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Three engineers chosen for this year’s Mizzou ’39 honors

DeYoung, Salim, Heffernan and Wilson stand in front of a pair of balloons spelling out 39.

MU Engineering seniors Creighton DeYoung, Cora Heffernan and Briana Wilson pose with Associate Dean of Academic Programs Hani Salim at the Mizzou ’39 reception. Photo courtesy of Hani Salim.

Being selected to Mizzou ’39 is a tremendous honor for any University of Missouri senior. The award highlights the top 39 seniors in terms of academics, leadership and service to Mizzou and the community.

This year, three College of Engineering seniors earned that lofty accolade. Bioengineering majors Creighton DeYoung and Briana Wilson and industrial engineering major Cora Heffernan were recognized as members of the cream of the crop of Mizzou students in this year’s class. They were unveiled to the Mizzou community in February and honored once more at a reception in March.

Creighton DeYoung

DeYoung hails from Webster Groves, Mo., and has thrown himself into life both on campus and as an engineering student since stepping on campus. He said a senior he admired in his fraternity, Zach Hanson, was selected to Mizzou ’39 during DeYoung’s freshman year, and it put the accolade on his radar. When his senior year came around, it was his turn to apply.

DeYoung has been heavily involved on campus throughout his Mizzou career, joining Mizzou Alternative Breaks and Beta Theta Pi and doing extensive work with the Missouri Innovation Center and the Burke Lab. His community service work with Mizzou Alternative Breaks helped shape his mindset as a student.

“First and foremost, it’s a service organization,” he said. “It’s been a great educational experience for me. It’s been incredible for leadership development, as well.

“The culture of self-discovery and serving other people and doing something bigger than yourself and getting to meet people on campus you wouldn’t otherwise meet helped me branch out a lot as a person.”

The Missouri Innovation Center allowed DeYoung to get an early start fostering his entrepreneurial spirit, so much so that he named its president and CEO, Bill Turpin, as his Mizzou ’39 mentor. He was selected to the UM System’s Entrepreneurial Scholars and Interns Program in 2016, working with fellow student Bobby Caffrey on a startup company.

“He’s made an incredible impact on me and the entrepreneurial and innovative community,” DeYoung said of Turpin. “We met two years ago when my friend and I were working on a company, and he’s incredibly wise. He comes from Mizzou. … He’s just an incredible resource for engineers and business folks alike on campus.”

Cora Heffernan

Mizzou has been in Heffernan’s blood well before she ever set foot in Columbia. The St. Louisan’s parents, as well as several other relatives, are Mizzou alumni. Her older sister, Stephanie Anderson, works for the MU Alumni Association. Needless to say, a love of MU came naturally to her.

“I feel like I did a lot for the university, but I never needed to be recognized. I did it because I love the university,” Heffernan said. “But it’s a really cool feeling to have someone comment back that, ‘Hey, we see everything you’re doing. You’re great, and we’re so happy you’re doing it.’”

Her involvement includes serving as co-president of the St. Pat’s Board and president of Alpha Pi Mu sorority. She’s also served as a Summer Welcome leader and a university tour guide, and her experience as the only female engineer in the latter is among her proudest accomplishments.

“One of the coolest things for me is I’m actually the only female engineer on tour team,” Heffernan said. “One of the greatest feelings you’ll ever have is when someone tells you you’re the reason they came to Mizzou. And talking to women engineers who say you’re the reason they got into engineering and came to Mizzou — oh man, it hits so hard.”

She was thrilled to share her moment at the unveiling with family and her mentor, donor relations associate and family friend Stefanie Gray, and added that Gray’s example helped drive her to become a better leader.

“The reason I really chose her as a mentor is because she mentors me both outside of school and at Mizzou. She got me a job on campus, and I’ve gotten to watch her lead by example,” Heffernan said. “There’s lots of chaos all around her and she can in a nanosecond narrow down what she needs to be doing. … It’s awesome to watch someone come into a crazy room and understand everyone’s opinions but say, ‘Here’s what we’re going to do.’”

Briana Wilson

Wilson came to Mizzou as a psychology major before shifting into the College of Engineering. Since coming to campus, she’s thrown herself into a multitude of organizations, including the National Society of Black Engineers, Engineering Ambassadors, Black Women Rock and the senior secret honor society QEBH.

“I knew I wanted to get involved on campus. … When I switched to engineering my sophomore year, it was obviously a really big jump,” she said. “I didn’t know how I was going to get through it. That’s why I joined all the engineering organizations I did. And they have helped me so, so much to get through engineering and stay on the track. … The organizations I’ve gone to outside of engineering, it’s just because I have such a passion for them.”

The St. Louis native’s heavy involvement in campus and engineering life made her a prime candidate for Mizzou ’39 selection, helping her achieve a goal she set early in her collegiate career.

“When I found out I got accepted, it’s honestly the most amazing feeling ever. To know that out of however many candidates applied, you’re one of the most outstanding seniors on this campus. It’s good to feel recognized,” she said.”

Wilson credited her mentor, former College of Engineering Recruitment and Diversity Coordinator Darius Whitaker, for helping guide her down the path that, thanks to her hard work, eventually led to such a tremendous accolade.

“I just had the chance to talk to Darius about everything I was worried about and insecure about (about switching majors), and he just really helped me realize my full potential,” she said. “He calmed all my fears and talked me through what engineering was going to be like and put me in touch with the right people. … He’s always been a great friend, great mentor. I love him so much.”