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May 4, 2019
Leaders and alumni of Northwest Missouri State University emphasized the value of connections Saturday as the institution celebrated its newest graduates and put a stamp on its 2018-19 academic year.
Noting its network of more than 70,000 alumni throughout the world, Northwest President Dr. John Jasinski said the graduates represent a long and proud tradition of excellence at the University. He challenged them to use their network and stay connected while bettering the communities in which they live and work.
“Your diploma is testament,” Jasinski said. “It is testament to you committing to live your life as an educated person. Our society needs you now more than ever. Go forth and make Northwest proud as you contribute to the societal good. Go lead the Bearcat way.”
Brian Weaver, a 1995 Northwest alumnus, delivered the day’s commencement addresses. Weaver is chief executive officer of Torch.AI, a Leawood, Kansas, company that helps organizations leverage artificial intelligence through a proprietary enterprise data management software solution. With nearly 20 years of business experience, leading mission-driven, high-growth technology enabled organizations, his companies have earned recognition as Kansas City Small Business of the Year and by Forbes magazine.
Reflecting on his time as a Northwest student and the ups and downs of his career, Weaver challenged graduates to enjoy the journey, embrace process over outcome and have no fear.
Weaver said he was “instantly smitten” with his early encounters at Northwest. He associated his experience with an Ivy League school and what he thought a great University should feel like.
“It’s a big school that’s not too big,” he said. “It’s a small school that’s not too small, and it’s away from home for most people. What that does is it gives a little bit of distance from the mothership, and that allows you to become independent and autonomous, and I think if you’re talking about being prepared for the bumps in the road, you’ve got to have some resilience. I think a school like Northwest uniquely prepares an adult for that kind of life.”
Weaver recalled starting his career, frustrated with a lower salary than his peers, and increasing his pay as a top performer in his sales division. After being passed over for a big promotion, he took a job with another company, managing a staff twice his age. He turned failure into success again when, after being reprimanded by his employer for accepting a prolific marketing project with the Kansas Speedway, he launched his own company and made the Kansas Speedway his first client, thus beginning his career as an entrepreneur.
Today, as the founder and leader of a company that provides artificial intelligence to the U.S. Department of Defense, he relies on the problem-solving skills he began developing at Northwest and has honed throughout his career.
“What I’ve learned is that all of these failures are just adjustments to the path, adjustments to the course of life,” Weaver said. “I’ve never run into a dead end, and I think if you think about it for yourselves and you challenge yourself and you reflect, you’ve never run into a dead end either. But so many people get sidetracked by the details, and they don’t pay attention to the big picture.”
Northwest, Weaver said, provides its students with a platform to discover and test themselves. Its faculty and staff help students crystalize who they want to be, even though it’s not always pleasant.
“Bearcats are always successful,” Weaver said. “Go forth today with the wisdom that every Bearcat I’ve ever known has a great life, an incredible career and this huge network of friends that they met here, that they’ve been able to lean on for life.”
He added, “While you’re proud of your degree and the specialized knowledge that has, I would challenge you that you can’t really comprehend and appreciate what you’ve picked up from Northwest at this moment. You’re looking forward. It’s only when I look back that I can actually appreciate all of the twists and turns and how everything really came out of Northwest.”
Two ceremonies on Saturday concluded Northwest’s commencement weekend, which began with the University honoring master’s degree and specialist degree recipients, as well as bachelor’s degree recipients in the School of Education, during a Friday evening ceremony. The University hosted two ceremonies Saturday with bachelor’s degree recipients of the School of Agricultural Sciences, the School of Computer Science and Information Systems, the School of Communication and Mass Media, and the College of Arts and Sciences participating in a morning ceremony. Saturday’s afternoon ceremony honored bachelor’s degree recipients of the School of Health Science and Wellness and the Melvin D. and Valorie G. Booth School of Business.
In all, the University awarded a record 1,062 degrees during the weekend. That total included 749 bachelor’s degree candidates, with business management being the most common major among those students. Another 313 received master’s and educational specialist degrees, with education leadership in K-12 being the most common graduate degree.
The spring graduates ranged in age from 20 years old to 58 and represented 36 different states and 10 countries, with 65 percent hailing from within the state of Missouri.
With an enrollment of more than 6,800 students, Northwest is a coeducational, primarily residential four-year university that offers a broad range of undergraduate and selected graduate programs on its Maryville campus as well as its Northwest-Kansas City location at the Northland Innovation Center and through Northwest Online.
Founded in 1905, Northwest has been ranked by U.S. News and World Report during three of the last five years as the top moderately selective regional university in Missouri. 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 graduation rate in the 89th percentile of its 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 R.T. Wright Farm, Mozingo Outdoor Education Recreation Area or Knacktive, a student-driven integrated digital marketing communications agency.
Furthermore, its vibrant and diverse learning community offers more than 200 student organizations, and textbooks and a laptop are included in tuition, which is among the lowest in the nation, saving students an estimated $7,400 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