My Mizzou Story

Every Tiger has their own story, their own challenges and their own successes. Below, read the stories of some of the many students who make up the Mizzou family.

Amelia Wilson

Parks, Recreation & Sport | Bowie, MD

“Up until right before my senior year of high school, my plans were pretty set. I had been preparing for 13 years to be a basketball player, playing travel and AAU ball every year. That summer I suffered an injury that ended my hopes of playing college basketball, but I wasn’t about to let my story end there…”

Mizzou student Amelia Wilson smiles and holds a football toward the camera

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I grew up in a house full of football fans. I loved the sport so much that my high school PE teacher let me teach the unit on flag football to my peers. Doing that convinced me I wanted to become a football coach, and not just a recreational football coach – a National Football League coach.

I went to my PE teacher, Mr. Brown, and told him I was serious about becoming a football coach. He then contacted Coach Bush Hamdan, the Mizzou quarterbacks coach.

Coach Hamdan agreed to mentor me and I got the blessing from Coach Drinkwitz to come on board. It all happened so fast, and within a couple of months, I made the decision to come to Mizzou. I knew I was getting an amazing opportunity to work with the football team. It was basically a dream and when something like that opens up to you, you have to take a leap of faith.

Before I arrived on campus, I worked closely with my academic advisor. I told her I was going to be involved with football and needed my fall schedule to be flexible. She set up my schedule to make sure that I had all my classes before 1 p.m. Because after 1, I would be in the football facility until 8 or 9 at night. She was a huge help and still is to this day. I know I can go to her whether it’s for academics or just to talk.

The first time I was on campus was to start football practices and classes. The thing that really impressed me was that for an SEC school, the campus was not overwhelmingly big. Everything is within walking distance and is super easy to access. Everyone at Mizzou is nice, personable and outgoing.

I know to do my best I have to have a schedule and know what I need to get done each day. I am in the football offices, or at “work” with football, whenever I’m not in class.

Coach Bush and the entire team have accepted me with open arms, and I’m not treated any differently because I’m a woman. Together, we just want Mizzou to be the best team possible. We are all in the same mindset just trying to get better every day. While I’m learning in my classes about sports management, I’m learning a tremendous amount watching and working with the coaches and the team. I don’t think many coaches would say they learned much about their career from a football textbook, so the hands-on experience is important.

From an academic standpoint, I made the dean’s list in the fall, and so one of my academic goals is to make the dean’s list every semester so I can get those honor cords to wear at graduation. Then I want to get my master’s degree and live my life in a way that impacts the next generation.

I feel blessed to have this opportunity at Mizzou. I know a lot of women at the college and high school levels who are grinding and trying to make it. I’m fortunate that there is a network of women looking to help each other, and that there are men such as Coach Hamdan and Coach Drinkwitz who are willing to give me a chance.

Beyond classes and football, I’ve been able to build friendships and a find a support group through a local church. I also play intramural basketball once a week. Having those activities outside of football and academics helps me stay balanced.

Whatever you want to pursue in life, you’ve got to go and chase it. At Mizzou I’m forging a path and being a leader in a field not many women pursue. I hope I inspire other people to pursue their dreams.

Abby Still

Elementary Education | Columbia, MO

“I came to the realization that I didn’t have to leave the community I was already a part of to create a new one for myself. I had a conversation with my parents telling them I wanted to go to Mizzou — and I’ve never looked back.”

Mizzou student Abby Still smiles at the camera while standing on the Francis Quadrangle

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I’m originally from Columbia and attended Rock Bridge High School. While high school was great, I felt that I struggled to make my own personal community. When I first started weighing my decisions for college, I thought I wanted to get out of state and create a new community for myself — one where no one knew who I was.

After school one day, I remember just sitting in my room thinking, “Do I really want to leave Columbia? Does Abby want to leave for Abby or does she want to leave because she thinks she needs to?” I came to the realization that I didn’t have to leave the community I was already a part of to create a new one for myself. I had a conversation with my parents telling them I wanted to go to Mizzou — and I’ve never looked back.

Before coming to campus, I attended Summer Welcome. After a long day of new information and meeting new people, a few of my friends from high school and I decided to try a classic Mizzou tradition: jumping into Brady fountain. We walked over to the fountain near the Student Center and leaped right in. It was really cool to be able to do that with people I carried over from high school into my new life. It was an awakening that this was my opportunity to do things that I wanted to do. It really felt like the beginning of a new chapter for me.

When move-in day arrived, I remember pulling up in the circle drive of Hatch Hall with all my belongings and being so nervous. The first goal I created for myself at Mizzou was getting to know people. Once I started joining organizations and clubs, my experience at school really blossomed. They say when you join things, it can make a campus feel smaller, but for me, it made Mizzou feel even bigger. I was opened up to more opportunities and organizations than I could even imagine. I just went for it, even though it was scary and intimidating at first.

As a freshman in college, I encourage you to try the new things. Living a life where you’re comfortable can be great but living a life where you’re uncomfortable is rewarding. When looking at where to go to school, find somewhere that makes you feel passionate, excited and hopeful. You don’t have to put so much pressure on yourself. Find the place you feel like you could be the most happy, because at the end of the day, isn’t that what matters most?

Truman Gouldsmith

Accounting & Economics | Independence, MO

“One of my favorite parts of Mizzou is that I can walk from the Mark Twain residence hall to the Student Center or the MizzouRec center and always see someone I know.”

Mizzou student Truman Gouldsmith smiles at the camera while standing in front of Cornell Hall on campus

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With a name like Truman Gouldsmith, you’d probably think that all my ancestors were Mizzou graduates and I was born with Tiger stripes. The reality is my parents liked presidential names, and I was going to be named George until two hours before I was born. My mom saw a copy of the biography of Harry S Truman and decided that she liked that name better, and since it was still a president’s name, and we are from Independence, Missouri, where President Truman is from, it all made sense. I am a first-generation college student and don’t have any other connections to Mizzou.

I chose Mizzou because I was admitted to The Cornell Leadership Program (CLP) in the Trulaske College of Business. The CLP provides leadership development and honors-type experiences for students. The CLP also creates a small-scale environment within a big campus, offering opportunities to hear guest speakers, travel and learn from leaders in industry.

One of my favorite parts of Mizzou is that I can walk from the Mark Twain residence hall to the Student Center or the MizzouRec center and always see someone I know. With 30,000 or so students you wouldn’t think that is possible on any campus, but through organizations and activities on campus you get to know so many people and shrink the campus. I was very involved in high school in all the activities, math club, varsity tennis, NHS chapter president, but there is exponentially more to do at Mizzou. While here I’ve been in the Chess Club, on the Homecoming Steering Committee, Alpha Kappa Psi (Business Fraternity), CLP class coordinator, student ambassador for the Trulaske School of Business, and a counselor for Camp Trulaske (a new student program).

One of my teachers in high school always told us to “take healthy risks,” meaning to try new things and to get out of your comfort zone in safe ways. Then in my first accounting class at Mizzou the instructor reinforced this when he told us, “say yes.” He went on, “if someone invites you to play chess, say yes. If someone asks you to study after class, say yes.”

Some freshmen come in and think they have to be in every club or activity offered just like they might have been in high school. That is just too overwhelming. I’ve found that if you choose one thing your first semester, then that will introduce you to enough people with whom you’ll find other common interests, join other activities and pretty soon you are really busy and you can’t walk across campus without seeing someone you know. I started off my first semester joining the Chess Club. That led to finding people who wanted to play tennis.

It’s a similar situation with your classwork. A lot of students arrive at Mizzou from the top of their high school classes feeling overconfident in their academic abilities. I quickly had a humbling experience. There is so much to learn, and you must be open to that and not think you know it all. You go from being in school all day in high school, to maybe being in class 3-4 hours per day. It’s on you to figure out how to spend that extra time when someone isn’t telling you what to do. Along with how you spend your time, it’s important to learn how to monitor your money. If you don’t stay on top of where and on what you are spending money, it can get out of control quickly. Mizzou has an Office for Financial Success where they offer one-on-one financial counseling, workshops, and other resources. It’s great for learning to manage money during college, but it will also pay off once you graduate and navigate the adult world.

I’m really impressed that at Mizzou we are all on the same team. Everyone is a potential friend and someone you can connect with. I’m a regular at the Starbucks in the Memorial Union and within a few weeks I noticed the employees remembering my name and my usual order. Yes, there are a lot of people at Mizzou, but it is at the same time a close community. I was pretty rigid and uptight in high school but what I’ve learned Is that you don’t have to have it all figured out. You are not on your own, but with Mizzou’s help, you have the ability to be in charge of what you want to do.

Miyah Jones

Accounting & Economics | Nashville, TN

“As a 2020 grad, I didn’t get the full experience of graduating high school. I worked so hard for four years and got involved in so many clubs and organizations so I could wear the bright and colorful cords around my neck as I walked across the stage…”

Mizzou student Miyah Jones smiles at the camera while holding a sign that says "I choose Mizzou"

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…but then Covid came. However, it pushed me to look forward to college even more. I got involved at Mizzou and joined Summer Welcome, became the women’s basketball manager and more. In just a couple years, I’ll soon get to experience that long awaited feeling of getting to walk across the stage in my cords.

My family moved from Chicago to Tennessee and it was a big change for me. I had to adapt to my surroundings and thankfully most people welcomed me with open arms. It was challenging to go from being the smartest kid in my classes to being surrounded by other smart kids, and on top of that, there weren’t very many people that looked like me which was hard to get used to. My mom helped me a lot through that period of time in school. She would just remind me that everyone is equal and everybody deserves the same opportunities. I learned to take everything with a grain of salt and keep pushing forward. Her advice still helps me to this day, and my experiences are continuing to prepare me for my career in studying law.

I chose to come to Mizzou for a few reasons. I knew I wanted to attend an SEC school so I could get the most out of my education, and I knew Mizzou’s law school would be recognizable later on in my career. In addition to all that, I would get to be close to my dad who lives in Jefferson City. I remember growing up and visiting campus all the time when I stayed with him. One of my favorite memories with him was going to eat at El Rancho downtown. I’ve been so familiar with the campus since I was eight and it already felt like home, so I chose to come to school here.

Since coming to Mizzou, I have met so many amazing people and made such great connections. It really feels like home, and everyone is so welcoming. I used the resources when I first arrived to connect with my advisors and professors. Even President Mun Choi said hi to me at one point when I was leaving my class and I thought that was the coolest thing. Everyone really makes you feel at home at Mizzou and wants to see you succeed.

My advice for incoming freshmen is to follow your heart. Choose the college you think is best for you and where you feel the most at home. Be brave enough to step out of your comfort zone and get comfortable with the uncomfortable — you never know what will come out of it.

Holly Fessler

Nursing | North Chicago, IL

“I had absolutely no idea I was visiting Mizzou during Homecoming weekend. We came to town on Friday morning and the plan was to tour the campus and then head back home to Chicago for the weekend…”

Mizzou student Holly Fessler smiles at the camera while sitting on the base of one of the Columns on the Francis Quad

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Once on campus, our tour guide was so excited for us and the fact we decided to visit during Homecoming weekend. In his words, “It’s the best time to see Mizzou.”

My high school didn’t have a lot of school spirit, so it was really cool to see this at Mizzou. We ended up changing our travel plans so we could spend a little more time in Columbia and experience more of Homecoming at Mizzou. I was blown away by the fact that it wasn’t just college kids celebrating this weekend – it was all the alumni who came back and the little kids that came to campus decorations on Friday night. I loved that it really drew in everyone in the community.

I graduated high school with 1,000 classmates. Coming to a big university wasn’t intimidating. The classes I took in high school helped me figure out what I wanted to do for a career. I always loved my science classes. My senior year I was able to take both an anatomy and psychology class and those two classes helped me decide that nursing was what I wanted to do.

Seeing that the nursing school is in the center of campus was really important to me. It was the only school I visited where I wouldn’t have to drive three miles down the road to get to class. I loved that. Being a part of the community is really important to me. Mizzou was the perfect balance of everything I wanted. It was also helpful to learn that I could get in-state tuition as an out-of-state student. This was a big factor for me in my decision to choose Mizzou.

Admittedly, initially I chose to attend a different university. But I didn’t tell any of my friends about it and wasn’t really excited about my choice. On April 26, 2019 – I walked into my parents bedroom and told them, ‘I think I really want to go to Mizzou.’ They knew my initial choice wasn’t going to be the school for me. They love Mizzou as well and they were glad I figured it out on my own.

I’m on track to graduate from Mizzou this December and plan to move back to Chicago and work as a nurse in an Intensive Care Unit. I really want to be a travel nurse in a couple years.

Going away to college and taking on a career as challenging as nursing has allowed me to become much more independent. I’ve learned I need to make decisions that I am confident in and while you love those all around you, they can’t make your college choice for you just like they won’t be here to do your laundry and cook your dinner.

The same goes with your friendships and relationships. You need to make the decision that is best for you and recognize that your friends aren’t going to college with you. You will always have family and friends from home, but you need to allow your new college to become home, too.

J Jordan

Psychology | Aurora, CO

“While Mizzou is such a large school and there are so many students here, it feels small because you just see so many people you know walking around. Whether you’re walking to the student center or Ellis library to study, you’ll always see someone familiar and I love that.”

Mizzou student J Jordan

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I always knew I wanted to go out of state for college. I wanted to make new experiences and meet new people. I didn’t want my college experience to feel like high school all over again, so I applied to schools all over the country.

Mizzou wasn’t on my radar at first, but a Mizzou representative came to my high school in Colorado my senior year. I was the only one that went to her presentation. I remember sitting there and telling myself I had to act interested! We got to talking, and she showed me photos of the campus and the MizzouRec, and that’s what really drew me in at first. I was really involved with basketball and track during high school, so a rec center that nice was appealing to me. We also talked about downtown Columbia, and that’s when I realized how cool Mizzou would be to attend.

I am very organized, so I created an entire spreadsheet of schools I applied to with columns filled out for population, campus size, tuition and student to faculty ratios. Because I was able to talk with a rep one-on-one, I was able to get all my questions answered, and my pros and cons list spelled it out for me. At that point, I decided to come to Missouri and take a tour of Mizzou. My mom, sister and I all made the trip over from Colorado. We walked around campus and saw how beautiful it really was firsthand. After seeing the campus for myself, I decided I didn’t want to go anywhere else. I made my decision right then and there.

My favorite thing about Mizzou is the accessibility of it. I love that when Mizzou and the campus was built, downtown Columbia was built around it. When I give tours to incoming students, I always joke and so it feels like I’m in New York City since everything is so walkable. I don’t even have a car here — I just use my legs! While Mizzou is such a large school and there are so many students here, it feels small because you just see so many people you know walking around. Whether you’re walking to the student center or Ellis library to study, you’ll always see someone familiar and I love that.

When I first started classes, I didn’t get to stay long because of Covid. When we were able to return to campus after Covid initially hit, I had a goal for myself to get involved in as many things as possible. I was determined to put myself out there even more since I don’t have as much time as I would have normally had. I struggled a lot mentally being alone for an entire semester, so when I came back to campus, I had a goal of doing everything possible and got even more involved. I became a Summer Welcome leader, joined the tour team and more. I really wanted to make the most of my experience with the time I had left.

Creating relationships and making connections have been the most important aspects of college for me. Just knowing people is a huge part of life. In every organization I’ve gotten involved in on campus, it’s led me to networking with more people, which in turn led me to joining other organizations. For example, joining the tour team led me to meet people who are in admissions, which allowed me to further my connection with Kylie and travel to my hometown to give a Mizzou presentation just a few weeks ago.

It’s crazy to think two years ago I was just sitting in their seats listening to the presentation — now I’m presenting to them. It is so important to get involved and build relationships, especially in this stage of life you’re in now. You never know what may come out of it.

Makayla Garza

Biology | Shelbina, MO

“When I saw the Wildlife Pond that is part of the Botanic Gardens, Laws Observatory, and all the beautiful flowers and trees on campus, I fell in love. Mizzou has all these incredible traditions, like Tiger Walk, and it even created its own ice cream, which I think is really cool.”

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When I was looking at colleges, the one thing I knew for sure was that I didn’t want to go to college with the same people I went to high school with, and I thought too many of them would be at Mizzou. I had committed to another school and thought I was going there, but having to pay out-of-state tuition, being a first-generation college student and not getting any scholarships made me keep looking.

I visited Mizzou in April of my senior year and was accepted in May. When I saw the Wildlife Pond that is part of the Botanic Gardens, Laws Observatory, and all the beautiful flowers and trees on campus I fell in love. Mizzou has all these incredible traditions, like Tiger Walk, and it even created its own ice cream, which I think is really cool. I also liked that Mizzou offered American Sign Language as an option for students who need to take a foreign language. I have taken all three ASL classes.

The initial adjustment my freshman year was challenging. It was so different from high school. I had some anxiety adjusting and fitting in, but there are so many resources to help with that, and it’s important to remember that everyone is going through big changes.

One of the ways I got involved was to sign up to be a tutor at the Academic Success Center. I tutor biology, chemistry and other life sciences. I’m also involved in Tri-Beta (Mizzou’s biology honors society), the Multicultural Society, the Association of Pre-Physician Assistant Students, The Mizzou ASL club, Med-Zou, and I’ll be a Summer Welcome leader this summer.

Through Summer Welcome, I hope I can help first-generation and minority students understand all the resources at Mizzou and encourage them to use those resources to help find their place here. It’s important to know that whatever challenges you might face in adjusting to college and being on your own, there is someone, and probably many people, going through the same thing.

Plus, Mizzou has caring faculty and staff who want you to succeed. It is competitive in a certain sense, but the professors, staff, and even your fellow students want you to succeed. I was really impressed that Dr. Watts and his teaching assistant Lauren reached out and checked on their students during the pandemic, reinforcing that they were more concerned about us as people than just as students.

When I arrived at Mizzou, I was shy and introverted. I pretty much just studied in my room a lot freshman year. You don’t want to go overboard either direction, but you need to find a balance between studying and having fun. The past two years, I’ve done much better at enjoying college life. Last summer, I became a licensed Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). I’ve worked at MedZou Community Health Clinic, which has professors and medical students providing free primary health care to members of the Columbia community. I update charts, check out equipment to the doctors, and do inventory, which has allowed me to learn more what a career in medicine will be like. Working at MedZou and being an EMT have prepared me well to begin applying to physician assistant schools.

After being close to going elsewhere, I am thankful for the opportunities to apply what I’m learning in the classroom to prepare for a medical career. I’m so glad I came to Mizzou.

Amelia Hurley

Journalism | St. Louis, MO

“Until October of my senior year, I told myself I wasn’t going to stay in Missouri for college… but then I fell in love with journalism. I knew it was something I would be happy doing for the rest of my life and what better school is there than Mizzou for journalism?”

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I still remember the exact moment I knew I wanted to come to Mizzou. I was visiting my friends that were already attending, and we were sitting in Memorial Café, catching up. I looked out the window and saw a journalism student taking videos and another student doing an interview. I wasn’t used to seeing that happen in my hometown. I knew Mizzou was an accepting environment, and I automatically knew this is where I belonged. Before I committed, I also had the opportunity to take a tour. Everyone was so welcoming, and I don’t know how else to describe it other than that I felt that I was surrounded by warmth. It just felt like home to me.

There is so much support and knowledge at Mizzou that I have learned from other students. When I began classes, I felt like I wasn’t going to be good enough, especially being surrounded by the best journalism students in the country. However, the longer I’ve been here, I realize that’s not the case at all. We’re all getting through college together and learning together, not competing. You have so much freedom to learn here and so many opportunities to take advantage of through the Missouri Method.

As you figure out your own journey, a piece of advice is to stop rushing and take it all in. I was so involved in high school, and it felt like my experience was over in the blink of an eye. That can so easily happen in college, too. Soak in every moment you can and cherish every experience, because these are the stories you’re going to be telling your friends in the nursing home someday.

Chloe Brewer

Social Work | Kahoka, MO

“I’ve been so impressed that a university this big can have moments and people that make it feel so much smaller. I’ve had great professors who have confirmed for me that Mizzou is right where I need to be.”

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I did not have a great experience in high school, and I certainly didn’t love high school. I didn’t feel like I fit in. I was involved and all that but coming from a small high school in a small town I sought more diversity and more diversity of thought, especially. Although my mom graduated from Mizzou, and I was actually born in Columbia, I didn’t grow up as a big fan or spend a lot of time here.

But when I visited in fall of my senior year, it just felt right. I knew Mizzou was where I needed to be. I was ready to commit right then. I felt this immediate connection because everyone here is so friendly. There is a place for everyone here and I found my people quickly. There are many people here with different experiences and world views.

One of my first opportunities to see the world from a different perspective was with Mizzou Alternative Breaks my freshman year. My work with disadvantaged schools led me to the social work major. There is so much need in the world, and so many things that should be fixed. The world needs helpers and those willing to push for change.

That trip made me realize I want to work with adolescents and teens. I also want to get involved in policy to help make changes that benefit teens. Getting involved on campus has been so important for me. As the leadership development director for Mizzou Alternative Breaks, and as an ambassador for the School of Health Professions, I’m trying to create a welcoming place for incoming students so they can find their own spot here.

It’s important for students to recognize that life in college is going to be okay. You don’t have to know everything at once. Once you get on campus, go to office hours of professors, ask questions, talk to people. Mizzou is so welcoming, but you must reach out and get involved.

Kathryn Butler

Health sciences & pre-physical therapy | Bethalto, IL

“Mizzou has taught me that I’m stronger than I thought I was. Now I know I can conquer anything that comes my way. I’ve learned I can be a leader even when I get pushed out of my comfort zone.”

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Although I went to a tiny high school with only 50 in my graduating class, I wanted something bigger. I narrowed it to colleges within a 3-hour driving radius, and that included the closest SEC and Big 10 schools. My list consisted of schools in Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana. I first toured Mizzou during a family vacation my junior year, and though I really liked the campus, I wasn’t in college choice mode yet. Then, senior year, Mizzou was the first campus I toured.

From then on, every campus I visited I found myself comparing to Mizzou. My younger brother, Nathan, tagged along for all of my college tours and pointed out, “every school we visited after Mizzou, you compared to Mizzou and always had reasons why Mizzou was better.” He was right — I absolutely did fall in love with Mizzou and committed in November of my senior year.

Things that stood out to me about Mizzou included the campus in the fall, the Quad, the trees, and being able to walk across campus in 15 minutes. Once here, I quickly discovered the best things about Mizzou are the academic resources at the Student Success Center. My freshman and sophomore year, I probably met with tutors three times a week. They helped me so much, and I don’t think Mizzou students use these resources as much as they should. It’s important to reach out for help before it is too late. I’ve learned there is nothing wrong and no shame in asking for help.

I’ve lived through the pandemic and challenging classes my first two years, and Mizzou has taught me that I’m stronger than I thought I was. Now I know I can conquer anything that comes my way. I’ve learned I can be a leader even when I get pushed out of my comfort zone. I’m on the Tiger Tour Team, I teach cycling classes at MizzouRec, I’m a member of Kappa Alpha Theta and I volunteer with Best Buddies, an organization that pairs those in the Columbia area who have intellectual or developmental disabilities with Mizzou students in the hopes of forming meaningful friendships.

While I’ve learned I can accomplish a lot, I’ve also become aware that it is possible to take on too much. What has really surprised me the most is that while Mizzou is a big SEC school, there is so much that makes it feel like a community. When the pandemic hit during my freshman year, one of my professors, Dr. Nancy Z., would reach out and check on us individually and see how we were doing. She really cared about our mental health and helped us process what was going on.

Dr. Greg C. in Rehabilitation Science is so passionate about the subject and has given me names and locations where I can job shadow physical therapists. Plus, he gives us real-world examples about what graduate schools prefer in candidates. In addition to caring about you, everyone also wants to see you succeed. I’m planning to work with the Writing Center and the Career Center to work on my physical therapy school applications.

Now that I’m preparing for my last year at Mizzou, I should note that all those campus tours I went on four years ago made an impression on more than one person in my family: Nathan will be a freshman here in the fall.

Want more? Check out our Tiger tales from last year!

My Mizzou Story Archive