Every year, Pittsburg State selects Outstanding Seniors. This tradition, which dates back to over 60 years ago, begins with a nomination by faculty, staff or student organization presidents.
Once those nominations are in, a committee evaluates each nominee and reviews their academic records, campus involvement, leadership in organizations, their awards and honors, community service, volunteer work and contributions to the university and the community.
Those named an Outstanding Senior will have a brass plaque inscribed with their name installed in the Senior Walk in front of Russ Hall.
This year, seniors in nursing Piper Misse and Marcus Yoakam have been named the Outstanding Seniors of 2020.
Yoakam is double majoring in nursing and French and is very active on campus.
“Well, it’s an incredible honor and… all I can think about is just all the people that helped me get to where I am today,” Yoakam said. “So, I guess the first thing I think about is just how grateful I am to have had those people in my… (life) and to have gone to a university that really allowed me to reach my full potential… But mostly, just I’m very incredibly honored and grateful.”
Misse is also extremely honored to have been chosen as an Outstanding Senior.
“It’s hard to put into words how I feel,” Misse said. “I am extremely proud to be part of Pitt State and it’s tradition and just all that the community has to offer and to have any part in that whatsoever I just feel blessed beyond words. It is a wonderful honor.”
Yoakam spends his summers at the Midwest Hemophilia Association Summer Camps, which he says has been “amazing.” Yoakam is also very active with the international community at PSU as he is a member of the International Student Association, Pitt Pals and is part of the PEER Mentor Program.
“Most of my (community) service was for the international community,” Yoakam said. “The actual community service that I did was actually in Kansas City. I work as a counselor for a camp for kids with bleeding disorders. I have a bleeding disorder, so for a week I just go up… by KC…, I take all the kids to activities and I run the sports. But it’s a really awesome camp for kids with bleeding disorders because we teach them how to be more independent in managing their disease. I think it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done because we get to teach kids how to stick themselves with a needle to infuse their medication and that’s a big hurdle, it’s a big mental hurdle. When the kids can do (that), it’s just an amazing experience… As far as community service here in Pittsburg, a lot of my community service has been with the international students. I stumbled into the international community so to say through Pitt Pals which is organized through the Internationals Program. After that, I just kind of fell in love and I, for the last five years, helped with orientations, I’ve picked up students at the airport for the international office, (and) I’ve helped lead games… I’ve been lucky and fortunate enough to meet all these people from all over the world and work with them together to just promote diversity in Pittsburg.”
Misse has been actively involved in sports, clubs and organizations at Pitt State as well as in the Pittsburg community. Misse is the captain of the women’s cross-country team as well as the women’s indoor and outdoor track and field team. In her athletic career, Misse has earned many awards including Golden Gorilla, the 2019 MIAA Scholar Athlete Award and the Academic Excellence Award. Furthermore, Misse is a five-time MIAA Individual Conference Champion. Misse volunteers at Via Christ Village, the Red Cross tent at home football games, and the emergency department at Lawrence Memorial Hospital. She is a member of several clubs and organizations at PSU including the Honors College, Crimson Club and the Kansas Association of Nursing Students.
“…Ever since I came to college, I really wanted to put roots down in the community and get to know people outside of the university,” Misse said. “Fortunately, the university offers so many diverse opportunities for service that I was able to participate in several including the university blood drive and natural ties with Honors College which is a group of students that get together with adults from the community that have special needs and we do games and crafts with them. I also participated in the Red Cross tent at PSU home football games with the Kansas Association of Nursing Students. We check blood pressures and we would provide first aid if needed… Throughout my four years, there have been several different things like reading at George Nettles Elementary School with grade schoolers… Beyond that, with cross country we help run the high school track and field invitational both indoors and outdoors which is a lot of fun to see the young competitors. Then, with Crimson Club some of the service opportunities include acting as an usher or a greeter at various events happening at the Bicknell Center and that’s been a lot of fun just to get to know a lot of people from the community whether it’s legislators or citizens… it makes the experience really special.”
Since he began his education at PSU five years ago, Yoakam has created three student organizations including the Outdoors Activities Club, which is the largest student led organization on campus, and the Diversity in Nursing Club.
“…I created the Diversity in Nursing Association because in nursing we see so many diverse populations coming in now-a-days and its very important, I think, to understand their culture… for example people from the Middle East may want to face east. Especially when they are approaching death, sometimes they want to face east… So, it’s just little things like that. I had students come in from different countries around the world and they came and talked about their country, what healthcare was like, any cultural significance. I was a member of the International Student Association for every year I’ve been here. This year I was the Vice President/Outreach coordinator (and) last year I was Treasurer. Frisbee club President, captain. This year I was just a captain… Nothing crazy, but all activities that I really, really loved and I was passionate about… I wanted to make sure I wasn’t just joining every club out there. I wanted to make sure I was involved in organizations where I felt like I could make a difference and they were things that I was passionate about. I’m glad that Pitt State has so many organizations…”
The memories and experiences from Pitt State are things that Misse will remember long after she graduates.
“My experience at Pitt State has been overwhelmingly positive,” Misse said. “I really appreciate that the university offers so many opportunities to grow as an individual and as part of the community. I feel like this is one of very few universities in which you can truly be involved across campus and expand upon various areas of interests that you have. So, it has been a great privilege to be able to participate in intercollegiate sports and find friends that are like family there and lifelong mentors. It’s also been very special being part of university clubs like Crimson Club or Honors College or Kansas Association of Nursing Students in which I have just met the most incredible, inspiring people that I hope to model myself after. So, it has been the four greatest years of my life for sure.”
Yoakam feels he has made lifelong friends at PSU.
“…I’m from Pittsburg so when I came to Pitt State I was kind of dreading it, I’m a townie in every of the word, but as it turns out I’ve met people from all over the world and those connections are connections that I’ll have for (the rest of) my life and I really love that,” Yoakam said. “I love… the small classroom sizes… (and) the actual interaction I had with my professors at Pitt State, the rapport we were able to build. I don’t feel like I was just another number, my professors knew me by name. I could go to them with any problem, they were always so understanding and accommodating… So, that’s really nice.”
Yoakam maintains a high GPA as a nursing student and is the nursing school class president. After graduating, he plans to obtain a nursing license for both Kansas and Missouri. He also plans to travel internationally and teach students in France English. Yoakam hopes to work for Doctors Without Borders or the Red Cross one day but is long-term goal is to work as a nurse practitioner in pediatric hematology/oncology.
Along with her high level of involvement on campus and in the community, Misse maintains a 4.0 GPA as a nursing student. After graduating, Misse has a job lined up in the medical intensive care unit at St. Luke’s South Hospital.
“…I am very proud of all of the graduates as a member of the class of 2020 and although the year didn’t end like we anticipated, I think that as a whole we can all reflect on our experience with positivity… for the time we had here,” Misse said.