May 19, 2020
It’s graduation season at MU, and Tigers of all stripes are celebrating their Mizzou Made accomplishments. The Class of 2020 has already adjusted to the unprecedented demands of this unusual time. Now, they’re showing how our people can — once again — come together and honor the excellence of the University of Missouri community.
On this week’s episode of Remote MU, we talk with three spring Mizzou graduates: Christian Cmehil-Warn, who is earning bachelor’s degrees in economics and statistics; Huong Truong, a graduate student earning a Master of Education from the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis; and Marissa Price, who is earning a Juris Doctor from our School of Law. Together, we discuss theirfinal semester at Mizzou and how they plan to celebrate.
Moderator: [00:00:33] From the classroom to the cornfield, journalism to SEC athletics — and now to computer screens around the world — the University of Missouri works 52 weeks a year, every year. This is Remote MU, a special edition series of Inside Mizzou that explores the real stories, real discoveries and real impact of our remote community. This episode of Remote MU is called, “Class of 2020.” Our spring 2020 class is preparing for a graduation celebration like no other. These hardworking Tigers have already adapted to sweeping changes that affect the way our people teach, learn and work. And now they’re adapting in another way — they’re finding new, socially-distant ways to celebrate all they’ve accomplished at the University of Missouri. Today on Remote MU, three spring 2020 Mizzou graduates are joining us over Zoom to talk more about their unique paths to success and how the Tiger spirit remains undaunted. Christian Cmehil-Warn is a 2019 Rhodes Scholar finalist and soon-to-be graduate earning his bachelor’s degree in economics and statistics; Huong Truong is earning a Master in Education from the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis; and Marissa Price is about to earn a Juris Doctor from our School of Law. Marissa is also president of the Missouri Law Veterans Society. Welcome, everyone. Thanks for joining me and congratulations on becoming Mizzou grads.
Huong Truong: [00:01:28] Thank you.
Moderator: [00:01:29] First question for everybody. The final semester is always a busy one, but how did you adapt this semester and your final projects to all of the other changes?
Christian Cmehil-Warn: [00:01:38] I was really lucky this semester. A lot of my last semester was certainly a much more busy semester for me. And in terms of like final projects and things like that, this semester was really flexible. And I kind of lucked out with how things layed out, especially compared to some of my friends. But yeah, it was certainly an adjustment, just having much more of a self-enforced routine because you don’t, a lot of my classes went either asynchronous or didn’t really have Zoom meetings. So, a lot more, it took a lot more self discipline. And I definitely had to work on that.
Marissa Price: [00:02:14] Yes. So as far as a law school, my last semester was set up to be more of a practical application-type semester rather than being in a classroom. I have one actual class and then more, I guess, proactive classes where you were using skills. And so we had, I was in trial practice, which is generally a skills-based course where you actually are preparing the entire semester to run an entire trial, and trying to do that over Zoom was in itself interesting. We luckily only had a couple of hiccups. The judges still decided, while we instead of doing a jury trial, we went to a bench trial, meaning it was just a judge instead of having a panel of jurors there. And so that was interesting. I feel like we kind of missed out on being able to do certain skills in that class because of technology and how human interaction is kind of limited that way. And then the other thing is, I was in the MU Veterans Clinic. So, again, echoing off what Christian said, it was a lot more, I was at my house rather than having the clinic space to go sit down, talk to my professors, talk to my fellow classmates and kind of brainstorm through things. So it took a lot more discipline to get things done. And then when you’re dealing with other people and you’re dealing with the V.A. as well, it’s just constant diligence and communication. Just really had to kind of kick your butt into gear sometimes and sit yourself down, give yourself a little pep talk and keep going.
Huong Truong: [00:03:58] So for me, adapting my major projects to the challenges that happened in the semester, a huge part of my, like, graduate school experience is working as a graduate assistant for the Office of Fraternity & Sorority Life. I really had to adapt to maintain priority, to make sure my students are OK. And I think the great thing about the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis and our program is we are centered around education and taking care of students. And so my professors were very quick to adapt. They were very quick to be like, OK, a lot of our students are working with our undergraduate students and making sure that they’re taken care of while at the same time doing their school work, doing these things. And so, through like, just my professors being so, so considerate and switching us to online classes and making it asynchronous, so like we don’t have to be on Zoom every single week. But we can definitely, like there’s biweekly check-in calls just to chat about life and things. And so that was kind of, it made adapting really easily. It just made adapting a lot more feasible. At the same time, I really leaned a lot on the staff’s support as well. So with the office, they were always like, “Houng, do you have school work? Do you have projects that you need to do and what not? How can we help you there?” And so it was just a lot of being able to rely on staff and faculty and being honest with them about where I was. You know? For me, like right now, my last semester at Mizzou, I live alone. And so it was very tough, like not having somewhere, someone to like really get me up in the morning and be like, “Hey, you have to, like, go to work or you have to do this school work.” And so, telling that to my staff. Letting my professors know that they have been every step of the way checking up on me, texting me, being like, “Hey, how’s today going? So that’s really how I ended up adapting to finishing school.
Marissa Price: [00:06:00] And to just echo off of that. My professors did the same thing and would actually take one-on-one Zoom calls in the form of office hours. So, they would call and constantly check up on us. My partners and I in different classes would Zoom, like, before we went to trial, right before trial we went to our own little Zoom meeting and kind of had our pregame talk and stuff like that. And then my kind of close knit friends group, every Monday night we would do a Zoom call with us and talk about whatever crisis was going on that week because within the crisis there are always crises and that’s kind of how we adapted and kind of kept each other in-check and kept each other going, was between professors and friends and just fellow classmates at Mizzou. And that’s one of the things that I really love about the community here, is that the students and faculty and staff all really care about the students.
Moderator: [00:07:00] Yeah, no, the teachers have been amazing. But a follow-up question for you guys, with commencement postponed and celebrations moved online, how have your family, friends and supporters shown their support for you?
Huong Truong: [00:07:14] So, prior to coming on here, I was actually on another Zoom call. My sorority does this thing where we send off our seniors every year, and it’s really emotional. It’s very much like the time that you want to be around each other and just really talk about the good memories, about what you hope for sisters to go off in the world and do. But the coordinator this year, she really stepped up and was like, “OK, just because we’re not having events in-person right now doesn’t mean we can’t have this. It doesn’t mean I can’t make it happen.” And so they really, the chapter put it together, and that to me was so special in a sense where, I spent six years here at Mizzou and my sorority sisters have been a pillar keeping me and motivating me and having that chance to say goodbye, like officially say goodbye, was huge. And for all of my family members, I’m out of state, I’m from Oklahoma, and with my family members, I know my parents were really wanting to come up here and celebrate. I’m the first person in my family to go beyond a four-year degree. And they were super excited about it. But I told them, “You know what, it’s OK.” Like, I’ll be coming home anyways because my lease ends, like most students. And so I’ll be heading home and I told them, “I’ll be staying with you all for a while. And all I really need is my favorite cake in the world.” Which is in Oklahoma. And they told me, “That’s it. We’ll just, make sure you buy your cap and gown. We’ll take some photos for Facebook and we’ll eat a really nice slice of cake.”
Marissa Price: [00:08:51] Kind of just to build off of that, my food selection is tacos. So my family promised me that six feet apart in a household of not more than nine — I guess we’ll rotate since I have a big family — we’re going to set up a taco bar this summer and I can walk across the kitchen and they would throw streamers and scream, “Yay, Marissa!” And stuff like that.
Christian Cmehil-Warn: [00:09:18] Yeah. For me originally, so I’m from in-state. Mut my extended family is almost exclusively out-of-state. And so we’re kind of planning on having a nice, reasonable get-together and celebrate. But I mean, we couldn’t really do that. So my parents, my parents did come up one weekend and we kind of celebrated in our own way. And on our theme of food, so I’ve lived most of my life in Missouri, but I was born in Louisiana and my parents were there for a while. So what’s nice is we do have a really good, there’s a really good place to get fresh crawfish in town. So we just got a bunch of that and had that for our graduation celebration. But yeah, it was nice seeing them and just being able to keep in touch with family is nice. And like, I’m still sending out graduation announcements. And eventually I’m probably going to get a friend with an iPhone and take some pictures in front of the Columns in my cap and gown.
Moderator: [00:10:17] Yes, no, definitely. And so, that’s great that all you guys’ family and friends have shown an immense amount of support. It’s amazing what people have found a way to do in the midst of these times. Last question for you all, how has your time at Mizzou prepared you for the future? Or would you, I would even say for your future specifically and what you want to do?
Christian Cmehil-Warn: [00:10:39] I think the biggest way Mizzou has kind of set me up to do well, so the field I’m wanting to go into is very, I mean, new. And I know it’s a word Mizzou likes to use a lot, but interdisciplinary — truly. And I think throughout my time at Mizzou, through the variety of people I’ve met, the amazing people I’ve met, through just the, sheer span of classes I’ve taken, I feel really, really ready to kind of go into that, being ready and willing to work across fields and take something I’ve learned from something that might be unrelated, if it’s applicable, and apply those to other things. So I think that Mizzou has really prepared me to, like, work in a kind of uncertain changing area.
Marissa Price: [00:11:30] So when I came to Mizzou to tour, one of the things that drew me in was, being a veteran, was the Veterans Clinic that Mizzou Law has. It sets it apart from all the other law schools really. The Veterans Clinic, where we do pro bono work for veterans in the community. So there’s that aspect and getting to be a part of that and a part of a community that appreciates veterans was great. In addition to the community in general, the professors are just great. Like I said before, you know, they care about you as a person. So the ability to, one, be able to just go in to any professor and talk to them and, two, them caring enough to set you up with networking and connections in whatever you want to do has just prepared me to go out into the world and not be, I guess, afraid because I feel confident in how prepared Mizzou has made me. In addition to all the opportunities I’ve gotten while I was here.
Huong Truong: [00:12:35] Christian and Marissa, I think you took the words out of my mouth, really. For me, I, would consider Mizzou a huge kind of foundation setter. I did my undergrad here the Missouri Method way through the Journalism School. And it taught me you learn things in the classroom, but you have people, you learn, you put it out there, you work hard and you just keep going. And when I decided to switch my career from photojournalism to higher education, I did it because I fell in love with working with students here at Mizzou. I found mentors here who said, “Hey, you’re really good at this, too. Have you thought about it?” And who were willing to kind of put their foot out there and write me letters or recommendation to get me into the program, to really guide me through this process this past two years. And when it happened, it kind of seamlessly transitioned me into taking the skills I learned as a journalism student and applying it to my Master of Education and working with students.
Moderator: [00:13:33] Yeah, I mean, I’m pretty sure you guys could go on forever just speaking about the impact that Mizzou has had on you guys. And I would like to thank you all for joining us today.
Huong Truong: [00:13:43] Thank you, Steven.
Marissa Price: [00:13:46] Thank you.
Christian Cmehil-Warn: [00:13:46] Thank you.
Moderator: [00:13:49] Our audio engineer is Aaron Hay. Our featured music is composed by MU master’s student Niko D. Schroeder and performed by the Donald Sinta Quartet. You can find more information about Niko, the Quartet and their piece on the Inside Mizzou webpage. Thank you for joining us on this last episode of Remote MU. This is also going to be the final episode of its parent podcast, Inside Mizzou. For two years we’ve had so much fun meeting and talking with people from every part of the University of Missouri: students, faculty, staff and alumni who are all doing amazing things. Thank you to our vast and incredible community from around the world for listening. Though Inside Mizzou won’t carry on for the time being, we look forward to finding even more ways to share the real stories, real discoveries and real impact of our Mizzou community. And as we like to say, see you around the Columns.