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.

Brooke Bommarito

Building my Mizzou community began before I even got here in August 2017. I made my decision to come to Mizzou in late March of my senior year. Feeling like I was already behind, I took a chance and went on the Mizzou Class of 2021 Facebook page on the hunt for a roommate. Enter Hannah: my freshman year roommate, one of my closest friends to this day, and possibly my long lost twin. Everyone asked if we were sisters.

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Hannah is an integral part of my Mizzou experience. We were absolutely inseparable that first year, and even though our schedules keep us apart more often these days, we can’t help but keep each other up to date on the latest in our lives and we definitely feel the need to send each other a quick text when we are reminded of some inside joke from our year spent sleeping three feet apart.

I remember thinking, “Wow, I can’t believe I met someone all the way from Iowa that has become so important in my life! I’m so glad she also chose to come to Mizzou.” Little did I know, there were more of these important people to come.

I am forever thankful that the beautiful state of Colorado and my sorority brought me my best friend at Mizzou. Juliana is probably the most similar person to me on the planet. We instantly bonded over our love of How I Met Your Mother and our dangerous skills of procrastination, but our relationship as Big and Little became so much more. I go to her with anything and everything. We have been there for each other through the ups, the downs, and everything in between.

When the pandemic first began and Juliana was back in Colorado, we FaceTimed almost every day. She really kept me sane. I can always count on Juliana to be on my side and listen to me talk through my thoughts. Thankfully, being involved in the same organizations allows us to never run out of ways to stay in touch. I’ll miss Juliana tremendously once I graduate, but I know our friendship will last a lifetime.

Whether it be my sorority sisters I have lived with for two years now or my coworkers whom I love so dearly, there always seems to be some chance moment that brought us together. Mizzou is a small world. It has a way of just dropping people right in front of you, and in a matter of hours, you feel like you’ve known them for years.

These are the people you will live with, celebrate, laugh, cry, sing, dance and love with, and I am so grateful for the community I built. The fateful encounters that happen on this campus changed my college experience. I truly cannot imagine it any other way. I’m so thankful for the relationships I have made at Mizzou and I can only hope the same for you.

Carson Killday

Transferring to Mizzou was an adjustment. I realized there were so many activities that freshmen were offered. Coming in as a sophomore I noticed many people already have their groups of friends. However, I kept trying. I mean there’s 30,000 people in this school, surely, I can find my group.

Mizzou student Carson Killday stands in a grassy field, smiling at the camera

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I joined anything and everything I could. I joined the Venture Out Club, TEAM (Transfer Experience Advising Mentors), Business Ambassadors, and the Cornell Leadership Program. I was even interviewed and selected to serve on the Homecoming Steering Committee which was truly a highlight of my college career.

The people I met through these organizations are amazing people. But I was still searching for a special connection. My interview and eventual acceptance with Tour Team turned everything around for me. Tour Team is the organization on campus that gives tours to incoming students, and I cannot fully explain what this organization means to me. Naturally, it is full of exceptional and talkative people. I was instantly welcomed. Everyone there valued my transfer experience, but even more, they didn’t care. I wasn’t that “transfer” kid. I was someone who belonged to this organization, someone they fought to have, and someone who could make a difference on this campus.

Tour Team has given me experiences I could never have wished for. I joined them not only to find a group, but to also be an advocate for transfer students and other students who were going through the same struggles I went through. Never did I expect what I would receive in return. I truly gained a family. The people in this organization are so kind, caring, loving and supportive. I could never have imagined meeting this many people that cared so deeply for someone they had just only met.

Just to give an example: This past February, my father was found unresponsive at home. He was rushed to the hospital as I rushed back to Jefferson City. I remember being completely out of sorts and everything was a blur and I remember calling one of my coworkers, just trying to get the words out, letting her know that I could not come into work indefinitely. As I am holding back tears, struggling to get everything out, she just simply tells me to not worry about my job, focus on my family and that whatever I needed, she would be there. Following that horrible week of my dad being unconscious and on a ventilator, people from Tour Team were constantly checking in on me, whether it was text or call or just a simple message.

The amount of love and support I received was astounding, something I never expected from students in college. They were all there for me, even offering to drive 30 minutes to come and sit with me. Without that constant support, I do not know where I would be.

So, what has Mizzou given me? A home. A fresh start. And a family. Mizzou gave me Tour Team: an organization that made me feel at home, welcomed and supported. But Tour Team is just one of many organizations at Mizzou that can be the same for anyone else. There is a place for everyone here and an organization for everyone. It took me a few tries to find my group, but I found it. Mizzou taught me the value of that perseverance but also the value of getting involved.

If I could do it all over again, would I choose Mizzou? Well, my answer is two-fold. For one, the transfer experience and what I went through freshman year made me who I am today. What I went through strengthened my resolve and gave me invaluable experience. Yes, part of me would like to save myself from the pain of transferring, but part of me also thinks it was worth it. It made me a stronger individual who was ready to take on greater challenges.

Mizzou student Carson Killday smiles in front of The Columns, smiling, wearing his commencement cap and gown

My transfer experience was something that really helped me get on Tour Team, so would I have been able to join this organization without it? Who knows. All I know is life is full of regrets and the best way to live life is to the fullest and to take every chance. I took a chance on the first university I attended, and it did not work out. But I took a chance on Mizzou and it turned out perfectly. While I am sad I was not able to spend a full four years here, I am thankful for the experiences I’ve had at Mizzou, because I know if I had not had the courage to change my situation and transfer, I would be in an entirely different spot in life. I’m glad it’s worked out for the better.

Vaida Juma

Growing up, my parents stressed the importance of a college education to me and my sister from a young age. Going to college was not a matter of if, but when for us. We were excited to go. My dad made it seem like receiving a college education was like getting the golden ticket because education has the potential to open so many doors.

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I come from an immigrant background, so I was always reminded how privileged I was to be in the position to have so many choices. As I got older and was eventually in high school, I was not sure where I was going to go as far as school. Then I heard about this new college scholarship program called KC Scholars that was applicable to schools in the Kansas/Missouri area. I applied and ended up becoming a KC Scholars recipient, which helped me significantly with college.

While a junior in high school, I was a college ambassador. I would go on college visits often and one of those schools that year was Mizzou. I liked Mizzou, but at the time, I had my sights set on a completely different school that was closer to my home. It was not until I toured said ‘dream’ school that I realized it was not for me. I guess the saying is true, because I cannot remember a thing that was said during the visit, but I sure do remember how I felt. I didn’t really connect with the other campus, and I felt out of place on my tour, so I knew I had to consider my options. I also had some financial concerns about attending college.

As I was thinking about what schools to go to, I remembered how content I was on my tour of Mizzou. On Decision Day, I was set on Mizzou. Even though it was a bit farther away from home than I anticipated going — I was looking forward to it.

When Welcome Week came around, I was so excited as a freshman to take in all the campus had to offer. I was at every social and informational event that interested me on campus. I wanted to try everything. A large part of this was probably due to the fact that earlier in life, I tended to stick to what I knew and was afraid of trying new things. Throughout high school, I played the same sports, had the same friends, and even took the same type of classes as my older sister.

I think in my heart, I knew that I wanted more for myself, but I felt stuck and afraid of change. That’s why going away to a college where I did not know anyone felt liberating in a way, even though it was a little anxiety-inducing. There was the possibility that I could create a whole new life for myself, free from expectations and limitations that I or anyone else placed on me.

Since I’ve been at Mizzou, a common phrase I’ve seen around campus is, “You belong here.” Once during a presentation, the speaker asked us what the corners of campus were where we felt like we belonged. I thought of my friends that I met on campus. The African dance team I joined where I got to be my full self and celebrate African culture. The Black Pre-Law Students organization where I saw I had the opportunity to meet other Black people in the field of law where I want to be one day. And also Black Christian Fellowship, where I found an amazing community that helped me see my faith as something that can be liberating.

Emily Smith

I attended small, private schools in St. Louis for elementary and high school. As high school drew to a close, it was time to consider colleges. I wanted to branch out and get away from Missouri. I wanted to live in a big city and saw Chicago as a chance to start my life fresh as an adult. I thought the only way to grow up was to leave home and go somewhere far away. I was the epitome of the world-wise 18-year-old.

Oh, how wrong I was.

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Because there were three kids and lots of colleges to see, my parents had us look at every midwestern college, big or small, starting in my freshman year of high school. Of course, it was only a matter of time before they took me to Columbia for a campus tour of Mizzou. It was March and rainy on our drive from St. Louis to Columbia. I already knew I belonged in Chicago! I thought this tour was just going to be a waste of my time.

We sat through the academic presentation and I thought it was good, but the content was familiar to a high school senior. Afterwards, we were paired with our tour guides, Madison and Adam. That’s when things started to change. I related to my tour guides a lot, and I think that is what changed my mind.

First, they were both journalism students, and that’s been one of my greatest passions. It’s the field I always knew I was going to pursue. Next, they both told personal stories and gave advice that resonated with me. They encouraged us to get involved in as many things as possible to ensure we make the most of our time at Mizzou. They explained that getting involved in one organization at the start of freshman year causes a chain reaction that will lead to other opportunities down the road. They also encouraged us to soak up every second because it goes by so fast.

Madison said, “you have to see yourself in these buildings. Sitting in a lecture hall, working out at the rec and hanging out in the dorm. That’s how you’ll know.

I hate being wrong. But, I had to swallow my pride and admit I loved that tour and really could see myself walking this campus as a student. The second I got home, I applied to Mizzou. I was just so excited about the campus I took the virtual tour on the website. What a difference a day makes. My acceptance letter didn’t take long to arrive, and I was thrilled. This was the start of my journey as a Tiger.

The day of my tour, I knew two things: I wanted to be a Tiger and I wanted to be a tour guide. Today, I’m proud to say that I am both. I was lucky enough to be chosen for MU Tour Team my freshman year in 2019. I’m also a member of Delta Gamma sorority, where I served as chapter president in 2020. As of 2021, I am the newly elected Vice President of the Missouri Students Association (MSA). Not bad for someone who initially didn’t want to come here at all.

I’m proud to be a student here at Mizzou and a part of the first (and best) school of journalism in the world. I’ve grown so much since that day that I visited campus. It’s an honor that my job here is to do the same thing Madison and Adam did for me. I get to show students every day on tours that they too belong here and that great things are waiting for them on our campus.

Joshua Reneau

Growing up, I assumed going to college out-of-state would be easy. I’d watched both of my sisters leave our home state of Washington to do it, so how hard could it be? Turns out, it was harder than I thought…

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My freshman year of college presented some of the happiest and most memorable moments of my life—and also some of the most challenging ones. The highs of singing karaoke with my friends downtown and taking second place in MizzouRec’s sand volleyball league were contrasted with restless nights and frequent calls back home as I adjusted to an entirely new area of the country and living alone for the first time. As challenging as things seemed, I realized I was surrounded by resources and people on campus that went above and beyond to help.

Mizzou student Joshua Reneau stands in the hallway of a residence hall with a group of fellow freshmen, all smiling at the camera

On a particularly difficult morning, one of my journalism professors noticed me sitting on the steps outside of the building. She could tell I was upset. Despite the fact class was supposed to start in two minutes—which I reminded her as I stood up and tried to walk in the building—she sat down beside me to make sure I was ok. Class started five minutes late that day, but the time my Journalism 1300 professor took to truly check in on me are minutes I will never forget. In that moment she made campus feel so much smaller and so much more accessible to me. She was committed to helping me succeed and find my way at Mizzou. We ended up meeting every Thursday morning before class at B&B Bagels Downtown.

Throughout that first semester, I started to notice things I didn’t before. Even in this new place —a new campus in a new state —I always had people who loved me and cared about me, even if I couldn’t see it. As a senior, I just wish I could go back and tell my younger self, “Everything is going to be okay. Everyone struggles with different things at different times, but we’re stronger than we realize. Change is hard for literally everyone, but that doesn’t mean you should shy away from it.”

Whoever said moving away from your family and leaving your hometown would be easy was clearly not paying much attention. But when you become a Tiger, there’s always help just around the corner (or on the concrete steps outside your J-School building). Looking back, I’m grateful for all the moments—both happy and nerve-wracking—because they helped me grow and find a more unique love for myself; one that goes deeper than what I previously thought was possible.

This journey helped me change my major to Health Sciences, make new friends, join a fraternity, move downtown and even become a tour guide at the school that once seemed so big and unknown to me early on. I still have those moments of uncertainty, but I now know who to call if I need help. After graduation I’m hoping to be able to work in the healthcare field in either a clinical or administrative role and help others in the way that professor and my friends and family helped me. We all need it sometimes.

Madeleine Brownfield

The first thing I said after I graduated high school was, “I’ve peaked.” I loved high school just like the next over-involved high achiever. I was the captain of the swim team, drum major, had a great group of friends, and was even crowned homecoming queen. I couldn’t comprehend how my resume, friends, or life could get any better…

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I came to Mizzou with the idea that the transition into college was going to be a grand, life-changing journey, and suddenly I would have all of these friends I couldn’t live without, I would know what I wanted to do with my life and everything would just make sense.

For my whole life, I had envisioned following my mom’s footsteps and going to Mizzou. I actually never toured any other schools at all, I knew this was where I wanted to be. I expected the college experience I had imagined to simply fall into my lap. I didn’t seek out organizations to join, reach out to new people to befriend, or go after the experience I wanted.

Then my dad said to me, “Maybe you’re doing school wrong.” I realized that it’s my experience to make at Mizzou. This was my Mizzou turning point.

From that point on, I made a promise to myself to seek out every opportunity I could to make my Mizzou experience something I was proud of. I started seeking out clubs, going out of my way to meet new people, and pushing myself to step outside of my comfort zone. I decided to rush Greek life and was suddenly attending every basketball and football game with my new sisters.

Before long, I was back in my usual afternoon study spot in Ellis Library, only this time with my new friends from biochemistry club. At the end of my second semester, I was selected as a Top 14 Distinguished Freshman by the leadership honor society Omicron Delta Kappa. I felt like I was doing something right.

Ten members of the Mizzou tour team pose in front of the Columns with their arms around each other

I became enamored with the opportunities I was finding at Mizzou, the people I was meeting, and the experience I realized I was living. Eager to share my experiences, lessons, and love for Mizzou with others, I applied for Tour Team my sophomore year. This was the first big interview of my college career. After what felt like months of applications, interviews, and simply waiting patiently, I received a call and, to my surprise, heard a voice on the line screaming “Maddie Brownfield, do you want to be a tour guide?” As I sprinted to Jesse Hall to be greeted by all the current tour guides, I remember thinking, “Wow, I can’t wait to share this place I love so much with future Tigers!” I felt like I was home.

My junior year, I decided to study abroad in Thailand for a month in a biodiversity and marine conservation program. Marine biology had always been an interest of mine, but living in the Midwest, one could say I had a rather small pool of opportunities to immerse myself in. But this trip changed my life. I met the most inspiring people, both from Mizzou and Thailand.

While in Thailand, I spent time working on various conservation projects, largely focused around marine life. I helped conduct coral reef health surveys and even worked to create an entire underwater coral nursery. That feeling I was hoping for my freshman year of suddenly knowing what I wanted to do with my life? I felt that for the first time ever, and knew I wanted to pursue a career in marine biology/conservation.

Living in Thailand for a month working on conservation projects is an opportunity I couldn’t have even dreamed of before coming to Mizzou. When I returned to the U.S., I immediately got busy with another Thailand friend to co-found the first university-recognized marine conservation organization, Save Our Seas Mizzou. For the first time, I felt like I had found my purpose and my passion, and it’s all due to an opportunity Mizzou presented to me.

Mizzou student Madeleine Brownfield smiles at the camera while resting her hand on an elephant during her study abroad experience in Thailand

Going into my senior year, I was on Mizzou cloud nine. I was serving on my sorority’s executive board and was also serving as the Omicron Delta Kappa Top 14 Freshmen Coordinator – the very honor I myself was selected for as a freshman! In the fall semester of my senior year, I was nominated by my peers for the honor of applying for Homecoming Royalty top 10. After a paper application and numerous interviews, I received a call early one morning with a voice on the line exclaiming, “Congratulations, Maddie Brownfield! You are a part of the 2020 Homecoming Royalty top 10!” Oh, if only my high school self could see me now. I’d surely believe this was absolutely my peak.

If I hadn’t had the challenging start I did my freshman year, I may never have had the courage and desire to step out of my comfort zone and seek out opportunities to live out the college experience I had designed in my head. Four years ago, Mizzou was simply an idea. I had hoped to live a college experience I would be proud of, but had no idea how to do that at first. I had thought my peak and best days were already behind me. What I have learned from my time at Mizzou is that I have been hitting peaks along the way, but it’s not downhill afterward, the peaks just keep getting bigger.

My Mizzou experience can’t be boiled down to one event or position, but I see it in the way Mizzou’s values have been upheld. It’s been having respect for Mizzou’s long-held traditions like Homecoming. It’s been the pursuit of excellence in everything from a biochemistry major to a start-up marine conservation club of five people. It was the discovery of all of the opportunities Mizzou has presented me that have led me to become the person I am today. And it’s been my responsibility every day for these past four years to do all I can to create a Mizzou experience worth remembering.

Mizzou has become more than a place to me. Now, Memorial Stadium isn’t just our football field, it’s yelling “M-I-Z” no matter the score. Speakers Circle is more than a shortcut to class, but is a place to see student advocacy. The Columns aren’t just a staple of Mizzou, but they’re where I ran toward Jesse Hall as a freshman signifying my entrance into Mizzou, and where I will run through again a completely different person for Senior Sendoff. My time here has been both the greatest four years of my life, and the greatest four years to set me up for the rest of my life. As I graduate in May, this time around, I know I have yet to peak as I had previously believed. I know I am #MizzouMade, therefore the opportunities are endless and the adventure is just starting.