Together Again: KC Scholars and Stakeholders Gather for Welcome to Mizzou Meet & Greet

For the first time since 2019, KC Scholars, staff from the Center for Academic Success & Excellence (CASE) and MU administrators gathered in-person for the Welcome to Mizzou Meet & Greet.

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UM System President Dr. Mun Choi speaks with three KC Scholars during the Welcome to Mizzou Meet & Greet event at the Heidelberg, Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021. (Photo/Becca Newton)

On the patio of the Heidelberg students and stakeholders trickled in at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 15. Guests grabbed beverages and hors d’oeuvres while they waited for the festivities to get started. This special event was created to allow KC Scholars to get to know one another and hear from UM/MU Leadership.

Ana-Maria Fernandez, Student Service Coordinator II for CASE and KC Scholars cohort leader, kicked off the event by introducing herself and Director of CASE, Dr. Andre Thorn. Also in attendance was Dr. Maurice Gipson, Vice Chancellor of Inclusion, Diversity & Equity. Even making an appearance was Dr. Mun Choi, president of the UM System. They all spoke to the scholars and mixed in their motivating speeches were humorous remarks that filled the space with an optimistic energy.

“It’s definitely a joy to be in-person with the students. I will make an impact on in their life, and they, in turn, will impact my life,” Fernandez said.

After the surge of COVID-19, all the KC Scholar events and cohort meetings were held on Zoom. Despite this, CASE made sure to keep its students on track.

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CASE Student Service Coordinator II and KC Scholars Cohort leader Ana-Maria Fernandez catches up with KC Scholar Adorable Hemphill during the Welcome to Mizzou Meet & Greet at the Heidelberg, Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021. (Photo/Becca Newton)

“[Cohort meetings] were super helpful, especially having the ability to have somebody to check in to. Somebody that can help you. ‘Hey, you’re struggling in this class. Here are some tutors,’” sophomore KC Scholar Lauren Archer said.

Archer went on to explain how these meetings offered them connections to other scholarships and additional services to ensure everyone was where they should be. No matter the circumstance, CASE strives to see all its scholars succeed from the time they step foot on campus all the way to graduation. While CASE cares for its students’ academic achievements, the department also is invested in the personal growth of its scholars.

The information, resources and fellowship CASE provides students gives them a sense of community and support, and Fernandez is a huge part of this belonging for KC Scholars. She meets with students both as a group in cohort meetings and individually to get to know them personally.

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CASE Director Dr. Andre Thorn chats with a couple KC Scholars during the Welcome to Mizzou Meet & Greet event at the Heidelberg, Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021. (Photo/Becca Newton)

“In these individual meetings I find out their needs and issues that are affecting them. Therefore, I provide information [to help them] and challenge the students to step out of their comfort zone by trying new experiences,” Fernandez said.

Several students at the event expressed how much Fernandez assists them in staying on top of deadlines and scholarship requirements.“She has helped a lot. She will constantly email about a hold or something,” sophomore KC Scholar Anthony Moses III said. “I remember last year, I had skipped my [freshman interest group] class because I just wasn’t feeling it anymore…She emailed me and was like, ‘hey, there’s a wellness check for your [freshman interest group].’”

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Vice Chancellor of Inclusion, Diversity & Equity Dr. Maurice Gipson meets with KC Scholars Anthony Moses III and Alana King during the Welcome to Mizzou Meet & Greet event at the Heidelberg, Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021. (Photo/Becca Newton)

As KC Scholars further their college career, mentorship programs offer students ways to connect with people that can help them reach their future goals. Senior KC Scholar Adorable Hemphill, who hopes to go to law school after graduation, indicated how events like this Welcome to Mizzou Meet & Greet are great networking opportunities.

“KC Scholars has helped me with college life, in general,” Hemphill said. “[They’re] bringing in a lot of students who are first year students, students of low income, different things like that, so they definitely open up doors. You get to meet other professionals who basically have these different resources that they can give out to you, but also, they can help you find your group on campus.”