Missouri State University - West Plains

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Missouri State-West Plains Student Success Stories


New Beginnings … Endless Possibilities

Tiffany Sullivan

Tiffany SullivanTiffany Sullivan has gone to great lengths – literally – to obtain a college education.

For the past three-and-a-half years, the 2011 Winona High School graduate has made the two-hour round-trip journey from her home in Shannon County to Missouri State University-West Plains three or four times a week to take classes, but she says she wouldn't want it any other way.

"It's really cheaper to commute. Yes, you have gas money and the costs of maintaining your car, but you get to go home at the end of the day and spend time with your family, and that really means a lot to me," she said. "And, I don't have to worry about some of the pressures other college students who live on campus or in apartments do," she added. "I don't have to worry about rent or those other expenses that come with living on your own."

The drive hasn't been as bad as some people might think, she said. She carpools quite often with her two sisters, Brittany and Danielle, who now attend classes here, and she shares rides with her friend Cassandra Taber. "Having someone with you really cuts down on the exhaustion of long drives. You sit and talk or you help each other study for classes by reading from the textbooks or asking questions from flash cards, so the time never goes wasted. We always make good use of the time," Tiffany said.

Commuting hasn't kept Tiffany from feeling like a part of the campus community, either. She works as a writing and math tutor in the Grizzly Tutoring Lab, and she's been actively involved in TRiO Student Support Services, the ENACTUS and Phi Beta Lambda organizations for business students, and the Phi Theta Kappa honor society. All give her an opportunity to socialize and meet new people, she said. "Just being involved helps you feel like you are a part of the campus," she explained.

Tiffany also has found that her instructors have been very helpful and willing to work with her when she can't make it to class, such as in times of inclement weather. "If the instructors know that you're in class every day and you are participating, they're more than willing to work with you," she said. "I always try to go to class first, but if I can't make it out, I always email my instructors first thing in the morning to find out what I need to do to make up the work. Usually, they're really good to give you the information you need to turn in your assignments."

Tiffany plans to continue to commute to finish her education. Although she graduated with an Associate of Arts in General Studies degree from Missouri State-West Plains in December 2012, she continued traveling to the campus as a student in the Bachelor of Science in General Business completion program through Missouri State University's Outreach Program on the West Plains campus.

This fall, she began making the two-and-a-half-hour journey to Springfield twice a week to take finance and management classes, in addition to her once a week trip to the West Plains campus for insurance and journalism classes. She admits she's considering changing her major to teaching or physical therapy, but she still plans to commute to finish her degree, whether it's in West Plains or Springfield.

"One of the reasons I am so driven and focused on college is because of my family, and especially my mother, Athena Sullivan, is so supportive," Tiffany said. "She is always there to encourage me and to push me when I need it, along with my family, TRiO and the faculty and staff at Missouri State-West Plains. So, I don't regret my decision to commute at all. I love going home to see my family and my hometown. At first I wasn't quite sure about it, but being here has really taught me a lot about myself and about careers. I truly believe if getting an education is something you really want to do, it will be worth it. You have to at least give it a shot because you don't have anything to lose, but you have everything to gain from an experience like this."