Missouri Scholars Academy

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Missouri Scholars Academy, or MSA, is a three-week residential summer program held on the University of Missouri campus in Columbia, Missouri for 330 of Missouri's top rising high school juniors.


The Academy started in 1985, and has been held every year since. Each year has had a different set of two colors to uniquely identify its participants. Many of the colors have acquired informal nicknames, often inspired by comments made by director Ted Tarkow.

The flags of each MSA year (1985-2006).
  • 1985 - White and maroon
  • 1986 - White and navy
  • 1987 - Teal and white
  • 1988 - Red and white
  • 1989 - Green and white
  • 1990 - Blue and white
  • 1991 - Teal and white
  • 1992 - Fuchsia and white ("a sea of Pepto Bismol")
  • 1993 - Purple and white
  • 1994 - Green and gold
  • 1995 - White and crimson
  • 1996 - Grey and blue
  • 1997 - Ecru and green
  • 1998 - Black and grey
  • 1999 - Navy blue and putty ("putty is pretty")
  • 2000 - Lime and cerulean
  • 2001 - Yellow and grey ("goat milk and slate")
  • 2002 - Silver and red (not from the color, but was known as "the year of the palindrome")
  • 2003 - Orange and blue
  • 2004 - Green and silver
  • 2005 - Red and gold ("ketchup and mustard")
  • 2006 - Khaki and brown ("chocolate chip cookie")
  • 2007 - Pink and teal ("bubble gum and watermelon", "pepto-bismol and watermelon")
  • 2008 - Light blue and navy blue ("Facebook colors")
  • 2009 - Maroon and silver (maroon to honor the first year, and silver for the 25th anniversary)
  • 2010 - Green and light green ("Go Green")
  • 2011 - Purple and light purple
  • 2012 - Yellow and blue ("Sun in the Sky")
  • 2013 - Tangerine and charcoal ("On the Road to Success", "Traffic cone")
  • 2014 - Maroon and teal
  • 2015 - Red and black ("the young volcanoes" also known as "the year of the illuminati" although not for the color.)
  • 2016 - Purple and light green

Coordinating Staff[edit]


  • Dr. Steve Keller
  • Travis Thornhill, Executive Secretary


Participating scholars attend a "major" and "minor" class for three hours and one hour per day, respectively, during the program. These classes are usually college level or experimental, and meant to stimulate gifted students. Past MSAs have featured unique classes dealing with Japanese language and culture, Intelligence & Counterintelligence, Game Theory, Time travel, Infinity, Terrorism & Counterterrorism, Education, Philosophy, Biology, Physics, The Constitution, current events, spelunking, creative writing, and art.


Participating scholars have in years past stayed in assigned rooms at the Mark Twain Residence Hall. Due to Mark Twain renovations, the academy was held in Wolpers and Johnston halls in 2012, and Hawthorn and Galena halls in 2013. In 2014, Scholars were moved back into Mark Twain after renovations were completed the previous fall. Scholars are separated by gender to different floors and given a room mate. Students are not allowed on floors of the opposite gender. A Residential Assistant is also assigned to monitor and work with Scholars (14-18 Scholars per Residential Assistant). Meetings occur every night between Residential Assistants and Scholars to discuss upcoming events, rules reminders, and general questions scholars may have.

PSD Program[edit]

Another vital part of the Missouri Scholars Academy is Personal and Social Dynamics, or 'PSD'. PSD takes place for one hour with the "minor" class, and focuses on helping scholars build social skills, forge friendships with others, and express themselves artistically, verbally, and emotionally.

Other Offerings[edit]

In addition to classes, scholars attend numerous informational, educational, social, and entertainment programs, including swing dance lessons, current events debates, college fairs, seminars, performances, and motivational speakers. There are usually three dances per academy, a street dance, square dance, and an alumni dance.

There is also an annual scholars' talent show.

Traditions and Customs[edit]

The Name Tag[edit]

For safety reasons, scholars are required to wear their name tag at all times when they are not on their floor of the residence hall. Name tags must be displayed on the upper torso.


The opening icebreaker for MSA is Playfair, usually held the first night of the Academy. Students are grouped off where they introduce each other and play memory games to help memorize names. It usually involves a great deal of physical activity and getting up close and personal with other scholars.

A Chance to Soar

We came with expectations and with our private walls
We found support and courage and dared to risk it all.
Through hours of fun and laughter
We learned to live as friends;
And those we came to know and love
We'll remember 'til the end.
You are all a part of us, spread through the land.
Building friendships, special trust,
Bound together hand in hand.
Tomorrow is an open door inviting you and me,
Giving us a chance to soar and wings to set us free.

A Chance to Soar[edit]

The official MSA anthem is entitled "A Chance to Soar" and was written by scholars in 1988 by the class "Stylistic Signatures". The lyrics are on the right.

Boomba Hey[edit]

The phrase word "Boomba!" is a common greeting among scholars as a way to recognize other alumni and scholars. Whenever a scholar yells Boomba!, any alumni or scholar nearby is prompted to reply with the word "Hey!"

Normal Schedule[edit]

Scholars attend a morning major class, lasting for 3 hours, and then eat lunch. Afterwards, scholars report together to an auditorium to attend "Big Group." Big Group is where faculty will present afternoon and evening activities for the day. Scholars immediately attend their minor class for an hour, then PSD, before being able to either go back to Mark Twain or attend an optional afternoon activity. Dinner is served afterwards, and then everyone must attend the evening activity. Scholars would then have House Meetings at 10:00 pm.


"L.L.A.M.A." is an acronym used at MSA that denotes three major things scholars can't do. L.L.A.M.A. stands for "Laying, Laps, and Mouth Adhesion". Posters with sayings like "Anything but the L.L.A.M.A.!" can be found in multiple places reminding scholars to never LLAMA.


Taiso is a weekly occurrence when all scholars gather outside and perform Taiso to give everyone a little shake up in the daily routine. Taiso is an exercise that wakes up the body through gentle motions, light activity, and stretching.


Missouri Scholars Academy is supported by grants from the Missouri General Assembly, and was kept free for the scholars throughout the 2009 Academy in order to ensure an equal opportunity basis. However, due to the economic crisis, funding was limited to partial state funding for the 2010 Missouri Scholars Academy. A complete funding plan for MSA XXVI is still, however, being finalized. Despite the cutback of funds, the same number of scholars (330) were accepted into the Academy. However, the past policy of free attendance has been changed to include a "Student Activity Fee" of $500 per scholar. The cost of attendance being contrary to the spirit of MSA, the Academy said in a statement that "MSA expects that for some scholars, schools or civic clubs will cover this fee" and that "In situations where neither schools nor civic clubs can cover the fee for a student from a family with economic hardship, steps will be taken so that the fee is covered or reduced."[1] In 2011, the Student Activity Fee mentioned above was raised to $700, due to complete loss of state funding. The academy also benefits from support of the Gifted Association of Missouri, the Missouri Scholars Academy Alumni Association, and tax-deductible contributions made by alumni and parents to the Missouri Scholars Academy Development Fund.

In the year of 2015, MSA was covered completely by the state.

Other MSAs[edit]

The Missouri Scholars Academy should not be confused with a University of Missouri student group, the Missouri Student Association, which shares the acronym MSA with the academy.

Missouri Scholars Academy is one of many summer academies hosted for residents of individual states in the National Conference of Governor's Schools.



External links[edit]