Student Success Stories:

Missouri State-West Plains Student Success Story

New Beginnings … Endless Possibilities

Derek McGinnisWinning competitions is nothing new for Derek McGinnis. The 2015 graduate of West Plains High School earned over 30 awards during his time with the high school's speech and debate team, including a top 30 finish nationally in public forum debate in the National Forensic League.

So when he heard about the opportunity to continue competing through Phi Beta Lambda (PBL), the student business organization at Missouri State University-West Plains, he decided to join the group and try his hand at competing in its state and national events.

"I took Introduction to Business with David White during my second semester, and upon enrolling, I talked with several individuals, including Mr. White, about the opportunity to join PBL," McGinnis explained. "I thought it would be a great way to perform various community service events, as well as compete in something I was very familiar with."

PBL, which is the collegiate arm of the Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) organization, promotes better business ideals among college students by offering activities that allow students to complement their academic experiences in real world settings and build relationships that will benefit future careers.

"That's what business is all about – building connections," McGinnis said. "In the field of business, it's pretty competitive to find a job. Employers are looking first and foremost for public speaking skills. It's also about making good first impressions, which can ultimately translate into better opportunities. My participation in PBL is helping me build those connections that will make me successful in the future."

It didn't take long for McGinnis to make his mark with the organization. Shortly after joining this past spring, he, along with other members of the group, attended the Missouri FBLA/PBL State Leadership Conference in Springfield, where he used the skills he developed in high school to place first in Public Speaking and Impromptu Speaking contests.

By placing first in both competitions, McGinnis earned the right to attend and compete at the 2016 PBL National Leadership Conference June 24-27 in Atlanta, Georgia. Once again, he used his skills to take top honors in both categories, earning two trophies and $1,400 for his first place finishes.

"The competitions are very competitive. To be successful, you have to study various business concepts and be familiar with them," he explained. "With Impromptu Speaking, you are given a topic in business 10 minutes before you speak, so you have to be up on current events. With Public Speaking, it's flexible, but you are given more guidelines for your presentation. You are required to give a speech centered around the PBL goals – developing character, increasing participation in democracy, becoming a strong leader, those types of things."

Although many people find speaking in public extremely difficult, McGinnis said he has learned to excel in that arena. "I don't think anyone is drawn to public speaking. For me, first it was practice. Doing it in high school allowed me to become more comfortable with it. Later, I learned I thrived in that environment and the anxiety it created, and it gave me the boost I needed," he explained.

Although McGinnis hasn't chosen a school to attend following his graduation from Missouri State-West Plains, he is looking at business and communication programs at Washington University in St. Louis, University of Missouri in Columbia and Missouri State University in Springfield. In the future, he said he would like to find a career in business communication, corporate communication and/or business management at an already established firm, but he's also open to entrepreneurial options, as well.

"Coming to Missouri State University-West Plains gave me more time to explore various options for a major without being in debt," he said. "More than anything, it's opened my eyes to the possibilities. It allowed me to discover the business field and showed me that I enjoy political science."

McGinnis credits his participation in PBL for some of those discoveries. "I'd definitely recommend students become involved in a student organization, but know your limitations and be selective," he said. "Take it seriously. It's your future, and it matters. Everything you do here is going to reflect on that future."

For more information about the educational opportunities available through Missouri State-West Plains, call (417) 255-7955. To learn how you can help support students like Derek McGinnis, call the Missouri State-West Plains development office at (417) 255-7240.