Grantham University recently celebrated the 15-year anniversary of relocating to Kansas City in 2005 from Slidell, La., following Hurricane Katrina. Four Grantham Life Changers also celebrated 15-year anniversaries with Grantham.
Dana Winfrey, Student Advisor II at GU, was among the second group of local professionals to join GU within a few weeks of its move to Kansas City.
“When I started, everything was paper,” Winfrey said. “All the registrations, everything. Students would email the registration in a word document, then we filled it out and faxed it back. With only one fax machine, they had a lady in charge that kept all the faxes filed. You had to go sign for your paperwork when you took it [to get] processed.”
Though far from the easiest or most elegant solution—especially for a school already working to re-emerge from Katrina’s shadow—Winfrey says it worked while necessary, and over time the process evolved for the better.
“Now, we talk with [the] student, and if they approve of the courses, we just register them,” Winfrey said. “An email or verbal consent on the phone and we put them in class.”
Today, Winfrey continues to help students find educational success by checking in every few weeks to offer resources and ensure all their needs are being met.
“We also help them keep motivated, sometimes they need some motivation to keep going,” Winfrey said.
Winfrey has witnessed many changes, along with considerable progress, throughout his 15 years at Grantham. He was with GU when it left its emergency home in KC’s Union Station to expand in Zona Rosa. He was there when Grantham crossed the state line to find a new home in Lenexa, KS—and he’s here now, amid a pandemic, working from his home in St. Joseph, MO.
He’s seen that progress from his vantage as both a student and student advisor.
“I started a degree at a brick-and-mortar school many years ago,” Winfrey said. “When I got through my 90-day probationary period here at Grantham, I signed up for classes. It took me a few years to get back into it [and] get serious about it.”
Eventually, he would earn his Associate of Arts in Business Administration and Management.
Graduation at Grantham University is always a special event. Student advisors are encouraged to attend so they have a chance to connect with the students who they’ve been instrumental in helping to achieve the milestone. Winfrey recalled one such meeting that he considers noteworthy because it happened on the day that he, too, was graduating with his degree.
“I was at one of the tables with the finger food they have out, and somebody hollered at me from my group,” Winfrey said. “This lady says, ‘Are you Dana Winfrey?,’ and it was one of my students. She was so excited to see me and meet me. We worked together for quite a while. Getting to meet them and see that excitement and talk to them—that makes it all worth it.”
Winfrey values GU’s mission of service, and how it was implemented to help military veterans build a life in the civilian world. He appreciates his role in making that happen as well as the fact that, with the attainment of Title IV status, GU is even better positioned today to help underserved communities pursue an education, earn degrees and achieve success.
“Grantham started out as a military school for veterans after WWII training radio operators,” Winfrey said. “[It was] strictly military and veteran for years, so being able to help people like that, it’s nice to know you can help somebody make a difference. That was a big transition. We’re growing all the time … we change people’s lives [by] allowing them to earn a degree.”
Despite the numerous changes he’s seen during his 15 years at Grantham, the mission of service and the character of the people who serve with him remain the same, and he does not foresee that changing.
Thank you, Dana, for your 15 years of changing lives for the better here at Grantham University.