Chilean student follows in her mom’s footsteps at Missouri Southern

When Carolina Contreras arrived on the Missouri Southern campus in 2002, the exchange student from Chile wasn’t sure what to expect.

What she found were new friends and the benefits of becoming engaged in campus life.

“It was a rich experience when I came here,” said Carolina. “I met very nice people, like Stephanie.”

Stephanie Goad – MSSU’s senior coordinator of international recruitment and admissions – was at the time an international student advisor.

“I remember that Carolina went to all of our events,” said Goad. “She was with a very active group of Chilean students who came here from a partner school in Santiago.”

Goad said she later visited Chile and was shown around the city by Carolina and other students.

“I felt like we had a connection,” she said. “Then, earlier this year, she contacted Missouri Southern and found out I was still here. She asked if I remembered her and I said, ‘I absolutely remember who you are!’”

Twenty years after her time as an international student, Carolina felt the university would be the perfect place to send her daughter, Maria, who was seeking her own study abroad experience.

“It is very difficult to let our kids go somewhere far away,” said Carolina, who said her time at MSSU led her to encourage Maria to give it a look.

After meeting with Goad via Zoom and learning more about the campus, Maria enrolled and arrived this fall as a student in the Intensive English Program … almost exactly two decades after her mother.

“I know that (my mother) had so much fun here and had a good experience,” said Maria. “People cared for my mom, so I feel safe here.”

Goad said, to her knowledge, it marks the first time Missouri Southern has become home to a second-generation international student.

“It makes me feel really good to know Carolina would want to send her daughter here as well,” she said.


Willis Potter, ’07, appointed principal of his former high school in British Virgin Islands

Willis Potter came to Missouri Southern as a non-traditional student from the British Virgin Islands in 2004.

Today, he now serves as the principal of the high school he once attended, and frequently returns to the area to see family who still live here.

He was recently named principal of the Virgin Islands School of Technical Studies, and he credits his education at Missouri Southern with helping him prepare for a leadership role.

“The speech class I took here was a big deal for me,” Potter says. “It helped me with personal interaction. You need that as a principal.”

Having received his degree in education, he eventually returned home to teach. From there, he was moved into leadership roles within the school system, then studied under another principal before being appointed as head principal.

“I never sought out a leadership role,” says Potter. “But I was always put in leadership positions. The hardest part is the paperwork, but that comes with the territory.”

While visiting Joplin in August, he helped pick up international students arriving at the airport, take them furniture shopping and get them settled in the residence halls. His own experience as an international student allowed him to talk about his time at MSSU and offer advice.

While retirement is still far down the road, Potter says he’s looking forward to keeping busy after his career in education.

“I’m a woodworker by trade, and I’m in the process of setting up my own shop,” he says. “I still build kitchens and cabinets for people. When I retire, I want to take young graduates and train them in this field.”