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Three engineers among Mizzou ’39

Each year, the Mizzou Alumni Association Student Board reviews applications from top university seniors — weighing academic achievement, leadership and service to Mizzou and the community — to select the Mizzou ’39. Honorees come from a variety of majors, participate in different activities and belong to different organizations. But all have distinguished themselves as MU students, leaders and as outstanding representatives of the university.

Additionally, each designate recognizes a faculty or staff member who made a difference in his or her college experience and influenced him or her personally.

Mizzou ’39 recognition was bestowed on three College of Engineering seniors: Darnell Cage, a mechanical and aerospace major from St. Louis; Richard Devero, a mechanical and aerospace major from Dallas; and Amy Trader, a biological engineering student from Columbia. The three honorees responded as follows to questions about their Mizzou experience.

Q: Why did you choose engineering as a major – and why Mizzou Engineering?

A man on the left poses while shaking hands with a man on the right who was a Mizzou '39 recipient.

Mechanical and aerospace engineering senior Darnell Cage, right, poses with his mentor, Nathan Stephens, senior coordinator of the Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center.

A woman on the left poses with a man on the right who was a Mizzou '39 recipient.

Mechanical and aerospace engineering senior Richard Devero poses with his mentor, Carrie Bien, Mizzou Alumni Association coordinator of student programs.

A man on the left poses with a woman on the right who was a Mizzou '39 recipient.

Biological engineering senior Amy Trader poses with Todd McCubbin, executive director of the Mizzou Alumni Association. Her mentor was Satish Nair, professor of electrical and computer engineering.

Darnell Cage (DC): Engineering, particularly at Mizzou, brings versatility and diversity to the field and there are research and program opportunities that are interdisciplinary. Research, where you start from scratch — hypothesizing, building prototypes, testing and repeating — there is always a sense of accomplishment when you achieve results that offer new insight to the issue.

Richard Devero (RD): When visiting my sister, I fell in love with the campus and the people. Engineering was an easy decision because I like understanding how things work and I wanted to challenge myself.

Amy Trader (AT): I grew up in a family with a long line of engineers. Being born and raised in Columbia, Mizzou was an obvious choice. The campus has always felt like home and I am an avid Tiger athletics fan. My father graduated from the MU engineering program and continues to work for the Mizzou Power Plant.

Q: Mizzou 39 is all about academic achievement, leadership and service. Please outline your accomplishments in these areas.

DC: I am finishing up my B.S. in mechanical engineering with a minor in math, aerospace engineering, and leadership & public service. Dean’s list every semester; Gates Millennium Scholar; Tau Beta Pi and Pi Tau Sigma Engineering Honors Fraternity member; honors undergraduate research; McNair Scholars Program; George C. Brooks scholar; graduating from the Honors College

RD: Mark Twain scholarship; dean’s list every semester; leadership positions within my fraternity, Phi Kappa Theta; served on the 2011 centennial homecoming steering committee and was a tri-director of homecoming in 2012; involved with “Rockin’ Against Multiple Sclerosis” steering committee.

AT: Mizzou Alumni Association scholarship, numerous College of Engineering scholarships, Curator’s Award, Engineering Merit Award. I have danced on the Mizzou Golden Girls Dance Team for four years; belong to Kappa Kappa Gamma Sorority — dance chair for three years; volunteered with Boys and Girls Club, the Rainbow House and the food bank.

Q: What motivated you to go above and beyond as a student at Mizzou?

DC: I have become a part of Mizzou Black Men’s Initiative (MBMI) and it has shaped me in my thinking and who I am. Through this program, I collected food, prepared food baskets, and served hot meals for both food pantries. I was also encouraged to get involved, which lead me to the homecoming steering committee where I was able to put the pillars of community and leadership into action on the service committee.

RD: Coming from out of state, this university gave me an opportunity to get involved right away and I have attempted to give back to a university that has given me a great education, great friends and great memories. There are so many incredible organizations on campus where individuals can make a huge difference both on campus and in the Columbia community.

AT: I was motivated to try a leave a little legacy at Mizzou. I love knowing that I can make a difference.

Q: Why do you think that getting involved is important?

DC: Throughout my life, I felt somewhat obligated to help others. I feel that in order to help yourself, it is imperative that you help others as well; this brings unity and peace among communities. Getting involved exposes you to opportunities that can help you do that and get the most out of your experiences.

RD: One of the best things about getting involved is the relationships I have made. I have friends in the Greek community, in engineering and through the many committees I’ve been on. It makes a big school feel so much more connected. I see friends in every building on campus, which makes me feel so much a part of the university.

AT: It has always been important to me to get involved. I wanted to become a part of the school’s tradition and dedicate myself to help keep that tradition going. There are so many amazing opportunities through Mizzou and I never like passing any opportunity up because you never know where it leads.

Q: Why did you choose the mentor you chose? How did her or she influence you?

DC: None of this would be possible had not been for the continuous efforts and generosity of Nathan Stephens, senior coordinator of the Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center. He told me to pursue my passion, experience life taking nothing for granted and make the most of my opportunities — a model I have been actively pursuing since that day. His words of encouragement and wisdom fueled my desire to be all that I can be academically and outside the classroom. Obtaining this award and having Nathan recognized for all he does means the world to me because of what his guidance and mentorship meant to my family and me.

RD: My mentor was Carrie Bien, Mizzou Alumni Association coordinator of student programs. Carrie was my sister’s sorority sister and helped she me grow into the student leader I am today. I worked with her for over two years at the Mizzou Alumni Association, first on the homecoming steering committee, but mostly once I was chosen as director. She taught me how to pay attention to little details while still keeping in mind big picture ideas.

AT: There are very few teachers you meet that you can tell will have an impact on your life past the time they have you in class and Dr. Satish Nair, professor of electrical and computer engineering, was one of them. He teaches a very challenging, yet manageable course. When the material is difficult he is always there to help get you back on track. To him, learning comes before grades. It’s the knowledge and skill sets you are able to develop in school that will make you successful. Dr. Nair makes you think outside the box. He cares about his students’ success and creates students that will stand out from other universities in the work force.

Q: Do you have a favorite MU moment – a fondest memory?

DC: Walking across the Mizzou Engineering shamrock with my now fiancé, Brittany Bennett. I dragged her over it so that she would marry an engineer.

RD: During the first ever homecoming concert that took place right outside the student center on Rollins Street, we were thanking the 5 to10 thousand people who showed up for the concert, and introducing the band, “Imagine Dragons.” Before leaving the stage I yelled out an “MIZ” and got a deafening “ZOU” back. It was one of the cooler moments of my life to hear so much Mizzou spirit.

AT: Dancing at Faurot Field in front of 70,000 fans. There is no greater rush and sense of pride than performing for all of those fans who share the same passion for Mizzou that I do. There will never be anything like it.

Photos by Casey Buckman Photography, courtesy of the Mizzou Alumni Association