Paige Schafer’s original plan was to major in radiology.

“I’ve always had a passion for healthcare,” she says. “My sister was already (attending Missouri Southern) before me, and I really enjoyed the closeness of the campus community.”

In high school, Schafer says it was the business field that drew her interest. When she learned that Missouri Southern was going to offer a new bachelor’s degree program that combined healthcare and business, she was eager to find out more.

Launched in 2018, the Bachelor’s of Science in Healthcare Administration degree is the backbone of the university’s new Gipson Center for Healthcare Leadership. The degree is designed to provide a solid business foundation to prepare students for leadership roles within the healthcare industry.

“Since it was a new program, I knew I wanted to be one of the very first to finish it,” says Schafer.

During last weekend’s commencement ceremony, Schafer became the first to earn the new bachelor’s degree.

“Since I first met Paige as her adviser, she was determined to get her degree and excel in healthcare leadership,” says Melinda Brown, director of the Gipson Center. “She was also a two-year recipient of the Gipson Center’s Healthcare Leadership scholarship.

“She’s going to be a great leader in the healthcare field.”

Beyond blazing the trail within the new program, Schafer says she stayed active in several campus groups.

A member of the Zeta Tau Alpha sorority, she also was a member of the Order of Omega – the Greek honor society at Missouri Southern – and Phi Eta Sigma, the freshman honor society.

“Getting involved is a really important part of the college experience,” says Schafer. “It gives you a family, a community and support.”

Looking back, she says she found an abundance of all three during her time at Missouri Southern.

“I don’t think I would have been as happy going anywhere else,” she says.