Mizzou’s newest alumni take a walk across the stage this weekend at the December commencement ceremonies and events, ready to embrace 2017 with fresh degrees. Throughout the weekend, MU officials award 2,563 degrees, including 1,911 bachelor’s degrees, 488 master’s degrees, 151 doctoral degrees, three professional degrees and 10 education specialists’ degrees, along with honorary degrees for lawyer and philanthropist W.H. “Bert” Bates and civil rights advocates Frankie Muse Freeman and Robert Parris Moses.

Meet a few members of the senior class. Find out why they chose Mizzou, what they’ve learned and what they’ll miss the most.

Rebecca Bogle

Textile and Apparel Management

Naperville, Illinois

Becca Bogle tossing her cap into the air while standing at the base of a column

Becca Bogle

After visiting fashion institutions in New York and Los Angeles, Rebecca Bogle decided to give Mizzou a try. Once the Naperville, Illinois, native visited Columbia, she was sold. “I chose Mizzou because it offered me the full college experience, with football and Greek life, and exposed me to a variety of diverse backgrounds,” she says. “The Textile and Apparel Management Program blew me away and allowed me to network and gain internship opportunities.” One of those opportunities was an internship with Prada in New York City after her sophomore year. She credits landing that internship to leadership skills she’s learned while in classes at Mizzou. Next, Bogle will head to Milwaukee to work for the Kohl’s buying office. She also plans to continue the Instagram blog she started during her time as a student: @becca.bogle.

Jada Winchester

Pre-med

Kansas City, Missouri

Jada Winchester and her dog on the steps of Jesse Hall

Jada Winchester

Jada Winchester has two words for her fellow Tigers: Annoy professors. “Annoy them with questions, ideas, concerns, etc. Those who become familiar for trying hard will earn higher grades than those who don’t.” This advice has served her well, and she plans to carry it into medical school, which is where she is headed next.

Winchester is most thankful for the Midwestern hospitality she’s received and the opportunity to experience different cultures at Mizzou. “Going through campus at any given time and having someone smile at you and wish you a great day” is what she’ll miss most, she says. “Also going to a university with a larger student demographic has enabled me to learn how to address and interact with people of all races, cultures and identities. This is an especially important skill to develop for whichever future endeavor you choose.”

Mayme Jordan

Hospitality Management

Nebraska City, Nebraska

Mayme Jordan with the potted plants in front of Jesse Hall.

Mayme Jordan

The Missouri School of Journalism is what brought Mayme Jordan from Nebraska, but campus beauty and the support of other Tigers made Mizzou home. Jordan is especially thankful for relationships formed on campus. “The LGBTQ Center has been my rock, the center of my universe, for the last three years at Mizzou. Shout out to Sean Olmstead and Struby Struble.”

Jordan is most excited to catch up on sleep after graduation. But before leaving, Jordan has one piece of advice for students still trying to find their way at Mizzou. “Do things that make you happy! College gets super stressful, and it only makes it worse if you are doing things you don’t really enjoy. The extracurriculars you participate in should not feel like a chore.”

Greg Hardnett

Journalism

St. Louis, Missouri

Greg Hardnett

Greg Hardnett

Although Greg Hardnett isn’t sure where he’s headed next, he’s confident that coming to Mizzou give him a leg up on his competition. “This is the best school for journalism,” he says. “[Mizzou] put me in contact with the right people who have directly and indirectly helped me be where I am today.” The St. Louis native has dreams of being a creative director for an advertising agency representing brands he’s passionate about. But for now, he’s just looking forward to walking across the stage Saturday, catching up on sleep and going on vacation.

Kendra Holaday

Hospitality Management

Barnard, Missouri

Kendra Holaday in graduation cap.

Kendra Holaday

Kendra Holaday’s love for Mizzou football was solidified when she got to rush the field after the Tigers won the school’s first SEC East Championship. Her dream job is to channel her love of sports into an event-planning career for a professional sports team. Her advice to students? Face challenges head on. “Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself,” she says. “Getting out of my comfort zone was the best thing I could have done to create friendships and professional connections and learn outside of the classroom.” Her willingness to take on the uncomfortable is reflected in her favorite quote as well: “Someone once told me not to bite off more than I could chew. I said I’d rather choke on greatness than nibble on mediocrity.”

Kevin Young

Interdisciplinary Studies

St. Louis, Missouri

kevinedits_mizzou

Some of Kevin Young’s favorite Mizzou memories revolve around Nerf guns “I remember being in the Summer Transition Program and living in Defoe Graham and having a dorm-wide Nerf gun battle. It was something I’ve never seen before and haven’t again to this day.” A St. Louis native, he’s had his eyes set on Mizzou since he was a kid, but he never imagined the historic experiences he’d be able to witness during his time here. “I faced a lot of adversity and witnessed it,” he says, “from seeing how Michael Sam handled becoming an openly gay athlete to witnessing how Jonathan Butler stood up for something he believed in. It’s an awesome feeling to be able to live with and learn from people from different walks of life. It helps to put things into perspective.”

Even through tough times Young has been able to keep his head up thanks to his favorite J. Cole lyric: “Keep grindin’ boy; your life can change in one year, and even when it’s dark out, the sun is shining somewhere.”

Emma Gambaro

Journalism

St. Louis, Missouri

Emma Gambaro on the Quad

Emma Gambaro

A few months after her first day at Mizzou, Emma Gambaro was ready to transfer out because she thought she didn’t belong. Ultimately, she decided to stay. “I am very happy that I did,” she says. “If I hadn’t, I never would have formed the friendships I have, been so actively involved in the social justice community and become the woman I am today.”

After the St. Louis native decided to stick it out, she got involved in causes she cares about most: RSVP Educators, Mizzou Alternative Breaks and STRIPES. She encourages other students who are feeling like she did to do the same. “Get involved as soon as you can. We are very lucky to go to a university that has so many amazing organizations that are run by some of the coolest people on the planet.”

Gambaro’s love for social justice and equal access is taking her to New Orleans, Louisiana, where she will serve as a special education teacher for Teach for America.

Alex Zavala

Human Family and Developmental Science

Kansas City, Missouri

Alex Zavala in a cap and gown, leaning against a column.

Alex Zavala

Alex Zavala had a plan. Growing up in Kansas City, she always knew Mizzou would be where she landed. She loves that even in her most confusing times, Tigers have had her back. “My favorite memory was my first football game. I had no clue what was going on. What do I wear? Where do I go? What am I supposed to be doing? I was a fish out of water, but the second that game started and everyone began screaming and cheering, I knew that this was where I was supposed to be.”

Like any student’s, her college experience has come with some difficulties and tough lessons that she proudly shares with others to help them overcome problems. “It’s OK to fail because once it’s happened, you can learn from it and move on. College is hard. Things don’t always go as planned, and that’s OK. Don’t give up. You will be faced with many challenges in life, and Mizzou is a good place to overcome those challenges.”