By Jeff Murphy, May 9, 2016
WARRENSBURG, MO – In a weekend that brought thousands of people to the University of Central Missouri, 11 students who helped trailblaze a new nationally recognized pathway to higher education were part of the record-breaking 2016 Spring Commencement Exercises.
The first cohort of students to enter The Missouri Innovation Campus participated in the Friday evening, May 6, undergraduate ceremony for the College of Health, Science, and Technology. A near-capacity crowd attended the festivities in the Multipurpose Building, the site for five different commencement events over Friday and Saturday . University President Charles Ambrose presented the commencement remarks at each ceremony, and more than 2,370 undergraduate and graduate students qualified for graduation.
“This May’s Commencement is very special to our institution because we have been together to see the incredible things that are occurring across the entire UCM community,” the university president told students attending the Friday evening event. “Our collective commitment is allowing things to happen across our campus that set a positive example for public colleges and universities across the country. Not only have we spent these years together – but this spring’s graduation represents the largest number of graduating students in the life of the university. This is a major accomplishment for you as you complete your degree and for our region and as we lead Missouri in increasing educational opportunities for more individuals to meet state and national goals for attainment.”
About an hour prior to the Friday ceremony, Ambrose joined MIC students for a graduation reception at the Achauer House at UCM. It was an opportunity to congratulate the students, visit with their parents, representatives of the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District’s Summit Technology Academy (STA), and others who helped make the program possible.
The students were around 16 years old at the time they entered The MIC during the summer of 2012 between their sophomore and junior years, joining the unique program’s first cohort. Since then, The MIC has grown dramatically while gaining regional and national attention for providing students with a valuable, affordable education and connecting businesses with a skilled, career-ready workforce. The first cohort of students graduated from high school in 2014, earning their associate degree from Metropolitan Community College immediately after high-school graduation. On May 6, the 11 members of the first cohort received four-year degrees from UCM -- just two years after graduating from high school.
Located within the STA, The MIC is a partnership involving the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District, Metropolitan Community College and UCM. By engaging business partners and community organizations, The MIC is able to accelerate the time it takes students to earn higher-education degrees. They also graduate from college with little or no college debt, and they benefit along the way from internships with high-tech companies.
First-cohort members earning their bachelor’s degree in systems engineering technology,
their high schools and their internship companies included: Glenn Banhart, Odessa
High School, Saint Luke’s Hospital; Trevor Brixey, Blue Springs High School, Cerner;
Quinn Cosgrove, Lee’s Summit West High School, DST; Brian Green,
Lee’s Summit North High School, Cerner; Jamison Guilford, Raymore-Peculiar High School, Cerner; Joseph “Joey” Nooner, Lee’s Summit West High School, Cerner; Matthew Orson, Lee’s Summit West High School, R-7 School District; Nate Orson, Lee’s Summit West, DST; Max Ostrander, Lee’s Summit West, DST; Michael Robertson, Lee’s Summit High School, Cerner; and Keaton Thomson, Lee’s Summit West, Saint Luke’s Hospital. Robertson graduated cum laude, and Green graduated magna cum laude.
“Seeing the first cohort of MIC graduate from UCM is one of the highlights of my long career in education,” said Elaine Metcalf, STA director. “The collaboration that went on behind the scenes to pave the way to less debt, a college degree and gainful employment in a high-demand field is the epitome of college and career preparation program. I am so proud of the MIC graduates and their accomplishments.”
President Ambrose also noted, “The graduation of MIC students represents a tremendous milestone for all of the MIC partners. We applaud our students for being trailblazers on this new pathway to a higher education, and we’re grateful for the support they received from their parents, teachers, corporate managers, and others who have helped make it possible for them to succeed in this rigorous but outstanding program.”
Missouri Innovation Campus graduating seniors praised the program for providing them with this one-of-a-kind opportunity.
“The MIC experience for me has been amazing,” said Trevor Brixey. “I wouldn't be anywhere close to where I am at today. This program has given me knowledge on what it's like working at a big company as well as acquiring a job at the company. This program allowed me to get an education as well as I wouldn't have been able to afford school without it. It will be an experience I will never forget and am so glad to be a part of the history of MIC.”
“MIC has meant going from a college degree to a job offer in some of the biggest industries Kansas City has to offer,” said Joey Nooner.
Quinn Cosgrove added, “MIC was a great way to get an education while getting real-world experience. It has been very beneficial to me and my future.”
The Missouri Innovation Campus was recognized by President Barack Obama during a visit to Warrensburg in July 2013 and has been cited as a model program by state and national leaders.
Of the first cohort, 91 percent of the students were offered full-time employment with an industry-leading company by the time they received their bachelor’s degrees. Several MIC graduating seniors, who are all approximately 20 years old, have shared their job offer salary ranges which are roughly $35,000 to more than $60,000 annually.
Through The MIC, students have the opportunity to earn bachelor’s degrees in systems engineering technology, drafting and design technology, computer science and cybersecurity. There are currently 85 students enrolled in The MIC and 40 business partners participating in the internship program.
Thanks to a unique partnership with UCM and a voter-approved bond issue, The Missouri Innovation Campus will soon have a new home. Located on 15 acres near Ward and Tudor Road in Lee’s Summit, the new 140,000-square-foot facility is scheduled to open in August 2017. The approximately $40 million facility will house The MIC, R-7’s Summit Technology Academy and programs currently housed at UCM-Lee’s Summit.
“Our partnership with UCM has been a win-win for our students as well as our taxpayers,” said David McGehee, Lee’s Summit R-7 superintendent. “By sharing resources with the university, we are saving money for both organizations. This partnership allows us to build a state-of-the-art school that will positively impact our students and our community for decades.”
Through the school district’s partnership with UCM, Lee’s Summit R-7 is paying approximately 40 percent toward the new school with UCM paying the remaining 60 percent. Based on an agreement between both organizations, the R-7 School District will be the sole owner of the facility with UCM paying its portion through a rental agreement.
(This news release was a joint effort between UCM University Relations and Janice Phelan, executive director of communications, Lee’s Summit R-7 School District.)