MSSU alum, campus videographer complete record-breaking journey across the country
Wednesday, July 15
2:35 p.m. CST
Somewhere in the middle of Utah
Phone reception is spotty, but after several tries, Brian Mehrens gets a phone signal to offer an update on his journey.
“We’re are in the middle of Utah … state 43,” he says. “We’ve adjusted the route a couple of times, but we’re still on track.”
Mehrens, a videographer for the University Relations & Marketing department at Missouri Southern, is traveling the country with three friends in a quest to visit all 50 states in seven days.
Starting early in the morning on July 11 in Kittery, Maine, they began a route that will take them through the lower 48 states. If all goes well, they’ll reach Portland, Ore., on July 16 and catch a flight to Anchorage, Alaska. After a brief layover, they’ll fly to Hawaii- breaking the previous record (eight days and 20 minutes) for traveling to every state.
“I think it’s a little more grueling than we had previously expected,” says Chris Watson, a 2005 graduate of Missouri Southern. “I don’t think we anticipated how much time it would take to get to the road last two nights, we were on roads where we didn’t see another car for two hours. But the landscape is amazing.
“It’s been awesome.”
Along with friends Josh Willis and Nate Williams, Mehrens and Watson have visited Europe, Africa and Canada, as well as more than 30 states. This time, they wanted to go bigger. By the time they have completed their journey, they’ll have driven more than 7,000 miles and spent 14 hours flying.
While Guinness World Records doesn’t certify a record for the fastest trip to all 50 states, Mehrens says that a group called All Fifty States Club does recognize the accomplishment.
They’ve also found sponsors for their endeavor. Apparel company Tipsy Elves has supplied them with patriotic onesies and other clothing as well as decals which cover their rented Ford Expedition (which, thankfully, has unlimited miles offered in the rental contract). Kodak also donated a camera which is being used to create a time-lapse video of their journey.
“We’re in the car all the time, posting to social media and pumping out material (including blog posts),” says Watson. “But I’m expecting to have a huge sense of accomplishment at the end.”
Friday, July 17
11 a.m. HST
Honolulu International Airport
As they disembark from the plane, it begins to sink in: They’ve broken the record – all 50 states visited in just six days, 17 hours and 31 minutes.
A huge sense of relief is how Mehrens describes the feeling.
“We can finally rest for a moment,” he says … which is a bit of an understatement, as they plan to stay in Hawaii for several days of relaxation and sightseeing.
“I feel a sense of amazement that we accomplished this feat without any hiccups.”
The group is mentally and physically exhausted, and those American flag onesies have seen plenty of action (maybe too much, though it’s nothing a good wash in cold water won’t fix, says Mehrens), but the trip has been a success.
Local media outlets along the route definitely took note. The friends have given interviews jokingly comparing themselves to intrepid explorers such as Lewis and Clark, imbued with the spirit of America’s pioneers and carried across the finish line by bald eagles swooping down from heaven … a series of amazing quotes crafted as they drove across the country.
“You can’t take yourself too seriously, otherwise it makes the trip boring,” says Mehrens.
Their journey has concluded, and a sense of accomplishment is starting to set in. Where will they travel to next? How do they outdo themselves next time? Important questions, but they can wait.
“It’s a really cool feeling,” says Watson. “I can do anything with these three guys. We just did something many people will never do in their lifetime.
On Sept. 27-29, officials from the Council for Accreditation of Education (CAEP) began their review of the Teacher Education program. Missouri Southern will be the first school in the state to meet the new standards for evaluation since a new agency for accreditation was created last year.
In 2014, the boards of the Teacher Education Accreditation Council and the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education met in Washington, D.C., and voted unanimously to consolidate educator accreditation under the new agency.
Dr. Deborah Brown, chair of the School of Education, said evaluators visited the Missouri Southern State University campus and talked to administrators and teachers in area public schools. The goal will to be determine how graduates from Missouri Southern State University are performing in their various subject areas.
The results of the accreditation visit will be announced in April 2016.
Interested in Teacher Education? Learn more: http://www.mssu.edu/academics/education/teacher/
Students south of Joplin have an opportunity closer to home to complete a degree in Elementary Education.
Located inside the Crowder College McDonald County Instruction Center in Jane, Mo., MSSU’s new facility allows students to complete their degree without having to travel to Joplin.
Lorinda Hackett, interim chair of the Teacher Education Department, said students are taking hybrid classes. They go to class two days a week in Jane, take online classes and take part in an internship in local schools.
“We have provided the students with Chrome books,” Hackett said. “This is a pilot program for that but if it works, we will continue it.”
Because they live in the Lion Pride Tuition territory, those students also qualify for in-state tuition.
During Spring 2015 commencement ceremonies, the first four students graduated with their Master of Accountancy degrees.
Students graduating with the degree were Samantha DeGraw, Carl Junction; Taylor McDaniel, Seneca; Lindsey Yager, Joplin; and Ashley Stephens, Joplin.
The on-campus program requires 30 credit hours for completion. It also offers a special accelerated track that allows students who meet the requirements to obtain their Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and Master of Accountancy at the same time.
Interested in the program? Learn more: http://www.mssu.edu/academics/business/maccprograminfo.php
The Baltimore Ravens’ full-team training camp is well underway, and Brandon Williams sounds tired but confident reached by phone after practice.
“It’s going wonderful,” said Williams of the team’s effort on the field as they prepared for the start of the 2015 season. “The defensive line is looking good, and I’m doing good.”
Williams, who played for the Lions at Missouri Southern and was drafted by the Ravens in 2013, posted career highs in 2014 as a defensive tackle. Going into the start of this season, he took a few minutes to reflect his time at the university , why he thinks it’s important to stay connected and gaining viral fame for some slick dance moves.
Do you feel like your time at Missouri Southern prepared you for the NFL?
“It did, definitely. We went through advertising together, and I feel like I took a bit from each coach that I had. During my senior year, Coach (Jay) Thomas got me prepared the most. He helped with my hand and foot work, making sure position-wise I was set up. Coach (Daryl) Daye kept me up to speed about what to expect from the NFL. It was an amazing boost my senior year to prepare for it.”
How important is it to stay connected to your alma mater?
“It means a lot. Through the great times, the trials and tribulations, Missouri Southern molded me into the man I am today. I’m Joplin strong and MOSO proud.
I appreciate the Joplin community as a whole for being there, supporting me and supporting the team. I want to give back. Later in my career when I get settled a bit more in the NFL, I’d like to maybe have a camp day for kids in the Joplin community to have fun, play and give them a positive message.”
What do you miss most about your time at Missouri Southern?
“I miss the guys, the team, the brotherhood, my friends and joking around. Football is work now. We had more fun after the game, just hanging out. I keep in touch with them, but I miss seeing them every day.”
It looks like you’re still having fun. Videos of some of your locker room dance moves are making rounds on Instagram. Is this going to become a regular thing?
“It was a spur of the moment thing. The last one I posted (doing “The Carlton”) was something from two years ago. I didn’t think they’d catch on that way. Who knows, maybe one day I might be on ‘Dancing with the Stars.’”
The MSSU Radiology Technology Department has a New X-ray Laboratory.
The room became operational during the fall of 2015 semester, according to Alan Schiska, chair of the department. The $30,000 cost of the new equipment was funded by the Perkins grant.
No structural changes were necessary: The room for the laboratory was fitted with lead-lined walls when the Julio Léon Health science Building was built in 2010.The room’s AMERICON table is fitted with a grid system to improve X-ray contrast.
A digital Computed Radiology (CR) system allows for re-use of image receptor plates. Schiska said the new lab will allow for better space utilization. “It will keep us from having to divide the class into two sections,” he said. “As teacher, I will rotate between two adjoining labs and the students will gets more hands-on experience.”
On Sept. 22-24, a number of Missouri Southern EMT and paramedic students took part in a mass casualty exercise.
Overseen by the Joplin Fire Department, the drill involved a bus rollover on a curve on Dennis Weaver Drive. It helped train and familiarize crews in the START (Simple Triage and Rapid Treatment) method.
Thad Torix, MSSU EMS Instructor, said volunteers from Missouri Southern primarily played the part of victims.
“We want to make sure students graduate with increased affective skills,” Torix said. “That’s the ability of the provider to see things on an emotional level.”
Such drills help students see the role of the provider from the victim’s point of view, he said. They teach students to understand the anxiety and discomfort patients feel while being treated or are asked to wait during the triage process.
Kayla Willis pulls back one of the bar stool chairs and takes a seat at the kitchen island.
“We love this spot,” she says. “It’s a great place for us to sit around and talk.”
She and her three roommates have only been living in the Quads for a few weeks, but it’s something she spent the last year anticipating. Throughout the fall and spring semester of 2014-2015 school year, Willis, a sophomore health science and business major, would walk past the construction site, taking in the progress as the six buildings began to take shape. “I was so excited. I signed up the first day we could register”
The apartment -style units were far from the onlyo take shape. “I was so excited. I signed up the area of construction on campus at that time.
“It was almost like a controlled chaos,” says Justinas almost like a controlled chaos,” says Justin Jennings, a senior criminal justice major.
Far from a criticism, Jennings says he marveled at the university’s capacity to pull off several major construction projects at the same time.
“From the new baseball stadium to the End Zone Facility, Quads and now Reynolds Hall Zone Facility, Quads and now Reynolds Hall getting remodeled, it seems like everyone loves it,” he says.
The sight of construction crews and the sound of heavy equipment have become familiar over the last two years, avy equipment have become familiar over the last two years, and the fruits of this campus building boom have finally come to bear.
No less than five major projects- totaling more than $30 million – have helped to reshape Missouri Southern’s landscape over the last few semesters. It’s progress on a scale not seen since a groundbreaking for the new campus was held on the grounds of the Mission Hills estate in 1966.
“The residence halls and the FEMA shelter were planned together,” says Robert Yust, vice president for business affairs.
“The fundraising for the baseball stadium, the End Zone Facility and new turf for the football field all happened on different time frames, but it all happened to coincide at the same time.”
Ground was broken for the three-story residence hall complex on May 1, 2014.hall complex on May 1, 2014.
Located adjacent to the existing dorms, the complex consists of six buildings and 51 students apartments, the majority of which have four bedrooms (hence the name “The Quads”) Joplin’s R.E. Smith served as construction manager and contractor for the $14-million project, which was completed in time for the start of the fall semester.
Speaking just as a student who lives in one of the new buildings, Jennings says he enjoys living in a place that “feels more like home.”
“It feels more like living in an apartment,” he says. “You have your own bedroom, a kitchen, a microwave. And having your own washer and dryer is a lifesaver.”
Jennings also looks at his new home from the perspective of his role as a Resident Assistant, working to assist other students who live on campus. The transition to the Quads was a surprisingly easy one, he says.
“It was a surprise to me how people seemed to mature moving from Blaine Hall into the Quads,” he says. “Everyone here has had experience living in the dorms and seemed to look at it as ‘this is an opportunity for me to get my own place.’”
As work continued on The Quads, another new structure went up directly adjacent to them.
An 11,000-square-foot FEMA shelter – also constructed by R.E. Smith and designed to hold 2,000 people – was turned over to the university in May.
“(The campus) tornado sirens are tied into the city tornado siren system,” says Bob Harrington, director of the university’s Physical Plant.
“When Joplin activates the sirens on the north side of the city, the doors will automatically unlock.”
The total cost for the shelter was just over $2 million, with Federal Emergency Management Agency to cover 75 percent of the eligible cost.
NORTH END ZONE FACILITY
The weight room is packed on this Tuesday morning as members of the Lions football team gather for one of their three-a-week training sessions. It’s early, but there’s plenty of energy being expended – the sounds of weights crashing down fill the room as they complete their reps on the new, MSSU-branded equipment.
“It’s definitely an exciting feeling,” says Mike Nelson, a senior physical education major and wide receiver for the football team. “We have all new equipment right next to the locker room, and we’re right next to the field. Everything is here.”
The North End Zone Facility was completed in time for the start of the fall semester, providing an eye-catching addition to Fred G. Hughes Stadium and a resource for student-athletes, alumni and fans.
The $9 million project was developed through the university’s partnership with Freeman Health System and other donors. Crews from R.E. Smith began construction in the spring of 2014.
Its completion marked the realization of a dream shared by members of a steering committee assembled nearly a decade ago. At nearly 45,000 square feet, the building houses locker rooms for multiple sports, an athletic training room, meeting rooms, a Hall of Fame, offices for coaching staff and an alumni event center.
“This state-of-the-art building is one of, if not the best, strength and training facilities in all of Division II,” says Jared Bruggeman, Missouri Southern’s director of athletics.
“I love being in this beautiful facility,” says Nelson. “It’s great being able to walk out right onto the field rather than have to walk across the street. It really brings a new energy to the team.”
Also in place for the start of the football season was brand new turf, thanks to a sponsorship by Mercy Hospital Joplin.
Featuring Mercy’s logo in two locations, the turf is 120 yards in length and 70 yards in width. Work began to remove the old turf – which had reached the end of its useful lifetime – in mid-summer.
WARREN TURNER FIELD
On a sunny February morning, just days before the Lions baseball team made their season debut at the campus’ new baseball stadium, it was hard to miss the spring in the players’ steps as they made their way across the pristine turf.
“It’s nice to be able to have a field we can call our own,” says Tee Helsel, the Lion’s first baseman.
Formed in 1972, the Lions baseball team initially played on the flood plain below Spiva Library before moving to Joplin’s historic Joe Becker Stadium. While a wonderful place to play, it posed challenges in terms of transportation for athletes and students, having to share the field with other programs and a lack of training facilities for injured players.
“We have a great relationship with the city and Joe Becker, but it was clear the best thing for our student-athletes was to be on campus and have a facility easily accessible to the student body,” says head coach Bryce Darnell.
The $2.5 million project was made possible through a fundraising campaign initiated by the MSSU Baseball Advisory Committee in collaboration with the Missouri Southern Foundation. Ground was broken during a ceremony held Sept. 25, 2014.
The new stadium – designed by Corner Greer & Associates, with Crossland Construction overseeing the building – includes amenities such as state-of-the-art synthetic turf, regulation lighting, batting cages and bullpens, fan seating for 600 and a modern concessions area. A donor wall offers thanks to those who made the project possible.
The stadium was formally dedicated on April 18, with the announcement that it had been named Warren Turner Field.
During his 31 seasons as head coach (1977-2007), Turner won 852 games. Five teams made it two the World Series, took a Central States Intercollegiate Conference title, three MIAA South Division titles and two conference championships in the MIAA.
In their inaugural season at the new stadium, the Lions proved they were more than able to live up to the legacy of the field’s namesake. The team earned an MIAA conference championship and a berth in the NCAA tournament.
REYNOLDS HALL PROJECT
While the landscape of Missouri Southern’s campus has been reshaped over the last two years, work isn’t finished.
“Critical” is the term Dr. Michael Garoutte uses when describing the necessity of the renovations and remodeling set to begin next year in Reynolds Hall.
“But, we’re good at taking care of what we have, which is why we’ve been able to function in the same facilities for 50 years,” says Garoutte.
Completed in May of 1967, Reynolds was the second building on what was then the campus of Missouri Southern College. An expansion in 1988 nearly doubled its size at a time when a rapid increase in enrollment was straining the capacity of the relatively new campus.
Today, Reynolds Hall houses the biology, environmental health, physical sciences and mathematics programs. The coursework offered in the building is in high demand, as it provides prerequisites to nursing and allied health students.
During two visits to campus of the last year, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon announced funding that will allow for much-needed renovations. He recently signed House Bill 19, which will provide $5.2 million for the project, as well as House Bill 17, which contains an additional $1.5 million – an amount that will be matched by the university.
The design process allowed those taking part to think toward the future by laying out classrooms and labs more suited to facilitate learning.
“From my perspective, the best part has been contemplating what we can do academically in a renovated facility that we can’t do now,” says Dr. Paula Carson, Missouri Southern’s provost/vice president of academic affairs.
Faculty, Departments Help Drive Spain Semester Programming
There’s really no other way to say it: ¡Viva España!
With events that ranged from a foot-stomping flamenco showcase to a dinner that highlighted the country’s cuisine, the Spain Semester was a success, according to Dr. Chad Stebbins, director of the Institute for International Studies.
“The audience turnout has been greater for the Spain Semester than the majority of the other themed semesters,” he said.
A record number of faculty members contributed to the slate of programming this year, said Stebbins.
Offerings included a talk on living as a foreigner in Cordoba, Spain, by communications lecturer Kisa Clark, an etching demonstration by art professor Burt Bucher, and a presentation by Dr. Bill Kumbier on Pablo Casals, renowned cellist and peacemaker.
Lectures were also offered by three members of the Spanish language faculty. Dr. Rubén Galve Rivera focused on “De-stereotyping Spain” in a lecture of the same title, Dr. Pedro Talavera-Ibarra recreated his experience on the Way of Saint James, and Dr. Susana Liso discussed the development of pop culture after the death of dictator Francisco Franco.
Dr. Jim Lile, chair of the Theater Department, discussed various artistic portrayals of “Don Quixote,” while a personal presentation on flamenco dancing was offered by Dr. Joy Dworkin, chair of the English Department. The Campus Activities Board offered a Running of the Bulls themed photo booth and free churros, while Sodexo dished up a full Spanish meal for “A Taste of Spain.”
The Music Department offered two concerts featuring the country’s music, while the Theatre Department staged “No Suicide in Springtime,” an acclaimed production by Alejandro Casona.
So many departments and different faculty members joined together to contribute roughly half of the programming,” said Stebbins.
International trips gave students a deeper appreciation of the country’s offerings.
Over the summer, 14 students and several faculty members from Missouri Southern visited Spain, lived with Spanish families and soaked up the Iberian history, language and culture.
“We visited several museums,” says Aubrey Cooley, senior psychology major and Spanish minor from Neosho, Mo. “I’ve never been a huge art lover but when you go there you can see the history and, once you understand the history, you appreciate more about the art.”
Among the Spain Semester’s highlights were a performance by Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana – the nation’s premiere Spanish and flamenco dance company – and a visit by Nellie Bennett, author of “Only in Spain: A Foot-Stomping, Firecracker of a Memoir About Food, Flamenco and Falling in Love.” The book was the common reader of students in the University Experience class during the fall semester.
Attendance for Spain Semester activities went beyond expectations, said Stebbins.
“I think it’s because there is a greater inherent interest in the country,” he said. “Next fall will be the Great Britain Semester. I expect to see attendance along the same line.”