Graduating seniors continue their education


Samantha Zoltanski/The Chart

Senior theater major Ryan Odenbrett rehearses for Southern Theatre’s production of Escanaba in da Moonlight in January 2014.

As graduation approaches, there are many seniors who are being awarded and recognized for their time at Missouri Southern and their future plans. Ruth Stamper, Xiaoyu “Jamie” Wu and Ryan Odenbrett are just a few successful seniors getting ready to graduate and continue their education.

Ruth Stamper

Senior English major Ruth Stamper walks around the campus of Missouri Southern with a smile on her face even if she is drenched in sweat from teaching Zumba in Beimdiek Recreation Center. She’s got some reasons to smile.

She was 2012 Homecoming Queen, received second in the Spencer-Bartlett Respect Award in 2014 and was awarded Leader of the Year at the annual Glenn D. Dolence Leadership/Service Recognition Assembly on April 24, 2014.

Stamper said she has had some great experiences and made a lot of memories, especially being awarded Leader of the Year, but there is one moment she will never forget.

“I have to say, Homecoming Queen was pretty darn huge, but I did not expect to win at all,” said Stamper. “It was so much fun and it also gave me a lot of confidence going forward.”

Stamper was a part of Omicron Delta Kappa, the national leadership honors society and Sigma Tau Delta, English Honors Society, where she was given the opportunity to present her work at conventions and conferences.

At the Sigma Tau Delta International Convention in Feb. 2014 in Savannah, Ga., Stamper was awarded first place for an essay she had worked on for almost a year.

“That was really important to me and reinforces my identity of being a writer and what I have been striving and studying to be,” she said.

Stamper describes her awards and achievements as unexpected throughout her college career, but she said the best of all was making it through the four years at Southern with her family intact.

With a husband and two boys at home, it has not been easy for Stamper.

“I have made a lot of really important friendships here and I cannot think of a person I have encountered on this campus that I have not liked,” said Stamper. “It has been a really amazing four years.”

Stamper will travel to Paris and London this summer, then to the University of Kansas in the fall, where she was accepted into the doctoral program in sociology.

Xiaoyu “Jamie” Wu

As the semester comes to an end, students are cramming for finals, finishing any last projects, cleaning out dorm rooms and preparing for graduation. Xiaoyu “Jamie” Wu is one of those students, but also she is preparing for an exceptionally bright future.

Wu is walking on graduation day for her Bachelors of Arts degree in mass communication.

From Qingdao, China, she is very interested in photography, videography and intercultural and gender studies (influenced by instructor Kristen Livingston).

One fact few people know about Wu is that she has to watch horror movies with her friends; she cannot do it by herself because those images will stay in her mind forever.

She absolutely loves her dog, Doudou, which means “beans” in Chinese.

After graduation, Wu will fly back to China where she will spend the summer with her friends and family before she leaves again in August for Ohio.

“I have not been home for almost two years,” she said. “I really miss my family, my dog and my hometown. Most importantly, I miss authentic Chinese food.”

In the fall, Wu will attend Ohio University, where she will pursue a master’s degree in global and mass media with an intercultural perspective. She hopes to become a college professor in one of those fields back in China.

“I heard Ohio is a very beautiful state, and I’m sure I will meet a lot of new friends there,” she said.

Her time at Missouri Southern has been spent in the communication department, where she has been a part of the International Language Resource Center, KGCS-TV and The Chart. The work she has done here has helped her get into grad school and receive a scholarship.

An old Chinese proverb says, “Do not cross the bridge until you come to it.”

For Wu, this means not being nervous about what her future holds. She knows what she wants, and she is chasing her dreams.

“I will miss the college, my friends, and professors here,” she said. “It is really hard for me to say good-bye to MSSU. I will just say, ‘See you later, Southern.’”

Ryan Odenbrett

To say that Ryan Odenbrett was a star basketball player in high school is an understatement. As a player on the varsity team, his team snapped a 12-year, 182-game consecutive losing streak, making him prime college ball material. But this is not a story about him going on to play for the Lions, at least not on the basketball court.

Instead, he has been playing on a different kind of field, the theater, the Bud Walton Theatre. He has transformed his unplanned theater experience into a graduate spot at Mary Baldwin College in Stanton, Va., where he will be learning and teaching Shakespeare.

He dabbled in acting very little in high school, although in his freshman year he did a one-act performance that won the Ozark 7 Best Actor award. Considering this a fluke, he continued to play basketball. But the next year he played a small role in another one-act and won best supporting actor.

“Up until this point I was pretty sure I was going to play in the NBA,” Odenbrett said. “I have always shot pretty high.”

Though he went on to dedicate the rest of high school to playing basketball, he had been bitten by the acting bug and decided to pursue acting in college.

“When I came to Southern I thought, I’m going to learn to act in a year, then bail and go straight to LA,” he said. “And then Tim Klein happened.”

Associate professor of Theatre, Tim Klein started the first class by asking the students what they knew about acting. After everyone answered, he told the class to write down that they knew nothing about acting. At the end of the first year, he conceded that they now knew a little about acting.

“I was pissed, and I had to stick around for the next year to get [classes] three and four,” Odenbrett said. “I never saw myself actually graduating until Tim Klein stepped in.”

As if his acting talent and a prime spot in graduate school is not enough, he ends his career at Southern with his first full-length original show, Three Cheers for Eight Years. The production will be May 8, 2014, in the Bud Walton Theatre. Odenbrett wrote the script and will act in the play as well as directing and running lighting and sound.