Hundreds of successful graduates will receive their University of Missouri diplomas at commencement exercises this weekend (May 13–14). Among them are nearly 300 distance students who have earned their degrees and certificates through online classes.

“It takes great discipline and determination to stay on top of course work while also managing the work load of daily life,” said Sasha Schmid, head tennis coach and an instructor for MU’s online master’s in positive coaching, who addresses the graduates in filmed remarks for Mizzou’s online commencement ceremony.

“I am in awe of these learners’ commitment to continued education often in the midst of full time jobs, sometimes even multiple jobs, the demands of caring for young children, or sometimes caring for elderly parents,” Schmid said.

Mizzou’s online graduates range in age from 22 to 64. Most of them have completed post-graduate degrees; nearly 250 are receiving doctorates, educational specialist or master's degrees.

One of the graduates is Lt. Buddy Anliker, who completed his master of public affairs degree online while working full time for the MU Police Department. “The ability to network with all of these extremely intelligent professionals during my time as a student has made me a better leader,” Anliker said.

Anliker delivers remarks to his fellow graduates in his filmed address on the commencement website, at Graduates can use the site to share photos and their friends and families can use the site to write congratulatory notes in the online guest book.

“We’re honored to have had the opportunity to help these graduates prepare for the next step, whether it’s professional advancement or personal enrichment," said Kim Siegenthaler, Mizzou Online director. “We hope the online commencement site gives them a place to celebrate their accomplishments because, in many cases, these distance students aren’t able to travel to campus for graduation ceremonies.”

For more information about the on-campus graduation ceremonies, please visit the Registrar's commencement page at

Graduate programs, professional schools and the discovery of new knowledge through research add unparalleled value to a degree from the University of Missouri. Increasingly MU also serves that value to distance learners through online courses, degrees and certificates.

One example of that added value — what we like to call “the Mizzou difference” — is the online graduate certificate in positive psychology offered by the Department of Educational, School and Counseling Psychology in the College of Education.

Cory Elfrink

Cory Elfrink, program coordinator in the College of Education, emphasized that value in a recent interview with 

“We do not simply memorize character and talent strengths — we seek to develop them,” Elfrink said.

The practice of positive psychology is gaining momentum. More and more professionals are looking for ways to nurture talents and strengths, both in the work place and in their personal lives.

MU has responded to this demand by creating a 15-credit hour graduate program that is conducted entirely online, the better to meet the needs of working psychologists and other professionals.

“This certification is, among other things, an excellent complement to those professions who would like to better incorporate a positive psychology perspective,” Elfrink said.

Read the full interview at

The University of Missouri has long been associated with extensive publication and research in the field of positive psychology. Faculty in the College of Education began teaching positive psychology on campus in 2006 and online in 2012.

Students can complete the five courses in the online graduate certificate in positive psychology in as little as three semesters. This program accepts applications on a rolling basis, so students can apply at any time.

Interested in helping build thriving individuals, families, communities and organizations?

Learn more about the online graduate certificate in positive psychology.

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MU’s Trulaske College of Business execMBA program has received a national distinction for helping students succeed.

The UPCEA Excellence in Advancing Student Success Award recognizes institutions and programs that support adult and/or nontraditional students via strategic initiatives, projects or services.

UPCEA CEO Bob Hansen; Kathleen Dolan, director of the Trulaske execMBA program at MU; Lesley Nichols, executive director of professional studies at Emerson College and chair of the UPCEA Marketing, Enrollment and Student Services Network; and Inside Track SVP Chuck Kleiner.

Kathleen Dolan, director of the Trulaske execMBA program, accepted the award April 8 at UPCEA’s 101st Annual Conference in San Diego.

The award was sponsored by InsideTrack, a provider of student coaching services.

The Trulaske execMBA was specifically designed for working professionals. “We built this program on the basic insight that people who are interested in advancing themselves want to be surrounded by others who also have a similar drive, energy and intellect,” Dolan said.

The effect on graduates is profound: Of the inaugural graduating class, nearly half the students ended the 21-month program with either a promotion or a new position.

In honoring the Trulaske execMBA, UPCEA highlighted the program’s practice of collecting student feedback in near real-time via an impartial outside vendor. This measurement model melds MBA pedagogy with technology, the better to serve busy executives.

Course work in the program is 75 percent online and 25 percent on-campus, giving students the optimal balance of online convenience, career benefits of face-to-face instruction, and cohort networking.

The hybrid model has drawn national attention. Bloomberg Businessweek highlighted the Trulaske execMBA in its 2013 Best Part-Time MBA and Best Executive MBA report. Poets & Quants named it one of the best online MBA programs in the U.S.

The Trulaske execMBA program is now accepting applications for the next cohort, which begins classes in August. GRE scores are not required.

To learn more about the Trulaske execMBA, or to apply to the program, visit

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New research from the University of Missouri has found associations between trouble sleeping and behavioral problems in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Micah Mazurek

“Past research has found that children with ASD often have trouble sleeping at night. Many children with ASD also struggle with regulating their behavior during the day,” said Micah Mazurek, assistant professor of health psychology in the MU School of Health Professions and the Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders and co-author of the study.

“If parents are noticing that their children are having behavioral problems, it may be helpful to make sure they are sleeping well at night,” Mazurek recommended. “For all children with ASD, it is important that parents and professionals routinely screen for sleep problems. Addressing these issues will help children be at their best during the day.”

Read the full story here: Trouble sleeping associated with behavioral problems in children with autism

Some researchers at the Thompson Center also teach courses in MU’s online master’s degree program in autism education. This 30-hour online graduate degree program covers the methods of teaching individuals with ASD, including high-functioning autism and Asperger syndrome, as well as social competency and applied behavior analysis.

Want to help young children and youth with autism or related conditions? Learn more about MU’s online master’s in autism education.

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A national body has recognized a University of Missouri faculty member for her efforts in helping prepare educators to teach English to speakers of other languages (TESOL).

The TESOL International Association selected Nikki Ashcraft PhD for her contributions to shaping the future of both the association and the TESOL profession.

Nikki Ashcraft

Ashcraft is the primary instructor in the online TESOL program offered by the MU College of Education’s Department of Learning, Teaching and Curriculum.

"I enjoy teaching online since it allows me to work with TESOL students all over the world,” Ashcraft said. “Our online program is truly international in scope."

Ashcraft has worked for 24 years in the field, teaching English and training ESL/EFL teachers in Chile, Kuwait, Mexico, the United Arab Emirates and the United States. She has provided TESOL methods training to Fulbright English Teaching Assistants assigned to the Middle East and North Africa.

Ashcraft formerly served as chair of the TESOL International Association’s Teacher Education Interest Section. Her books include “Teaching Listening: Voices from the Field” (2010) and “Lesson Planning” (2014), both published by TESOL Press.

Ashcraft and other recipients will receive their honors at the TESOL 2016 International Convention and English Language Expo, April 5–8 in Baltimore.

“This is an amazing accomplishment, and it recognizes Dr. Ashcraft's talent, commitment and amazing work ethic in TESOL,” said Rachel Pinnow PhD, associate professor and coordinator of the TESOL program.

Ashcraft has been with MU for five years. She and her colleagues in the TESOL program help scholars and practitioners use theory and research to enhance their work.

“Everyone at the Department of Learning, Teaching and Curriculum is proud of — but not necessarily surprised by — Dr. Ashcraft's achievement,” Pinnow said. “It is further testimony to our department’s tradition of excellence in addressing pressing issues for English language learners and the teachers who work with them.”

Graduates of the department go on to become some of the most sought-after, successful and best-prepared classroom teachers within Missouri, nationwide and around the globe.

The TESOL program at MU offers three options for students who want to pursue a career teaching English as a second language: a master’s degree (M Ed), a graduate certificate, and a certification preparation track for teachers seeking Missouri ESOL certification.

All three programs are completely online — no campus visits are required. And students pay in-state tuition, regardless of where they live and study.

Are you looking for advanced education in ESL/EFL teaching and learning? Or are you a certified K-12 educator seeking ESOL certification? Learn more about MU’s online TESOL program today.

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When you choose the University of Missouri, whether online or on campus, you get access to the Mizzou Advantage — the unmatched expertise of MU faculty and a long-standing culture of collaboration.

You can see this interchange of ideas at the Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders, where MU faculty from diverse fields are launching an employment readiness program to assist adults with autism.

Karen OConnor
Jena Randolph

Led by assistant research professors Jena Randolph and Karen O’Connor, the Self-Determined Transition Readiness through Individual Vocational Experiences (STRIVE) will help participants gain experience and skills so they can obtain and maintain competitive employment.

“One of the barriers to employment for adults with autism is limited work experience,” Randolph says. “STRIVE will have a direct impact on the participants by giving them volunteer and work experience in different positions across campus.”

Read the full story here: Neurodiversity Champions

In addition to their work at the Thompson Center and on campus, Randolph and O’Connor also teach courses in MU’s online master’s degree program in autism education.

This 30-hour online graduate degree program covers the methods of teaching individuals with autism spectrum disorders, social competency and applied behavior analysis, learning theory, instructional leadership, instructional technology and research.

Want to help young children and youth with autism or related conditions? Learn more about MU’s online master’s in autism education.

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Taking discoveries from the lab to the marketplace requires business savvy. But scientists and researchers often lack know-how when it comes to pitching investors and creating business plans.

To help close this skills gap, the University of Missouri is now offering an online graduate certificate in life science innovation and entrepreneurship.

Students can complete the four-class career development program completely online in just one year.

The program is the result of collaboration among faculty in the MU School of Medicine, College of Engineering and the Trulaske College of Business.

“As scientists, we’re very good at testing hypotheses and producing scholarship,” said Jerry Parker, associate dean for research in the MU School of Medicine. “But, increasingly, we are understanding the importance of finding commercial applications for our discoveries and delivering them where they’re needed. We also want to help others acquire these important skills.”

Classes cover obtaining patents, intellectual property, determining commercial viability, market assessment, competitive landscape and life science research tools.

The life science innovation and entrepreneurship program is designed to serve researchers, doctors and veterinarians as well as engineering and business professionals. The certificate will prepare graduates to lead their own biomedical companies or work as investment specialists for venture capital firms.

"This program gets scientists, engineers and business people all on the same page," said Anandhi Upendran, director of biomedical innovation in the MU Institute for Clinical and Translational Science. “We show them how to better understand unmet clinical needs, so they can innovate together to build products to meet those needs and bring those products to the market.”

Classes begin in August and applications are now being accepted. GRE scores are not required.

Students in this program — and in all Mizzou’s online graduate degree and certificate programs — pay in-state tuition rates, regardless of their state of residency.

To learn more about the online graduate certificate in life science innovation and entrepreneurship, or to apply to the program, visit

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University of Missouri faculty excel in their fields, bringing discoveries and creative achievements into the classroom as well as publishing in prestigious journals.

Rui Yao

One such faculty member is Rui Yao, an associate professor of personal financial planning in the MU College of Human Environmental Sciences, who has identified key factors that cause people to make common investment mistakes.

The recent stock market decline is concerning for many investors who are affected by short-term market trends. However, experts say now is an important time for investors to remember that many mistakes can be made in this economic environment


Yao’s study, published in the Journal of Personal Finance, identifies several risk factors for people who are more likely to make investment mistakes during a down market. “During a down market, every mistake an investor makes is magnified,” Yao said. “If financial planners can identify those who are more at risk to make these mistakes, they can more effectively work with the investors beforehand to help prevent them from making such mistakes.”

Read the full story here: Overconfidence, loss aversion are key predictors for investment mistakes

Yao is the director of graduate studies in the Department of Personal Financial Planning and teaches courses in the online master’s and online graduate certificate programs.

The master’s is 36 credit hours and has no thesis component, but requires a practicum and capstone course that focuses on case studies.

The graduate certificate program is 18 credit hours and focuses on employee benefits and retirement planning, estate planning, and case analysis.

Want to help individuals and families make informed and effective decisions so they can achieve their financial goals and grow stronger? Learn more about MU’s online master’s and online graduate certificate in personal financial planning.

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Graduate certificate in education improvement is first of its kind in the U.S.

The University of Missouri’s College of Education is now accepting applications for a new online graduate certificate in education improvement. The 100 percent online program helps professionals working at all levels of education gain experience in quality management.

The 12-credit-hour graduate certificate in education improvement is the first of its kind nationally and is designed to allow students to continue working in leadership roles while taking classes.

Blake Naughton
Executive Director of the Hook Center for Educational Renewal
University of Missouri College of Education

“When you enroll, you get a solid foundation in data-driven educational improvement,” said Blake Naughton, coordinator of the education improvement program and Executive Director of the Hook Center for Educational Renewal. “You will also create, as part of your course work, a real project that you can actually put to work to help improve your school district’s performance.”


The education improvement graduate certificate is aligned with the NIST Baldrige Performance Excellence Program, a data-driven approach to strategic planning and knowledge management that is being adopted by a growing number of school districts in Missouri and across the country.

“We seek constantly to help improve outcomes for schools, their teachers and their students,” said Kathryn Chval, acting dean of the College of Education. “Our hope ultimately is to help students make the most of their education experience.”

Like all graduate distance programs offered by MU, the education improvement graduate certificate program is available to students everywhere at in-state tuition rates.


The College of Education is accepting admissions to the program on a rolling basis and no GRE scores are required. The first course begins this March. Prospective students can submit an application for post-baccalaureate admission (graduate) to enroll for the first semester and then formally apply to the program.

Learn more information about the online graduate certificate in education improvement at

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John Scanlan discovered his lifelong passion for photography as a teen, leafing through photos of photos from the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War in Life and Look magazines.

Five decades later, Scanlan has enjoyed a rewarding career as a photojournalist. Recently retired, he took the time to apply his experience in earning an online master’s degree from the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism.

“I didn’t go into this with a tremendous amount of confidence,” Scanlan said. “I didn’t know whether I had what it took.”

As it turns out, he did. Scanlan received his master’s from the University of Missouri in December, 42 years after he first enrolled at MU.

As a young man, Scanlan had earned a bachelor’s degree in literature before enlisting in the Army, where he served as a photographer. In 1972, he left the military and planned to attend grad school.

A commercial photographer recommended he try MU. “He told me it was the best school in the country for photojournalism,” Scanlan said. “It was the best advice I could have received.”

At MU Scanlan studied under Angus McDougall, who instilled an intensity and passion for photojournalism in his students.

“He let us know that if we cared about the profession, we were going to have to fight and argue and proselytize others in the industry to prove that we knew what we were doing so that our voices would be heard,” Scanlan said.

Before he could finish his master’s project, however, Scanlan found work as a photojournalist through MU alumni at The Coffeyville (Kansas) Journal. He went on to become photo editor at The Greeley (Colorado) Tribune before accepting an offer in 1986 to become a picture editor at The Hartford (Connecticut) Courant and, eventually, director of photography.

At every step of his career, Scanlan found classmates from Mizzou and other alumni who also had studied under McDougall. “We shared the same values and trusted each others’ judgment,” Scanlan said.

Over the years those alumni, and McDougall himself, encouraged Scanlan to finish his master’s degree. So when Scanlan retired in 2011, he enrolled in the online master’s program from the MU School of Journalism.

Despite his abundant experience, Scanlan was apprehensive. But MU staff and faculty gave him the support he needed. “Being able to talk to someone or email someone and have them answer your questions makes you think, ‘Gee, I can really do this,’” Scanlan said.

In his master’s project, Scanlan examined how digital media can boost or hinder narrative. His research focused on long-form digital storytelling best embodied by The New York Times’ story “Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek,” by John Branch.

Scanlan dedicated the project to his MU mentor. “McDougall wanted you to give your all to the profession because he thought that’s what it would take to be successful.”

McDougall’s passion continues to influence and inspire new generations of MU journalism students, Scanlan said. “It’s still there, whether you get it online or on campus.”

Upon the recommendation of his master’s committee, Scanlan wants to turn his master’s project into a university course in visual narrative.

If you’re a working journalist and want to update your knowledge while expanding your professional network, consider an online degree from the University of Missouri. Earn your master’s in health communication, interactive media, strategic communication or media management.

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