By Jeff Murphy, May 12, 2022
Recipients of the first Education for Service Awards at the University of Central Missouri are, from left, student Evelyn Neal, faculty member Dr. Julie Lewis, and staff member Amber Goreham.
WARRENSBURG, MO – For approximately 100 years, the University of Central Missouri’s “Education for Service” motto has embodied the essence of UCM, and exemplifies all that the institution does to prepare its students to graduate and enter the world as global citizens. In the spirit of this longstanding commitment, three individuals this spring were named recipients of the first Education for Service Awards.
Award presentations were made during a meeting of the Board of Governors om April 21. Evelyn Neal, a junior social work major from Independence, Missouri, was the first student to receive the Education for Service Award. Amber Goreham, director of the Career Services Center, was the staff recipient, and Julie Lewis, Ed.D., instructor of Digital Media Production and adviser to The Muleskinner student newspaper, was recognized as the faculty award recipient.
All three individuals were selected on the basis of nominations that were submitted to a committee that was created by the Office of Student Experience and Engagement. Beginning with these initial awards, the committee’s charge each spring is to select separate student, faculty and staff Education for Service Award recipients. Through their recognition, the university honors the individuals' commitment to values that relate to community, diversity, excellence, learning, opportunity and service, which go hand in hand with the institution’s “Education for Service” mindset and cultural way of life.
Recognized by her nominator as “someone who puts others before herself,” Neal has devoted numerous hours to community service and has used her voice and art to express social justice concerns and advocate for other individuals. Her efforts include volunteering at homeless shelters, school and neighborhood events. She has a special interest in working with at-risk children, and has taught preschool Bible study at church, and worked in the school district for before- and after-school care, in addition to volunteering with the Boys and Girls Club, and UpperRoomKC.
When many educational institutions, businesses and government agencies shut shut down in March 2020 due to COVID-19, she participated in Grab and Go lunch program for families in Independence. She spent time talking with the families about their concerns and needs, and delivering meals to them on a daily basis.
In April 2021, she organized an Easter egg hunt for families in need. An advocate for teens at-risk, Neal has worked with the House of Hope in Kansas City, a faith-based non-profit organization providing comprehensive residential treatment programs for teens who are hurting.
She has also served as an activist for the African American community in Kansas City, collaborating on and creating a Black Lives Matter mural along 18th and Vine. She aspires to establish a foundation which uses art to connect with at-risk families and children. She also used her skills as an artist to create a tribute for 13 fallen soldiers who lost their lives during a terrorist bombing that occurred am airport overseas as the U.S military was leaving Afghanistan. This led to Neal being featured on television news across the country. She then sought to get the paintings to the soldiers’ families and was able to deliver four of the images.
The nomination for Goreham described her as an outstanding campus leader who cares about the university community, students and alumni, having an association with UCM that expands more than 20 years. This association dates back to her days as an undergraduate student and a standout member of the Jennies bowling team.
Goreham has provided leadership working with her staff on projects such as the creation of the Career Services Professional Clothing Studio, an equitable and accessible resource that has served more than 800 students and provided nearly 2,500 donated clothing items that students can use for job interviews and other events that require professional dress.
She has encouraged everyone on her team, and others with whom she works, to be inclusive and respectful of diverse opinions, ideas and needs. This has been accomplished in collaborative efforts that include course sections of the former TRIO Career Readiness course, and through partnerships with THRIVE, where since 2016 she has championed initiatives such as 1:1 coaching, peer-led career readiness workshops, and specialized integration into the UCM Kickoff Experience. She also has worked with the Military and Veterans Success Center regarding employers’ recruitment of military-affiliated students and alumni, and the establishment of UCM’s first Hire a Veteran Fair.
During the past five years under Goreham’s leadership, the Career Services Center has engaged in curriculum planning for the Career Readiness course, Life Design course, and the Design Your UCM course. Compared to traditional Career Services models, these programs are transformational and holistic in their
approach in order to meet students where they are in their education. They help students to build confidence, establish life paths, and design their academic journey, while also building in opportunities for the university to improve and grow as a community.
Using tools and resources at the Life Design Studio, Goreham also championed a partnership with committees for the UCM Kickoff Experience to better advocate for student first-year experience(s) and the development of the Walk-in Studio Experience (WISE) that provides convenient and accessible in-person and virtual support for students.
As an educator and adviser to The Muleskinner, Lewis is described as someone “whose passion for assisting students to achieve success is refreshing and inspiring.” The nomination on her behalf noted that one of the biggest challenges she faces is providing students with the freedom to foster a community in the newsroom. By taking a hands-off approach, Lewis allows students a different level of freedom of expression to utilize their First Amendment rights, according to her nominator. While still ensuring ethical and legal guidelines are met, this freedom allows students to be comfortable and creative. The award-winning student newspaper also has achieved an atmosphere where responsibility, collaboration, communication and respect thrive, due to her work as an adviser.
Lewis also strives to ensure her students exemplify the university’s core values, which her nominator stated “are literally sticky notes around the room that were created during our editorial leadership retreat, and they include all of those elements.” They added, “The beauty, and also sometimes a challenge of the newsroom, is that everything anyone does affects other members of the team. If a story is late or missing, someone else has to fill that space. Being able to collaborate and communicate with one another creates a culture commitment to civic responsibility, and the emphasis on the act of service is that journalism creates a sense of global awareness within the newsroom, and team members develop an appreciation for diversity and inclusivity.”
As Lewis contributes to opportunities for students related to UCM’s core values, she works hard to ensure The Muleskinner fosters a collaborative learning environment. She and her managing editor worked together to restructure the student newsroom to establish the editorial leadership team. These students serve as section editors, but also serve as mentors for students creating content under specific categories. Anytime someone on the staff needs additional guidance, Lewis is available to have a one-on-one meeting with that individual, to organize a workshop or provide resources.
The Education for Service Awards were publicly announced in November 2021. To learn more, check out the news release on UCM’s News and Events page.