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CC Alumnus turned Peace Corps Volunteer Paints His Service

St. Louis Post Dispatch, Feb. 28


Matthew Yaple: Professing his passion

Posted by on Jul 20, 2017 in Faculty/Staff, Featured Story, Kansas City | 0 comments

Matthew Yaple: Professing his passion

By Maria Haynie

As an undeniable Hibernophile, Matthew Yaple is fascinated with all things Irish. Listening to Irish folk music, reading Irish literature and even cooking Irish food rank high on Yaple’s list of hobbies. This Columbia College-Kansas City adjunct instructor’s intense appreciation for other cultures and perspectives comes through to his evening students.

“I get excited about my topic as I get going, and students say that it helps them to get more interested in the topic,” Yaple says.

Yaple teaches early and modern American history and Western civilizations. He received both his Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts in History from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Over the past 10 years that he has taught at Columbia College, several memorable experiences with his students stand out.

“I’ve had students who served in the Middle East who have told me about their experiences, and that brought a new light to the history of Islam,” Yaple says. “I had a student from Liberia in Africa who had a completely different view of American history than I had ever heard before. It’s also exciting when the students learn new ideas and perspectives that they had never considered before.”

Yaple has the opportunity to work with a great number of students, as he also works full-time as a high school social studies teacher. He also coaches the football team and scholar bowl team. Although he’s very busy, he manages to craft a classroom environment where students feel comfortable enough to engage and share their unique historical perspectives.

“I have been described on evaluations as having a conversational lecture style,” Yaple says. “Students call my class ‘laid back.’ I like to get students talking and thinking about the historical perspective of the time, during both lecture and discussions over primary sources.”

In his free time, Yaple is also interested in perspectives shown through films.

“I’m a big film buff,” said Yaple. “I watch classic movies regularly. I enjoy watching documentaries on movies and movie-makers and reading books

In Tune with Online

Posted by on Jul 14, 2017 in Academics, Featured Story | 1 comment

In Tune with Online

Editor’s Note: This story was included in the latest edition of Affinity Magazine. Click here to check out the magazine in its entirety!

Columbia College was on the leading edge when it launched its Online Education program in 2000.

Dr. Piyusha Singh, Columbia College’s vice president of Online Education

In the nearly two decades since, as online course offerings and degree tracks have become ubiquitous in higher education, Columbia College has still found ways to maintain its position as an innovator.

Dr. Piyusha Singh, Columbia College’s vice president of Online Education, doesn’t need to rely on anecdotal evidence to know this is true. She has seen tangible proof when her staff works with the software renderers who help produce the school’s online course offerings.

These engineers work with hundreds of other schools across the country and, if what Columbia College requested for its course models was commonplace, the renderers would already have a plan for it.

“We have to do a lot of custom solutions,” Singh says. “So that tells me we’re a little ahead of the game.”

The average online students are decidedly different from the ones who populate more traditional college settings.

They’re predominantly adult learners, resuming their education after some sort of hiatus following high school or part of a college career. Some, such as Columbia College’s sizable military community, don’t always have easy access to a physical location in which to take classes, so they need the ability to learn wherever is most convenient.

They’re far more likely to have families, careers and other obligations outside of school, meaning they prioritize having the flexibility to dictate when they get their schoolwork done. They seek out classes and degrees that have practical applications, so they can more easily advance in their current profession or jump to another one.

Just like more traditional students, they put a lot of themselves into their education. They expect a lot in return.

“They are people who have more life experiences, sometimes have had more educational experiences. They want to be taught in a different way,” Singh says. “Adult students want to bring something to the table and help you make sense of what they have experienced. They want to get a combination of their life, what they know and what you are teaching them.”

Singh says adult students also tend to be less tolerant of what she calls “jumping hoops.”

“That goes back to them having a lot more demands on their time,” Singh says. “If you’re going to make an adult student do something, you had better be clear about why. You need to really be respectful of their time and resources.”

Singh came to Columbia College as its first vice president for Online Education in 2015. Since then, her focus has been normalizing the online experience for students, so that they can more easily find the resources they need and become familiar with a similar format throughout all Columbia College online classes.

Quality, all across the board.

“We think very carefully about the student. We are very careful about the academic content,” Singh says. “From the beginning to the end, we’re constantly asking ourselves, ‘What are the students supposed to get out of this? How do we get them there?’”

The Students

During the Fall 2016 semester, 73 percent of Columbia College students took at least one course online. A majority of them combined their online education with in-seat offerings.

These online students came from all 50 states and 23 countries. The average age for these students was 33 years old, 11 years older than the average Day Campus student and four years older than the average Evening Campus student.

Online Education students boasted an average GPA of 2.83, which compared favorably with the marks for Day (2.98), Nationwide (2.85) and Evening (2.76).

Dr. Yelena Francis has been teaching Russian language and culture courses online for Columbia College since 2012. She doesn’t see her online students face-to-face, as she does the pupils who take the in-seat classes she teaches for other schools around her home in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. But she knows online students have the same desire and aptitude.

“The students who have a strong will and dedication, they can organize their studies and they’re disciplined enough to be good both in-seat classes and online,” Francis says. “Once they’ve experienced it, they’ve seen how their studies can combine their potential family obligations and, at the same time, study so hard. You can do both.”

Whether an online student is 19 or 65 years old, living in Miami, Florida, or Oak Harbor, Washington, the goal, Singh says, is to bring them all under the Columbia College umbrella. That means everything from organizing the homepage in a way that makes key links easy to find, to ensuring that adjunct instructors and the support staff at Federal Hall in downtown Columbia, Missouri, are accessible and able to address students’ needs.

“We’re always looking to support our students in ways that keep them motivated and keep them aware of their options and kind of humanize the experience as much as possible,” says Amanda Harms ’04, an online academic advisor. “It’s easy for online students to start feeling detached or distanced from the school. We all have a role in making sure the student feels supported and connected to Columbia College.”

The Instruction

During the 2015-16 school year, Columbia College offered 3,561 course sections over its 388 accredited online classes. The school employs 653 adjunct faculty members to teach in its 27 accredited online degree programs.

If a prominent degree field is missing from the offerings, it may well be there in the near future. With the founding deans and new three-school structure — Business Administration; Humanities, Arts & Social Sciences; and Natural Sciences & Mathematics — taking effect across all Columbia College venues in 2016, Singh expects online offerings will only become more robust.

“The deans are really going to look at what their offerings are and where they think we can see some growth,” Singh says. “They work with [our departments of Adult Higher Education] and Online to create these different courses and programs and roll them out. We do definitely look at who we’re going to serve with them.”

To ensure the continued quality of the courses, the curriculum is approved by the full-time faculty at Columbia College. They oversee course content and testing to make sure it’s living up to the school’s standards.

As the 2017 Spring Semester drew to a close, Francis was in the midst of the second round of editing for her next Russian Culture and Society course, the same process every online instructor goes through.

Crib courses, they are not.

“I need to give the students who enroll more general features in a more concentrated way,” Francis says. “I try not to overload them on the one hand and not to make it too diluted on the other. It is difficult to find the golden middle line, but I have to for the students to be in a more comfortable way of studying.”

Francis also makes it a habit to learn from her students, to keep lines of communication open so that she can see what is working for them and what needs to be adjusted. Even though she can’t point to a raised hand, she can still aid through email, posts on discussion boards or phone calls.

Singh puts a premium on responsiveness for online instructors. She has taught online classes before, so she knows what a time drain it can be for students to reach you at all hours of the day. But she also knows that one of the main perks of online learning is the flexibility, the fact that a student can put something on hold momentarily if life gets in the way.

As such, instructors need to be responsive and cultivate relationships.

“The knock on online is you don’t see your faculty member,” Singh says. “But I would argue that when you have an engaged faculty member, you can ‘see’ them more often and get more instruction from them [than in-seat classes]. It’s just more continuous, instead of broken up into a certain time at a certain week.”

The Future

Not long ago, Singh says, employers may have looked down on a degree earned online. Now, with a few exceptions, that’s no longer the case.

Some employers even encourage their staff to pursue online degrees through tuition subsidies. They can receive vocational training without having to take time away from work.

“What’s more important now is the reputation of the institution,” Singh says. “Frankly, I think employers have started to see the value of online degrees.”

Columbia College, with its accreditation through the Higher Learning Commission, checks that box. The new six-session format introduced across all venues in 2016 also makes it so that devoted adult learners who want to take an accelerated path to a degree can earn an associate degree in just more than 18 months, a bachelor’s in less than 3 1/2 years and a master’s in less than a year.

The school has put in the groundwork to stay at the vanguard of online education. Singh says that, while nobody can foresee the future, she feels as if Columbia College is well-positioned to meet whatever comes next.

One national trend she has her eye on is a move toward personalized or adaptive learning, in which educational software can drill and test students on the more rudimentary aspects of a subject — and provide more information if needed — to get them to a level of competency where the instructor can delve into more complex concepts. Another trend is toward “competency-based education,” in which instructors focus less on evaluating a student after a specific timeframe and more on evaluating how long it will take a student to gain a mastery of the subject.

“For somebody it might mean four weeks, somebody else eight weeks, somebody else 16 weeks,” Singh says. “How can we get to a more mastery and competency-based review of what we do?”

Technology has already given online students the ability to keep up with their studies on their cell phones. The Online Education program staff has already taken steps to make the path to a Columbia College degree more user-friendly.

To Singh, adjusting to whatever comes next in online education is still going to rely heavily on a rather antiquated concept.

“Good old, plain, solid, engaging faculty instruction,” Singh says. “The good part about online education is you can do it anywhere. The bad part is, when you can do something anywhere, you sometimes don’t do it. Having good faculty who really are invested in students — the bread and butter of education — is still important.”

CC Employee Transitions – June 2017

Posted by on Jul 13, 2017 in Faculty/Staff | 0 comments

CC Employee Transitions – June 2017

9-2-16_collegecolorday_ks_pr_img_7825Outside of our students and alumni, our employees are some of Columbia College’s biggest and best assets. Welcome to these employees who joined the college or changed positions in June.

New Associates

  • Drake Porter, Senior Strategic Analyst – Athletics, Columbia, Missouri – began 6/12/17
  • Kim Fischer, Academic Advisor I, Lake County, Illinois – began 6/19/17
  • Simmie Manning, Process Coordinator, Orlando, Florida – began 6/19/17
  • OIivia Smarte, Student Support Assistant, Orlando, Florida – began 6/19/17
  • Sarah Naji, Senior Coordinator for Student Engagement and Leadership Development – Student Affairs, Columbia, Missouri – began 6/26/17
  • Maria Platz, Assistant Director, Regional Recruitment – Admissions, Columbia, Missouri – began 6/26/17
  • Matthew Calabrese, Online Test Proctor, Hancock Field, New York – began 6/28/17
  • Ginger Devine, Online Program Coordinator – Online Education, Columbia, Missouri – began 7/3/17
  • Aleah Hayes, Assistant Volleyball Coach – Athletics, Columbia, Missouri – began 7/3/17
  • Amy Strauss Friedman, English Tutor, Denver, Colorado – began 7/3/17
  • Amy Cranston, Process Coordinator, Lake County, Illinois – began 7/10/17
  • Gretchen Maune, Accessibility Coordinator – Student Accessibility Resources, Columbia, Missouri – began 7/10/17
  • Andres Ruiz, Academic Advisor I, Imperial Valley, California, began 7/10/17
  • April Longley, Assistant Director – Institutional Compliance, Columbia, Missouri – began 7/10/17
  • Heather Cooke, Instructional Designer – Online Education, Columbia, Missouri – began 7/10/17
  • Rebekah Schnell, Online Program Specialist – Online Education, Columbia, Missouri – began 7/10/17
  • Allison Gubata, Student Support Assistant, Whidbey Island, Washington – began 7/10/17
  • Andrea Gaddy, Student Support Assistant, Springfield, Missouri – began 7/10/17
  • Melissa McConnell, Enrollment Specialist – Enrollment Services Center, Columbia, Missouri – began 7/10/17
  • Katherine Orf, Administrative Assistant – Office of the Registrar, Columbia, Missouri – begins 7/17/17
  • Anh Le, Administrative Assistant – International Center, Columbia, Missouri – begins 7/24/17
  • Matthew Cartner, Academic Advisor I, Marysville, Washington – begins 7/24/17
  • Michelle Butler, Graduate Assistant, Golf – Athletics, Columbia, Missouri – begins 8/7/17
  • Alex Bray, Graduate Assistant, Track & Field – Athletics, Columbia, Missouri – begins 8/7/17
  • Michaela Rumbaoa, Graduate Assistant, Athletic Training – Athletics, Columbia, Missouri – begins 8/7/17
  • Claire Yee, Math Tutor, Denver, Colorado – begins 8/28/17

 Transfers & New Positions:

  • Darin Hand from Assistant Director to Associate Director, Whidbey Island, Washington – began 5/29/17
  • Mark Clark from Program Coordinator, Lexington, Missouri to Assistant Director, Kansas City, Missouri – began 5/29/17
  • Teri Dishman from Office Coordinator to Senior Coordinator – Plant and Facilities, Columbia, Missouri – began 6/26/17
  • D’Andrea Thompson from Enrollment Specialist  to Senior Enrollment Specialist, Enrollment Services Center, Columbia, Missouri – began 6/26/17
  • Laurel Bleil from Student Support Assistant to Process Coordinator, Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri – began 6/26/17
  • Les Toalson from Press Operator to Senior Press and Finishing Operator – Mail Imaging and Print Services, Columbia, Missouri – began 6/26/17
  • Ben Wood from Academic Assessment Specialist to Reporting Analyst – Office of Institutional Research, Columbia, Missouri – began 6/26/17
  • Deborah Nutt from Systems Operations Assistant – Office of the Registrar to Systems Analyst – Technology Services, Columbia, Missouri – began 7/10/17
  • Michael Kramps from Front End Web Strategist – Marketing to Programmer Analyst – Technology Services, Columbia, Missouri – began 7/10/17
  • Jeffrey Stevens from Student Support Assistant – Evening Campus to Student Relationship Manager – Admissions, Columbia, Missouri – began 7/10/17

Join the many employees who support our college by making a payroll pledge online or one-time donation, online or by mail. Visit to get started today.

Columbia College celebrates Summer Expeditions program

Posted by on Jul 13, 2017 in Events, Instagram | 0 comments

Columbia College celebrates Summer Expeditions program

Columbia College welcomed around 60 fifth- through seventh-graders from Columbia Public Schools to campus for the final week of their monthlong Summer Expeditions program, culminating in a celebration ceremony in Launer Auditorium on Thursday, June 29.

A group shot at the Summer Expeditions celebration ceremony, held June 29 in Launer Auditorium on the campus of Columbia College.
(Photo by Kaci Smart)

This is the eighth straight year Columbia College has hosted a week of Summer Expeditions, which Columbia Public Schools presents through its MAC Scholars program. This year, the fifth-graders took classes on art, music, drama, history and physical education; the sixth-graders focused on forensic science, nursing, math and technology; and the seventh graders partnered with Kyle Holland and Clint Brinkley from the Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture for lessons on environmental science, as well as taking a chemistry class on the Columbia College campus each day.

Members of the Columbia College staff tutored the campers, with Bo Bedilion teaching art, Dr. Amy Darnell teaching drama, Nollie Moore teaching music, Dr. Ann Schlemper teaching math, Theresa Veit teaching nursing, Dr. Melinda McPherson teaching forensic science, Dr. Alan James teaching chemistry and Matt Meininger teaching technology.

The fifth-graders treated the parents, teachers and other community members present at Thursday’s celebration ceremony to a song that they had worked on all week with Moore. At a reception after the ceremony, guests snacked on blackberry cobbler made with fruit the seventh graders helped harvest with the CCUA.

“Students, I hope this month of learning, growing, making friends and having fun, capped off by this week of exploring what all a college campus has to offer, motivates you to keep striving to be your best,” Summer Expeditions coordinator Molly Taylor said at the celebration ceremony.

Dr. Jill Dunlap Brown, Columbia Public Schools’ assistant superintendent for elementary education, provided the welcome for the audience at the closing ceremony, and Columbia College professor of political science Dr. Terry Smith helped present the seventh-graders who were “graduating” the program with certificates of completion.

Smith also reminded campers of the $2,500 annual scholarship available to Summer Expeditions alumni who enroll at Columbia College.

“Whatever path you choose to take, we want you to be successful and chase your dreams of going to college,” Smith said. “We also hope that the path brings you back to Columbia College. We’d be honored to count you among our alumni.”

For the fourth straight year, the State Farm Insurance Foundation supported the campers’ week at Columbia College through charitable grant funds. State Farm sales leader Ryan Kenney, Columbia agents Justin Hahn, D.J. Hinds, Greg Hill, Phyllis Nichols and Stephanie Wilmsmeyer and public affairs specialist Kevin Gamble were all on hand to help celebrate the students’ achievements.

Check out the photo gallery below for pictures from the celebration ceremony and the reception that followed!

COMMENTARY: Be a better leader/supervisor – “get over yourself!”

Posted by on Jul 11, 2017 in Academics, Faculty/Staff | 0 comments

COMMENTARY: Be a better leader/supervisor – “get over yourself!”

By Dr. Shanda Davis, Dean of the Columbia College School of Business Administration

via the Columbia Daily Tribune

“We can all probably provide examples of work situations in which there was that ONE person! The person who seemed to get by with poor performance – whether it was rude behavior, multiple mistakes, tardiness, etc., etc., which seemed to go unaddressed by management/supervision, but was certainly not unnoticed by fellow workers. “How do they get by with that?” being a question you would hear repeated about that particular employee. Often it seems that others resigned themselves that this particular person just got by with behavior or performance that everyone else recognized as subpar. It was demoralizing, discouraging and contributed to an unhealthy work environment. So why did it happen and why was it allowed to continue?” 

Click here to read more! 


Lake of the Ozarks student recounts harrowing Army career

Posted by on Jul 10, 2017 in Lake of the Ozarks, Military | 0 comments

Lake of the Ozarks student recounts harrowing Army career

via the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

A 35-millimeter camera probably saved the life of Army medic and Columbia College-Lake of the Ozarks student Rebecca Deuel. On Oct. 17, 2004, Deuel was stationed at Camp Freedom in Iraq as an Army medic. She was in the phone center talking to a friend when the base came under mortar attack. “We had pretty regular mortar attacks on our forward operating base for weeks in the evenings, almost like clockwork,” Deuel said. “I had left the phone center to go to a shelter when the mortar hit and I was thrown into a chain link fence. I had a backpack on with a camera in it and a piece of shrapnel went through the backpack and got lodged in the lens of the camera. It was going to hit me in a soft spot on my vest, but the camera stopped it.”

Click here to read more.

Dr. Lisa Ford-Brown: Getting her point across

Posted by on Jul 10, 2017 in Faculty/Staff, Featured Story | 0 comments

Dr. Lisa Ford-Brown: Getting her point across

By Maria Haynie

Editors Note: This story was included in the latest edition of Affinity Magazine. Click here to check out the magazine in its entirety!

It only took one class for Dr. Lisa Ford-Brown to switch her undergraduate major from sculpting and ceramics to communication studies. When she took a general education course in the Oral Interpretation of Literature, she became “hooked” on communication.

Dr. Lisa Ford-Brown teaches her Organizational Communications class at Columbia College.
(Photo by Kaci Smart)

“I went from molding clay to molding messages and human interaction,” Dr. Ford-Brown says. “How humans communicate is integral to every personal and professional activity we engage in. That is exciting and powerful.”

Now, she is a communication studies professor at Columbia College and an established author. Her books include three titles produced for the United Kingdom-based publisher Dorling Kindersley (DK): DK Speaker (2013), DK Communication (2016) and DK Guide to Public Speaking (DKPS). The third edition of DKPS came out in February. The book is divided into nine tabs for easy reference, with each tab covering a specific content area. In it, Dr. Ford-Brown provides an overview of public speaking; instructions on how to research, create and present to an audience; different kinds of occasions for speaking in public; different kinds of public speaking and more. She describes the process of working with a London-based layout designer and domestic publisher as “both an artistic and writing event.”

“This book is highly visual,” Dr. Ford-Brown says. “It’s set up with text, graphics and white space to look more like the internet and to improve readability. The gist of basic communication has been around since Aristotle and before, but what made this book take off is that we put this information in an interface that students can use today.”

The book is very striking with its glossy cover, smaller size and spiral binding. There are colored tabs and borders along the sides that make it easy to flip right to certain sections. Dr. Ford-Brown recalls students performing usability testing with early versions of the layout.

“The students would get the pages in a brown paper bag, basically, with no cover or title. Then they’d be given a task and Pearson (the publishing company) would see how they handled and used the pages,” Dr. Ford-Brown says.

Acknowledging that students love examples, she called on both her 25 years of teaching the Introduction to Public Speaking course and her Columbia College resources.

“I reached out to Evening Campus teachers and asked for examples of their ‘A’ speeches that students have written,” Dr. Ford-Brown says. “Student assistants also helped me put content together, and I consult with my students on things like communication through text messages, emojis or examples that apply to their lives.”

Dr. Ford-Brown also focused on integrating learning objectives into her book. With a background in assessment, she wanted to make sure students and teachers would be able to use assessment tools effectively. To do that, her team turned to the National Communication Association’s (NCA) latest communication learning outcomes.

“In this edition, I applied the entire book to the NCA learning objectives for students studying human communication,” Dr. Ford-Brown says. “That was tough to do, but we did it and I’m proud of that.”

Understanding that strong communication skills are always essential, no matter the industry or topic, Dr. Ford-Brown was involved in the expansion of the communication studies program at Columbia College. From 2003 to 2005, she chaired the Columbia College Humanities Department and served as a faculty representative for the Board of Trustees from 2008 to 2010. During that time, she assisted in the creation of the communication studies major and minor.

When not working on her books or serving on multiple campus, regional and national committees, she focuses on the favorite parts of her job: the students and the classroom. She teaches many courses at Columbia College’s Day Campus, such as Understanding Human Communication, Gender Communication and Organizational Communication.

“I try to be engaging and expect my students to discuss the material with me, especially the upper division classes,” Dr. Ford-Brown says. “Students don’t sit and absorb my lecture. They engage with my lectures.”

Outside of the classroom, Dr. Ford-Brown enjoys camping, fishing, traveling and gardening with her life partner, Bruce. Her small 20-acre farm is home to her cats, Sadie and Falstaff, and her golden retriever, Zelda.

Matt Williams named to Columbia College Board of Trustees

Posted by on Jul 5, 2017 in Faculty/Staff | 0 comments

Matt Williams named to Columbia College Board of Trustees

Matt Williams

Columbia College Board of Trustees Chair Web Bixby has announced the addition of Matt Williams to the board, effective July 1, 2017.

A native of Shelbina, Missouri, Williams has served as the regional president of Landmark Bank since October 2014, a role in which he oversees the bank’s Columbia market while also managing its Columbia commercial lending department. Before coming to Landmark Bank, he served as the president of the Columbia market for the Jefferson City-based Hawthorn Bank (2007-2014), chief credit officer at Boone National Savings and Loan (2002-2007) and vice president and senior lender for the Columbia market for Mercantile Bank (1993-2002).

“Matt’s business savvy and feel for the economic climate in mid-Missouri will certainly be a welcome addition to the board,” Bixby said. “He brings more than two decades of experience in the banking industry to the table, and we are excited to have him join our team.”

Throughout his time in mid-Missouri, Williams has been an active member of community organizations. He currently serves on the boards of Regional Economic Development Inc. (REDI), the Columbia Chamber of Commerce, the City of Columbia New Century Fund, the Country Club of Missouri and the Women’s and Children’s Hospital, and he is a tri-chair of the United Way campaign major firms division. Williams is also a past board member of the Community Foundation of Central Missouri and Russell Boulevard Elementary School PTA.

“During my 25 years in the Columbia community, I have marveled at the evolution of this extraordinary institution,” Williams said. “I am honored to serve on the Columbia College Board of Trustees and look forward to working with each of my fellow trustees and President Dalrymple.”

Williams earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, with a concentration in finance, from Truman State University in 1990. He and his wife, Carla, have been married for 26 years and have three children: Annie, Katie and Tommy.

The art of advocacy

Posted by on Jun 29, 2017 in Alumni, Featured Story, Instagram, Online Education | 0 comments

The art of advocacy

Editors Note: This story was included in the latest edition of Affinity Magazine. Click here to check out the magazine in its entirety!

A love of painting came naturally to Renee Hamilton-McNealy ’12. As a child, she would go to art galleries with her mother and discuss the works they’d see. She painted in the backyard with her father. From that passion, she branched out as a makeup artist and aesthetician, which flowed organically into an interest in body painting.

After all, body painting is just another form of fine art, using the human body as a canvas.

“What I gravitate toward is usually healing experiences for people beyond just paint to skin,” Hamilton-McNealy says. “It’s a whole beautiful world out there. Everybody I’ve worked with always felt like it was a therapeutic experience for them.”

Body painting is a mode of expression for both artist and subject. Hamilton- McNealy learned about the power of body painting while assisting world-renowned artist Trina Merry at a workshop at the San Jose Museum of Art, then brought her own works to life during the Ms. Veteran America competition last  year.

In the talent competition, she performed a spoken-word piece about women serving in the US Army since the time of the Revolutionary War while painting an American flag on a model. In the finals — she was one of 10 chosen out of about 400 competitors — she presented a video of her art that raised awareness of the plight of female veterans who become homeless after serving, while a model she pre-painted in a camouflage pattern stood on stage.

“I was showing that even the art doesn’t cover up the camo,” Hamilton-McNealy says. “It enhances it, sheds more light on it.”

It’s a cause that’s near and dear to Hamilton-McNealy’s heart. She’s a master sergeant in the Army Reserves in her 18th year of service, 10 of them on active duty. Through her work with the Final Salute foundation, which helps find safe and suitable housing for homeless female veterans and their children, and her advocacy as a Ms. Veteran America contestant, Hamilton-McNealy strives to make her art imitate life.


Getting a degree

Hamilton-McNealy was not aware that the Army could pull her out of school when she got called up for active duty shortly after Sept. 11, 2001. She had just lost her mother and wanted to keep her commitment to earn her degree, but she wasn’t sure of her next step. She visited the education center at Fort Stewart, Georgia, where she was serving in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. There, a representative from Columbia College offered her a solution.

“They explained how it could work, even though I was on active duty,” Hamilton-McNealy says. “Due to one of the reps being really helpful and showing the way, learning I could take some classes online and go to the classroom — which is what I truly wanted — it worked exceptionally well with my schedule and how I learned.”

Hamilton-McNealy earned her Associate in General Studies in 2004 and served eight more years of active duty as a financial manager/budget analyst, four in Atlanta and four in the San Francisco Bay area in California.

When she relocated to California, she knew where to turn to complete her bachelor’s degree. She took online classes through Columbia College until earning her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in 2012. She then completed a Master of Business Administration from Golden Gate University in San Francisco.

“I feel that what is great is women who are building themselves prior to transitioning [from military to civilian life], and education is a part of that,” Hamilton-McNealy says.

She serves as a mentor for around 2,500 non-commissioned officers through a Facebook group. She has a go-to message when someone asks her for advice on how to pursue a degree along with a military career.

“All I could think about is there was a school I went to when I just got called into active duty, lost my mother and got pulled out of school that still helped me focus and move ahead,” Hamilton-McNealy says. “I didn’t go to Columbia College for my MBA, only because I wanted to go in person. But if that was an option where I worked, I would have, because it was a great support beyond education at the time.

“I think it’s a good school for anyone who’s still serving to be able to go to.”


Making a Difference

When she applied for the Army Entertainment’s traveling Soldier Show as a volunteer, Hamilton-McNealy was thinking she’d fit best in the hair and makeup department. The director had another idea.

In the production there was a Tina Turner “Proud Mary” number for which Hamilton-McNealy would be perfect. So she found herself performing and in charge of hair and makeup on a 10-month nationwide tour of Army bases and other communities. They worked 16-hour days for 75 minutes on stage, singing and dancing for servicemembers and their families, sharing the Army’s message of “ready and resilient.”

“It was just awesome serving primarily the military and veteran community, but also children, youth, the homeless, Wounded Warriors,” Hamilton-McNealy says. “You had soldiers come together like a family to perform.”

At one stop, she met a man who said he came to the show every year, but this one would be his last. He planned on taking his life. He changed his mind after hearing the messages of affirmation offered by the Soldier Show.

“Seeing the show really changed him,” Hamilton-McNealy says. “That just made the whole thing valid, if nothing else ever did. Just another way to reach out to people.”

That’s how she viewed her Ms. Veteran America candidacy. She joined a dedicated group of women from all branches and levels of the military to showcase “the women beyond the uniform” and benefit homeless female veterans and their children through Final Salute. Hamilton-McNealy raised nearly $3,000 on her own. The competition was secondary. The message was foremost.

“It made me want to cry. To see a population of other women who were just as driven, it was just phenomenal,” Hamilton-McNealy says. “It felt good to come together and say, ‘We have these solutions to provide support for other women veterans.’ It extended beyond just the sisterhood of the Army and opened up to all other branches. It just felt really infinite, and something that’s truly needed.”

Hamilton-McNealy is lending a helping hand to a friend in the Air Force who is running for Ms. Veteran America this year. She’s willing to offer advice or organize events for any other candidates that call on her. She hasn’t exactly ruled out another run, but she also feels a desire to welcome more women into the fold.

“I think the journey was so honorable I’ll make room for others, but be the support that they need for their own given journey,” Hamilton-McNealy says. “I’ll be an ambassador, always.”


Columbia College eSports coaches inspire parents of gamers at Ukatsu panel

Posted by on Jun 27, 2017 in Day Campus, Faculty/Staff | 0 comments

Columbia College eSports coaches inspire parents of gamers at Ukatsu panel

Drake Porter

June 22, 2017 – via the Columbia Missourian

Just like a game controller, the future of sports might lie in the hands of young gamers. Video gamers and their parents filled the Innovation Hub at Regional Economic Development Inc., recently to hear a panel of 10 esports professionals assembled by Ukatsu tell their stories about the growing industry and explain the inner workings of competitive gaming. Coaches and players alike talked about growing up as avid gamers and deciding to turn their passion into a career. One of the most outspoken panelists was Columbia College’s 19 year-old “League of Legends” Senior Strategic Analyst Drake Porter. Porter said he moved out of his parents’ home and began financially supporting himself coaching eSports at 16. By that time he had already played competitively for over two years and had grown tired of it. Becoming a coach was the next step.

 “eSports coaches inspire parents of young gamers at Ukatsu panel” – Columbia Missourian