They live out Missouri State University’s public affairs mission in their work and personal lives.
Missouri State University recognized three staff members and three faculty members for their efforts with the 2020 Board of Governors’ Award for Excellence in Public Affairs.
Each winner receives a $1,500 grant for travel and/or projects related to their public affairs endeavors.
Samantha Francka, marketing and web specialist, international programs
Francka co-created the Global Leaders and Mentor Program to help understand and address the needs of international and domestic students.
She currently serves as instructor of MSU’s Ad Team. She led the team through a project for the Community Foundation of the Ozarks to stimulate economic development and growth in four local communities. She also guided the team to win this year’s national competition for The McCain Institute with its campaign to counter targeted violence.
Dr. Diana Garland, Learning Commons director and BearClaw co-director
Garland has 30 years of service to the university in various roles. She has spent many years involved in the activities of Staff Senate, including a strong commitment to campus involvement in breast cancer awareness.
Some of the most important aspects of her work consist of modeling ethical leadership and engaging students from all cultures in the Learning Commons and BearCLAW. She has developed training programs with modules on cultural competency and ethical behavior to support students in their understanding of public affairs.
A’dja Jones, student athlete development and community relations director, Dr. Mary Jo Wynn Academic Achievement Center
In 2016, Jones underwent a bone marrow surgery to donate to a young boy with lymphoma. She also started volunteering at Isabel’s House Crisis Nursery, when she was searching for a volunteer opportunity that “set her soul on fire.” She has moved through a variety of leadership roles, including a term as president of its Associate Board.
As a member of Alpha Sigma Alpha sorority, Jones learned leadership, confidence and a passion for growth. When the Beta Sigma chapter needed a membership commitment advisor, she stepped up. Four years and a new advisor role later, she has mentored over 300 women.
Dr. Kevin Evans, professor of geography, geology and planning
Evans is a two-time Provost Fellow for Public Affairs. He has obtained external funding for studies ranging from investigations of terrestrial meteorite impacts to multiple geologic mapping projects. All these ultimately help his students become better geologists.
Evan’s most recent tectonism study in southwestern Jamaica revealed that a natural disaster, such as an earthquake and possible tsunami, impacted a pre-Columbian culture, leading to a revolution in shelter and food resources. His research stands out because he helps the public understand how he applies his findings to improve decisions that shape communities.
Dr. Lisa Hall, associate professor of psychology and gerontology program coordinator
Hall’s research has developed into community-wide reports that have influenced policy in our community. Among them is the 2019 Community Mental Health and Substance Abuse Assessment report.
She worked with the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Southwest Missouri and the Springfield-Greene County Health Department to develop and implement the Greene County Senior Peer Support Program. She was also instrumental in shaping the Give 5 Program, a first-of-its-kind “civic matchmaking” program created in our community.
Dr. Elizabeth Sobel, professor of anthropology
Sobel’s work illuminates past injustices in the Ozarks and in other parts of the country. Her research explores cultural consequences of those injustices as she partners with cultural descendant groups and works to raise awareness through public education.
In collaboration with MSU students and the local community, she uncovered the role of African American slaves associated with the Nathan Boone homestead. She has documented the family names of those buried in the African American section of the national cemetery on Seminole. Sobel also obtained grants that led to the creation of a “traveling trunk” exhibit used in public schools.