Lincoln University Clears Student Balances

Blue Tiger Bio: Dr. Toni Westbrooks

Jefferson City, MO- As a lifelong educator devoted to special education, Lincoln University alum and current professor Dr. Toni Westbrooks has made a lasting impact on countless students of all grade levels over the years. Like many students, however, she did not always know where her journey at Lincoln would take her.

"I was a music major here at Lincoln, for three years," said Westbrooks, a professor in the Lincoln University Department of Education who leads LU's Special Education program.  "During my junior year, however, President Reagan introduced Project 2000, which placed much more emphasis on math and science. This led to the number of positions available across the country for music teachers to be reduced, and I realized I would have a hard time finding a job in my chosen field. That's when I called my wise sister, who asked if I'd thought about special education."

Westbrooks took her first special education course over a summer session, and did an internship at the Special Learning Center of Jefferson City. That single experience ended up changing the course of her future.

"I fell in looooove! I was like, these are my people!" Westbrooks laughs. "That was it. That sealed it. It worked out beautifully, and I wouldn't change a thing."

Westbrooks earned her bachelor's degree in special education and her Master's degree in Principalship and Superintendency at Lincoln. After working as a special education teacher, principal and superintendent, she received a call from LU's dean of education offering a position as an instructor, and jumped at a chance to return home.

"I bleed the blue and white," Westbrooks says with a smile. "I love it!"

For Westbrooks, special education is not just a degree program or a career path, but a calling. She discovered a passion for connecting and instructing students with various needs beyond the traditional student body population, and has excelled at helping those individuals graduate from high school.

"One of the reasons why I really, really love the program is, I kind of refer to it as the nursing program of the field of education," Westbrooks said. "We take those (kindergarten through 12th grade) students who have not been successful in the general education population, and we're kind of that beacon, that safety net, that buoy for those kids. You have to know the base (of Lincoln's education program), and then you also have to know everything else."

Westbrooks' mission since returning to Lincoln has been to help every candidate in LU's special education program pass the Missouri Special Education Assessment. Not only does she want her students to just pass the assessment, she also wants to make sure they are prepared mentally for the rigors of the first three years of teaching.

To accomplish that mission, Westbrooks strives to support her students in any way possible. That includes giving them her cell phone number in case they have questions or need advice; framing lesson plans to better assist students in areas where they are struggling; and celebrating each milestone with them, from finishing their freshman years at LU to graduation and beginning their careers.

Lincoln students entering the program tend to double major in both education and special education, resulting in them often taking 18-21 credit hours per semester. Completing the special education program requires tremendous commitment, and Westbrooks strives to make the path towards graduation easier by supporting her students through both instruction and mentorship. The result of her commitment has been outstanding, as nearly every one of her students passes the assessment examination on either their first or second attempt.

"l'm very proud of the success rate of the students graduating from this program," Westbrooks said. "My students are as passionate as I am about education. (Watching them) walk across the stage at graduation with two degrees is amazing."


Dan Carr
Photo: Keena Lynch
 
Blue Tiger Bio: Cole Abbott

Jefferson City, MO- In over 10 years working in Shipping & Receiving at Lincoln University, Warehouse Supervisor Cole Abbott has seen just about everything.

"Fetal pigs, formaldehyde...first time I opened that, it was kind of a shock," laughs Abbott, who is in charge of tracking the packages received by the University and making sure they go to the correct departments.

"The mannequins for nursing - it's always fun opening a box and almost seeing a live human in there. And then sometimes you get live organisms like grasshoppers and chameleons. We had one chameleon jump out of the box. You know, it was never found! Now we're into these drones and more technologically advanced products," Abbott continued. "Lincoln tries to stay on the cutting edge with the new technology out there and it's kind of neat to see that stuff."

In his role as the warehouse supervisor, Abbott is one of the few staff members at Lincoln who interacts with every department. His hard work and dedication to the University community has made him a favorite on campus, as faculty and staff members alike appreciate his ubiquitous smile, cheerful demeanor and enthusiasm for serving the Blue Tiger community.

"I am one of the few that get out and go to every building on campus and see everybody, not just the people placing the orders but the people in their department and assistants," Cole said. "You meet everybody, and it is pretty special."

Abbott's commitment to Lincoln and positive relationships with others led to him becoming the chair of LU's Staff Council during the late 2010s. On his desk sits a large trophy, a relic from that era reminding him of the council's victory in the annual Homecoming float decoration contest. Abbott has helped plan fun events for Lincoln's other staff members, and he has been a loyal advocate for University employees through his various leadership roles.

"I really like the support I can provide to other people on campus," Abbott said. "Trying to make others' jobs on campus a little easier is kind of one of the perks I get in the position."

The support Abbott has been able to provide Lincoln extends past the tracking and delivery of shipments. Over the years, Abbott has been able to serve as a mentor to a number of work-study Lincoln students, as well as some from the local high schools. Seeing these student workers learn and grow over their time at LU is perhaps the perk of the position that Abbott most appreciates.

"It's pretty neat, seeing these kids come to me, pretty green as sophomores and watch them graduate," Abbott said. "That's one of the real rewarding parts of the job."

Abbott's ties to the Jefferson City community run deep. Abbott was born and raised in town, went to St. Peter's Elementary School and graduated from Helias High School. Abbott was also very familiar with Lincoln University, having attended sports events and basketball camps at the school as a child. When a friend of Abbott's mother gave him a heads up about an opening in the warehouse at LU in 2007, Abbott jumped at a chance to work for the school.

"It's been fun," Abbott says about his time at Lincoln. "It's really neat seeing what the University buys. You kind of get an inside scoop in the new projects at Lincoln or the new things that are coming, new programs, stuff like that. It's kind of neat seeing the equipment they use and realizing what kind of results they're going to get. It's kind of like [seeing] behind the scenes."

Dan Carr
Photo: Keena Lynch

Blue Tiger Bio: Stacy Landis

 

 

Jefferson City, MO- To Lincoln University senior Stacy Landis, few things in life are more important than one'sfamily.

"Absolutely, family is everything," Landis said. "They're your backbone, your support through thick and thin."

Landis, a Kansas City native and Lee's Summit alum, is Lincoln's Student Government Association President and is currently serving as a peer mentor in the Blue Tiger Academy, a summer academic program for incoming freshmen. Landis has accomplished much during his three years at Lincoln, but he credits his achievements to one person in particular.

"I would say my Dad is definitely my role model," Landis said. "Without him, I don't know where I'd be. He's like Superman to me. He definitely guides me whenever I feel lost, and pushes me in the right direction. I often get credit for the things I've done in college, but he pushed me towards college."

Landis has been a member of the Lincoln Student Government Association since beginning his LU tenure as "Mr. Freshman," and as a sophomore he was elected as an At-Large representative. As a member of the SGA, Landis has helped promote the Dawson Learning Center and worked with Sodexo to set up town hall meetings to improve the cafeteria. This year, he plans to work with the university administration to promote a 2.5 GPA initiative, strengthen Lincoln's relationships with the community and assist in raising the spirits of the student body after last year's pandemic.

"It's all a team effort," Landis acknowledges.

Collaboration comes naturally to Landis, because in his mind, his fellow Lincolnites are more than just a collection of students, faculty and staff. To Landis, they are all members of his extended family, and those relationships have been crucial to his success as an LU student.

"Lincoln is a big family," Landis said. "You know, once you get involved, you just really feel it, and you really understand that everyone here at Lincoln University is here to help you. We're just like a big family; everyone here is cousins, aunts and uncles, that's just how it is around here."

His experiences working with others at LU will certainly benefit Landis in the long run, as he is a psychology major who plans to pursue a career as a child psychologist. As one might expect, family has played a role in that decision, as Landis' aunt is a psychologist who works with patients experiencing trauma and PTSD. Landis is passionate about using the skills he's gaining at Lincoln to help children cope when they are at their most vulnerable.

"I just feel like (childhood is) where it all starts," Landis said. "It's like the saying, You can't teach an old dog new tricks.' I feel like it's easier to help children grow, to help them before they become adults."

The psychology classes as LU have strengthened that passion, as they mix classical textbook learning with opportunities to engage in discussion with their fellow classmates. The professors encourage students to talk about real world, everyday experiences, often using recent current events as a launching point into deeper conversations. Dr. Walter Johnson, Jr. and Dr. Mara Aruguete are two psychology professors in particular who are helping Landis achieve his goal of spending his life helping others.

"Dr. Johnson is an amazing professor, one of my favorites. Dr. Aruguete gives me a little bit of trouble, but she knows what she's doing," Landis adds with a laugh. "She's gonna hassle you, it's gonna be hard getting an A in her class, but it's gonna be worth it. She's a genius when it comes to teaching and trying to get us to understand different viewpoints. The goal is to teach you the correct way, not the easy way."

When he's not serving the campus community or studying, Landis can often be found playing basketball at The LINC, taking on other students, the occasional faculty or staff member, local high schoolers and anyone else up for the challenge. Landis also enjoys playing video games with his friends, listening to podcasts (he particularly recommends Million Dollaz Worth of Game) or Meek Mill and Jay-Z, and binge watching Martin and Grey's Anatomy.

No matter what it is he's doing, however, Landis is always enjoying and appreciating the experience of being a Lincoln University student. Whether he's engaged in conversation in a classroom, attending an SGA meeting at Scruggs, shooting some hoops at The LINC or hanging out in the cafeteria, Landis feels he is making the most of his time at LU.

Landis' advice to incoming students is to find a way to get involved at LU. In his own words, "It just makes things a lot smoother when you feel like you're around family."

Dan Carr
Photo: Keena Lynch

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