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April 29, 2017
Updated May 2, 2017
Northwest Missouri State University’s “culture of champions” on Saturday infused Bearcat Arena as the University celebrated 661 students who completed the requirements to earn bachelor’s degrees this spring.
The University’s annual spring commencement ceremonies were the culmination of a successful academic year for Northwest, during which it claimed a total of 13 national titles – 11 by academic teams and two in athletics. Northwest became the first NCAA Division II institution to win national championships in football and men’s basketball during the same academic year.
“We’re honoring your perseverance today. We’re honoring your grit and your resilience. We’re honoring you as champions. Are we not a university of champions at Northwest Missouri State University?” Northwest President Dr. John Jasinski told graduates, eliciting loud cheers during his opening remarks. “Those aren’t just words. We can back it up.”
Jasinski then moved into the aisles on the arena floor to give something of a final exam, quizzing the graduates about how they spent their time at Northwest, their involvement on campus and the University’s impact on their lives.
“There are Bearcats all over the world,” one graduate said. “It doesn’t matter what country you’re in or what town you’re at, it’s likely that you’ll be next to a Bearcat or you’ll meet someone who knows one.”
Asked to describe Northwest in one word, graduates’ answers included the words home, champions, family, community, awesome and unimaginable.
Karen Daniel, the chief financial officer at Black & Veatch, a global engineering and construction company based in Overland Park, Kansas, delivered the day’s commencement addresses and carried the championship theme through the lens of a Northwest alumna.
“I still get goosebumps because more than 40 years ago I came on the campus of Northwest Missouri State, and I knew then I was in a special place,” she said. “I keep coming back because Northwest Missouri State got it right.”
Daniel went on to explain the meaning of “getting it right.”
“It means academics first. It means looking to the future, teaching students about innovation and entrepreneurism. It means embracing diversity and inclusion as a value, not simply a conversation. And of course, it also means sports. We’re champions here.”
A 1980 Northwest alumna, Daniel earned her bachelor’s degree in accounting and has remained connected to the institution. She was named Black & Veatch’s CFO in 1999 and joined the company’s Board of Directors in 2006. She also serves as president of the company’s Global Finance and Technology Solutions Division and serves on numerous public and philanthropic boards in Kansas City, Missouri, and beyond.
As Northwest graduates turn their attention to their futures, Daniel challenged them to plan around their passions and be mindful of things that matter. She reflected on the lessons of respect and problem-solving passed down to her by her parents, as well as the impact of her academic advisor at Northwest, who influenced her to maintain her passion for education in her accounting career.
“Now admittedly, you have to live long enough to have all the answers,” Daniel said. “You can’t get too wrapped up in the planning process or you’ll lose sight of the ultimate goal. But remain open. Be flexible. Take the time to stare fear in the face. Every time you stare fear in the face, you’re going to be a better person. You’re going to be on your path to whatever you want to be.”
She also encouraged graduates to dream big.
“Anything is possible when you marry passion and that dream,” Daniel said. “I still dream today. Even with all that I have before me, I dream everyday about making a difference.”
At the conclusion of Daniel’s address, during its morning commencement ceremony, Northwest bestowed upon her an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree “for her enduring commitment to Northwest, stellar leadership and her unwavering dedication to improving communities.”
After receiving her academic hood from Northwest Provost Dr. Timothy Mottet, a teary-eyed Daniel returned to the podium and said, “I’m so overwhelmed, surprised, but incredibly grateful I had a chance to go to Northwest Missouri State.”
In all, Northwest’s spring graduating class consisted of 894 students. The most common master’s degrees were applied computer science and business administration. The most common bachelor’s degrees were agricultural business, business management, elementary education and psychology.
Geographically, 585 graduates are from Missouri, and 121 hail from Iowa; 119 are international students. Northwest’s spring graduates represent 28 states and eight countries. Fifty-two percent are female, and they range in age from 19 to 59.
About Northwest Missouri State University
With an enrollment of more than 6,500 students, Northwest is a coeducational, primarily residential four-year university that offers a broad range of undergraduate and selected graduate programs on its flagship Maryville campus as well as a new Kansas City location and in St. Joseph.
Founded in 1905, Northwest was ranked in 2015 and 2016 by U.S. News and World Report as the top moderately selective regional university in Missouri, and it has met all measures of the state’s performance-based funding initiative during four of the model’s first five years. Safewise ranks the city of Maryville as one of the “Safest College Towns in America,” while BestCollegesOnline.org has named the Northwest campus one of the “50 Most Amazing University Botanical Gardens and Arboretums in the U.S.”
The University boasts a 59 percent graduation rate, which is in the 89th percentile of Northwest's national peer group. In addition, 97 percent of Northwest bachelor’s degree earners and 99 percent of master’s degree earners secure employment or continue their education within six months of graduation, according to the most recent data. Zippia, a career website, recently named Northwest the best college in Missouri for getting a job.
Northwest places a high emphasis on profession-based learning to help graduates get a jumpstart on their careers. Students have opportunities to build their resumes with experiences on campus in nearly every area of study, including the Horace Mann Laboratory School, National Public Radio affiliate KXCV, the RT Wright Farm, Mozingo Outdoor Education Recreation Area, the internationally ranked Dean L. Hubbard Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship or Knacktive, a student-driven integrated digital marketing communications agency.
Furthermore, its vibrant and diverse learning community offers more than 150 student organizations, and textbooks and a laptop are included in tuition, which is among the lowest in the state, saving students an estimated $7,300 over four years. Northwest also offers 1,200 student employment positions, allowing students to build professional skills through its internationally benchmarked student employment program.
For more information about Northwest and its performance, visit www.nwmissouri.edu/facts/.
Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
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Northwest Missouri State University
215 Administration Building | 800 University Drive | Maryville, MO 64468