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Building schools with yoga mats: the story of Ashley Celey-Butlin

Posted by on Jan 5, 2017 in Alumni, Featured Story, Online Education | 1 comment

Building schools with yoga mats: the story of Ashley Celey-Butlin

This feature was published in the latest edition of Affinity Magazine! Click here to check out the magazine in its entirety. 

By Ann Muder

Last year, as Ashley Celey-Butlin ’13 prepared for a backpacking trip through Asia with her fiancé, she knew she’d experience a different culture and way of life.

She didn’t expect she’d use the trip to start up a yoga mat company to help build schools in India. Celey-Butlin had just quit her job in the real estate business and was contemplating her career goals. She thought the six-month backpacking trip would help her regroup. “I thought ‘getting away from it all’ might be rejuvenating,” she says. “It was an opportunity to unplug and figure out my next step.”

A couple of months before her trip, Celey-Butlin met with the founder of Change Heroes, an online fundraising platform. He inspired her to use her business knowledge for social entrepreneurship.

“I had been spending a lot of time at my yoga studio, nurturing my passion for yoga,” she says. “It was about two weeks before my backpacking trip when the idea for FlowMats hit me full force. Then everything just fell into place.”

As she and her fiancé embarked on their trip, Celey-Butlin began researching how to create the company. She decided to team up with the nonprofit organization Free the Children (now WE Charity) after researching different nonprofits. The group helps improve access to education by building schools in poverty-stricken areas of India.

“I think one of the most difficult things to determine is how to effectively solve global poverty,” she says. “I don’t have all the answers, but I believe education is one of the most important areas where we can invest.”

After an extensive online search, she found a manufacturer that could work with a small business and allow her to offer a reasonably priced product. After emailing back and forth with several manufacturers, she chose one based on their values and commitment to the environment and ethical labor practices.

Then she worked with the manufacturer on the mat’s design. In particular, she wanted it to include diagrams of yoga poses called sun salutations.

“I was working on establishing a home yoga practice for myself and thought it would be helpful to have the poses on my mat so that I wouldn’t need to look at a video or other diagram,” she says. “Having the poses embossed on the mats helps keep you focused on your practice, not distracted.”

The diagrams also show when to breathe in and out with each pose. The “empty” figures indicate exhales, and the filled-in poses are inhales.

“Learning when to inhale and when to exhale is the difference between a mindful practice and an unsafe or scattered practice,” she says. “Yoga is more about breath than movement.”

As she made her way through Southeast Asia and India, Celey-Butlin finalized her business plans. According to her company website, she received the first prototype while in Laos; the first payment was sent to the manufacturer from a “spotty Internet connection from a hostel rooftop in Cambodia.” She launched the website as she was completing yoga teacher training in India.

Today, the yoga mats have sold in more than 20 countries and are now sold on Amazon. Nearly 100 percent of the profits go directly to the nonprofit mission, she says, so to help recoup costs, the company also sells yoga bags.

By the fall of 2016, nearly 500 mats and more than 300 bags have sold. When 1,000 mats are sold, the money will be donated to Free the Children to build a school for more than 1,000 children in India.

“Once all the mats and bags are sold, we will have raised the necessary funds to start construction,” she says. “My goal is to gain momentum with the brand on Amazon and hopefully expand my mat offerings.”

Celey-Butlin says Columbia College played an integral role in giving her the self-confidence and skills needed to be an entrepreneur. “Completing my degree online in eight-week sessions with Columbia College showed me that given enough self-motivation and time management, I can really do anything,” she says.

If you would like to purchase a yoga mat or bag from FlowMats, visit Amazon.com. Use the code COLUMBIA, and you’ll get 10 percent off your entire order from FlowMats. The code is one per person and never expires.

CC Focus: Jason Jameson ’08

Posted by on Dec 27, 2016 in Alumni | 0 comments

CC Focus: Jason Jameson ’08

Standing in Gov. Jay Nixon’s chambers at the state Capitol in Jefferson City on Nov. 28, 2016, Jason Jameson couldn’t help but feel a little out of place.

Jason Jameson ’08 was awarded the Missouri Medal of Valor at the Capitol on Nov. 28, 2016. Jameson is a former sergeant in the Boone County Sheriff’s Department who is now in the police academy in Arlington, Texas.
(Photo courtesy of Carsen Sikyta/Columbia Missourian)

Jameson, who earned his bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from Columbia College in 2008, was one of 10 public safety officers from around the state of Missouri at the Capitol that day, for a ceremony in which Nixon awarded each a Medal of Valor for actions undertaken in the line of duty in 2015.

For someone as humble and unassuming as Jameson, all that attention was appreciated, yet unusual.

“There were guys that literally ran into burning buildings with no protective gear on,” Jameson said. “To me, that’s a hero. What I did was just my job.”

Jameson, a former sergeant in the Boone County Sheriff’s Deputy, earned his medal for what he did on the night of Feb. 28, 2015, when he shot and killed a man who was on the run after being suspected of killing three people just outside of Columbia earlier that day.

“It’s one of those things where every cop, you plan for the worst and hope for the best,” Jameson says. “I spent 12 years of my life training for that exact scenario and hoping it never happened.”

Now, Jameson is in the middle of police academy training in Arlington, Texas, nearly two months away from completing the 32-week course and being able to join a new force.

While nothing can totally prepare someone for the unique challenges faced every day by police officers, Jameson says Columbia College helped him gain a solid grounding in law and allowed him to achieve a lifetime goal.

“I’m the first male in my family that’s ever gotten a degree,” Jameson says. “Columbia was very flexible. It took me forever to get my degree, because I’d work and save enough money and, once I got enough for a semester, I’d pay for it and do it a semester at a time.”

Jason Jameson holds his Missouri Medal of Valor, which is awarded to public safety officers who risked their lives to save and protect others.
(Photo courtesy of Carsen Sikyta/Columbia Missourian)

Learn more about Jameson in the latest CC Focus!

CCC: How did your family and friends react to your Medal of Valor?

JJ: My whole family is supportive of law enforcement. They understood the toll it took on me going through that. They were pretty thrilled that society recognized me having to go through that.

CCC: What’s it like being a new recruit again in Arlington?

JJ: It’s a very unique feeling. I’m just at such a different place in my life than most people who are going through the academy down here. All the kids I’m with, they either call me “Dad” or “Big Brother.” I’m playing the unofficial supportive role in it. Being a cop is being a cop, no matter whether you’re in Texas, New York or wherever. It’s the same thing, just the laws are a little bit different. It’s been fun.

CCC: What made you choose Columbia College?

JJ: My aunt (Jill Jameson ’70) went to Columbia College when it was still Christian College. I kind of knew about it because of that and thought it was cool. I just kind of fell in love with it. It was big enough to where it gave me a lot of stuff I could do, but it wasn’t too big to where I felt like I got lost.

CCC: Did you have a favorite teacher or class?

JJ: Keith Abernathy, because he had a story for everything. I would leave his class like, “This is going to be the best job in the world!” He was the one that got me really excited about it. Being a cop is so much interpersonal skills and communication. Scholastically, it prepared me for going to court. When case briefs come out, I have a good background to be able to read and understand them. (Constitutional Law) helped me the most because, when the Supreme Court comes out with something new, I can understand it where some other guys who have never done it before probably struggle with it a little more.

CC through the photographer’s lens – 2016

Posted by on Dec 5, 2016 in Alumni, Day Campus, Events, Featured Story | 0 comments

CC through the photographer’s lens – 2016

In the summer of 2015, CC Connected asked Columbia College photographer and 2009 alumna Kaci

Photographer Kaci Smart '09

Photographer Kaci Smart ’09

Smart to tell us a little bit about some of her favorite pictures that have come out of the more than 1,000 events and photo shoots she has cataloged during her time working at the college.

Then Kaci just kept taking more amazing pictures over the past 16 months, so we felt like it was time to catch up with her again. As 2016 draws to a close, here are some of Kaci’s favorite photographs from the year that was.

An Earth Day Visitor

April 21, 2016

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KS: “The College hosted a few different events on campus for Earth Day this year, and the University of Missouri Raptor Rehabilitation Project brought along a great horned owl. It was a unique experience to be able to take photos of an owl on campus and I like how Dorsey Hall serves as such a strong background in this photo. The owl handler is a former Columbia College student and the student taking the cell phone photo ended up working as a student photographer for me this semester.”

Finals Week

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KS: “On a campus full of students cramming for finals, I found a solitary one nestled in a quiet corner of Atkins-Holman Student Commons. I love how the lines of the building and windows lead your eye into the photo and frame the student, and the lines are contrasted by the chairs strewn about the area. There is also a great deal of contrasting light and color which makes the photo stand out to me.”

Col. Charles McGee at Military Recognition Day

May 26, 2016

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KS: “I always like these sorts of pictures within a picture. That’s Col. Charles McGee ’78 in the light blue blazer, an alumnus who is a National Aviation Hall of Famer and flew 409 fighter missions in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. He was in town for our annual Military Recognition Day, and our Development director Keith McIver snapped a picture of McGee and an admirer. There are a lot of blue tones in this photo that really stand out to me.”

Constructing the Quad

June 8, 2016

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KS: “You see the Quad now as a finished product, but it was fascinating to be able to chronicle its construction. In walking through the chaos that was the Quad in its early days, you can see an underground tunnel from Columbia College days gone by.”

The Game Hut

June 23, 2016

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KS: “It was right around noon and the sun was in a really great spot for me to be able to capture a huge sunburst over the roof of the Game Hut, the home of our new eSports team. I like lens flare effects in photos but often have to avoid them since I am usually taking photos of people and I don’t want light spots over people’s faces. Campus building photos tend to be a good opportunity to be creative with lens flares to create additional interest in photos.”

Valerie Wedel

Affinity magazine, Summer 2016

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KS: “This is alumna Valerie Wedel, tending to one of her art installations. We shot this in Missouri Theatre, which is always a really neat place to shoot. There are so many contrasting textures and lighting in this piece. Plus, the angle of the background going off-scene makes for an interesting photo.”

Storm the Gate

Aug. 28, 2016

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KS: “These two photos may look posed, but they’re not. The men’s and women’s basketball teams congregated on the curb on either side of the stairs leading up to the St. Clair Hall entrance during our annual ‘Storm the Gate’ event to kick off the school year on Bass Commons.”

Quad Panoramics

August-September 2016

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KS: “I love panoramic shots in general, but especially when I’m shooting the Quad. There is so much to the Quad that, to really do the whole span of it justice, you kind of have to do a panoramic to get even close to all of it in one shot. The top picture is an evening shot, which made for darker, more saturated colors. We’ve used this photo in all sorts of media, but the bottom one hasn’t been as widely circulated. I like it because it covers a lot of the Quad while also getting Atkins-Holman and Williams and Dorsey halls in the background. It gives a little different perspective than the top picture because it’s shooting in the other direction from the other side of Alumni Fountain.”

Alumni Fountain Unveiling

Aug. 29, 2016

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KS: “I took this just as Alumni Fountain was turning on for the first time, on the first day of the fall semester. Notice President Scott Dalrymple off to the right, seeming to summon the water up with his left arm. A lot of people showed up for the event, and it was awesome to see everyone’s excitement in the moment.”

Connor Doyle

Sept. 29, 2016

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KS: “It’s always fun to shoot inside the Game Hut because of its interesting ceiling lighting fixture that can change color. This is eSports player Connor Doyle posing in the team’s arena. I especially like how the angle of the logo slants on the wall behind him, leading the eye toward the subject of the picture.”

Alumnus Tim Rich takes the reins at Welcome Home

Posted by on Nov 7, 2016 in Alumni, Featured Story, Military | 0 comments

Alumnus Tim Rich takes the reins at Welcome Home

Every day for two weeks, Tim Rich would walk nervously into Dr. Donald Ruthenberg’s office and check inside the Columbia College president’s rolltop desk to make sure it still contained two things.

Tim Rich, a 1989 alumnus and executive director of Welcome Home, stands at the future site of the organization's new shelter for homeless veterans. (Photo by Kaci Smart)

Tim Rich, a 1989 alumnus and executive director of Welcome Home, stands at the future site of the organization’s new shelter for homeless veterans.
(Photo by Kaci Smart)

One was an envelope with cash that Ruthenberg had saved from trading antique cars he had restored. The other was a journal notebook containing Ruthenberg’s will.

Rich was working through a bachelor’s degree at Columbia College while serving as Ruthenberg’s special projects coordinator. Ruthenberg had headed out on one of his regular trips to the Far East, Japan this time.

“A cleaning crew’s coming in every night. What if someone stumbles on it?” Rich remembered, with a laugh. “He placed his trust in me with something very tangible. That changed the way our relationship was. There’s something very powerful about knowing that someone trusts you with their memory and their money.

“It was still there when he came back, which he was pleased with.”

Rich, who graduated from Columbia College in 1989, has used Ruthenberg’s example to guide his own career in non-profit organizations all the way to his latest post as the executive director of the Welcome Home homeless veterans’ shelter, where he started in September.

Welcome Home is a Columbia, Missouri-based organization that can provide housing for up to 12 homeless veterans at a time as they work to get back on their feet and into a more permanent living situation. Rich made the move to Welcome Home after a short stint in the private sector that followed a six-year tenure as executive director of the Heart of Missouri United Way.

Rich said he’s excited for the challenge, especially with a significant expansion to Welcome Home’s service capabilities coming within the next year.

“In the last month or so, we’ve turned away 15 veterans that would have been eligible for our services, because we didn’t have enough bed space,” Rich says. “We’ve never been able to serve all the veterans that were here, and it’s heartbreaking when you have to turn somebody away knowing full well they qualify for everything and we could literally change their lives if we could get them in.”

Since its founding in 1992, Welcome Home has been a valuable tool for homeless veterans who are getting their lives back together. Rich says that the shelter can accommodate a veteran for up to six months through contracts with the Veterans Administration, but their average stay is only about 3 ½ months, after which 95 percent of their tenants are able to find permanent housing.

Richard Harding, a retired Air Force lieutenant general, vice president of the Welcome Home board of directors and Columbia College trustee, says homeless veterans living together can be an important bonding experience. Welcome Home is the only shelter in the state devoted solely to veterans.

“They support one another just like they did on the battlefield. The reason they fight as hard as they do in war is because of their buddies,” Harding says. “That translates extremely well in a homeless shelter. They’re there for each other. That kind of support is pretty important.”

The problem is Welcome Home can only serve a portion of the estimated 700 homeless veterans in the state. The organization broke ground in June on a new, $3.1 million, 32-bed facility by Patriot Place Apartments on Business Loop 70 as part of an $8.1 million Patriot Place project, and Rich expects it could be completed by next Memorial Day or July 4, at the latest.

It doesn’t fulfill the entire need, but it’s a start. The new facility will also be able to accommodate female veterans and families, something the current home cannot.

“Having the success rate we have, which means we can turn people through pretty quick and get them stabilized and back into housing, I think we’ve got a program in this new facility that we will be able to really take a chunk out of veteran homelessness in our area,” Rich said.

Rich wound up at Columbia College precisely because of his admiration for Ruthenberg. Rich became the Salvation Army officer in charge of Boone County operations in 1984 and met Ruthenberg’s wife, Dee, through her work on the Salvation Army board. Ruthenberg served as a keynote speaker at the Salvation Army’s annual meeting, and Rich came away so impressed that he wrote Ruthenberg asking for an opportunity to learn under him.

Ruthenberg created a position for Rich with one condition: He also had to go to night school and earn his degree.

When Rich graduated with his degree in individual studies with a business and marketing focus, he got to walk across the stage, look his boss straight in the eye and give him a big hug.

The contents of the rolltop desk remained safe and sound.

“He taught me some of what I have to do as a leader going forward. I have to teach and mentor my staff, then I have to entrust them with authority and responsibility to implement whatever it is we’re working on together,” Rich said. “I can’t withhold all of that authority and only put the responsibility on them. You have to have both of those. I looked up to him as a father figure in an awful lot of ways.”

Where her heart is

Posted by on Oct 21, 2016 in Alumni, Featured Story, Instagram | 0 comments

Where her heart is

Melinda Wrye-Washington hung one specific picture just to the right of the door leading into her office at the Southwell Complex, so that it’s directly in her eye line when she’s sitting at her desk.

Women's volleyball coach and former player Melinda Wrye-Washington earned a spot on Columbia College Athletics' Wall of Honor. (Photo by Cindy Potter)

Women’s volleyball coach and former player Melinda Wrye-Washington earned a spot on Columbia College Athletics’ Wall of Honor. (Photo by Cindy Potter)

It’s the 1994 Columbia College women’s volleyball team posing with the banner from that year’s NAIA National Tournament, commemorating the first time in program history the Cougars made nationals. Wrye-Washington, then a senior transfer from the University of Missouri, led the team in kills, aces and digs, all marks that still rank in the top three of the program’s single-season records, and became the first Cougars player to earn first-team All-America honors.

“I look a little bit different there, but I still have it on the wall,” says Wrye-Washington, now in her 17th year coaching the Columbia College volleyball team. “It is my alma mater. It’s close to my heart. It reminds me that it’s where I came from. It’s not just a job to me. It’s much more than that.”

To supplement the picture, Wrye-Washington has plenty of other plaques and pictures on her office wall from her time as a player and coach. When you rack up a 628-98 record, advance to seven national championship matches and win two national titles, the accolades tend to accumulate.

She has so much on her wall that she almost didn’t have room for the latest addition, a framed tribute commemorating her inclusion on the Columbia College Athletics Wall of Honor, for which she was recognized before the Cougars’ home sweep of 11th-ranked MidAmerica Nazarene on Oct. 4.

“I’m tremendously honored to be up there,” Wrye-Washington says. “There are not many names that are up there, and the names that are up there are very special.”

Her former coaches at Columbia College, Wayne and Susan Kreklow, were on hand to help celebrate the occasion. They fit it into the schedule between straight-set wins by the team they coach now: the Missouri Tigers.

“They meant a lot to me as a student-athlete here at Columbia, to keep me on track to graduate and to really find a home,” Wrye-Washington said. “Then with my career, they mentored me as a coach and really helped me in all aspects of what I do.”

Wrye-Washington learned at a young age that you can’t do it all on your own. That’s actually how she got the nickname that’s stuck with her since her childhood in Barnett, Missouri: “Minnow.”

When she was around 3 or 4 years old, her grandfather, Truman Wrye, observed how stubborn Melinda could be. She didn’t want any help tying her shoes. No help combing her hair.

He told her she was “just a minnow in a big pond.” There’s no shame in letting others lend a hand.

“My grandmother was a teacher at Eldon Elementary and my mother was doing student-teaching there, and they started calling me that in the school, then my classmates,” Wrye-Washington says. “I think there’s kids at Eldon that, by the time we graduated, didn’t know my real name. I was never called ‘Melinda.’ Ever. Even at graduation.”

“Minnow” is how Wrye-Washington is referred to on the Wall of Honor, where her number 14 is one of only five displayed, along with men’s basketball players Marvin Malone and Thomas Roberts, volleyball player Amy Lodes and softball player Wendy Mertz.

Of course, most of her players call her “Coach.”

The Cougars, coming off their fourth national championship in program history, are 15-11 this season — including a 7-2 mark in American Midwest Conference play — with about a month to go until the national tournament. Wrye-Washington said this is the toughest schedule she’s ever put together for her team. She made sure to include ranked opponents in regular intervals throughout the slate so that, even if the Cougars dropped some matches, they’d use the quality competition to stay sharp and focused.

“I did not lay off of them one bit in scheduling,” Wrye-Washington said. “If we take losses, we take losses. But we will be prepared for the end.”

The strategy appears to be paying off. The Cougars are hitting their stride, winning seven of their past 10 matches and posting a string of five consecutive straight-set wins that spanned from the upset of MidAmerica Nazarene on Wrye-Washignton’s Wall of honor enshrinement night to a road win over William Woods on Oct. 12.

An experienced core of players such as seniors Sashiko Heredia and Eirini Chatziefstratiadou and junior Peiyi Liu, all veterans of last year’s title run, is helping lead the resurgence.

“We are getting where we need to be,” Wrye-Washignton says. “I think we’re going to be a contender late in the season. That’s where I want to be.”

Alumni impress at ‘Bringing up Business’ pitch competition

Posted by on Oct 17, 2016 in Alumni | 0 comments

Alumni impress at ‘Bringing up Business’ pitch competition

Trent Finley had already wowed one panel of judges with his business pitch for “What R My Chances?,” a website he and his partners are developing that will use an algorithm to help dental school applicants handicap their odds of getting into certain schools. That netted him $5,000 at Columbia College’s ’Trep Week Student Business Pitch Competition in April.

Brandyn Chambers (left) and Trent Finley at the 'Trep Week pitch competition in April. (Photo by Kaci Smart)

Brandyn Chambers (left) and Trent Finley at the ‘Trep Week pitch competition in April. (Photo by Kaci Smart)

Last week, delivering an updated pitch in a regional competition, he did the same thing.

Finley, a 2016 Columbia College graduate, won the top prize at the Bringing Up Business: Mid-Missouri Innovation Week pitch competition Oct. 10 at the Brouder Science Center’s Bixby Lecture Hall, the same venue at which he won the college-wide competition in the spring. Fellow 2016 graduate Brandyn Chambers won the “Audience Choice” vote for “Flydra Creative,” the digital animation studio he helped found. Chambers and Flydra won second prize and “Audience Choice” at the ’Trep Week competition in April.

“Winning those pitches improved my confidence levels big-time as far as public speaking goes,” Finley says. “It kind of validated the value of the business, which was really nice. If I was able to win and beat some pretty good start-ups already, I think I’ve got a lot of potential to keep going and keep placing in these pitch competitions.”

Finley, who is in his first year of dental school at Missouri-Kansas City, said both competitions have contributed crucial seed money to his business. He’s targeting an early spring launch for WhatRMyChances.com, which will allow aspiring dental school students to input their academic and work experience data into the site and see their chances at being accepted into different programs.

He plans to present again to Digital Sandbox KC, an organization that provides grants to start-ups, within the next six months.

Finley didn’t have much business acumen before he got involved with Columbia College’s Steven and Barbara Fishman Center for Entrepreneurship and its mentorship program. Now, he’s finding his way.

“They made me start thinking about things I never thought about,” Finley said. “Really, it was that input that helped me work out the kinks of an idea and polish it to make it feasible to become a business. I was also able to develop business relationships and really start networking and meeting people that are valuable in helping my business grow.”

Chambers’ venture has also been in the process of astronomical growth in the six months between pitch competitions. Flydra is creating an animated series called “The Weeklings” that features each day of the week as a character — “Friday is the coolest guy ever. Monday is kind of awkward and no one really likes her,” Chambers says — along with characters representing holidays from a number of different cultures.

A Kickstarter page to help fund the series met its $20,000 goal in only six days.

“We wanted to combat the lack of diverse representation in today’s media, by introducing audiences to and celebrating cultures they may not have seen before,” Chambers says. “We had people donate from Sweden, from Brazil, all these other places that we don’t know people in, and they wanted to help out with this project.”

Chambers said Flydra has been updating its technology to expand on its short-film offerings — some of which have been used at Columbia College — and make television-quality animation products that it hopes to sell to internet streaming services. The studio showcased one of its shorts, “I Bee-Lieve You Can Fly,” at the world-renowned San Diego Comic-Con in July.

The work speaks for itself. Chambers has been doing his share of speaking on its behalf as well.

“It definitely brings you that confidence to step outside of your box, step outside of your limits to be able to contact people you might not have contacted before, to talk to people,” Chambers says. “We have mentors at the Fishman Center that are always 100-percent behind you and always want to see you succeed. It motivates you to do better.”

Volleyball wins big after honoring Wrye-Washington

Posted by on Oct 5, 2016 in Alumni, Day Campus | 0 comments

Volleyball wins big after honoring Wrye-Washington

wrye_washington_groupvia the Columbia Missourian

On a night where Columbia College head coach Melinda Wrye-Washington was a Wall of Honor inductee, the Cougars were able to give their coach another win as they beat MidAmerica Nazarene University 3-0 Tuesday night.

“I feel like we needed to make a statement, we need to continue to make a statement, we need to continue to grow,” Wrye-Washington said.

MidAmerica Nazarene came into the match tied for 11th in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics’ top-25 rankings, while Columbia College was unranked. This was the first time the teams have played since Sept. 30, 2005. Since that time, Wrye-Washington and the Cougars have posted a 408-73 record and won a national championship. Coming into the season, Wrye-Washington had an overall record of 613-87, making her the program’s all-time wins leader.

Click here to read more.

Homecoming means festivities, friendships and food

Posted by on Sep 19, 2016 in Alumni, Featured Story, Instagram | 0 comments

Homecoming means festivities, friendships and food

Click here for a complete schedule of events for the weekend! 

“Where we love is home,

Home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts.”

 Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., Homesick in Heaven

 Come one, come all! Back to Columbia College for Homecoming and Family Weekend 2016, which is set for October 7-8. All alumni, students, faculty, staff and friends of the college are welcome to attend this fun slate of events for the whole family.

The weekend begins on October 7 with the ribbon cutting and dedication of the new heart of campus, the Quad, set for 4 p.m. The updated space, which spans from Dulany Hall to Rangeline Street, features an outdoor dining pavilion, a new campus safety office, an amphitheater, the Alumni Fountain and the Christian College Garden. Following a brief ceremony, artists Matt Rahner ’10, Nora Othic and Jane Mudd will have their work on display in the Sidney Larson and Greg Hardwick galleries, and a reception that will take place starting at 4:30 p.m. The college’s new Game Hut, the home of its eSports team, will also be open for touring from 4:30-5:30 p.m.

Friday evening also features the 14th annual Columbia College Athletic Hall of Fame Dinner and Induction Ceremony starting at 6:15 p.m. in Dulany Hall. This year’s class features program supporter and Columbia College Board of Trustees Chair Web Bixby ’82, former men’s basketball player Khamari Ballard and the 1989 and 1990 softball teams. Click here to purchase your tickets for the event!

Saturday is full of exciting events, starting with a women’s basketball scrimmage at 9 a.m. at Southwell Complex. Music, inflatables, games and fun activities will be featured throughout the day from 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m., along with the Columbia College Alumni Association hospitality tent. The CCAA Tent will have refreshments, a photo booth for your family and friends and great alumni merchandise.

While you are having a blast, we don’t want you to get hungry! The Cougar Food Fair will be served in Dulany Hall between 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. with different stations set up like food trucks. Lunch is just $4.00 for adults and $2 for children. After lunch, stop by the Cougar alumni volleyball game at 1:00 p.m., in Southwell Gym.

Before you make your way to the pitch at R. Marvin Owens Field at 1:30 p.m. to support the Columbia College men’s and women’s soccer teams as they both face Freed-Hardeman, be sure and enjoy the 2016 Homecoming Parade scheduled for 1:00 p.m. At halftime of the women’s game, the Homecoming Coronation will take place featuring our 2016 Homecoming Court. The day will wrap up with the men’s alumni basketball game at Southwell, with tip set for 6 p.m.

Click here for more information and a complete schedule of events for the weekend! If you have event questions or special needs, please contact the Division of Student Affairs at (573) 875-7400 or (800) 231-2391, ext. 74!

We look forward to seeing you and your family!

Merrifield values relationships as new Alumni Relations director

Posted by on Aug 19, 2016 in Alumni, Featured Story | 0 comments

Merrifield values relationships as new Alumni Relations director

Ann Merrifield prides herself on being an expert in the art of “WOO.”160495.AnnMerrifield_MainPage

“Winning Over Others,” that is. She’s putting that part of her personality in the forefront as Columbia College’s new director of Alumni Relations.

“I like to meet new people. I like to listen to their stories. I like to network, connect them with other people or resources,” Merrifield says. “I always believe that the glass is half full … or maybe even more than half full.

“I do think it’s the energy, the enthusiasm, the positivity, the ability to communicate are the things that they’re probably going to notice.”

Like the recent alumnus who came into the Alumni Relations office looking for work and Merrifield helped put in touch with a local business that is hiring. Or Nancy Turner Blitz, a 1968 Christian College graduate who planned a quick stop at the alma mater with her husband while the two were in town for her high school reunion.

Merrifield helped turn it into an extended nostalgia trip.

“We really kind of took a walk down memory lane, walked her down to the Archives so she could take a look at some of the memorabilia that we have,” Merrifield said. “When people stop in this office, it’s because they’ve really appreciated their time at Columbia College and they want to come back and say ‘hi’ and figure out what’s been going on.”

Merrifield has been learning as much as she can about the history of Columbia College and its alumni since taking over her new post in late June. For three years prior to that, she worked as director of business development in the college’s Marketing department. Before that, she owned five restaurants and was a corporate trainer working with employers to help find qualified job candidates.

She plans to cull aspects from all of her previous career stops — recruitment, customer relations, promotion, education — into heading Columbia College’s Alumni Relations team and serving the college’s more than 80,000 alumni worldwide.

“You really start to grow alumni from the minute they walk through the doors at Columbia College,” Merrifield said. “There’s a brand awareness that, as a marketer, we spent every day creating. I think our alumni can be great recruiters for us. If they’ve had a good experience here, then why wouldn’t they tell others that they’ve had a great experience and they should come to school here?

“I’m always amazed with, whenever I run into anybody that’s been associated with Columbia College, they never have anything bad to say. And I think that says a lot for us, not only the quality of education we provide, but the level of customer service we provide here as well.”

Merrifield said she stepped into an Alumni Relations office that was already a “very well-oiled machine” with associate director Carolyn Preul, assistant director Stasia Sherman and administrative assistant Heather Williams. Her task is to keep the momentum going.

She’s looking for ways to foster more collaboration between departments at the college. She’s seeking to enhance the reach and efficiency of opportunities for alumni interaction at events. She wants to make sure Nationwide location alumni feel as connected to Columbia College as those who graduate from the main campus.

And, in all of her community activities — she’s an ambassador for the Chamber of Commerce, for instance — Merrifield is always looking to promote the college.

“I want to talk about it when I go to these different ribbon cuttings,” Merrifield says. “Every time anyone comes into contact with us, we’re representing the institution. We can be proud of the institute we represent. It’s easy to say, ‘We Are CC.’”

She’s seen that kind of pride firsthand with alumni such as Blitz, who get lost for hours in joyful memories of their time at Christian — or Columbia — College. She’s excited to continue making meaningful connections with those who have already enjoyed their time at the school, as well as those who will in generations to come.

Crudup plots perfect path through pair of degrees

Posted by on Aug 12, 2016 in Alumni, Orlando | 6 comments

Crudup plots perfect path through pair of degrees

Sid Crudup II liked it so much the first time, he decided to do it again.Sid Crudup II

Crudup earned his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Columbia College-Orlando in December 2013, graduating summa cum laude with a perfect 4.0 grade-point average. He went right back to school and earned his Master of Science in Criminal Justice from the Orlando location in July.

Again, with a 4.0 GPA.

“That was a tremendous feat for me,” Crudup says. “It was kind of like the proudest moment I had in my life.”

And to think, Crudup’s wife had to be the one to talk him in to going back to school in the first place. Crudup says he started on a pre-law track at Rutgers University in New Jersey in the early 1990s but ended up having to leave school.

He had been volunteering at county, state and federal correctional facilities around his home in Central Florida for more than a decade as part of his church ministry when his wife suggested he pursue a degree in criminal justice.

“I was already there,” Crudup said. “So it was just a matter of getting academically certified so I have an even greater chance of making even more of an impact from the spiritual side as well as the secular.”

Initially, Crudup said he wanted to get in, get his degree and get out. The interactions he had with his Columbia College-Orlando instructors changed all that. He singled out two in particular — John Parker Phillips and Sherell Perkins — that helped motivate and keep him on track.

Phillips, who passed away this spring, saw the postgraduate possibilities in Crudup early in his Columbia College career and helped him keep an eye on the things he could achieve with a degree. Perkins made sure he was not only getting his classwork done, but getting it done correctly.

“They kept my motivation up because they saw potential in me,” Crudup said. “I kind of took their advice and just kept going.”

He took joy in his coursework, especially in subjects such as criminal law and crisis intervention that piqued his interest the most. He thrived on meeting with classmates and discussing the material. He prioritized focus and discipline, sacrificing the things he wanted to do for the things he knew he should do in order to maintain his unblemished GPA.

And maintain he did.

“Once I saw that it was possible that I could get to summa cum laude, then I kind of really zeroed in on the focus and did a lot of personal sacrifices,” Crudup said. “It was very difficult, in the sense that I had to deny myself a lot of activity I wanted to do with my family, but my wife was very supportive.”

Crudup’s not done yet. He plans on pursuing a doctorate in educational leadership, which will help him expand on some of the concepts that interested him the most during his studies at Columbia College. He’s especially drawn to restorative justice, a discipline based on reintroducing inmates to society by getting them to confront their crimes and interact with their victims.

“It’s where the offender sees that some of your activity caused pain here,” Crudup said. “Let’s see if we can kind of heal this and see if we can get you reintegrated into society as a productive citizen.”

Crudup plans to keep working in the criminal justice system. When he gets his doctorate, he thinks he might get into academic writing. He may look into becoming a professor.

He’s already seen the sort of impact one can have on a student’s life.

“Once I got in and started learning from my professors and finding out how supportive they were, I decided to continue,” Crudup said. “Columbia’s been a great experience for me.”