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Janean Mays (left) and her daughter, Michaelene graduated together during Northwest's spring commencement ceremonies. (Photo by Todd Weddle/Northwest Missouri State University)

Janean Mays (left) and her daughter, Michaelene graduated together during Northwest's spring commencement ceremonies. (Photo by Todd Weddle/Northwest Missouri State University)

May 8, 2021

Mother, daughter complete degrees together at Northwest

By Leah Newell, communication assistant

Michaelene Mays and her mother, Janean, crossed the Northwest Missouri State University commencement stage together consecutively on May 8, marking the finale of a milestone they worked toward together.

Michaelene attained her bachelor’s degree in communication with an emphasis in public relations, and Janean received her master’s degree in educational leadership. They hail from Jacksonville, Illinois.

Michaelene applied to Northwest because her father, Allen, was the University’s assistant vice president for capital programs and facility services at the time, and she was recruited to join the Bearcat cheerleading team.

“Through being a student athlete to holding positions in a variety of different organizations, I was able to learn excellent organizational and leadership skills,” Michaelene said. “My education and guidance from the communication department has been tremendous. Northwest has truly shaped me into the woman I am today and I am confident stepping into my career.”

Janean followed her daughter to Northwest when Allen mentioned to her that Northwest offered a master’s program that fit her needs. Janean taught fourth grade for seven years and is transitioning into a new role as dean of students in the Jacksonville School District – a career advancement spurred by the completion of her master’s degree. She plans to obtain her superintendent certification as well.

“I saw that there was an accelerated program, and it was a different class every seven weeks, and they were all online,” Janean said. “I thought it was going to be the best fit. It was reasonable in price. I had looked in Illinois, and it was double the cost. Besides, I already knew Michaelene could help me navigate anything I didn’t know or understand, which was a huge asset.”

As a family, the Mayses had to overcome the deaths of two family members, which made completing their degrees together more monumental. Janean and Michaelene say the support they received from family and faculty helped them fulfill their goals to earn degrees.

When Michaelene was at home in Jacksonville during weekends and breaks from Maryville, the two students often sat together at a table to discuss their classes, assignments and their shared college experiences.

“It was neat to be able to have those conversations and to be going through it at the same time, even though mine was at the graduate level,” Janean said.

Both women stayed busy during their time as students. Michaelene was a member of the Lambda Pi Eta communication honor society, and treasurer of CommCats. In addition to her membership with the Bearcat cheerleading team her freshman year, she was a member of the Bearcat Steppers as a sophomore and was a choreographer for the Northwest Dance Company. She also was inducted into the Office of University Advancement’s President’s Club for her fundraising efforts through its Bearcat Callers program, and she worked with Campus Dining as a peer-to-peer ambassador for three years.

As she graduates, Michaelene is launching her career as the member engagement coordinator for the Illinois State Senate Republican Caucus. She hopes to advance her education by obtaining a master’s degree in communication.

“Being able to graduate with my daughter and sharing that experience with her is something that’s so rare to be able to share with a child,” Janean said.

Michaelene added, “We’re going through that next step of life together.”


Dr. Mark Hornickel
Administration Building
Room 215