experience because I didn't have the comfort of being with my friends when I first got here. So, I got to make great friends and meet a lot of guys in my fraternity also. It was a great opportunity to branch out and meet new people. Be open to new experiences. Try new things. This is the time of your life that you can make mistakes."

Claudia Singleton, education major.

Claudia Singleton, education major
"I feel like I've become my own person coming to Mizzou. I had a good childhood, but I don't think I really knew who I was, what I believed, what I stood for until I had to leave my family. I'm from Texas, so I came here as an out-of-state student, all alone, no friends or family, and I had to figure out how to do things on my own. When I was getting challenged in class, I had to do a lot of reflecting and thinking about 'Well, what are my beliefs about certain things?' or 'Why do I feel that way? What beliefs have been shaped by my family and my upbringing versus what beliefs are my own and my actual thoughts and ideas?' I feel like I kind of became my own person when I came here. I became way less judgmental, way more open and accepting of all kinds of different people. I also gained more pride in my culture coming here. I grew up in a really diverse community. I always loved myself and my heritage but never really had true pride until I cam here and got into uncomfortable situations where I felt mistreated and felt challenged or had negative interactions with people based on my identity. I definitely became way more comfortable in who I was, the way I looked and a lot of the things that make me who I am. I'm really thankful that Mizzou kinda helped me grow up and become my own person…"
"Step out of your comfort zone as often as you can because you can't grow as a person unless you step out of everything that you know and you think you know and believe. So many of my best experiences and positive or enlightening experiences have been when I did something totally different… I kind of realized that we're all people and judging people doesn't do anything for anyone. So, I'd say step out of your comfort zone as much as you can because that's really how you grow and become a better person."

Zach Sullentrup, strategic communication major.

Zach Sullentrup, journalism major
"For me, the most important skill you can have in college is creating balance, I guess, in every aspect of life that you can. The key to success in college is finding a way to balance your social life, your academic life and all those different hats you wear and do it in a way that makes you happy and that is fulfilling. My other piece of advice is that nothing is as important as you think it is at the time. So spend less time worrying and more time having fun. I think I spent too much time caring. If I could go back, I would have not worried as much."

Lindsey Moesle, health sciences major.

Lindsey Moesle, health sciences major
"I'm only moving two hours away, so I won't be too far away. When you're doing the last things, like senior night for your sorority or all that random stuff that's marking the end of the end, you don't really process whether you're ready or not because you're not necessarily there. You still have a couple days or weeks left. But I'm afraid that when it does finally hit me that I'm not here anymore, that's when I'm going to be like 'What do I do?' Someone articulated it really well for me a couple weeks ago. They were like: 'You're prepared to graduate and to move on and be in the real world, but you're not ready to do so because you don't realize that you're not ready to leave Mizzou or give up the little things of college. Best decision I ever made: Coming to Mizzou."

Steven Austin, communication and psychology major.

Steven Austin, communication and psychology major
"I really liked the fact that this school has so much pride in the things they do. There's not a day that I walk around that I don't see at least five or 10 people in black and gold or something Mizzou related. That was something that really made the university stand out for me when I was looking at all the colleges. The pride here is unmatched, and I think that's really cool. I've done a lot of things here because I like the university so much, and leaving is going to be hard."
"The college experience is one I can't put into words because you gain so much from it. Maturation is one of the biggest things for me because I came in like this naive freshman not knowing what's going on, not knowing half of what's in the world. Going through all four years, I've learned a lot more about those things. I've also grown as a person. I've learned a lot more about myself. Now I know my strengths and weaknesses. Mizzou is an amazing place."

Rachel Brooks, journalism major.

Rachel Brooks, journalism major
"I came to Mizzou because I knew I wanted to major in journalism, and when I visited the campus, I fell in love with it. I also knew I wanted to do marching band in college, and Mizzou gave me a really great opportunity for that. We went to Ireland this year. That was amazing. We marched in the St. Patrick's Day parade in Dublin, and there were half a million people there — more people than we had ever performed for — and then just getting to experience the history of Ireland…"
"Spending time with Marching Mizzou has definitely defined my time here. The college experience in general would change anyone. Just the people I met here and opportunities I've had working at the International Center, going abroad and traveling have been really influential. I'm doing Peace Corps after graduation. I did the Peace Corps prep program here, and that helped me get in, so I'm heading to Rwanda in September."

Bri Noltie, education major.

Bri Noltie, education major
"One thing I learned the most from college was to be open to change. Don't go into college or any experience not being willing to change or alter. You have to be open to things. You may lose friends. You may make mistakes. But changing yourself is OK in college. I know I'm a completely different person than I was when I started. I learned to not fight that change but to be open and embrace it because change is good."

Zeyna Naufel, nursing major

Zeyna Naufel, nursing major
"I feel like it's challenging balancing the work that I do at clinicals in the hospital for nursing school with my life in college because sometimes they are on two totally different pages. Sometimes life can be normal and fine and you're grateful for everything you have in college around your friends and family, but then you go to the hospital in a clinical setting and you see all these people who are really sick or don't have anything. It puts you in these moments of self-reflection. It's where you have to find yourself, and sometimes its a lonely feeling. People don't always understand because they haven't had the same experiences as you or they don't see those same things as you. It challenges you to grow up…"
"I know I'm going to be a really great nurse. But God definitely tests you throughout college and tests your experiences. Not just in your schoolwork but how you apply yourself with patients, how you apply yourself with your friends and how you balance everything as an independent person."

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