Seeing the big picture

Brenda Selman and the Office of the University Registrar help orchestrate the logistics of Mizzou commencement — and so much more.

  • Brenda Selman portrait inside her Jesse Hall office overlooking Francis Quadrangle
    Brenda Selman, assistant vice provost of enrollment services, has worked in the MU Office of the Registrar in Jesse Hall for 22 years.

May 3, 2022
Contact: Marcus Wilkins,

The walls of Brenda Selman’s workspace provide symbolic portals to her personal and professional life. From her desk, the assistant vice provost of enrollment services looks through a window framing the Columns and heart of the University of Missouri campus.

Astride the windows hang several paintings by Selman — one of which formerly adorned the Chancellor’s Residence. The acrylic and oil originals provide her a creative outlet, a practice she teaches to 11-and-up students as a volunteer in a weekly 4-H painting-project meeting.

There are also playful illustrations of Tigers interacting with Jayhawks — yes, Selman is a University of Kansas alumna — which were gifts from a fellow artist after nearly two decades as a staff member at her alma mater. Family photos of her husband, daughter, mom, dad and four siblings adorn the spaces between.

“I started at Mizzou the week of Homecoming in 2000, and Kansas was the opponent,” Selman said. “The staff couldn’t help themselves, so they had some fun with me and put a tiger on my door with Jayhawks in the pupils, and some red and blue feathers on the carpet.”

After 22 years at MU, Selman takes the good-natured ribbing in stride. She has tremendous respect for her co-workers (some of whom have been at Mizzou even longer) and an unwavering focus on MU’s mission.

“I like to think of the Office of the Registrar as the hook behind the painting,” Selman said. “You never think about the hook and the wire holding up the art, but if it fails, you know it.”

Campus cornerstone

Located in one of the more visible campus locations — the main floor of Jesse Hall’s west end — the Office of the Registrar oversees many of the university’s fundamental functions: registering students, maintaining academic records, orchestrating commencement ceremonies and conferring degrees.

It is sometimes one of the first stops for new Tigers as they add or drop courses and settle into their academic homes. It might also be one of the last stops when graduates choose to pick up their diplomas in person.

“For those who come to the office, you can tell immediately from the expression on their faces why they are here,” Selman said. “I love being able to hand a student their diploma and say ‘congratulations.’ It’s a moment that never gets old.”

Commencement countdown

Regardless of where the physical diploma is obtained, the Office of the University Registrar has played a part in that graduate’s ultimate commencement experience. Among the office’s many tasks: managing the commencement website, working with academic units and venues to set schedules, ordering floral arrangements from Tiger Garden, coordinating with the MU Police Department for security, maintaining a commencement email account to answer questions from family and guests, and proofing the commencement program.

“It might seem like a lot of work, but we are here for the students,” said Paula Thies, assistant registrar. “Seeing them graduate and celebrate their accomplishments with their families makes it all worth it.”

Mizzou will distribute nearly 6,000 degrees in the upcoming May commencement ceremonies and another 5,000 throughout the remainder of the calendar year. In May 2021, due to COVID-19 having postponed the previous year’s in-person ceremonies, the registrar oversaw 37 ceremonies over two weekends — more than double the number in a typical year.

“The excitement of new undergrads and new graduates makes me excited about my work and how it contributes to their experiences,” Selman said. “I love the people of Mizzou. I love our talented and involved students, the staff and faculty who provide the education, and the leaders who deliver a world-class education on a picture-perfect campus.”

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