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Dec. 12, 2017
By Taylor Middleton, media relations assistant
Hugh Slaton has always wanted to help people, and his experiences at Northwest Missouri State University helped him realize the ways he could fulfill that desire.
“I wanted to make myself proud of myself,” Slaton, a native of De Soto, Georgia, said. “I wanted to make my family proud, and most of all I wanted to have an impact in some realm. I thought the best avenue in that circumstance was attaining a university degree and really immersing myself within the sciences so that I can apply myself in the future.”
Slaton, who will graduate from Northwest this week with his bachelor’s degree in biochemistry, competed on his high school speech and debate team. He began exploring opportunities at Northwest when he connected with his high school coach’s son, Brian Swafford, who serves as the director of the Northwest’s forensics team.
Slaton fell in love with the campus and atmosphere at Northwest during a visit with Swafford. His decision to attend an out-of-state University forced him to be more independent, and he found a new home and extended family at Northwest.
“What really sold it for me was the welcoming atmosphere that Northwest vibed,” Slaton said. “Everyone seemed to be interested in you as a person. It does not matter where you come from, and people just want to know about you. That care and everyone wanting to know who you are as an individual really sold me on the campus.”
As a freshman member of Northwest’s forensics team in 2014, the Speaking Bearcats, Slaton earned a national championship in legislative debate at the Pi Kappa Delta national tournament for speech and debate in Indianapolis.
“That was super awesome to know that I had come here to excel in speech and debate and I had come here to learn, but receiving that award for Northwest, for myself, for my coach, I was really proud of that,” Slaton said.
Slaton sought to be involved at Northwest. He served as Student Senate president, a class representative and on various committees as a chairperson. He also was a member of the Gamma Sigma Epsilon chemistry honor society, the Honors Student Association and the Society of President’s Scholars. He worked as a student ambassador and a teaching assistant for chemistry.
When Slaton’s father and nephew passed away suddenly during the summer of 2015, his involvement at Northwest provided a network of faculty and staff to support him.
“That was probably the most impactful thing that happened to me at Northwest, knowing that I was a thousand miles away from home and it seemed like I had no one at the time, but the professional staff really swooped in and sort of took care of me in that regard and helped me sort things out,” Slaton said.
Slaton came to Northwest on a pre-med track with dreams of becoming a doctor, but faculty helped him broaden his perspective of the science field and the opportunities it offers. He engaged in coursework that complemented his University experience and developed a passion for research through labs and courses such as quantitative chemical analysis.
While education majors at Northwest have opportunities to work with children at the University’s Horace Mann Laboratory School and communication majors gain experience through their work on The Northwest Missourian, Tower yearbook and campus radio stations in Wells Hall, science majors have access to valuable lab equipment to conduct research and prepare them for their career fields. Slaton took advantage of those opportunities.
“Northwest did not change my dream of being a doctor, it just opened up my eyes and modified my dream into something more and made it more true to myself,” he said.
He also realized the importance of accepting help from others to reach his goals.
“At Northwest, I was taught that it’s ok to not know things sometimes,” Slaton said. “It’s ok to struggle. It is ok to go through a rough patch, but at the end of the day you just have to be true to yourself. That’s really what a lot of the professors and staff at Northwest emulate. You can be whatever you want to be. You just have to be true to yourself.”
Northwest supports students in their endeavors to seek careers that interest them, and Slaton found that to be true.
“Make the most of your time here at Northwest,” he said. “Four years ago I thought it was a long road to where we are now, but now I don’t even remember all this time passing by,” Slaton said. “Get the most out of your experience at Northwest and don’t really think about the end. Just enjoy the moment.”
Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
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Northwest Missouri State University
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