Missouri State University The Power of Showing Up
In July 2012, Johns accepted a newly created position as the substance abuse assessment specialist and mental health clinician in the Counseling Center at Missouri State. Within four months, he was on the phone with Jenna Parisi, formerly of the Stacie Mathewson Foundation, about initiating collegiate recovery efforts. In 2014, MSU received an Early Stage Grant award from Transforming Youth Recovery, and by fall 2014, Johns had launched the Collegiate Recovery Program (CRP).
The Golden Ticket
Jon Mangum grew up about 20 miles outside of Springfield, Missouri, in Rogersville, population 3,073. School always came easily to Mangum, whose father is a doctor and mother is a nurse. Despite missing the maximum number of classes each semester — 10 absences per class per semester — Mangum scored a 35 on his ACT. He enrolled at the University of Colorado Boulder (UC Boulder) where his addiction started spiraling out of control.
Mangum continued his career of absenteeism at UC Boulder. Within a year, he lost the scholarships that allowed him to attend the expensive, out-of-state university, and within the second year, he was dismissed from the institution.
His habit of not showing up abruptly came to an end at a treatment center in California, where missing individual and group therapy sessions was not an option. During a group counseling session, someone brought up the golden ratio, a famous geometry idea that appears in everything from art to architecture. A special number approximately equal to 1.618, the golden ratio can be found when a line is divided into two parts so that the whole length divided by the long part is also equal to the long part divided by the short part.
For days, Mangum had been eating, sleeping and breathing recovery-related materials. When the golden ratio came up, Mangum perked up. At UC Boulder, Mangum had majored in electrical engineering. With permission from the counselor to go off on a tangent, he started explaining how to use the golden ratio. A few days later, the counselor smuggled Mangum a math book.
With a renewed interest in academics, Mangum returned home and enrolled at Missouri State University in the spring of 2014 as a math major with an astrophysics minor. Although Mangum had the support of his family and an outside fellowship, he felt alone on campus.
But he wasn’t. In the 2014 Missouri College Health Behavior Survey, MSU students were asked if they identified with a person in recovery or sober from alcohol or drug abuse. Out of the 691 responders, more than 5 percent said yes.
“MSU is somewhat of a party school,” Johns says. “We can’t change that culture. But we can provide a place for students who want to change their lives. We can change people’s lives.”