Missouri State University

Kristina Wilmoth

  • Program manager, Northwest Project
  • Springfield, Missouri
  • BS, marketing-advertising and promotion, 2010
  • MS, health promotion and wellness management, 2014

After her journey as a non-traditional student, she’s 'writing her own job description’

“The professors and curriculum kept in touch with the heartbeat of the field itself and what’s out there.”

Mother, wife, student

Six years away from school. A young, growing family. Limited transportation and resources.

Kristina Wilmoth had a lot of reasons to not return to school. But the current program manager for the Northwest Project was on a mission.

“I always knew secondary education was what I was going to do,” Wilmoth said. “I was going to keep going."

A Michigan native, Wilmoth took one year of college in her home state. She then moved to Springfield and attended Evangel from 1999-2000.

Six years later, married and with kids, Wilmoth headed back to class, this time at Missouri State.

Overcoming obstacles

For Wilmoth, going back to school wasn’t as simple as registering and showing up to class.

She picked up side-jobs like babysitting and house cleaning to help pay bills. Her husband worked a nightshift job so the couple could share household and childcare duties.

“I was able to find a lot of friends that would help me watch my kids when I was in class,” Wilmoth said. “I tried to really connect with the non-traditional student community.”

On top of that, for about nine months of her undergraduate time, Wilmoth’s family didn’t own a car. She became very familiar with Missouri State’s Bear Line shuttle system.

“I loved it,” she said. “I walked or biked to the bus station about 1.5 miles away from my house, took the city bus downtown and then the Bear Line to my classes.”

Four years later, Wilmoth had reached a major milestone in her life: a college degree.

“Receiving my (bachelor’s) degree from a state university – the second largest in the state – was a privilege and was the first academic goal I completed as an adult.” 

Untapped potential

“Because of the diversity in the classroom, I saw that being a non-traditional student really was what Missouri State was about. We were about diversity and this wasn’t just a cookie-cutter program.”

After one year in the workforce, Wilmoth was ready for more professional growth.

She had a background in mental health and was succeeding in her job at the Developmental Center of the Ozarks, but had seemingly reached her peak as an assistant manager.

“My bosses saw so much potential in me and encouraged me to explore a master’s degree in something that was more community-minded, more public health.”

Wilmoth decided to pursue a human services degree to further her career. She researched MSU’s health promotion and wellness management program.

A meeting with kinesiology department head Sarah McCallister convinced Wilmoth that she was joining the right program.

“(Dr. McCallister) really encouraged me and told me I was perfect for the program, even though I saw a lot of young kids that were gym teachers or that worked in college health and wellness that didn’t look a lot like me,” Wilmoth said. “I knew that I belonged because of those dimensions of health the program offered – physical, mental, public, spiritual – were equally important.”

Building meaningful connections

Through her internship in the HPWM program, Wilmoth built a professional networking connection with Amy Blansit.

Blansit is the former head of Drury’s health and wellness department and currently a professor in MSU’s kinesiology department. She’s also co-founder of the Drew Lewis Foundation (DLF), whose mission is to “improve the quality of life in under-served urban neighborhoods.”

Wilmoth landed a new job – program director of DLF – while finishing her internship.

Wilmoth became the Northwest Project’s new program manager in April of 2016.

The city of Springfield developed the Northwest Project to address poverty issues in its northwest communities.

“Sometimes I’ll just sit back and say, ‘Wow, I was a student a couple of years ago. What am I doing? What is this world that I’ve joined? People are recognizing me and connecting me even more and asking me to teach what I know. That boggles my mind, but I’m able to own that because of how empowered I am.”