Graduate student (PhD Sociology) Rice University, Houston, TX
AA General Studies (Honors)- Missouri State University-West Plains
BS Sociology (Honors)- Missouri State University
Hometown: West Plains, MO
“The two years I spent at Missouri State-West Plains were two of the best years of my life.”
When looking back on his time as a student at Missouri State University-West Plains, Alex Priest has no problem explaining how profoundly it affected him. From warm, welcoming professors dedicated to helping him achieve his goals, to small class sizes where he felt comfortable expressing himself, there were a lot of takeaways for him.
“I chose to attend Missouri State-West Plains for three reasons. First is the early degree program with West Plains High School. Although I joined late, I was able to complete my entire first year of college during my senior. Second, Missouri State-West Plains is affordable. Although I could have attended other universities, I would have had to take on significant debt to do so. Here, I not only saved money, but feel like I had a more personal and productive relationship with my professors,” Priest explained. “Finally, I chose Missouri State-West Plains because it was close to home. Being able to have my family close really helped me succeed. I always felt like I had a strong support structure, and that is something I would have missed out on if I had moved far away.”
Two unique experiences at Missouri State-West Plains shaped Priest as a student and as a person.
“Being part of the Darr Honors program, I took a lot of classes that taught me how to think, not what to think,” Priest said. “The director, Professor Alex Pinnon, really helped to shape my future plans in academia.”
One mission of Missouri State-West Plains is to build community engagement, and Priest took advantage of several projects during his time studying.
“In the program, I took part in formatting, administering and interpreting a regional community assessment of West Plains. Our class was even able to present the findings to members of the city government and key community leaders,” Priest explained. “More broadly, Missouri State-West Plains has helped me realize my role as college graduate in trying to make our community, and the world, a better place.
“Studying abroad in China at the Dalian Campus, likewise, was life changing. It really helped me get a different perspective on the world and myself,” he said.
“Missouri State-West Plains gave me the foundation to achieve great things.”
Priest also hasn’t stopped pursuing high achievements. Utilizing the knowledge he learned and the experiences he created, his biggest accomplishment to date is graduating with his bachelor’s degree and fully funding his pursuit of a PhD in sociology.
“Even today, I owe a lot of my success to the education and mentorship I received at West Plains. That, more than anything, helped me to achieve, and continue achieving, my goals,” Priest said. “No matter where I was on campus, I never felt out of place. Missouri State-West Plains made me who I am today.”
When asked about advice for prospective students, he encourages students to just get more involved.
“Go talk with your professors or advisor, join the honors program, apply to the study away program in Dalian, China,” he said. “The only thing I regret about my time at Missouri State-West Plains is that I didn’t join more clubs and campus activities. It’s a great way to have fun and make new friends.”