In just a couple of weeks, area high school students will converge on Missouri State University-West Plains (MSU-WP) for the annual Interscholastic Contest.
Developed in the early 1980s by university administrators, faculty and staff, the day-long event gives students the opportunity to test their knowledge in a variety of academic disciplines ranging from agriculture, science and math to speech, history and English.
“The Interscholastic Contest is one of the premier events hosted by our campus for area high school students,” MSU-WP Chancellor Dennis Lancaster said. “As a learning-centered institution, this event epitomizes what we do every day for our students to help them achieve their personal educational goals.”
Students compete as part of teams representing their respective high schools. The participating teams are divided into divisions based on school size. First-, second- and third-place teams are announced in each division. The overall competition winner is determined by a point system based on student scores irrespective of division.
“I coordinated this event for several years, and I can tell you the academic skills and knowledge displayed at the Interscholastic Contest impressed me year in and year out,” Lancaster added. “I’m thrilled that, after a brief hiatus due to the pandemic, we can offer this competitive opportunity to our area high school students again.”
This year’s contest, the 36th held by the university, will take place March 31. Members of MSU-WP’s Public Affairs Committee are coordinating the event to ensure its success by bringing together more individuals across campus to assist with its planning, according to Ana Estrella, assistant professor of biology/biomedical sciences and committee chair.
Our mission is to make the event one of the most, if not the most, important academic competitions in the region; therefore, teamwork is critical to coordinate effectively prior to, during and post event,” Estrella explained.
In addition to Estrella, committee members assisting with the contest’s planning include:
- Allied Health Instructor Jessica Barton
- Assistant Professor of Nursing Barbara Caton
- Assistant Professor of Nursing Lindsay Hill
- Allied Health Lecturer Carla Neff
- Darr Honors Program Director Alex Pinnon
- Associate Professor of Business David White
- Technology Lecturer Larry Noller
Students and school sponsors who have participated in the Interscholastic Contest in the past will notice several new features as part of this year’s event.
“As in previous years, the academic competitions will be divided in two sessions, at 9:30 and 10:30 a.m. This year, however, we would like our guests to have a taste of our campus community, so we are planning on having a barbecue and activities around campus before the award ceremony that will allow the high school students to interact with current students, staff and faculty and truly get a feel for what our campus community can offer them,” she added.
In addition to the 16 academic disciplines that normally make up the Interscholastic Contest, this year’s event will include two new areas – Flash Fiction and Philosophy and Religious Studies.
Students participating in the Flash Fiction contest will be shown an image then tasked with writing short story about the image, organizers said.
“The Flash Fiction contest will require students to be creative by developing a complete story of 200 to 400 words in response to a photo provided for the contest,” Estrella explained. “The Philosophy and Religious Studies category will consist of questions about topics normally encountered in introductory courses in philosophy, world religions and ethics.”
Reaching out to encourage participation
Some of these changes were made to help bolster participation in the contest. “After COVID, we lost contact with many school sponsors. This significantly impacted the participation numbers in last year’s contest,” Estrella said. “When we started planning this year’s event, our mission was to reconnect with schools that have participated in the past and to reach out to new ones.
“We decided to do a ‘campaign’ by phone and through email to identify sponsors for academic competitions in these schools. The efforts resulted in a list of 55 schools from south-central Missouri and north-central Arkansas, and invitations were sent on Feb. 10 to schools in Monett, Springfield, Branson, Marshfield, Doniphan, Rolla, Piedmont, Salem, Harrison, West Plains and many others,” she added.
Other activities available at contest
In between their tests, students can learn more about MSU-WP and its academic and program offerings from various booths and activities that will be taking place that same day in the Lybyer Technology Center and the Carol Silvey Student Union at Hass-Darr Hall. This includes the new Grizzly eSports program, Student Government Association and the workforce development office, to name a few.
“We don’t want our guests to just show up for a competition and leave. We want them to have the opportunity to network and to learn about our campus and what we offer here,” Estrella said.
Students also will have the opportunity to interact with the university’s social media accounts. They can post photos of themselves at the event using the #MSUWPInterscholasticContest hashtag on their social media accounts and tagging the university, and using the university’s SnapChat filter.
“We truly believe academics must be celebrated, and this is our way to do it,” Estrella said. “The Interscholastic Contest does not just provide students the opportunity to demonstrate their academic capacities, it also allows them to develop collaborative skills and connect with new people while having fun. We are looking forward to seeing the 2023 Interscholastic Contest participants on March 31!”
For more information about the contest and how to participate, contact Estrella at AnaEstrellaRiollano@MissouriState.edu or 417-255-7710; contest co-chair Alex Pinnon at APinnon@MissouriState.edu or 417-255-7965; or the MSU-WP academic affairs office at WPAcademics@MissouriState.edu or 417-255-7272.