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Dec. 6, 2017
When Nick Van Ross was preparing himself for college and researching schools, he discovered that Northwest Missouri State University offered the learning environment that best suited him. He surrounded himself with friends and mentors who were similarly motivated and focused on his success – and now he’s graduating.
“They have encouraged me to continue pushing forward every day to be successful,” said Van Ross, a Lee’s Summit, Missouri, native who receives his bachelor’s degree in marketing this month. “One of the hardest things about going to college sometimes is just going to class. They continued to push me to not only go to class, but to better myself every day.”
Van Ross considered other Missouri institutions for college, but attending Northwest’s Summer Orientation Advisement and Registration (SOAR) program for first-time freshmen solidified his choice during the summer of 2013.
“The atmosphere was amazing,” he said. “It was something about that Bearcat green that just stuck out to me.”
At Northwest, Van Ross took advantage of faculty and staff members’ willingness to help. A successful competitor on his high school speech and debate team, he quickly found a place on Northwest’s team, the Speaking Bearcats. He counts Director of Forensics Brian Swafford and a slew of former teammates as mentors who helped him stay on track to completing his degree.
When he finished his career with the Speaking Bearcats, Van Ross was a six-time individual national champion, including three championships in public forum debate with speaking partner Emily Meyers, who graduated from Northwest last spring. He was part of a senior class that accounted for 15 individual national titles and three team championships since 2014.
Van Ross took pride in the value the Northwest community placed on those achievements.
“My accomplishments weren’t just something that I was doing,” he said. “People are understanding and value it. I am one of the reasons that Northwest is amazing. I am a few of those national championships that we advertise.”
Van Ross honed his speaking skills and enhanced his ability to interact with others through his participation with the Speaking Bearcats. Northwest also helped him understand the importance of putting forth his best effort, but that sometimes it’s ok if the first try is a failure.
“We have an incredible community of people,” Van Ross said. “We have an incredible support system. I have people who I don’t know who have been supporting me since day one. What I love about Northwest is that, no matter what you do, as long as you try and as long as you look for those people who care – which pretty much all of them do – it’s going to show you that it cares back.”
Getting involved in organizations on campus and building a network was important for Van Ross. In addition to the Speaking Bearcats, he had stints on Student Senate and president of the South Complex Hall Council. He participated in The Scare Project, a Halloween tradition that involves residential life staff transforming a campus residence hall into a haunted house.
Van Ross says Northwest drove him to be successful and have an impact in his community. He has developed a stronger awareness of the impacts his actions have on others.
“The first week (of college), you can go to 19 different meetings if you want to, but get involved, because that’s where those safety nets come from,” he said. “That’s where those people checking in and caring about your success come from. Once you do that, it gets so much easier for you to feel comfortable with yourself and with your career choices because I didn’t feel like I was being pushed to my potential or pushed to be better until I got into that friend group that supported me.”
If there was a course Van Ross could retake, though, his first choice is Knacktive, an immersive, interdisciplinary experience for advanced undergraduate students that mimics the creative demands and intensive teamwork environment of a technology-oriented, professional marketing communications agency.
“It’s basically an internship without having an internship,” Van Ross said. “You get to work with people in the industry. You get to work with a team without it feeling like it is for a grade. It’s more about putting your best foot forward and putting that effort in, and I fortunately had a great team that put that effort in with me.”
Van Ross is seeking a career in marketing, but also says he doesn’t intend to stop learning any time soon. He says his Northwest experience helped him develop a deeper appreciation for education and he intends to remain at the University to pursue his Master of Business Administration.
Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
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Northwest Missouri State University
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