Showcasing His Creative Side

Students at the Missouri Scholars Academy have a variety of options when it comes to major and minor courses. Most try to find classes that touch on their interest areas. Colin Wilburn took a bit of a different approach.

A fan of math and science, Wilburn could have pursed a major course tied to one of those subjects. Instead, he elected to join a creative writing class.

“My parents were a bit worried just because they knew if I didn’t enjoy the work it was going to be a very long three weeks,” said Wilburn, who was a scholar in 2018. “I’m very thankful I went the route I did, though. It was very challenging, but I loved engaging with other students who were so passionate about writing. I learned a lot and grew in ways that I couldn’t have imagined.”

Developing his writing skills paid dividends for Wilburn almost immediately upon his return to Vandalia, Mo., a rural town an hour northeast of Columbia. Heavily involved in FFA at Van-Far High School, Wilburn was able to take what he learned at MSA and apply it to a variety of tasks within the organization. He was eventually named a Missouri state FFA officer and served in that role during the 2020-21 school year.

“MSA allowed my creative side to come out and that was a huge benefit to me as I was getting more involved in FFA,” Wilburn said. “I had to write quite a few speeches and the process was much easier with the skills I had developed through my major course at MSA.”

After earning his high school diploma, Wilburn made the decision to attend Mizzou. Both MSA and FFA made that decision an easy one.

“I had several family members attend MU, and we were in Columbia quite a bit growing up,” Wilburn said. “I was also on campus quite a bit through FFA. What really sold me on coming to Columbia was my experience with MSA. I became enamored with Mizzou through the Academy, primarily because I saw how much the faculty truly care about their students. I thought MU was a big school that would treat me like a number. I quickly learned that the faculty and staff here do really care about me as a person.”

Wilburn, who will be a senior this fall, is a biochemistry major and agricultural leadership minor at MU.

“I knew I wanted to find a degree program heavy on science and biochemistry was the perfect fit,” Wilburn said. “Plus, biochemistry is also part of the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, which was important because I wanted to stay connected to agriculture. There are a great number of resources and options in CAFNR, and I’m so happy to be part of the College.”

Wilburn’s summers have been fairly packed between his degree program and FFA, but he was finally able to return to MSA last summer, serving for the first time as a residential assistant. He returned this year as a residential assistant, too.

“It was so much fun to be back,” Wilburn said. “It’s definitely tiring and takes a lot out of you, but this program really makes you such a well-rounded student. It was amazing to interact with the scholars and see how passionate they are about learning. Their interests kept me motivated throughout the three weeks.”

Wilburn said that as a rural scholar, keeping the Academy free is vital moving forward. He was fortunate enough to have a group sponsor his spot at MSA – which was not free the year he attended. This year’s Academy was free for all attendees and next year’s program will be as well.

“I was the last scholar from my rural high school, and it’s imperative that we bring students from those areas in,” Wilburn said. “As a rural scholar, I see the benefits of this opportunity for students like me. MSA allowed me to grow beyond the classroom. I definitely came out of the Academy a more well-rounded person.”