Blum sees renovations

Those walking through Blum Union this semester may notice a few changes to the student union. Over the summer the upper floor received a makeover that SGA and the Student Affairs Office hope will make it easier for students to access resources in that area. “We see students from this office all the time come upstairs and not know where to go,” said Shana Meyer, Vice President of Student Affairs. “It was barricades to involvement. People didn’t know about the services that we had, and we know that when students get involved and engaged on campus, they’re more likely to persist and be retained.” Renovations were made to the Center for Multicultural Education, Center for Student Involvement and International Student Services Offices in an effort to make each office more accessible and visible to students. The renovations include large storefront windows, new carpeting and new paint for the offices. To Ann Rahmat, Director of International Student Services, these changes provide a more private space for international students to seek advice and feel at home. “For us, we basically want to make it into a safe place for international students- make it where they really feel like it’s a home, where they can be comfortable,” Rahmat said. “[Students] have always been welcome, it’s just that we’d be giving them more space to be able to be more comfortable in that space.” This new space is being completely funded by Student Success Act dollars. The Student Success Act (SSA) is an act that charges students $25 to $75 per semester to maintain and improve the quality of university programs and services like the International Student Services. The renovations were approved by the committee presiding over SSA in April. A new memorandum of understanding for SSA was also approved in April, allowing the money to individually fund student services. “The committee is comprised of both faculty members and student members,” Meyer said. “They worked through a ton of different options for where the funding might go. Funding was originally allocated to the union a couple of year ago, but it was just a process that we really had to work through as far as ‘what are we going to use this funding as a whole for?’” The renovations for Blum ended up costing $196,164 out of a $440,000 budget. With full-time students paying $150 per year, it would take around 1,300 students to raise these funds within a year’s time. Whether or not that many students will benefit from the renovations they are funding is to be seen. Student body president  Alec Guy thinks the money could have been used on a number of projects around campus and that this project was worth the cost. “I do think that it’s a good use of money,” Guy said. “In terms of other  projects and things like that, we just recently changed SSA  to go to different student services on campus and actually provide them with more funding. So I think there are plenty of uses for this money that would benefit students, and I think this is just one of the many that will have a great impact on students and improve Missouri Western.” Gillian Evans, SGA’s director of public relations, believes students deserve to have access to the services in Blum and believes these renovations will make that access easier. “We’re paying fees to have those services there, and nobody even knows about them,” Evans said. “I was one of these kids, where’s it’s kind of intimidating getting involved. You don’t really know how to or where to, and then you hear about all these services that are there and these offices that are there for students, but whenever you’re a student and you can’t really navigate where to go, it’s very frustrating.” Students and faculty members alike are hopeful that the renovations will be able to give more opportunities for students to get involved. “You can’t make people get involved, but you can certainly make it easier,” Evans said. While the choice to get involved on campus is ultimately up to the students, Guy believes SGA still has work to do to promote the new space before involvement increases. “I think it will be a lot on SGA’s shoulders, so to speak, to kind of get students to come upstairs and see the services that are up here,” Guy said. “So I think that the renovations themselves will help, but we also have to publicize it and kind of let students know that it’s been renovated.” According to Guy, SGA has not made any plans to publicize the renovations yet, but will be discussing options further into the semester.

Business school hosts Entrepreneurship Week

This week is Entrepreneurship Week here at Missouri Western. Sponsored by the Center for Entrepreneurship and Alpha Kappa Psi, Entrepreneurship Week is a series of workshops and lectures for both students and community members interested in learning and strengthening key business skills. Annette Weeks, director of the Center for Entrepreneurship, and the center’s advisory committee have been planning this week for months with the goal of cultivating skills but also for raising awareness. The Center for Entrepreneurship is relatively new to campus, and Weeks believes few students know the center is an open resource for all. Weeks is hoping that throughout this week, student awareness and engagement about what the center offers will be the biggest result. Jomel Nichols, director of public relations and marketing, is a member on the advisory committee and said this week will also serve as a means of community outreach and training. Community members, like Ken Lippincott of New York Life Insurance, already work with the center by sending interested clients to Annette Weeks, where she is then able to aid with her resources. However, the events being held this week are a part of the key resources Weeks provides, but are available to anyone interested on a much larger scale. The first-ever Entrepreneurship Week has had two successful days so far, and many more events are planned for the remaining three. Monday started the week’s festivities with two workshops, “Artists as Entrepreneurs” and “How to Write a Business Plan.” The former focused on the connection between entrepreneurship and aspiring artists and was hosted by Dean of the Craig School of Business Michael Lane and Dean of the School of Fine Arts Bob Willenbrink. According to Nichols, the turnout was much higher than expected. There was standing room only with over 50 engaged students and community members. On the other side of campus was another workshop with an equal attendee turnout giving tips to those on successful business plan writing. Tuesday included a free breakfast in the Kit Bond incubator highlighting the increasing role of technology in business. Three other workshops explored key business skills, from taxes to social media, on Tuesday as well. Students are encouraged to attend the center’s events on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Wednesday morning at the East Hills Library, attendants can get coffee and learn about two businessmen’s recent journeys into local entrepreneurship. Thursday, there are additional workshops open for all, and Friday morning Steve Craig, successful entrepreneur and sponsor of Western’s business school, will be on campus to speak to students.

Pride Alliance pushes for gender neutral housing

Western could soon see change in residential housing options. Western’s Pride Alliance and Residential Hall Association have been working hand-in-hand to propose the university designate a select number of gender neutral dorm rooms. Pride Alliance President Kate Chapman feels that creating gender neutral dorms will allow students to feel safer on campus. “My freshman year I met this person that first told me they identified as a man, but as I further got to know them they told me they prefer feminine pronouns and had, more overall, identified as a feminine person. It had gotten to the point where they were trying to come out more, but they did not feel safe within their own dorm room,” Chapman said. Chapman described the student's discomfort as not feeling safe to shower in their own dorm room because of conflict with their roommate. “A couple weeks later, they ended up dropping out. So, it's just one example of school push out when it comes to a minority such as the gender nonconforming, because of that and knowing more transgender people that have either faced discrimination or have been pushed out. It is clear that keeping them in their assigned-at-birth gender room is not proper,” Chapman said.   Although no definite paperwork has been presented to university administration, Pride Alliance has gained support from SGA as well as the general student body. Jordan Booth, president of the Residence Hall Association feels the change is necessary to make Western a competitive option for incoming students.   “We met with a bunch of other universities and almost every universities in the midwest region has transgender housing, or they are pushing for it as well. We are one of the last schools to get on the bandwagon, so we have support from every other campus out there,” Booth said. “This is something state funding looks at as well, so this allows us to get funding for the university as well as make sure we are on par with every other campus out there.”   While the deadline to set aside gender neutral dorms for the Fall of 2016 has passed, Director of Residential Life Nathan Roberts is happy to help individual students. “RHA reviews [the proposal] and at that point, it depends on the timeline of the housing cycle. I have worked at a variety of institutions that have had transgender housing. Typically, they are looking for a private room, to go through whatever situation they’re in, and whenever they are in their process and that they have the privacy to go through that without prying eyes. Which we can accommodate that pretty much with any of the halls.  Roberts is hopeful that students will feel comfortable talking with residential life to help the university better accommodate the students' needs. “We usually can make accommodations, if folks want to make the requests; I’m not always sure what their requests are, or what their needs would be, but I’m happy to listen and see how we can best accommodate them,” Roberts said.   If the petition is approved, Pride Alliance is in hopes of creating gender neutral dorm rooms by the Fall of 2017. “There will always be a stigma, but by giving [students] an area in which they can truly express themselves, you give them the opportunity to no longer have to hide away in the closet,” Chapman said.  

The Western ‘Talking Catbirds’ win big with state championship

Some students have extreme athletic talents and compete in sports; others can draw or write masterfully and enter into national contests; while others still have the talent of speaking fast and dominating discussions. Two of Western’s “fast talkers” proved their meddle at Webster University over the weekend by winning a state championship in Parliamentary-style debate. Chris Miles, junior, and Casey Huffman, freshman, stole all 10 ballots over the course of three preliminary rounds, semifinals and finals, a feat that is “very rare.” “It was amazing, really,” says Miles, referencing the feeling of winning a state competition. “Starting the tournament off, we really had no clue where we might end up.” The Western team’s accomplishment is even more impressive considering the fact that Miles and Huffman had never competed together before. Miles typically debates with Western debate star Michael Smith, junior. “Mike and I are very fast, technical debates,” notes Miles. “Local tournaments like this one typically have more lay-type judges, who don’t like fast, technical debates. So, we decided that Casey and me might have a better skill set in winning Missouri judges.” Going into the tournament, the two knew that their changeup could prove risky. “Starting off, I thought one of two things would happen— we’d either win the all in a landslide, or everything would fail and we’d come home with nothing to show for our work,” Miles remarked. “But, after three straight wins in prelims, I knew it was gonna snowball.” The championship sweep was a victory not only for the students, but also for Western explains Jason Edgar, Missouri Western's director of speech and debate. “Chris and Casey shined at the State tournament," commented Edgar. "Winning Missouri Western's first ever State Championship in Parli is great, and it's even better that we did it with a 10-0 undefeated record.” But, Miles and Huffman were not the only shining stars from Western at the tournament. Edgar was named “Coach of the Year” in Missouri for being one of two coaches of a team that earned a first round bid to the National Parliamentary Tournament of Excellence, a prestigious, invite-only debate competition.