Special to the Citizen
Gov. Mike Parson visited Park University in Parkville on Thursday, July 25, to hear presentations about the university’s history and work-study models and its workforce development initiatives to help employers in Missouri.
He also learned about the school’s commitment to the military and how it is utilizing technology such as Amazon Alexa to better serve students.
The governor toured the Park Global Warrior Center which provides information and resources for service members and veterans transitioning in and out of the military.
It is open to anyone but is typically used by veterans and dependents. The loan library in the Center is free and includes textbooks, which are checked out for a term. Students then are asked to return them so other veterans can use them.
Parson asked where the information comes from to help veterans with questions about attending the university. He then was provided with an Alexa demonstration by military members who are attending Park.
The university provides easy access to military friendly certifying officials who explain educational benefits and who can troubleshoot and help process Veterans Administration paperwork and answer questions.
After the Alexa demo, the governor said there are many organizations out there that are trying to help veterans, but he was concerned about the veterans at home who are trying to figure out what resources are available and how they can get more information about them.
“They go one place to look at this and one place to look at that,” Parson said. “Alexa would be a great tool for them to walk in here and say, ‘I wonder about this’ or ‘I have a question about that.’ It would great for a veteran to say I need this and Alexa takes them there.”
If veterans ask questions that haven’t yet been programmed for Alexa to answer, it allows university officials to know what information they need to add.
When the governor was invited to ask Alexa a question he asked what the university’s mascot was and Alexa answered that it was the home of the Pirates. He then asked when the next women’s soccer game was and if they would win their game. Alexa told him the game would be Sept. 5 and that she was sorry but there was no sports streaming at that moment.
There are 200 students at Park using military connected educational benefits and 300 traditional students.
The governor asked if most military members stay in their field when they attend the university, such as being in the military police service or if they switch their interests. He was told that some do and that the university partners each of them with the Career Development Center to point them in the right direction. They are encouraged to consider their current interest in a career path and how they can translate their military experience into their area of study.
The university encourages students who are struggling in their studies or who may not like what they have chosen to study to consider other options, including trade schools.
The governor said he admired this approach and that he understood that the university wanted students to attend the school, but that he was glad school officials were being honest if university studies weren’t the right fit for a student.
”I appreciate you doing that at the end of the day,” Parson said. “In the end it’s about that person.”
The governor asked how funding for military students worked and was told that they had many options including Title IV, VA assistance, military assistance tuition, scholarships, work study and private payment.
When Parson asked if Army National Guard students could attend Park University he was told about a student in the guard from Kansas who received permission from the military to attend the school.
The governor jokingly said, “So in Missouri we’re taking care of people in Kansas.”
After he thanked the military members for their service he spoke about the core values provided by the military and how we must keep those alive, learn from our past and pass down those values to future generations.
He was presented with a hand-crafted pen which was made from an original staircase built in 1893 at Park University to serve as a reminder that “like the tree it came from he was part of the wood that sustained and nourished Park University.”
Parson is the first governor to visit park since Joseph Teasdale did in April of 1980 when he part of the dedication ceremony when Mackay Hall was placed on the National Register of Historic Places the year prior.