Meet the Class of 2021

The University of Missouri Class of 2021 has already overcome so much and is now ready to change the world. Show Me Mizzou talked with 13 soon-to-be grads to learn about their plans for the future and the moments that defined their time on campus.

May 4, 2021
Contact: Kenny Gerling,

dalal headshotAvery Dalal

Journalism major and social justice minor
Hometown: Frisco, Texas

What made you choose the University of Missouri?

Mizzou was actually on my radar as a middle schooler. I used to read a lot of video game and movie coverage, and I followed a writer named Greg Miller. I looked into him and found out he went to Mizzou and studied journalism. From there I did more research and knew I wanted to go here. What I want to cover has evolved since then. My minor is in social justice, and I want to do something related to that.

Do you have a favorite Mizzou memory?

I’m an RA, and everything started for me when I entered Res Life and met two of my really close friends. It felt like this whole school opened up to me.

This summer, I have a fellowship at the Dallas Morning News, which was directly tied to professors who gave me the application. I also had an internship in New Delhi where I was placed at a small online publication with some of the best reporters I’ve ever seen. The J-School is really good at helping you build your network and connecting you with opportunities before you graduate.

emezue headshotChuka Nestor Emezue

Doctorate in Nursing
Hometown: Abia State, Nigeria 

How long have you been at Mizzou?

This is my third graduate degree at Mizzou. The first was a Master’s in Public Health in the School of Health Professions, then I did a Master’s in Public Affairs from the Truman School of Public Affairs. So, I’ve been around for a while. Now I’m defending my dissertation and interviewing for faculty positions.

What do you think you’ll miss the most?

I will miss playing pool at The Shack. I had a lot of friends, and we would go shoot pool every day after classes. I was also privileged to be one of the founders of the Deaton Scholars Program, a flagship program working to address three key things: poverty, food insecurity, and hunger. Many of our community-based projects were focused on those issues. While I was the director, we worked with around 150 MU students and paired them up as peer mentors. I’ll miss this community, as well as all of my mentors and friends.

gardner headshotDave Gardner

Health science major with an emphasis in leadership and policy
Hometown: Chicago

Did you always know you wanted to study health science?

I actually started out as an animal science major, then I switched to biology. Junior year, I found out about the School of Health Professions, so I switched again. I’m currently working at the Missouri Orthopaedic Institute, where I manage a couple of different projects around employee retention and engagement. I’m going to start my master’s of health administration at Mizzou this fall.

Do you have a favorite Mizzou memory?

My favorites are definitely Mizzou Alternative Breaks trips with the Mizzou Black Men’s Initiative. We completed a service trip to Washington, D.C., where we went to a school and helped set stuff up for kids. When we were out there, we also went to the National Museum of African American History and Culture, which was great.


gee headshotDestiny Gee

Education major with an emphasis in middle school science education
Hometown: Kansas City, Missouri

Have you always known you wanted to be a teacher?

I knew I wanted to be a teacher or a rock star, and one of those didn’t happen. In elementary school, teachers would give out extra homework, and I would take it home and play school with my teddy bears. At Mizzou, I was originally in elementary education, but I changed to middle school science. The College of Education helped make the transfer process easy, and they were good about getting you into classrooms and helping with field experiences. A lot of kids don’t like science, but I want to have a classroom with lots of hands-on activities where we go out, explore and make those connections.

What will you miss about Mizzou?

One thing I will definitely miss is the Dorsey Scholars Program — that program made me the person I am today, and it helped me find my voice.


inman headshotTravis Inman

Doctor of veterinary medicine
Hometown: Ozark, Missouri

What was your path to veterinary medicine?

I graduated in from college in 2007 and spent six years with the State Highway Patrol. At the time, buying a house with my wife and starting a family were the most important things. Then, in 2015, the desire to go back and pursue vet med came up again, and we decided to make it happen. Before coming to campus, I completed post-baccalaureate work through a few places, including Mizzou Online. I started at the vet school in 2017.

How was it balancing your family life and going back to school?

I feel like the support I’ve gotten as a parent and non-traditional older student has been very good at Mizzou. I really appreciate the support for those of us going into general practice as well as the faculty and staff who fulfill Mizzou’s role as a land grant institution and serve the citizens of this state — especially through work with Extension.


owens headshotEliza Owens

Doctor of medicine
Hometown: Goodman, Missouri


Parker Owens

Journalism with an emphasis in strategic communications and business administration with an emphasis in marketing majors
Hometown: Noel, Missouri

What’s it like finishing up your degrees at the same time?

Eliza Owens: It’s been really fun. Parker and I have schedules that work well together, and he’s been really supportive and helps me by carpooling to school or bringing food to the hospital. We stay focused by doing things at the same time.

Parker Owens: Seeing Eliza complete med school has made me more serious about studying. Her studying for the first round of the board exam made me: A) sure I don’t want to go to medical school, and B) understand the importance of giving it your all. Now I work from home a lot and study throughout the day during time off from my job.

What are your plans for the future?

PO: I’ll be going to Mizzou Law in the fall. I want to do something in the legal field, and I’m sure there’ll be a lot of opportunities I don’t even know about yet. That’s one of the big things about Mizzou and my time here —there’s just a lot of experiences I’ve been able to have. One of my favorites was going back to my old high school — which is 90% free or reduced lunch — and telling them about all those needs-based scholarships I wouldn’t be here without, such as Walton Scholars and Pell Grants. It’s something amazing that can’t be quantified in dollars. Those opportunities were a hand outreached to me, and the least I can do is reach out to the next person and tell them that Mizzou can help you.

EO: I’m doing my residency in Columbia and Fulton, so I’ll still be able to go to football games and be involved in Parker’s law school stuff. Being from a rural area, I was interested in going somewhere in rural Missouri. I’ve had different clinical experiences in Sedalia, Branson and Hannibal, but I also have experience in University Hospital as well. So, half of my time has been in more rural areas and half was at the university.

queathem headshotEric Queathem

Biochemistry and nutrition and exercise physiology majors
Hometown: Montgomery City, Missouri

How did you get interested in biochemistry and nutrition?

I grew up on a farm, but I never thought about the science in agriculture. Then, in my freshman biochemistry course, we were talking about the process of pasteurizing milk — which I knew about. But we were also talking about the biochemistry behind it. I felt the lightbulb turn on. Biochemistry is about things at the molecular scale, which helped me understand how cells worked. But I wanted to learn more about how human beings work. That’s what made me want to join the nutrition and exercise physiology department.

What are some of the opportunities you’ve had at Mizzou?

There are a few big ones: I was involved in Linking Science & Literacy for All Learners. It’s a program that fosters reading and writing within STEM education at the middle school level. I’m also a McNair Scholar and a Peer Learning Assistant in the Biochem department. For five semesters, I’ve trained and mentored multiple students in both the Biochem and the nutrition departments, and have worked with Dr. Vieira-Potter’s lab in the nutrition department for over two years, researching the role adipose tissue (aka fat) plays in disease.

roberts headshotBabrak Roberts

Mechanical engineering major
Hometown: Fayette, Missouri

Did you always want to be an engineer?

I was set on engineering because my dad and my brother both pursued engineering in their careers. Then, I took a few freshman engineering classes at Mizzou and discovered it was even better than I thought. You’re actually in a position to make someone’s life easier using what you know.

What are some opportunities you’ve had at Mizzou?

I was involved with STRIPES and Mizzou Alternative Breaks. Those gave me opportunities to meet other people who weren’t engineering majors and to make an impact on Mizzou as a whole. I was also a member and officer of the Quarter Scale Tractor Pulling Team, and, my senior year, I was part of the St. Pat’s Board and helped plan Engineers’ Week and even got to be an Engineers' Week king candidate. For two years, I was an officer for Mizzou’s chapter of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers. It was a really fun opportunity to network and promote a more welcoming environment at the College of Engineering.

schafer headshotTori Schafer

Juris Doctor
Hometown: Sylvania, Ohio

How has Mizzou prepared you for the future?

I’ve been on MU’s campus my entire adult life, and the opportunities I’ve been given through Mizzou are things I’ll carry with me forever. In terms of professional development, I was able to serve as vice president of the Missouri Students Association and president of the Graduate Professional Council. I was also able to represent MU at the White House during the Obama administration for a conference on student leadership and organization. I also started a chapter of It’s On Us, a sexual assault awareness campaign, at Mizzou and was part of the organization on a national level.

What has the last year been like for you?

The biggest takeaway from all of this is to be kind to yourself and others. It’s amazing how so many people came together to support each other. COVID has presented a lot of unique challenges, and our professors were amazing and put in the extra work and went the extra mile to check in on us. We were also a really close class and that made a positive impact on my law school experience. I loved my time at Mizzou, but I feel prepared for what’s next. I’ll be leading a grant project and working in the special victim's unit at the St. Louis City Circuit Attorney’s Office.

taranissi headshotYasmeen Taranissi

Economics and business majors and accounting master’s
Hometown: Columbia, Missouri

What are some of the opportunities you’ve had at Mizzou?

I participated in A Way with Words & Numbers, a Mizzou-run organization that puts college students in touch with elementary students. It was a really formative experience because you’re a representative of Mizzou when you enter that elementary school. It was really awesome to fill that role. Another is my work with the Division of Inclusion, Diversity and Equity. Through the support of faculty and staff, I found ways to pursue change and speak out. It’s definitely something I will take into the future. I’ll speak out and be firm in that decision and not question if it’s worth it.

What lessons have you learned in the past year?

The biggest thing is to be grateful for what you have. So many people are suffering so badly. It was a big wakeup call, and I’m being more cognizant in day-to-day life. I now move through each day with so much more presence because I realize how delicate it is.

tifase headshotJessica Tifase

Digital storytelling major with film studies and art minors
Hometown: Houston, Texas

What will you miss about Mizzou?

There are several things I feel like I’m going to miss, especially my friends and the relationships I made here. I’m really grateful and appreciative of those people, and I’ll miss the proximity to them. Also, the environment of Mizzou. It’s so in the middle — not overwhelming, not underwhelming — and has things to do and interesting things happening. I’ll miss the space I’ve been in for the last four years. I’m really grateful for what Mizzou has given me in the past four years, and I’ll probably miss that the most.

What are some things you’re most proud of from your time at Mizzou?

Last year, I was selected for the Undergraduate Juried Art Exhibition in the George Caleb Bingham Gallery, which I won best in 2D design. One of my portraits was also purchased by the undergraduate studies program. This year I won first prize in the Visual Art and Design Showcase for my series, “The Harvest.” I was also selected as one of the Mizzou ’39. So many things happened this semester — I feel like someone’s pulling a prank on me. I’m really fortunate that a lot of things are coming to fruition.

turner headshotAbigail Turner

Agricultural education and leadership major with international agriculture minor
Hometown: Brookfield, Missouri

What are some opportunities you’ve had at Mizzou?

Study abroad has been one of the things I’ve invested a lot of time in and gotten a lot out of at Mizzou. I studied abroad in France for nine weeks during my freshman year. I lived and interned with a family on a lavender farm. Six months after that, I spent a month in Thailand and did a lot of natural resource work at an elephant sanctuary, a snake farm and with marine biologists rehabilitating coral reefs, among other things. Next year I’ll be working with the USDA in Uganda.

What has the last year been like for you?

The biggest thing over the past year is that with less things being in-person, I’ve realized that Mizzou is the people, not the place. It isn’t the buildings, events, the Rec — it’s the people in my classes, girls in my sorority, people I still talk to all the time even though I’m not physically at an event or gathered at the Quad. But that’s OK. Mizzou for me will always be the people I attended it with.

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