Many Southern grads return here to teach

Brian Nichols - Assistant Profesor of Finance and Economics

Brian Nichols – Assistant Profesor of Finance and Economics

For many Missouri Southern graduates, their alma mater is also their place of employment. Roughly 15 percent of the permanent faculty hold degrees from Southern, and some have been with the University for many years.

Dr. Bernie Johnson, professor of marketing, graduated in the first four-year class of Missouri Southern State College in 1969.

“It’s very special to teach here,” Johnson said. “To teach at your alma mater, you have a vested interest in the process like no other professor has.”

Teaching at Southern since 1974, Johnson has seen many changes and now he has even seen some of his students return as instructors. Brian Nichols, assistant professor of finance and economics, is one of Johnson’s former students.

“It was just a little weird at first,” Nichols said about working with his former instructors. “Now that you’re a peer and on a first-name basis, that took a little getting used to.”

Moving to the office next door does have its perks.

“It actually makes the transition into teaching just a little easier.” Nichols said. He says he takes advantage of learning from other professors.

“You can still pick their brains.” Nichols said.

“I just did it differently,” said Dr. Barbara Box, professor of nursing. “I came in as an instructor and then graduated from Southern.”

Box had been insisting on the importance of Spanish in the field of nursing and felt she needed to set the example for her students.

“I had to put my money where my mouth is,” Box said.

Box returned to Southern for her second bachelor’s degree after completing her Ph.D. and teaching. She said she enjoyed her experience meeting students from many backgrounds and observing other teaching styles.

“It gives you an appreciation of what it’s like to be a student,” Box said.

Johnson says former students returning to Southern as instructors demonstrate the depth of their education.

“It’s great, I enjoy it,” Johnson said. “It’s a sign of success in the job that you did in preparing them [your students] for life.”

Nichols sees a positive change in Southern with more hands-on experience for students, like the investment center and portfolio management programs.

“The attitude that Southern has towards the students, versus some big universities, is our focus is teaching,” Nichols said.

Currently, Johnson sees many students who arrive at 8 a.m. and leave by noon for a part-time job across town and he would like to see students invest more in their University.

“We talk about the freshman experience and we do not have one,” Johnson said. He believes a Greek system on campus would bring more involvement with the school.

“Students should get involved in the institution and vice versa,” Johnson said.

But he has faith in Southern as an institution.

“It’s a wonderful school and it prepared me,” Johnson said.