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Ruth Ann Orr

Missions Director at La Croix Church

Elementary Education/Psychology

Graduated in 1981

Explain your career path

Graduated with BS in Education in 1981. I taught 5 years, finished my Master's of Arts in Guidance and Counseling and worked as a counselor, psychological examiner, and SPED Process Coordinator for coming to Alma Schrader in 2002 as principal. I finished my Ed.D. through the University of Missouri/SEMO cooperative in 2013 and worked as adjunct faculty in the College of Education, filling various rolls.

During that time, I began serving on short-term mission teams in Belize, Central America where I helped conduct professional development inservice for the teachers in the Cayo and Belize districts of Belize. I did this during the summars of 2015-17 before retiring in 2018.

I recently took the position of Missions Director of La Croix Church in Cape Girardeau. I just returned from a short-term missions trip to Manzini, Swaziland, Africa where I visited the Care Point our church sponsors as well as several other Cape Points throughout the country. The goal is always to help the people of Swaziland develop their skill sets so they become the next generation leaders of their country.

What was your major at Southeast and what led you to that?

I originally started out as a Business Management major. However, during my sophomore year, I just didn't feel as if that was a good fit for me. My grades were fine...but my passion was not. When I switched majors to Elementary Education/Psychology, I immediately felt at peace and developed the passion for teaching and serving others that lasted my entire educational career.

Why did you choose to attend Southeast?

I am a third generation Southeast Missouri State University attendee. Almost my entire family has chosen to get their initial degree from Southeast Missouri State...even though we have taken divergent paths professionally. It was a great choice for me.

Who influenced you most during your time at Southeast?

Most definitely my uncle, Dr. Fred Snider, who, at the time I attended SEMO, was chair of the Psychology Department. His commitment to excellence and his ability to communicate his subject matter at the collegiate level made me feel comfortable in asking questions while challenging me. Dr. Sheila Caskey was also a great influence as were Dr. Jerry Waddle and Dr. Ruth Ann Roberts when I was doing my graduate studies.

Share your best college memory.

Having my dissertation committee review and hearing the words, "Congratuations, Dr. Orr." Those were words I did not believe I would ever hear.

What is the most important thing you learned while you were at Southeast?

To learn to take chances and to persevere. I came from a small town, and SEMO was intimidating to me at first. It was hard to feel connected at first. However, I learned you are as connected as you choose to be. I just needed to learn to take a little initiative.

Describe Southeast in three words.

Relational, professional, challenging

What is your greatest professional accomplishment?

After receiving my Ed.D., my greatest professional accomplishment is joining teachers across the nation to travel to Belize to work alongside the teachers of Belize. Pulling off a two week conference with teachers from across the United States and Belize is challenging...but amazing. The first time we meet face to face is two days prior to conducting our first general conference and break-out sessions. Not only are we the presenters...we are also the set up crew! But every minute of planning, every minute of's absolutely worth it. I've made lifelong colleagues of both the US and Belizean teachers.

This experience led me to interview for and be appointed as the Missions Director for La Croix. Going to Africa was an amazing experience at both the individual and professional level. The reception of the people of Swaziland was so genuine...and the motivation of the people with whom we worked was beyond inspiring. To just be a small part of someone else's professional growth is exceedingly gratifying. And I have never come back from a trip that I am not humbled.

How did your education at Southeast prepare you for what you are doing today?

I have never felt unprepared for any position where I have worked. I believe I received a quality education at Southeast Missouri State and have been able to discuss issues pertinent to my positions on an equal footing with any of my professional colleagues...not matter where they may have received their degrees.

What advice would you give current students or recent graduates interested in pursuing a career in your professional field?

Be open. My first year out of SEMO, I did not get the teaching position I expected, but I took the one offered. My professional journey was not a straight trajectory...but I was always fortunate to have great mentors who suggested I might try a different degree or get another endorsement. I took that to heart...and I have never regretted pursuing avenues I had not originally considered.

What do you wish you had known before graduating and entering the "real world"?

The "real world" can be hard...but I choose to take that as a challenge not an obstacle. Sometimes things won't play out like you have scripted in your head. But patience and perseverance can take you from Puxico, Missouri to Belmopan, Belize to Manzini, Africa!


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