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UCM Honors Three for Exemplary Service in Education

By Alex Greenwood, May 17, 2024

Service in Education winners with UCM officials.

Left image: UCM President Roger Best with student winner Halle Theno. Center image: Faculty winner Dr. Melissa Abner with Dr. Best (left) and UCM Board of Governors Chair Ken Weymuth. Right image: Staff winner Jeff Murphy with Chairman Weymuth.


The University of Central Missouri recently recognized three individuals as part of an ongoing recognition program that exemplifies the institution’s long-standing motto, “Education for Service.” The 2024 honorees include student winner Halle Theno, faculty winner Dr. Melissa Abner, and staff winner Jeff Murphy.


The "Education for Service," motto has been central to UCM’s mission for nearly a century, guiding the preparation of students to become global citizens. This motto aligns with UCM's core values: Community, Diversity, Excellence, Learning, Opportunity and Service. The ethos of "Education for Service'' is sustained through the collective vision and commitment of the UCM community, making it essential to recognize those who exemplify this principle.


Student winner Halle Theno's nomination referred to her active involvement in Alpha Gamma Delta Sorority, the Association of Social Work Students (ASWS) and Phi Alpha National Honor Society (the national social work honor society) and highlighted her dedication to fostering a caring community. As the former vice president of chapter wellness for Alpha Gamma Delta, she collaborated with International Headquarters on member experience and growth, showcasing her leadership and commitment to the chapter's betterment.


Faculty winner Dr. Melissa Abner’s nomination focused on her extensive involvement in collaborative efforts across UCM and the broader community. She partnered with the Digital Learning and Instructional Innovation (DLII) team to integrate Extended Reality (XR) technologies into her teaching. Her activities include managing the UCM Fashion Shop, organizing UCM Fashion events and participating in the UCM Holiday Market for nine consecutive years.


Dr. Abner has been a dedicated member of the Earth Week committee for 12 years, contributing to the annual trash fashion show, which now exclusively features UCM students, staff and community members. Her collaboration with Career and Life Design includes providing style training for student coaches and organizing events for the Professional Clothing Closet. Dr. Abner also works with Success Advising to support student success and foster community within the fashion program. She is known for her approachable and open-door demeanor, making her a valuable resource for students.


Staff winner Jeff Murphy, who retired this May, dedicated nearly 35 years to UCM. His nominations highlighted his support of every department with his media, crisis and internal communication skills. Known for his collaborative spirit and commitment to the university's success, he actively engaged with new initiatives and shared them with the campus and news media. Hired in 1989, after working as a reporter and graduating from College High, Jeff was integral to the UCM community. 

Nominators stated that he “respected the university and effectively communicated its strengths, student and staff achievements, and economic impact on Missouri. Despite his long tenure, Jeff remained humble, open to new ideas and fostered a welcoming environment with his kind and humorous demeanor.”

Each year, a committee from the Office of Student Experience and Engagement selects a student award winner, the Faculty Senate chooses a faculty award winner, and the Staff Council picks a staff award winner. These award recipients are formally recognized at a spring Board of Governors meeting.


Nominations are evaluated based on detailed descriptions of how nominees embody "Education for Service" and UCM's values. 


To nominate someone, visit the website.



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