For one Stuttgart grad, attending the Fort Worth, Texas school was one of the best decisions he's ever made.
When Stuttgart High School holds its annual Signing Day for seniors, students wait in line to sign their name under the University of Arkansas, Arkansas State, the University of Central Arkansas and many other state schools. The line for TCU, on the other hand, is virtually nonexistent.
But for one Stuttgart grad, attending the Fort Worth, Texas school was one of the best decisions he's ever made.
"Venturing out of state for college was one of the best decisions I could have made for my personal and professional development," Michael Dabbs said. "Stepping outside of my comfort zone was very important for me personally and expanding my network was extremely beneficial professionally."
The school's interest in its students is what convinced Dabbs to travel the six hours to continue his education.
"I chose to attend TCU because of its embracing community and small classes," Dabbs said. "I was attracted by how much this university invests in its students' development and success."
Although TCU made quite the impression on Dabbs' life, the 2009 SHS grad made sure to leave his mark on the school, as well.
Dabbs, the son of Paul and Cindy Wittman and Steve Dabbs, made sure to make the most of his time on campus, volunteering with the Student Government Association, Model United Nations, Student Foundation, where he gave tours of TCU and helped with alumni relations, Visa Corps as a study abroad ambassador and the Honors College.
"My time at TCU allowed me to explore horizons I never knew existed," Dabbs said. "The opportunities to have meaningful leadership positions in the university, the vast number of internships available in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex and time abroad in Italy for a semester of study all assisted in my professional development and goals."
The faculty and staff at TCU took notice of Dabbs' accomplishments and community involvement and rewarded him with the school's Mission Statement Scholarship Award.
'The Ferrari Mission Award was awarded annually by Student Government to honor a student who lived and carried out the University’s mission statement," the university's website states.
"Today, thanks to the hard work and dedication of TCU Transitions, Mission Statement Scholarships totaling $6,000 are presented at the Ring Ceremony in recognition of rising seniors who have demonstrated excellence in fulfilling the TCU Mission Statement."
The TCU mission statement is "to educate individuals to think and act as ethical leaders and responsible citizens in the global community."
The application criteria includes three letters of recommendation — one from a TCU professor, a second from a TCU professor or professional staff and a third from someone inside or outside the TCU community. Students must also submit a resume and writing submission to be considered. A selection committee narrows the field to six finalists, before the school's chancellor and provost select the three scholarship recipients.
"When I was announced as a finalist, I was so surprised," Dabbs said. "And then I won and was even more surprised but very grateful and blessed. If I had to guess, I was chosen because of my dedicated leadership in organizations and and activities at the university, my service in the Fort Worth community through internships and service projects and the opportunity I had to study abroad for a semester and experience global citizenship."
Dabbs attributes his success at TCU to two professors — Dr. Ron Pitcock, an Honors professor, and Dr. Jacqueline Lambiase, his thesis advisor. Dabbs also noted a course with former U.S. Speaker of the House Jim Wright as an influence to work in public service.
"The most impactful experience I've had has been my semester abroad in Florence, Italy," Dabbs said. "It opened my eyes to what it truly means to be a global citizen. I was able to study international relations while there and travel to eight countries."
But it wasn't just TCU that made a mark on Dabbs' education and career.
"I would particularly mention my mother, Cindy Wittman, who has been with me and supported me at every step and decision, and Kim Bethea, who first strongly encouraged me to choose TCU," Dabbs said when asked who inspired him and helped him along the way.
Dabbs wrapped up his educational career at TCU by graduating summa cum laude in May with a bachelor's degree in political science and strategic communication.
He is currently pursuing a master's degree in international administration from the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver. He is a research assistant and the media manager for the Pardee Center for International Futures, a research center dedicated to modeling future scenarios for the world.
"In the future, I plan to develop a career as a global political and strategic communicator, working with non-profits, foundations, advocacy organizations and political candidates," Dabbs said.
Dabbs encourages Stuttgart students to make their college years count no matter where they choose to study.
"For students who are considering venturing out of state for college, I would encourage them to take the leap," Dabbs said. "Once at school out of state, I would suggest embracing the new location and the many different people they will meet. The college years are some of the most transitional in life — be open to change and make every second count."