Missouri State-West Plains Student Success Stories
New Beginnings … Endless Possibilities
St. Louis native Danisha Hogue is among a quickly growing group of students from outside of Missouri State University-West Plains' traditional south-central Missouri service area who have decided to make this campus their first choice for college.
Thanks to such programs as Missouri's A+ Program, the Viticulture Enology Science and Technology Alliance (VESTA) and the Missouri Sheriff's Academy peace officers training program, the campus has seen an increase in the number of students from across the state – and even the country – for the past several years.
For example, enrollment statistics for Missouri students who are eligible for A+ show 29 students from other parts of the state were enrolled for the fall semester in 2011; this fall, 62 students from out of the area were taking classes through Missouri State-West Plains.
The A+ Program is one of several factors that brought Danisha, a 2013 graduate of Soldan International Studies High School, to Missouri State-West Plains. "When I took my trip to Missouri State University (in Springfield), I loved it! It was like a baby St. Louis. They had all the qualities of home. Then, I found out about the West Plains campus about the time I graduated high school. I knew a couple of other students who were coming here, so I talked to my advisor about it. I learned Missouri State-West Plains took A+, and that saved my life. I wasn't qualified for any kind of federal or state grants or other financial aid, which made the main campus out of reach financially. So I decided to come here. And, knowing that I could transfer all of my classes to the main campus really made a difference, too," she explained.
When she researched the school, she discovered something else she liked about the campus. "It wasn't too far from home, but it was far enough that I could stay focused on my studies," she explained. "I know I would have become too distracted by other things if I had stayed at home and went to a community college in that area."
The new, privately owned, student-housing facility, The Shoe Factory Lofts, also proved to be a draw for Danisha. "It was pointed out to me during my campus visit, and when I saw that it was within walking distance of campus, that was a big plus for me because I didn't have a car then," she explained.
Danisha admitted there was a bit of a culture shock when she arrived. "It took a while, but I really like the campus and the area. The TRiO Student Support Services program has really helped a lot. TRiO staff members have given me a lot of support and encouragement. My first semester, I spent a lot of time there, and TRiO Coordinator Karen Ryburn took several of us from St. Louis and Kansas City out and introduced us to each other and talked to us about the culture shock. That's how I made one of my best friends here. We probably would have never met had it not been for TRiO," she said.
Now, Danisha's main group of friends includes two students from Plato, four from St. Louis and one from Springfield. "When people from these different areas get together and discuss these different places where we lived, how we lived and how we all got to this same place, it's really amazing," she said.
Based on statistics from the admissions office, Missouri State-West Plains will be seeing more students like Danisha in the future. Admissions staff members are entering their third year of recruiting in the St. Louis, Kansas City and mid-Missouri (Jefferson City/Columbia) areas and of attending a significant number of college fairs in Arkansas. And for the past nine years, staff members have attended college fairs in the Cape Girardeau and Springfield/Joplin areas.
"Our primary form of recruitment in these areas is college fairs," said Recruitment Specialist Rachel Peterson. "During college fair season in the fall, we encourage students to attend a Red Carpet Day or visit for a private tour. We have seen significant growth in students from outside the service area attending Red Carpet Days the past two years." In fact, the schools from outside the University's service area that were represented by Red Carpet Day participants grew from 11 schools in 2011 to 24 schools in 2014.
Other recruitment programs that have been expanded recently include high school visits to schools in Wayne, Carter and Reynolds counties, as well as to several high schools in the Springfield area; and the High School Extravaganza program, which, since 2012, has included presentations in Buffalo, Bunker, Conway, Dixon, Ellington, Greenville, Lesterville, Marionville, Pleasant Hope, Seymour, Sparta and Van Buren.
Thanks to such efforts and the encouragement of her high school counselor, Danisha is on track to graduate with an Associate of Arts in General Studies degree in May 2015 and will transfer to the Springfield campus to pursue a degree in journalism.
"Missouri State-West Plains has been a good choice for me," she said. "I didn't have any expectations when I arrived because I didn't know what to expect. But it has exceeded everything I could have imagined. I'd recommend it to students in St. Louis or anywhere. I have found the community to be a welcoming place for the students who come here."