During the weekend of Dec. 15-17, 2,308 students will receive degrees during winter commencement exercises at the University of Missouri. University officials also will honor William Baker, a Mizzou alumnus who is the structural engineer responsible for the world’s tallest skyscraper, with an honorary degree.

“Mizzou faculty and staff are proud of our soon-to-be college graduates,” Chancellor Alexander N. Cartwright said. “These students exemplify what it means to be Mizzou Made: They have worked hard, are well-prepared and ready to make immediate positive contributions in their chosen fields.”

During commencement weekend, MU will award 2,509 degrees, including 1,932 bachelor’s degrees, 414 master’s degrees, 147 doctorates, four law degrees, 11 education specialist degrees and one medical degree. Some students will receive more than one degree. Nearly 200 students will graduate from MU’s online program, Mizzou Online. Students in the online program range in ages from 21 to 69 and they hail from Missouri and 25 additional states. One online graduate is from Sweden.

A message to parents decorates the top of a mortar board during a prior Honors Convocation. Photo by Rob Hill.

A message to parents decorates the top of a mortar board during a prior Honors Convocation. Photo by Rob Hill.

Christina Jackson
Graphic Design
St. Louis

Christina Jackson never gave up. She started her journey at Mizzou in 2005, but when she suffered serious complications from an illness, she was forced to leave school without graduating. After seven long years of recovery, Jackson returned to Mizzou determined to finish her degree. This time around, it was a lot more challenging. She had new struggles that she hadn’t had before, and she often felt stressed and overwhelmed. “I knew I needed help, so I reached out to MU faculty and staff who knew me,” Jackson said. “They supported and encouraged me and made me believe that even with my limitations, I could succeed.”

She found strength from her MU mentors who helped her and pushed her to be her best.

“No matter how impossible your journey seems to be, no matter how difficult it gets, don’t ever give up,” Jackson said. “Stay focused, think positive and find a strong support system. You will get through it.”

This is a picture of Christina Jackson

Christina Jackson will graduate from the College of Arts and Science with a degree in graphic design.

Andrew Thomas
Interdisciplinary Studies – Business, Art and Art History
St. Louis

Andrew Thomas came to Mizzou knowing that he needed to find his place in the community. Being a part of tour team allowed him to do this. However, in December, Thomas will not just walk across campus but across the commencement stage. He has secured a job with Maritz Travel, an event management company in St. Louis, which he landed after meeting his future boss on a tour he was giving to her son.

Thomas advises people that meeting with your professors is a key to success. “Get to know your professors,” Thomas said. “They’re the best resources for you. Talk to them after class and go to the office hours. Tap into that resource.”

Some of his favorite memories come from his involvement in these programs such as giving a tour to his little brother or to fifth-graders and pointing out all of the fun things Mizzou has to offer such as unlimited ice cream, no bedtime and three different pools.

Damien Stone
Civil Engineering
Columbia, Missouri

Damien Stone knew that he wanted to pursue engineering, but he wasn’t sure what college was the best fit for him. As soon as he took a tour of Lafferre Hall and learned more about the civil engineering program, he knew Mizzou was where he belonged. He immediately applied and transferred to the MU College of Engineering his sophomore year of college.

Stone’s key to success at Mizzou? Ask for help, and take advantage of resources. His professors teach both in class and outside of it, and he learned important life lessons from them. Stone also credits joining the civil engineering competition team, Concrete Canoe, for helping him find his place here because he met some of his best friends through it.

“Going to college isn’t always an easy thing, and it’s a good idea to make friends or network during your time at Mizzou,” Stone said.

This is a picture of Damien Stone

Damien Stone will graduate from the College of Engineering with a degree in civil engineering.

Blake Straatmann
Health Science
Washington, Missouri

As soon as Blake Straatmann stepped on the Mizzou campus, he knew that he would be right at home. When he was a sophomore, he decided to step outside of his comfort zone and join MizzouThon. Being a part of MizzouThon changed the trajectory of his college career.

“As a prospective student, my goal was to attend a university where I could make a difference in the community, and Mizzou has afforded me the opportunity to complete that goal,” Straatmann said.

The School of Health Professions gave Straatmann the resources to excel as a health sciences major. He wants to go into health care administration, and through the school, he was able to pursue internships at MU Health. Straatmann is appreciative of the hands-on approach to learning, and it is one of the biggest reasons why his time at Mizzou was so enjoyable and successful.

This is a picture of Blake Straatmann

Grace Doran
Civil and Environmental Engineering
Kansas City, Missouri

Grace Doran is the product of a house divided. While her dad went to Mizzou, her mom went to KU.

Grace made the right decision.

Mizzou challenged her inside and outside of the classroom and gave her the resources she needed to achieve her goals. After graduation, Doran will move to Seattle to start her career at HDR, a global engineering firm, where she will apply everything that she learned at the College of Engineering. “I’m about to start my dream job, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without my experiences at the University of Missouri,” Doran said.

This past fall, Doran had the opportunity to plan the inaugural Diverse Engineering Professionals Conference with the College of Engineering. The goal of the conference was to empower the college’s diverse community through education and collaboration. Students, educators and employers brought together diverse perspectives and heard from keynote speakers such as UM System President Mun Choi.

This is a picture of Grace Doran and Dean Elizabeth Loboa

Grace Doran will graduate from the College of Engineering with a degree in civil and environmental engineering.

Stephen Lancey
International Studies and Classical Humanities
Columbia, Missouri

Deciding to go to Mizzou wasn’t a hard choice for Stephen Lancey. He had lived in Columbia for most of his life, and he knew that not only is the community a great place to be, so is the university. He grew up as a fan of the Missouri Tigers and didn’t want to spend his college years anywhere else. Once he started classes at Mizzou, he realized how incredible the teachers are. “I’ve learned so much more than I thought possible because they’re so good at what they do,” Lancey said.

Lancey’s best experience through Mizzou was spending a semester in the Middle East learning Arabic. His advice to new students? Take advantage of your time as a college student. “There are lots of interesting opportunities in the country and world that are only for college students,” Lancey said.

Connor Loesing
Health Science
Columbia, Missouri

When Connor Loesing decided to go to Mizzou, he didn’t know what he wanted to study. However, he knew that once he got here, he would be able to figure it out with all of the opportunities offered. Eventually, he settled in the School of Health Professions. Loesing is confident that between the wide range of professional development courses and the chance to volunteer at University Hospital, he is on his way to post-grad success, which might include striving toward a master’s degree.

Loesing doesn’t think twice about recounting his favorite experience at Mizzou. He volunteered on three Mizzou Alternative Break trips. Piling into a van with a group students and driving halfway across the country to help a community in need are memories he will never forget. “You develop a sense of togetherness that cannot be duplicated elsewhere,” Loesing said. “Meeting the individuals being helped makes it all worth it in the end.”

This is a picture of Connor Loesing

Connor Loesing will graduate from the School of Health Professions with a health science degree.