st joseph civic arenaMay 5, 2021–Zora Mulligan, Missouri’s commissioner of higher education, will speak at Missouri Western State University’s two Spring Commencement ceremonies, at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Saturday, May 8 in the St. Joseph Civic Arena, 100 N. 4th Street. The ceremonies have been moved indoors because of predicted inclement weather both Saturday and Sunday.

Approximately 550 Fall 2020 and Spring and Summer 2021 graduates are expected to participate in the two ceremonies. Because of COVID-19 restrictions, attendance is limited to invited guests only (up to 6 per graduate). Face coverings are required. Ceremonies will be streamed online for those unable to attend in person.

zora mulligan

Zora Mulligan

Mulligan has served as Missouri’s Commissioner of Higher Education since August 2016.  During her time as commissioner, Ms. Mulligan led efforts to restructure state government to bring the agencies responsible for postsecondary education, workforce development, and economic research together to form one new department, the Missouri Department of Higher Education & Workforce Development.

Mulligan and her team have partnered with colleges and universities around the state to address equity gaps in higher education, substantially improve transfer for Missouri students, increase graduation rates by offering alternatives to remedial coursework, and implement new rules that give public colleges and universities greater ability to meet statewide and regional workforce needs.

Ms. Mulligan is a native of West Plains, Missouri, and a graduate of Drury College and the University of Kansas.  She previously served as chief of staff to the University of Missouri System president, executive director of the Missouri Community College Association, and assistant attorney general.  She lives in Jefferson City with her daughter Anna Lea. 

Also speaking at the commencement ceremonies is graduating senior Briana Reed of Kansas City, Missouri. Reed, a graduating convergent journalism major, served in multiple leadership positions during her time at Missouri Western, including serving as co-coach for the Missouri Western Dance Company and as Secretary of Senate and Chief of Staff for the Student Government Association. 

Reed has also been a member of the National Society of Leadership and Success, Student Involvement Committee and the Society of Collegiate Journalists. Recently, she was initiated into Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated. She volunteered with Harvesters in Kansas City, has been involved with the Silence the Hate Movement, and is a minister of the Oasis Church, formerly Zion Grove Baptist Church, in Kansas City. 

The 11 a.m. ceremony is for all graduate students as well as undergraduate students in biology; chemistry; computer science, mathematics and physics; health information; nursing; physical therapy assistant; population health; physical education; recreation sport; social work; general studies; and technology. It will be streamed live at

The 3 p.m. ceremony is for undergraduate students in business; criminal justice and legal studies; education; engineering technology; communication; English; modern languages; journalism; psychology; art; cinema; music; theatre; economics; history; philosophy; political science; religion; and sociology. It will be streamed live at

Graduate students will also be honored during the Spring 2021 Master’s Hooding Ceremony at 7 p.m. Friday, May 7, in the Fulkerson Center on the Missouri Western campus. The guest speaker will be Aaron Dowis, who has earned three degrees from Missouri Western: a Bachelor of Science in Nursing in 2017, a Master of Science in Nursing in 2019 and a Master of Business Administration in 2020. The ceremony will be streamed live at

Missouri Western State University is a student-centered learning community preparing individuals for lives of excellence through applied learning. Missouri Western is located in St. Joseph, Mo., and is committed to the educational, economic, cultural and social development of the region it serves. Visit