The Student to Alumni Transition

Mizzou's newest grads are asking not what the university can do for them but what they can do for the university

By Kelsey Allen

Hannah Ryan stood in front of the classroom, struggling to explain the concept of commencement to a bunch of 6-year-olds. A student teacher in her last few days as a senior at Mizzou, Ryan brought in her graduation cap for her class of first-graders to sign. Decorating the mortarboard has turned into a tradition for many graduates, and Ryan wanted to have something to remember the semester she spent student teaching at David Barton Elementary School in Boonville, Missouri.

Blank eyes stared back when she used words such as college, graduation and mortarboard. So she did something only a student of the 21st century would do: She strapped a GoPro to her mortarboard so she could show her students what the commencement ceremony is all about. A small, lightweight, wearable video camera that is more commonly used to record skydiving, rock climbing or bike riding adventures, the GoPro captured Ryan’s triumphant walk across the Mizzou Arena stage.

When Ryan returned to Boonville the following week to show her students the footage, they saw hundreds of students in their academic regalia, graduation caps and all, and were thrilled when Ryan paused the video so they could each find their name scrawled in white ink on her mortarboard. They even got a wave from MU Interim Chancellor Hank Foley.

Although Ryan, BS Ed ’16, helped her first-graders better understand the significance of graduation, she still struggles to put into words what the passage from student to alumna means to her.

“I wasn’t expecting to be as attached to Columbia as I am,” says the Kansas City, Missouri, native, who is returning to the area to teach fourth grade at English Landing Elementary School in the Park Hill School District. “When I came to Mizzou, it was about which college was best. The community became home, too.”

But as one of Mizzou’s newest graduates, and in light of everything that transpired during her senior year, Ryan feels a responsibility to share her experiences, from participating in forums with Kathryn Chval, acting dean of the College of Education, to answering surprisingly thoughtful questions from her first-graders. Ryan was most moved by a bulletin board created by leaders within Mizzou’s art education program. One side of the bulletin board read, “We failed to … ” The other, “But now we will … ” Faculty, staff and administrators filled in the blanks. One response read, “We failed to communicate. But now we will ask questions.”

As a student, Ryan was proud the university and the College of Education took steps to address areas that needed to change. As an alumna, she is eager to share with people outside of the Mizzou campus and Columbia community the changes taking place.

“It’s important to have leaders who are going to different parts of our state and country who are able to say, ‘My university isn’t shutting down. It’s becoming stronger,’ ” says Ryan, a member of the Mizzou ’39 Class of 2016. “We have such a huge responsibility to share the changes that are happening at Mizzou.”

Read More:

Part Two, Supporting Future Students

Part Three, Networking With Fellow Tigers

Part Four, Instant Connection

Hannah Ryan, BS Ed ’16, poses with her mortarboard, which she had her class of first-graders sign so she’ll always remember the semester she spent student teaching. 

More Mizzou Memories:

Tyler Easton, BS BA, BS ’16, poses with his sister and mother after his commencement ceremony. As a student, Easton was ingrained in the day-to-day operations of the university. “As an alumnus, I hope to focus on the long-term goals of the university and help pave the way for future students,” says Easton, who works in the client services department at NISA Investment Advisors and plans to join the St. Louis Alumni Chapter. “I want to help the university that has such a positive impact on my life.”

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