Hometown: West Plains, MO
Currently Resides: Rogers, AR
Occupation: Graduate student and part-time employee at the Northwest Arkansas Community College Testing Center
All Degrees Received: AA General Studies, Missouri State University-West Plains; BS in Family and Human Services, John Brown University; currently seeking a Master of Science in Marriage and Family Therapy with a certificate in Play Therapy, John Brown University.
“My experience at Missouri State-West Plains brought me growth, community and confidence.”
Leslie Lancaster was just 16 when she started taking classes at Missouri State University-West Plains as a high school student in the dual enrollment program. By the time she graduated four years later with her associate’s degree, she had been challenged academically by her professors, traveled beyond her nation’s borders and worked her first job.
“All of these experiences contributed to my personal growth and understanding of the world,” she said. “I was unsure if I had the ability to succeed in college when I took my first class. By the time I graduated, I felt confident I could succeed in continuing my education.
Her experiences also helped her discover her career path. “Being a math tutor gave me the opportunity to help fellow classmates, which grew in me a desire to help others in my future career,” she explained. “I went into Missouri State-West Plains an unsure kid with a small view of the world and came out more confident and with a better understanding of the world outside of my community and what I wanted to do in that world.”
The Darr Honors Program continues to shape Leslie.
Of all her experiences at Missouri State-West Plains, the William and Virginia Darr Honors Program left the greatest impact on Leslie’s life.
“The experiences I gained in my honors classes have continued to shape me as a person over the last 10 years. While I did not realize how impactful these classes were at the time, I now think of them often when I approach learning of any kind, whether that be learning new skills for a job, learning information in the graduate program I attend, or learning about other people,” she explained.
“The foundational ideas I had to wrestle with in those classes regarding what it means to be educated and pursue justice serve me in my everyday life,” she added. “These lessons have taught me to be open to the ideas and opinions of other people and to examine those beliefs and my own with a critical eye.”
“The West Plains campus provided a good, affordable, foundational education that allowed me to pursue my education further at a private university.”
Although the dual enrollment program drew Leslie to Missouri State-West Plains, its affordability kept her here to complete her associate’s degree.
“I would have been unable to pay for my undergraduate education at John Brown University if I hadn’t finished my general studies degree at Missouri State-West Plains,” she said. “The campus also served as a springboard for furthering my education, teaching me skills and general information I may have struggled with at another university before I moved on.
“The introduction Missouri State-West Plains provided me to psychology, sociology, writing, ethics and many other subjects has helped me understand people better and has helped to instill in me a desire to grow and learn,” she added. “It has been a part of what led me to a career in the helping profession, allowing me to help children in foster care pursue a better future, children with autism make gains in their development, and individuals and families improve their relationships.”
“You receive what you put into the experience.”
Leslie is grateful for her time at Missouri State-West Plains. “I gained growth in knowledge of self, others and the world, community in relationships with peers and my hometown, and confidence that I can succeed in my learning goals and career,” she said.
Current and future students can experience the same growth, with the right mindset, she added. “If you approach your education and community with a desire to learn and grow, you will find that professors, peers and the community of West Plains will faithfully aid you in your pursuit of those goals.”