Event Background and the “Why”
The University of Central Missouri has a rich history with the Boy Scouts of America. It was once a tradition for the UCM Department of Aviation to host a yearly aviation encampment at the Skyhaven airport, so as to encourage community service amongst our peers. The focus of this event was, of course, aviation. The Scouts that participated got to experience a weekend full of aviation adventures and education that resulted in not just the Aviation merit badge, but memories that would last a lifetime and inspire them to pursue their passions for aviation. Sadly, after many years of the event, BSA HQ had imposed regulations that restricted Scouts from flying in aircraft. It was at this point that UCM abandoned the idea.
Little did BSA HQ know that Rod Hightower would soon be graduating from UCM, only to assume the role as President of the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA). It was shortly after this appointment that Rod decided to argue his case with headquarters, highlighting the safety of air travel and recreational aviation. After several months of debate, the Boy Scouts of America finally amended their regulations to allow Scouts to fly in aircraft. However, by this time, the original faculty that coordinated the event, Fred Schiezser, had left the University; and with it, the hope to continue such an event. The aviation encampment became a thing of the past.
Today we are trying to reinstall UCM’s dedication to community and to the Boy Scouts of America, so that we can inspire young youth to pursue whatever goals they may have in life. This event is also hosted in accordance with UCM’s “Learning to a Greater Degree” initiative, which focuses on broadening students’ commitment to education beyond the classroom and into our community so as to create a futuristic culture of service amongst graduates across the United States and abroad.
This merit badge university is different from all the others, though. Our goal is to encourage service before self, and leadership in our community. This event is completely volunteer-based and free to all Scouters (minus the food and pre-established prices for more costly equipment that certain merit badges may require). We hope to continue the tradition for many years to come. We hope to set an example for higher-education institutions, and to reinforce the importance of the Scouting program across the nation.
The Merit Badge University was originally created in 2012, as part of a service learning project that was incorporated in the curriculum for an aviation class that was taught by Darren Smith. The idea was reinforce learning through teaching, or to have the students teach what they have learned in an attempt to reinforce the curriculum. However, as the team leader for the project, I (Chase Neill), chose to include the fire safety merit badge as a bonus. The event was a success, but we did not have near the participation we were hoping for, and we identified many flaws. For that reason, I made a promise to the Scouts that we would continue offering such an event each year.
The following summer of 2013, before I knew that I would be enrolled in another class that required a service learning project, I began organizing the event, as promised. I made significant progress until I found that I was responsible for yet another project. Thankfully, Mr. Smith allowed me to use the project I had already began working on, and gifted with the talent of two other key individuals: Vini Ho Chee and Mohammed Al Obaidli. With their help, we were able to offer 17 merit badges, with the potential to offer Scouters as many as 4 during the course of the weekend. Our volunteers ranged from doctoral faculty, graduate students, and students pursuing undergraduate degrees, where supervision was provided to ensure effective teaching methods. The event was a HUGE success, and all of our feedback was heavily positive.
Last year, with the absence of the three who managed the 2013 MBU and a lack of volunteers to assume the role as coordinator, we thought all hope was lost. However, lifetime Scouter Jason Gilbert, a committee member with Troop 400, decided to take the reins, with support abroad from myself and the faculty of the University of Central Missouri. The event was hosted in April, however, as a result of late planning. The event was a huge success and Jason has stayed on to coordinate the event again in 2016.
-Chase Neil (2012 – 2013 Event Coordinator)
Original History Story by Fred Schieszer
One cold wintry day one of CMSU’s Aviation Majors came into the office of Professor Fred Schieszer with a newspaper clipping. The clipping was about the “Merit Badge College” offered once a year at the University of Missouri at Rolla. At this event scouts could sign up for various merit badges and learn the skills in a University setting – earning the merit badge in one weekend.
The student with the clipping asked why CMSU didn’t do something like that – especially in aviation. The answer given was WHY NOT? Let’s try it and see if anyone is interested.
Early in 1984 the student “Paul Tuck” and the professor “Fred Schieszer” went to the Department Chairman of the Aviation Department, Dr. Jack Horine, with a proposal to host an Aviation Encampment at the University owned Skyhaven Airport. Dr. Horine was enthusiastic and suggested that Troop 400 of Warrensburg might be interested in helping out. Troop 400 was ore than interested, and immediately offered help, manpower, weeks – even months of preparation an da great deal of moral support.
That year we hosted our first encampment for over 150 scouts and leaders and found that we really could accomplish the entire list of requirements in one weekend. Since that time our enrollment has grown to about 500 participants and in 1987 for the first time we regretfully had to turn down some requests to attend.
Our planning staff has been fairly stable over the years consisting of Professor Fred Schieszer of the Aviation Department as well as the Scoutmaster and committee of Troop 400.