December 07, 2022
Written by Sam Ennis | MU Honors College
If there’s any phrase that could describe moving to college, it’s this: nerve-racking. There are very few students on Mizzou’s campus who know this better than freshman civil and environmental engineering major Alexa Henry. From Chicago, Illinois, Henry knew few people on campus and struggled to leave her friends and family behind.
Not one to sit idly by, Henry set her sights on getting more involved on campus. Already a Brazeal Scholar, Henry has made the most of her opportunities and carved out a community for herself at Mizzou that will stick with her the rest of her life.
“I wanted to come to Missouri for a fresh start, but it was really a bare fresh start, coming that first day,” said Henry. “But now I’m adjusted, and already met so many great people.”
The road to Mizzou was successful for Henry. While in high school, she participated in cross country and did a little ice-skating. But while those activities were fun and exciting for Henry, what really captured her interest were art and STEM subjects.
Henry put her knowledge of these concepts to the test when she began to enter computer-aided design (CAD) competitions. She quickly found herself taking home trophies, and when Henry made the state tournament, she finished second. At the same time, Henry also began to share her love of STEM and the art of computer design with students at the high school, elementary, and community college levels.
“I really enjoyed helping younger kids,” said Henry. “I’m one of the oldest cousins in my family; I feel like I’ve worked in a nursery my whole life. I feel like there’s so much you can learn from kids.”
For Henry, part of the excitement came from seeing the younger children progress through the swimming lessons she coached.
“There was a kid who was autistic, and he was a lot older than the other kids. I know that was a challenge, trying to balance it,” said Henry. “He came in and he wasn’t coordinated at all, he really struggled. But then by the end, it was so cool to see him swim the whole length of the pool.”
While Henry tried to make a difference in the lives of the kids she worked with, teaching the children also made a difference in her own life. Always looking for lessons, Henry’s inquisitive mind allowed her to glean some important insights.
“I feel like it really helped with communication skills because so many kids learn in really different ways,” said Henry. “I feel like I’m better at explaining things because of [teaching] and better at trying to figure out multiple angles to hit it from depending on the person.”
To Henry, however, making a difference is more important than any insight or rewarding experience.
“It felt really good to see the difference made in their lives,” said Henry. “It was the same thing with teaching [engineering to freshmen]. It was super great to see their progress and how far they’ve come since the start.”
Aside from athletics and teaching, Henry dove deep into music in high school and was a flute player in her high school band. Henry continued pursuing this love of music into college, often playing her flute when she is stressed or just needs a break. Music has also helped Henry with much of her course work.
“I feel like [the flute] has also helped a lot with math because there’s so much subdivision and counting in music and math is my favorite subject,” said Henry. “[The flute] is really cool because it’s a break, but at the same time, it’s kind of like a mental exercise or puzzle.”
Without the flute, and her previous musical experience, Henry may have had a much more difficult transition to college. But after a few hoops, hurdles, and flute jam sessions, Henry was settled into college and able to dive deep into the clubs, activities, and communities offered at Mizzou.
Before college, Henry applied to become a Brazeal scholar. The Brazeal scholarship is typically awarded to one qualified member of an underrepresented group within the Honors College. Once in school, Brazeal scholars have access to tuition aid, study abroad assistance, and a first-year research placement.
The Brazeal scholarship also gives its recipients access to various opportunities to expand their professional network and Mizzou community. Scholars usually spend their first year in Mark Twain, living with and around other honors students.
“It’s also a good networking opportunity because I get to be with the other scholars and talk to previous scholars, the Stamps Scholars, and a bunch of honors students,” said Henry. “I’ve met a lot of really great people who have kept me motivated and involved.”
Henry’s wide variety of interests has given her a lot of options for her future.
“I was thinking about getting a master’s degree, but I’m not really sure,” said Henry. “I was also thinking about studying law too because I’m really involved in the environment and environmental engineering so I feel like part of that should be knowing the law because there’s so many environmental policies that are trying to be created.”
No matter where Henry’s future takes her, if her past is any indication, she will end up helping people. Whether it was teaching swimming, math, and engineering, or directing her future career to mending the environment, Henry has always found a way to support people along her path.
This story was originally published by the MU Honors College