A place of Belonging – Brooks Interview Day

“Belonging” a word echoed throughout the day from figures like J.D. Bowers, Director of the Honors College, and Amand Hardiman, Graduate Assistant of Center for Academic Success and Excellence (CASE).  On a nice, sunny Saturday in February, incoming freshmen were given the opportunity to interview for the George C. Brooks Scholarship, one of Mizzou’s competitive scholarships for students of color.

Ironically, this time last year I was sitting exactly where those applicants were.  It seems like the day went by in a blur.  In fact, the day was such a blur that I remembering having to call my mom to help me write this article. Perhaps it was partially due to me being sick, barely being able breathe out my nostrils; worried that I would sound like I had clothes pin stuck to my nose. However, what I can clearly recall is how nervous I was, not to mention how much my family grilled me with “what happened” questions when I got back home. When I asked my mom to help me remember my interview day she not only remembers she felt a sense of inclusivity here at Mizzou, but, that there were resources to help me succeed too.

From being in the same shoes as the current Brooks interviewers, it was incredible to see the hard work and dedication that went on behind the scenes. I started the day listening and observing CASE’s presentation.  In a large crowd flooding the entry way, the applicants and their parents all came in wide eyed and awake, aware of the day that awaited them. Listening to the presentation, it emphasized two important things. First, CASE is here to ensure the success of its students and secondly, that CASE not only aims to help students to become the scholars they want to be at Mizzou, but the individuals they aspire to be after. Hardiman explained that the Brooks scholarship, named after his great uncle and Mizzou’s long-time Financial Aid Director, along with CASE are here to help plant seeds of growth by connecting students with resources and individuals.  As the ultimate goal is to not only help students persist to graduate but ensure they have the skill-sets to be success long after.

After the presentation was over, I stayed behind to see what my next assignment was. Before I could leave, I was approached by many of the applicants. As I received questions about my experience at Mizzou and my role in CASE, it was easy to hear the anxiousness in the voices in both the students and parents. Knowing what it was like to be in their shoes just a year ago, I decided that in my free time I would talk to the students. I remember one student came to me and asked, “How will I find a balance?” I replied that I am still trying to find a balance myself but that they should go out and experience things, while at the same time they should remember the importance of self-care. Finally, I told them that they will find what works for them.

Lastly, after the scholars had their interviews and presentations with various CASE and Admissions staff, the scholars had one last task to achieve on Brooks Interview day: ice breakers.  I knew what awaited the applicants when they were asked to pick a Starburst. Last year, I was asked to do the same: each Starburst color represented a task, whether that be to tell an embarrassing story or explain what they were excited for at Mizzou. The ice breakers did exactly what they were intended to do; the freshman opened up and let go of the anxiousness of the interviews. There was laughing clapping, dabbing, and even a full song and dance routine to one of Beyoncé’s hits, “Love on Top.” The freshmen came alive and had fun, perhaps making some room for embarrassing stories they would remember forever.

I hope that each applicant knows that there is a place for them on Mizzou’s campus and that there are people here to help them reach their fullest potential. Wishing you all the best. Good luck future Brooks Scholars!