CASE celebrates graduating scholars in intimate Fall 2021 Salute to Excellence

Scholars and Staff

Graduating CASE Scholars and CASE staff smile for a group photo during the Fall 2021 Salute to Excellence inside Ellis Library Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2021. (Photo/Becca Newton)

The Fall 2021 Salute to Excellence offered students and staff from the Center for Academic Success & Excellence (CASE) a chance to see familiar faces and catch up with old friends on Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021, in Ellis Library. The intimate venue was filled with soft laughs and quiet conversations as scholars and friends entered. A slideshow presentation highlighting the December CASE graduates played on a giant projector, accompanied by classy music. This ceremony celebrates the accomplishments of CASE’s graduating Suggs, Brooks, Diversity and Summer Transition scholarship recipients.

As the event started, graduating scholars found their seats at the center table covered with a black cloth. This year, though, CASE implemented a hybrid format for their event with some students, their families and speakers logging on to a Zoom meeting room.

Justina Wilkins

CASE Scholar Justina Wilkins is joyful while receiving her scholar certificate. She will graduate in December with a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Engineering with minors in Mathematics and Business.

“The more folks we can get involved in the amazing stories that our students are telling us and what they’re achieving while they’re here as Mizzou Tigers, and the amazing things that they’re going to be doing when they leave us, we need to share that with as many people who can come join us,” CASE Director Dr. Andre Thorn said. “So this [hybrid format] gives us an opportunity to do that.”

After Thorn gave a heartfelt welcoming speech, Administrative Assistant Angela Vick led the toast to scholars before dinner.

“As one chapter ends, another one begins,” Vick said as she raised her glass. “Never stop chasing your dreams.”

As the Salute to Excellence event has not been held in-person since 2019, CASE staff was eager to assist guests with dinner. This was another opportunity for scholars and staff to mingle.

Karen and GareAna

GareAna Rosebud will graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing. She will be working as a Labor and Delivery nurse in Memphis, TN. (Photo/Becca Newton)

Once the program resumed, Vice Provost for Undergraduate Studies Dr. Jim Spain spoke to the scholars via Zoom about the meaning of success. Following this, CASE staff presented the soon to be graduates with Kente Stoles, woven in colors of black, gold, red and green to symbolize their successful journey at MU and with CASE. Not only has CASE provided academic assistance to these scholars, but the office has also given them several other means of support.

“I would say the largest impact that CASE has had is on my mental health,” Brooks Scholar GareAna Rosebud said. “Being a student from out of state at a predominantly white institution obviously is not the easiest but having that family support [from CASE] has made a tremendous impact and just gave me the strength and the motivation and the support that I need to keep pushing.”

Upon receiving their stole, each scholar was excited to tell everyone the degree they were graduating with and their plans post-graduation.

Val Addison

Val Addison is graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering and will be working at Kawasaki. (Photo/Becca Newton)

“CASE helped me align my goals,” Diversity Scholar Val Addison said. “They helped me visualize them and then put it into action.”

Senior Director of Advancement for Inclusion, Diversity and Equity Titus Blackmon shared next how these scholars could continue to have a connection to the community through the Mizzou Alumni Association. Afterwards, Student Service Coordinator Ana-Maria Fernandez introduced the Legion of Black Collegians Gospel Choir who sang “Blessing in the Storm” by Kirk Franklin.

“I’m pretty sure you all have gone through some storms,” one member said during the group’s encouraging performance. “This one is for you.”

Dr. Thorn

CASE Director Dr. Andre Thorn drapes a Kent Stole on CASE Scholar Lisette Perez. Lisette is graduating with Bachelor of Science degree in Natural Resource Science & Management. (Photo/Becca Newton)

For the closing speech of the night, Student Service Coordinator Karen Hayes thanked several people and expressed hope that this event demonstrated how proud the CASE staff is of each graduating scholar.

The Kente stoles each student received originates from a group of Ghana and Ewe people called the Ashanti. Along with thrilled CASE staff, family and friends, Thorn acknowledges the Ashanti people as another group contributing to where these scholars are today.

“When you walk across that stage, you are about to make your ancestors proud,” Thorn said.