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Northwest Missouri State University


Student Spotlight

    Dec. 17, 2015

    McKinney changed course but didn’t quit on goal of earning degree

    Tiona McKinney
    Tiona McKinney (Photo by Todd Weddle/Northwest Missouri State University)

    Tiona McKinney thought she had her career plans figured out when she arrived at Northwest Missouri State University.

    She had dedicated her high school years to science studies and laying groundwork for a zoology career. She picked Northwest because it was a reasonable distance from her hometown of St. Louis and it offered a zoology program. It also helped that her favorite color is green.

    But after beginning her coursework at Northwest, McKinney realized zoology was not the right field for her.

    “It was devastating, and for a time I was confused about what my next step should be,” she said.

    McKinney says she’s not a quitter and eventually decided she had a knack for public relations.

    “Even if this specific goal in my life proved difficult, I would do whatever necessary to finish,” she said. “Luckily, I had a great support system back home and awesome teachers who kept me grounded.” 

    This month she earns her bachelor’s degree in communication with a public relations emphasis from Northwest. Her next step is to begin employment with sales and marketing firm STL Executives in St. Louis and she hopes to pursue a graduate degree later.

    McKinney thrived at Northwest with the support of faculty and staff and the guidance and constructive criticism they offered her. Now she leaves grateful for her four years at the University, where she says she gained “lifelong friends and a big Bearcat network.”

    McKinney built her resume at Northwest, developing skills through internships and profession-based experiences. Among them, she was active in AdInk, Northwest’s student advertising club, which helped her build valuable communication skills and provided networking opportunities with industry professionals.

    “The hands-on experience that I have gained at Northwest has been extremely beneficial – from my media relations internship to student organizations like AdInk, which have given me hands-on experience with student clients, to helpful and concerned communication professors who have been completely honest and allowed me to establish my brand,” McKinney said. 

    Now, as she graduates and begins her next chapter, McKinney says she will miss the comfort of Northwest, the community of Maryville, and the friends and faculty who helped her get to this point.

    “My favorite thing about Northwest is the community support. It is amazing to see how integrated Nodaway County residents are with Northwest students,” she said, adding that her experiences in Maryville and at Northwest have helped her develop a stronger sense of community awareness. “Northwest has provided me with the success to stand for my beliefs and to educate those around me in a positive and reflective manner.” 

    Asked about her proudest accomplishment at Northwest, McKinney says she doesn’t have one – yet.   

    “Once I make it across the (commencement) stage without falling, then I will have accomplished my proudest moment.” 


    For more information, please contact:

    Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
    mhorn@nwmissouri.edu | 660.562.1704 | Fax: 660.562.1900

    Northwest Missouri State University
    215 Administration Building | 800 University Drive | Maryville, MO 64468