Small town dreams, big time opportunities

Katie Jennings left her hometown of Oak Grove, Missouri, to pursue her dreams at the “big state school.” Ultimately, she hopes to return and give back.

Katie Jennings portrait

May 8, 2023
Contact: Marcus Wilkins,

Katie Jennings considers herself a “family girl.” She also considers herself a person of strong faith, a diehard Tiger fan and a committed member of her community who’s always looking for ways to contribute. She also simply considers — as in deliberately and thoughtfully answering questions about her past, present and future.

It’s a trait that has allowed the senior health science major from Oak Grove, Missouri, to be intentional about pursuing opportunities at the University of Missouri. In fact, it’s the breadth of those opportunities — at MU and around Columbia — that led her to Mizzou in the first place.

Jennings got involved from the start, joining the School of Health Professions student council (eventually serving as its president), participating in campus ministry and volunteering for community outreach projects. Initially unsure of which health sciences path to choose, she job-shadowed dermatologists, anesthesiologists and orthodontists.

Now, as a soon-to-be Honors College and School of Health Professions graduate — and Department of Health Sciences Spirit of Achievement Award recipient — Jennings is headed to the nationally respected dentistry program at the University of Missouri–Kansas City this fall. Did we mention she was tapped for Mortar Board, one of MU’s prestigious academic secret societies?

Read on for a Q&A with Jennings about her Mizzou experience.

What brought you to Mizzou?

I’m the oldest of three siblings. I have two younger brothers, my mom is a teacher in the community and my dad’s a State Farm agent in the community, and I was always involved in high school sports and bands. I love my family and didn’t want to be too far from home.

There are also so many opportunities at Mizzou. I knew I wanted to be in health sciences and be involved in rural health, but I wasn’t sure which direction to go. MU has its hospital system, plus there are such a variety of clinics and health care organizations around Columbia that I knew I would have options to job shadow and gain experience.

How is your Mizzou degree helping you toward your ultimate goal of dentistry?

My classes at MU have been challenging and have definitely prepared me for taking that next step. I also took advantage of the MedOpp Advising Office, which is very helpful with cover letters, getting your application in shape and helping you find the right job-shadowing experience. I worked as a dental hygiene assistant back home during the summers, and I’ve worked as a sterilization tech at a private practice here in Columbia. I also did an internship with the Missouri Rural Health Association tracking legislative bills as they move through the House and the Senate and investigating how they affect patient health and use telehealth, etc.

Those opportunities were all made possible through Mizzou.

What are your favorite Mizzou memories?

This year’s basketball season was really fun — watching the men’s team get back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in so long. My group of friends went to every home game. We also go to baseball games and even drove down to Jefferson City to watch the Mizzou Hockey Club play.

Why would you recommend MU to a prospective student?

Mizzou’s campus is so beautiful. I walk around every day, and I just am so happy to see Jesse Hall, the Columns, the traditions. You can see the history here. There are so many opportunities and student organizations, ways to get active. There are a thousand-and-one ways to get involved here, and that’s one of the biggest selling points.

Meet more spring 2023 graduates

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