Two Missouri State University-West Plains (MSU-WP) graduates, Morgan Spoor, Gainesville, and Weston Phipps, Houston, were among six students who received Missouri State University’s 2021-2022 Citizen Scholar Award.
The awards were presented Thursday, Dec. 16, by the Missouri State University Board of Governors at the group’s regular meeting in Springfield.
Established in fall 2007, the award is given annually to students “who exemplify the concept of a citizen scholar,” university officials said.
“We’re thrilled that two of our Missouri State-West Plains graduates are receiving the Citizen Scholar Award this year, the first time for that to occur in the award program’s 15-year history,” said MSU-WP Chancellor Dennis Lancaster.
“Congratulations to Morgan and Weston, both of whom have given that extra push toward excellence in the classroom, but also have gone that extra mile in serving the university and their communities. We’re proud of both of them,” Lancaster added.
Spoor overcame obstacles to achieve her goals
Spoor graduated from MSU-WP in May 2021 with an Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) degree. She is currently enrolled in the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) completion program at MSU. Ultimately, she plans to obtain a master’s degree in nursing from MSU and become a flight nurse.
During her time at MSU-WP, Spoor served as treasurer of the Student Nurses Association and actively participated in the Alpha Delta Nu nursing honors society, through which she helped create an orientation video for new nursing students. She also served as a mentor for first-year nursing students.
Academically, she was recognized on the Chancellor’s List, and because of her numerous acts of service to the community, she received the MSU-WP Public Affairs Fellow Award in spring 2021.
According to one of her nominators for the Citizen Scholar Award, what sets Spoor apart from other students is her eager willingness to help others. She volunteered numerous times to administer hundreds of COVID-19 vaccinations during the pandemic, she provided vision screening for area preschool and elementary children, she has donated many new baby items to the community wide baby shower project of the Howell County Organization for Wellness, and she serves as a specialist in the National Guard. The nominator also recalled a time during clinicals when Spoor was called to the emergency room to use her sign language ability to communicate with a patient.
“In the smallest of instances, one could see her consideration of others. I remember one day in class when a student didn’t have a partner, Morgan quickly said, ‘She can join our group!’ It is who she is,” the nominator said.
The obstacles Spoor had to overcome to achieve her educational goals also make her well deserving of the award, the nominator added. While pregnant with twins, Spoor’s husband was tragically lost his life in an automobile accident. She went into preterm labor and became mother to two preterm infants. She began nursing school with not only her twins, but also three older children, one of whom has special needs.
“She never once complained. She didn’t miss class. Her grades remained strong,” the nominator said. “Morgan is an overcomer with a positive outlook on life, always willing to help her fellow man.”
Phipps sought out opportunities to lend a hand
Phipps received the Associate of Arts in General Studies with a Specialization in Honors from MSU-WP in May 2018, graduating magna cum laude. He received a Bachelor of Science in Psychology in December 2020 from MSU, graduating cum laude, and is currently working on a Master’s in Experimental Psychology with a Certificate in Statistics at the Springfield campus. He plans to complete a PhD program in clinical psychology, practice therapy and teach psychology at a university.
While at MSU-WP, Phipps was a member of the Future Alumni Organization, Student Government Association, Student Ambassadors and Pre-Health Professions Club. He also participated in the China Semester Study Abroad Program and traveled with the William and Virginia Darr Honors Program oversees for cultural and service learning opportunities.
“During his time here at MSU-WP, Weston was the ideal example for student engagement. He invested his time in student organizations, student committees, volunteering, presenting at conferences and studying abroad. His spirit of service seems to be at the forefront of his academic and professional ambitions,” his nominator said.
The nominator pointed to Phipps’ volunteer work with the West Plains community following severe flooding in the spring of 2017, as well as his work at the West Plains Regional Animal Shelter. While in China, the nominator said, Phipps accumulated over 300 hours of volunteer work assisting Chinese students with conversational English. He also provided over 40 hours of volunteer work at an environmental sustainability program in the Dominican Republic and over 60 hours of medical experience as part of a fellowship program in Greece.
“I am most impressed with his flood relief work,” the nominator said. “He wasn’t from West Plains, and no one compelled him to serve. He already had the required volunteer hours for the honors program, and the work didn’t connect to his future professional goals. He served our town merely because it was needed. People needed him, and that was all it required for Weston to help.
“He is humble, and his service to others comes from a place of duty,” the nominator added. “He does not flaunt his achievements because he believes service is the floor of expectations. He finds that knowledge, wisdom and education are privileges, so he has a moral duty to help others with his own blessing. I only ever see a few students like Weston.”
Other award recipients honored
Other recipients of the award this year include:
- Diana Dudenhoeffer, a senior from Springfield who is majoring in journalism;
- Manuel Jose Elivo-Jerez, a graduate student from Santiago de los Caballeros, Dominican Republic, who is working on a Master in Business Administration;
- Emily Fessler, a graduate student from Sheboygan, Wisconsin, who is working on a Master of Public Health;
- Cole Howerton, a senior from Conway, who is majoring in history.
The Citizen Scholar Award is given to students who have contributed to the university, advanced the university’s public affairs mission, and have significantly engaged in extra-curricular accomplishments and/or in significant service activities to the community.
Each recipient receives a crystal globe in recognition of the award, and their names are added to the Citizen Scholar Wall at Plaster Student Union on the Springfield campus.
For more information about the Citizen Scholar Award, visit StudentAffairs.MissouriState.edu/CitizenScholarAward.htm.