1996–Current: Generation Z

Benton is a small town. The old mining hub in southern Illinoisis easy to miss, but Benton-native and incoming Missouri Baptist University freshman Anna Hughes is surely not. With stylish short hair and a cropped black leather jacket paired with an assured gait, Hughes’ presence demands attention. Welcome to MBU, GenZ.

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Hughes is among the first class of a new era at MBU—the first class of Generation Z. She’s unable to remember a time prior to the war on terrorism, the rise of personal computing and financial instability. The childhood of uncertainty is producing a new generation of students ready to take—and create—the world.

This mentality developed a significant entrepreneurial spirit. In fact, 42 percent of Generation Z desires to be their own boss and 3 percent currently own their own business according to a Gallup poll. For Hughes, the entrepreneurial spirit is strong.


Business with concentration in entrepreneurship
First computing device:
Windows ’95 Dell
Advice to younger generations:
Jesus is much better than the cares of the world. Focus on Him and everything else will fall in place.

Hughes has a vision of opening a neighborhood café with coffee, quaint sandwiches
and conversations that lead to relationships, and ultimately, souls saved. The evangelical nature is the mission to her visionary café and the root of her entrepreneurial spirit.

At MBU, Hughes is taking a fresh approach to the classic business major—she is studying business with an entrepreneurial focus. The new concentration launched fall 2013, echoing the entrepreneurial spirit of the University.

For Hughes, the entrepreneur route was not straightforward. Ever since she can remember, her plan was to be a journalist. She excelled in English courses and became editor of her high school yearbook—the Scarab—but she realized that God was calling her to a different path to fulfill a riskier dream long forgotten.

“God doesn’t put passions in your life without a reason,” said Hughes. “After seeking the Lord, my friend reminded me that God calls us to do crazy things, and I realized that I needed to follow my crazy vision.”

Christ is Hughes’ cornerstone. Her faith motivates her to serve in the slums of Kampala, Uganda, to teach local vacation bible schools, to lead Christian camps and to disciple youth groups. As she travels the world, Hughes is intentional about using relationships to point others to Christ and strengthen their faith.

It’s that deep desire for relationships that enables her to focus on an individual with little regard to a buzzing phone. Despite growing up with computers (in fourth grade
a classmate had her own cell phone), Hughes is appreciative of technology, but values traditional relationships, and unplugged moments. Technology is a tool, not a dictator. Hughes isn’t alone—about 85 percent of GenZ prefers to meet a friend face-to-face rather via technology, according to a Sparks & Honey study.

The digital revolution has afforded Hughes and her classmates opportunities impossible in the past. In addition to taking dual-credit college courses, Hughes was able to complete online college courses. It’s an ambitious spirit that leads Hughes and her classmates to enter college with a year’s worth of college credits in their pockets. Even though the first GenZ students graduated high school this year, MBU has already served 2,500 Generation Z students through excel, a program providing the opportunity for high school juniors and seniors to enroll in college courses.

The emerging trend coincides with the higher expectations parents have set for their students. Attending college is less of a choice and more of an expectation. “My parents have high hopes for me,” said Hughes.

“Even when I was young, I knew my parents expected me to attend college.”

In fact, this generation believes that higher education is valuable and necessary for a solid career—81 percent of Generation Z views a college degree as important to advancing their career goals, according to the Pew Research Center. Hughes sees higher education not only as essential for career success but also an environment to build her faith, strengthen her character and further learn to lead.

While each generation has trends and commonalities, each individual has a unique story more developed and complicated than studies and generalizations.

“I am unique,” declares Hughes. “I cannot be defined solely on my birth year. I am so much more—and so is everyone else.”

Each MBU student is an intricate human with distinct dreams, needs and talents, and a desire to be mentored and prepared to succeed in an evolving world. This desire remains the same even as generations change. And so MBU continues to foster individuals from each generation—developing community leaders fully prepared to shine wherever they may go.