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MSU-WP alumna receives Citizen Scholar Award


Missouri State University-West Plains graduate Heather Day, West Plains, was among six students who received Missouri State University’s 2023-2024 Citizen Scholar Award.

The awards were presented Thursday by the Missouri State University Board of Governors at the group’s regular meeting in Springfield.

Established in fall 2007, the award is given annually to students “who exemplify the concept of a citizen scholar,” university officials said.

“When you meet Heather, the things you’re struck with immediately are, one, how engaging she is and, two, how sharp she is. Just a top-notch individual, great student, and someone you want in your corner. But after you learn about her story, all that’s she’s done and is doing, everything you thought you knew about her is now colored and enhanced by her dedication to service,” said MSU-WP Chancellor Dennis Lancaster.

“Whether it was her service to our country, to our Missouri State University campuses, to those she’s assisted as a registered nurse, or to her family and now foster children, Heather exemplifies every aspect of what the Board of Governors meant to honor when they established the Citizen Scholar Award for our Missouri State student leaders,” he added.

More about Day

Day graduated from MSU-WP in May 2023 with an Associate of Arts in General Studies degree and an Associate of Science in Nursing degree. She is currently enrolled in the Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree program at MSU and works full time at Ozarks Healthcare’s Cancer Treatment Center Infusion Suite.

After completing her bachelor’s degree, Day said, she would like to return to MSU-WP to teach. “My dream is to pour into the program that poured so very much into me and helped me become the nurse that I am today,” she explained.

During her time at MSU-WP, Day served as chief of staff/vice president of the Student Government Association (SGA) and received the organization’s Executive Leadership and Presidential Cabinet Appreciation Awards for her efforts.

She also served as president of the Student Nurses Association; vice president of the local chapter of Alpha Delta Nu, the nursing honor society; and as a student worker in the Student Recreation Center and with the nursing program.

In 2022, Day was one of 60 collegiate students from across the state of Missouri selected to participate in the Governor’s Student Leader Forum on Faith and Values. In 2023, she was selected as the MSU-WP nursing program’s student ambassador to the Missouri League of Nursing’s Student Nursing Convention.

What others say about her  

In their nomination of Day for the award, her supporters say her desire to help others and to take the lead in those endeavors epitomizes the definition of “citizen scholar.”

“When I look for a student to nominate as a Citizen Scholar, I consider all three pillars of our public service mission,” one nominator said. “Heather has engaged in various communities through service, she has consistently been one of the leaders in these works, and through this leadership has involved others around her in becoming aware of ways to serve those communities.”

This includes her four years of service in the United States Air Force prior to enrolling at MSU-WP, her and her husband’s decision to become licensed foster parents, working with the L.O.C.A.L. Foster Care support group, and serving as the director of reporting for Ozarks Summit Ministries, a nonprofit group which connects youth with caring Christian mentors to build meaningful relationships.

In addition, for the past five years Day and her husband have funded and served a Christmas Day “to-go” dinner to individuals in the Winona, Birch Tree, Mountain View, Willow Springs and West Plains communities who may not have had the opportunity to enjoy a meal. Through funds raised by an annual fishing tournament, the Days have increased the number of people served to more than 300 in 2022.

“Christmas is a special time for families, and Heather has not only sacrificed part of that time, but she has involved her family in that service,” the nominator said. “She realized that the service would require monetary support and worked with her husband to organize a fundraiser to support it.”

Another nominator pointed out her desire to help her peers in the nursing program succeed, including through tutoring. “Heather consistently reached out to her classmates by leading study groups and always provided a helping hand or sympathetic ear to those struggling with the turmoil of life in nursing school, academically or socially,” the nominator explained.

The nominator also praised Day’s work with the foster care program, which resulted in her family’s adoption of two sets of twins. “Heather’s character is exemplified by the fact that she helps children in their darkest hours and provides them with instant protection, stability and unconditional love. Becoming a foster parent allows children in our community to enjoy a secure and enriching upbringing, which promotes their health, well-being and personal development.”

Day’s other accomplishments

Academically, Day was recognized on the MSU-WP Chancellor’s Lists, and because of her involvement in SGA, the Student Nurses Association, Alpha Delta Nu and other student activities and events, she received the MSU-WP student Community Service Award in 2021 and the Campus Service Award and Public Affairs Fellow Awards in 2022, and the Distinguished Fellow of Public Affairs, the Outstanding Academic Achievement and Leadership Awards, and the Outstanding Student Award for the ASN Program in 2023.

Day’s efforts to serve her community continued at Ozarks Healthcare where, in a week’s time, she organized a fundraiser to help support the Cancer Treatment Emergency Patient Care Fund, raising $1,000 for cancer patients who have financial need. She also was nominated for a Daisy Award at the hospital. The award recognizes extraordinary nurses for their compassionate contributions every day, going above and beyond expectations in science and sensitivity.

“Heather is a wife, a mother of two sets of adopted twins, a registered nurse, a community leader, and a war veteran. Heather is always there to support people when they are most vulnerable. She demonstrates exceptional leadership in both the classroom and the community. She is a role model who genuinely epitomizes exceptional character and community leadership,” one of her nominators said.

Other Citizen Scholar recipients

Other recipients of the award this year include:

• Tyler Crane, a senior from Buffalo, who is seeking a bachelor’s degree in elementary education;

• Susan Hardy, a junior from Nixa, who is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in history with a double minor in classics and anthropology;

• Triona Leach, a senior from Oakville, who is seeking a bachelor’s degree in human resources;

• Sara McCord, a graduate student from California, Missouri, who is pursuing a master’s degree in agriculture;

• Erik Netzer, a senior from Springfield, who is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering. 

The Citizen Scholar Award is given to students who have contributed to the university, advanced the university’s public affairs mission, and have significantly engaged in extra-curricular accomplishments and/or in significant service activities to the community.

Each recipient receives a crystal globe in recognition of the award, and their names are added to the Citizen Scholar Wall at Plaster Student Union on the Springfield campus.

For more information about the Citizen Scholar Award, visit StudentAffairs.MissouriState.edu/CitizenScholarAward.htm.