Campus Notes

Coding challenge tests skill, opens doors to job market

On the same day that Drury and Southwest Baptist universities went head-to-head on the basketball court in mid-November, two other groups of students were engaging in a different kind of rivalry in the classroom.

Each year, O’Reilly Auto Parts sponsors a hacking challenge between the two schools’ computer science departments. The event provides students hands-on experience solving problems within computer code, and it gives O’Reilly recruiters a chance to reach out to future talent. This year’s edition on the Drury campus saw teams of students examining code in a game of Tetris to find – and fix – various bugs.

“Our company is driven by technology,” says Ashley Warner, technical recruiter for O’Reilly. “We come out here to encourage the students to continue to pursue a career in the field, and hopefully they’ll remember we were here and they’ll think about careers at O’Reilly one day.”

Drury students (from left) Cory Harris, Kylie Pfaff and Sydney Stark work as a team to find and fix bugs in a video game application during a hacking challenge between Drury and SBU. O’Reilly Auto Parts sponsors the annual event as a way to connect to upcoming talent.

Drury students (from left) Cory Harris, Kylie Pfaff and Sydney Stark work as a team to find and fix bugs in a video game application during a hacking challenge between Drury and SBU. O’Reilly Auto Parts sponsors the annual event as a way to connect to upcoming talent.

Dane Wommack is a Drury senior who’s also currently an intern software developer at O’Reilly. He helped create the exercise and says these events help budding developers with problem solving skills.

“It helps you learn how to look at something,” he says. “It’s that ability to be able to take a problem and break it down into tiny sections.”

This was the first such experience for Ben High, a freshman computer science major at Drury. Though he’s been programming for six years already, he says the exercise helped him improve his ability to read and comprehend code written by others. He was on a team with two seniors, which was also a boon.

“I went for the experience but also to hang out with other programmers and be on the same level as people who are higher up in years,” he says.

A team of SBU students won the challenge, earning bragging rights and some Amazon gift certificates. Afterward, the students mingled and ate a catered dinner. They also participated in another short coding puzzle that came directly from O’Reilly’s corporate interview process.

The Drury-SBU rivalry is a great recruiting backdrop for O’Reilly, says Lori Newman, talent acquisition technical specialist with the company.

“We like problem solvers in our company and I think liberal arts colleges help develop those kinds of skills,” she says. “That’s huge for us from a human resources standpoint.”

Newman and Jeremy See, a software developer at O’Reilly, both praised the computer science programs at Drury and SBU.

“From a technical standpoint, the Drury interns that we get are at the top,” See says. “They are the most proficient and most efficient coders that we get. There’s apparently a pretty solid computer science program here because all of them are on their feet and running as soon as they get in the door.”

Nicholas Jaross, an applications development supervisor at O’Reilly, stressed the importance of keeping local talent pipelines open.

“When I went to school there was a prevailing idea that I’d have to move to Seattle, Silicon Valley or New York City to get a great job,” he says. “But there is a lot of technology here. You don’t have to leave. There’s a lot of great opportunity for wonderful careers right here in Springfield, Missouri.”

RELATED: Drury launches degree in game development

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The Beauty of Studying Abroad

Story by Jessie Roller 

A recent exhibit at the Drury University art gallery on Commercial Street celebrated Drury’s study abroad programs and the beauty students found in their experiences.

“Study Abroad: The Student View” featured photos that gave an inside look at the different study abroad experiences of more than a dozen Drury students. Students who study abroad say they learn about other people and cultures, but also frequently say they learn about themselves, too. About 40 percent of all Drury undergraduates study abroad during their college career.

“Aphrodite,” Aphrodite, Cyprus 2016, by Mohannad Almazroa.

“Aphrodite” – photo by Mohannad Almazroa taken in Cyprus, 2016.

Kashif Masoud, an architecture major, was heavily influenced by the rich history of the places he traveled to during his study abroad experience. Being able to experience the history that he had read about in the cities where it had occurred gave him a stronger sense of what it would have been like to live through.

“In some cases it was an eye opening experience to learn about the skill and workmanship of those times and in other cases it was a realization of how humans have developed and advanced their way of life,” he says.

Kashif’s three photos tell the stories of the places he traveled, really capturing the essence and history of these places, as well as observing their architectural importance and beauty.

“They shed light on the value of a study abroad trip that opens one’s minds to great works of architecture that have influenced the world,” he said.

"Boathouse" - photo by Kashif Masoud taken in Italy

“Boathouse” – photo by Kashif Masoud taken in Italy, 2016.

Trevor Cobb, a Spanish major, traveled to Ecuador last summer to experience Latin and South American culture first hand, rather than just learning about the culture from books, in a classroom. Living within a different culture had him constantly learning and adapting to new ways of life.

“Nothing ever felt boring or old,” he says.

He said that even the everyday things, like going to class or to a café, were exciting simply because he was on a different continent. Cobb’s photos reflect the different experiences and moods of his experience in Ecuador. They also include the people that made his trip even more memorable.

"Deer" - photo by Claire Lennard taken in Glencoe, Scottish Highlands, 2016.

“Deer” – photo by Claire Lennard taken in Glencoe, Scottish Highlands, 2016.

“One of the most surprising things about the trip is how close I got to the other students from Drury that I went on the trip with,” he says. “I expected to gain new knowledge and discover another culture, but I didn’t expect to make such great friends that I would keep at Drury. The photos of people helped me to capture memories that I can share with my peers.”

Ultimately, study abroad experiences are meant to broaden one’s perspective on the wider world. That is exactly what architecture major Yasmeen Al Tamimi (an international student from Kuwait) says her travels – and her photographs – are all about.

“My photos illustrate the wonderful things in this world,” she says. “It is to show that there is so much more to see.”

“History’s Imprint on Today” - photo by Karis Kononiuk, taken in Northern Ireland 2016.

“History’s Imprint on Today” – photo by Karis Kononiuk, taken in Northern Ireland 2016.

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Drury students offer veterans free portrait photos this month

Drury University photography students are again taking portraits of veterans and their families, free of charge, this November.

The project began several years ago as a way of giving back to those who have served our country while also allowing commercial photography students to hone their studio skills.

Jessica Barrows 2

Jessica Barrows and her two children

Abraham Clark, who was in the Marine Corps for 10 years in the 1960s and 70s and served in Vietnam, is a repeat customer – he’s been getting his photo taken by Drury students for a few years now.

“I’m about to run out of poses,” he jokes.

Clark says he finds the Drury students to be professional and kind. He enjoys getting to know them during the shoots, especially international students. He wishes more veterans would take up the opportunity.

Abraham Clark

Abraham Clark

“The thing about photos is they’re memories for families for a long time,” he says. “Sometimes we don’t do this, and then later the family doesn’t have anything to look back on. So I think it would be great if people took advantage of this for their families.”

The shoots begin on Saturday and run through next weekend. There are 50 slots available. Rebecca Miller is Drury’s Art, Art History & Arts Administration program chair and organizes the event, though students ultimately run the shoots.

“The students are on their own to take the photographs and solve any challenges that may come up like lighting, posing, energetic children, or even crying babies,” she says. “A lot of the time I’ll be working in my office making a family’s CD of the images and I hear a lot of laughter coming from the studio, which is always a wonderful moment. Many times I’ve stood outside the studio and just observed our students interacting with the community members and they always delight me with their abilities to solve problems, be professionals, and work together as a team.”

Cody Stepp was one of those students last year. He graduated in May with a degree in graphic design and visual communication. He says the candid shots in which veterans let some of their personality out were the most challenging, but also the most enjoyable.

“It helps engage you as a photographer because you’re investing in these people because they’re opening up a side of themselves to you,” Stepp says.

For example, Clark has worn Native American ceremonial clothing to reflect his heritage. Joe Snider, a 1953 Army draftee who served in Korea, sported a cowboy hat last year.

“That’s my uniform,” says Snider, who has family roots in rural Wyoming. “That’s what I wear. I’m a western man.”

Clark appreciates the opportunity for the portrait, but says he thinks the students get just as much out of the experience.

“Everybody has a different exposure, a different experience,” he says. “So I think it’s good when you put all of these people together. It’s good exposure for the kids.”

For more information or to make a reservation, contact Miller at rmiller01@drury.edu or (417) 873-6337.

Joe Snider and his wife, Dee.

Joe Snider and his wife, Dee.

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Drury junior puts her powers of design to work at Marvel

Anne Marie Schudy doesn’t own a cape or wear spandex to the office, but she’s working with a cadre of super heroes during her summer internship with Marvel Entertainment in New York City.

Schudy, a visual communication and graphic design major from Drury, is working at the headquarters of the entertainment giant that created Spider-Man, X-Men, The Avengers and dozens of other comic book, movie and TV heroes.

She earned the gig on the strength of her student portfolio and an interview. Marvel was the first choice for the self-described “nerd” who’s a fan of the Marvel movies and TV shows.

“You never dream that a huge, worldwide company would pick you because there are so many applicants,” she says.

Schudy, who will be a junior this fall, is putting her skills to work in Marvel’s Creative Services Department, which guides and assists the vast universe of licensees that use Marvel’s intellectual property in some way.

Schudy works primarily with the comic books side of Marvel’s house, though she isn’t necessarily a comics geek herself.

“It’s not necessary for the job,” she says.

The job is creative, but it’s also technical. Photoshop and other design programs are her primary tools.

Anne Marie Schudy

“Essentially what they need is someone who knows the software really well,” she says.

Still, it’s certainly not your typical office environment.

“You just hear all these terms like ‘Thor’ and ‘Spider-Man’ thrown around on a daily basis. That’s fun. You don’t hear that in every workplace,” Schudy says with a laugh. “It’s just so fascinating to see; just to observe the work these people do. There’s an energy here.”

Leaks and spoilers are of the utmost concern when dealing with intellectual property in today’s high-stakes entertainment industry, so there’s a strict no-photos rule inside the workplace at Marvel. That means no Snapchats to friends and, unfortunately, no selfies with Iron Man for profile stories like this one, either.

The Marvel offices are located in Midtown Manhattan and Schudy lives in a dorm in a nearby university. She’s been able to soak up the sights and sounds of the city as a resident, rather than as a tourist, when she’s not at work.

It’s been quite a journey for the Springfield native who traveled just across the street from Central High School to Drury for college. Schudy says Drury was “always kind of an obvious choice for me” after her time in the academically rigorous International Baccelaurette program at Central.

“I felt Drury was kind of a continuation of that,” she says of the school’s wide-ranging liberal arts focus. “I was just lucky to have such a great college in my hometown.”

It should come as no surprise, then, that Schudy plans to further broaden her academic horizons when she returns to Drury this fall. She’s as interested in coding and math as she is in visual design, and she plans to delve into some of the courses in Drury’s brand-new software engineering degree offering.

“This semester I’ll be exploring the computer science side of things,” she says.

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Drury student studies genetics thanks to selective national grant

Anna Brinck is getting the best of both worlds when it comes to science research as an undergraduate student.

As a junior majoring in chemistry, biology and Spanish at Drury, Brinck has been able to conduct research in an intimate, small-school setting with faculty mentors by her side. And this summer, she is getting the chance to take to the lab at a large research university – the University of Georgia – thanks to a program funded by the National Science Foundation.

Brinck is the latest Drury student to be selected for the highly competitive Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program. About a dozen Drury students have been selected for REU positions over the last three years.

Description: Drury University senior Chemistry, Biology, and Spanish major Anna Brinck of Nixa, Missouri working with a pipette at a bench in Genetics professor Allen Moore's lab at the Davison Life Sciences building. Brinck is taking part in Summer Undergraduate Fellowships in Genetics (SUNFIG), a national research program that places undergraduate science majors in large universities to work on summer research projects. Date of Photo: 6/28/2016 Credit: Andrew Davis Tucker, University of Georgia Photographic Services File: 34013-058 The University of Georgia owns the rights to this image or has permission to redistribute this image. Permission to use this image is granted for internal UGA publications and promotions and for a one-time use for news purposes. Separate permission and payment of a fee is required to use any image for any other purpose, including but not limited to, commercial, advertising or illustrative purposes. Unauthorized use of any of these copyrighted photographs is unlawful and may subject the user to civil and criminal penalties. Possession of this image signifies agreement to all the terms described above.

Drury Chemistry, Biology, and Spanish major Anna Brinck working in a lab at UGA. Credit: Andrew Davis Tucker, University of Georgia

The Nixa native is spending her summer conducting research on the behavior of beetles that bury carcasses beneath soil as a food source for their larvae during reproduction.

“My specific project is looking at burial depth of the carcass and different gene expressions and reproductive tradeoffs in the beetles that may differ in shallow burials versus deep burials,” says Brinck. “The general idea is correlating genetics with a variable of the burying behavior.”

The size and scope of the lab setting is much different than at Drury, Brinck says, but the fundamentals of research are the same. She says Drury prepared her well for the work she is doing this summer through REU. She’s been conducting research of some kind since her freshman year, mainly focusing on genetics.

“Drury is a place where almost anything you want to do is possible,” she says. “It’s a network of truly supportive peers, professors and other faculty and staff, so if you want to do a specific type of research, it can happen.”

When comparing her experience to other undergrads participating in REU projects, and even graduate students earning their Ph.D. at UGA, it’s clear to Brinck that she’s had more opportunities for meaningful research than many of her peers.

“They came from larger schools where you have to be an upperclassman to be considered for research or you have to know the right people in order to get into a lab group,” she says. “Since I have had a lot of research experience, I already have a basic research skill set that is extremely valuable.”

Previous Drury REU participants tell a similar story of being well prepared for the opportunity, yet coming away with an advanced level of experience and knowledge thanks to working in larger labs. Abby Delawder graduated from Drury this spring with a chemistry degree. She conducted medical research at the Scripps Research Institute in Jupiter, Florida, in 2015 as an REU participant. Prior to that, she spent many hours in the labs of Drury’s Trustee Science Center working with chemistry professor Dr. Madhuri Manpadi.

“I was able to see a broad picture of how groundbreaking research at that particular level works and how my research in the future can benefit the entire community,” Delawder says of her time at Scripps.

Delawder heads to Washington University in St. Louis this fall, where she will begin work earning a doctorate in chemistry. Her goal: help find new ways to combat the growing problem of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

“I have Dr. Manpadi to thank for accepting me into her lab and teaching me valuable lessons, not only in the textbook but real-life applications of the text material,” she adds.

Brink at UGA2

Brinck, at UGA, says that in addition to those research skills, one of the underlying values Drury’s science faculty has taught her is curiosity.

“A lot of research is very tedious, so the desire to solve the questions puzzling you is a necessity to be successful,” she says. “The liberal arts experience has definitely given me the cognitive capabilities to be able to ask the right questions and to further my research curiosity. Every professor I have ever had at Drury has not only encouraged me to be curious, but have also been great examples of curious people themselves.”

Brinck wants to pursue a Ph.D. in genetics and will be applying to graduate schools this coming year as she completes her studies at Drury.

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Story by Mike Brothers, Director of Media relations. 

Outstanding Drury seniors ready for next phase in life

Each year, Drury faculty and staff choose two people from the graduating senior class to honor as the Outstanding Senior Man and Woman of the Year. This annual tradition recognizes leadership ability, scholastic achievement, campus involvement and community involvement. The 2016 honorees are sociology and criminology major Allison Hebert and criminology major Austin Ross.

The pair answered a few questions about this honor before moving on to the next big phase of their lives.

Hebert and Ross 2

What does this recognition mean to you?

Ross: “To me this recognition means that I have lived the Drury experience; an experience that has let me be fully involved in my college experience and build lasting relationships with those I shared it with.”

Hebert: “It means a lot to me that the university I spent four years giving my time energy and life to has seen fit to give this back to me. It’s the culmination of the all the hard work over the years. I also know I’m not the only one deserving of the honor.”

How would you describe the class of 2016? Were you more studious or more fun loving?

Hebert: “I think most people would agree we balanced both aspects of life pretty well. We have some amazing people in our class who are going to go on and do incredible things, but we also have a class that knows how to have fun. We are capable of having memorable experiences outside the classroom even though we worked really hard in the classroom, too.”

What does it say about Drury that faculty and staff vote on this award each year?

Hebert: “Being at a college small enough that faculty and staff across campus know your name and what you do in the community is one of Drury’s biggest strengths, and I think that’s really demonstrated through this award.”

How do you feel about your time at Drury now that it’s over?

Ross: “It’s strange to think that the best four years of my life have come to an end. I’m sad to think I’ll never have the same experience again but I’d like to think that I will be involved with Drury and possibly other institutions of higher education in the future, using the tools Drury gave me to support those types of experiences for others.”

What is the biggest lesson or memory you’ll take with you?

Ross: “I learned a lot about how dedication and service reward those who work hard, especially when put towards the benefit of others. I will always regard my experiences with residence life, student organizations, the instrumental ensembles, and our Ultimate Frisbee team as the best times of my life.”

What’s next for you?

Ross: “I’m waiting to hear back on a job offer, but I will be working in Springfield for some time and keeping connected with the university while I begin to develop a career here. I would love to work for a government agency.”

Hebert: “I will move to Washington, D.C. in August to get my masters in justice, law and criminology at the American University School of Public Affairs. I want to get a J.D. or Ph.D. and pursue policy or research work in the criminal justice system.”

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Members of the Class of 2016 land jobs before graduation

When Ted Boland first arrived at Drury as a business student four years ago, he figured his most likely job path would be in the family real estate business in Washington, Missouri.

But after he graduates next week with a degree in finance, he’ll head to Bentonville, Arkansas, to work in Walmart’s corporate software department. He’s been able to breathe easy all year – he was offered the job last summer following an internship with Walmart.

“It was pretty interesting to walk out of there with my future laid out before me,” Boland says. “It almost felt too good to be true.”

Boland isn’t alone. Graduates from disciplines across the university often find the connections they make during internships, through engaged learning opportunities or with Drury alumni – not to mention their academic preparation – help them land fulfilling jobs after graduation.

Drury’s most recent annual survey of 2014-15 graduates found that nine out of 10 were either employed or in graduate school within six months of graduation. Of those who were employed, 89 percent described themselves as holding a professional position.

Left to right: Brandon White, Kelsey Pressnall and Ted Boland.

Left to right: Brandon White, Kelsey Pressnall and Ted Boland.

Kelsey Pressnall, who majored in theater and arts administration, has not one, but three jobs lined up for the next 15 months. She’ll be an arts administration intern and housing manager for a theater in Ohio, act on stage in West Virginia, and then work in an arts administration role at a theater in Lexington, Kentucky.

It’s not unusual for employment in her field to be more “gig” based than other fields.

“You have to be okay with change if you want to be successful in this field,” she says. “And I had several other offers, too, so it was nice to be able to choose the ones I liked.”

Bri Hopkins is also an arts administration major, but she’s headed for the corporate world as a recruiter with Global Insight in Kansas City. Recruiting is a passion she discovered as a member of the Kappa Delta sorority. A natural people person, she will soon assist Fortune 500 companies in finding and hiring high-quality employees.

“It’s not what I’d planned on doing, but if there’s anything that Drury has taught me it’s that when opportunity knocks you need to open the door,” she says. “Even though you plan things, sometimes there’s a different plan and you just have to go with it.”

Bri Hopkins

Bri Hopkins

Brandon White, an architecture major from Colorado, is staying in town. An internship and part-time role at Sapp Design Associates Architects will become a full-time job after he earns his five-year masters degree in architecture next week.

“It feels awesome,” he says of landing the job, and he credits Drury’s personalized atmosphere with helping him grow and thrive during his time as a student.

“The Hammons School of Architecture taught me how to be a good architect, but Drury really taught me how to be a good person,” he says. “Because of Drury’s size I was able to easily connect with friends, and I can also feel really comfortable with people I don’t even really know. It feels like a community, and it created an opportunity for me to grow.”

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Story by Mike Brothers, Drury’s director of media relations. 

Drury criminology program is helping at-risk veterans

Alumni, faculty and students in Drury University’s criminology program are helping turn around the lives of at-risk veterans thanks to an innovative court program.

The Veterans Treatment Court in the 39th Judicial Circuit (Barry, Lawrence and Stone counties) provides substance abuse and mental health-related treatment services for veterans who have been arrested for felonies. The idea is to “wrap” services around them and help them with heavy supervision in lieu of prison time. Drug courts have been around for decades, but courts for specialized populations like veterans are a newer concept.

“We focus on high-risk, high-need offenders,” says Shawn Billings, treatment court administrator for the 39th Circuit. “The only real difference is they’re veterans.”

Billings, an alumnus and current adjunct instructor, wrote a proposal to secure a three-year federal grant worth $800,000 with help from professors Vickie Luttrell and Jana Bufkin of the Behavioral Sciences Department. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services awarded the grant through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The team works closely with the Veterans Administration (VA) for service referrals.

Shawn Billings, left, and Shae Dunaway, discuss cases during a staff session of the Veterans Treatment Court. (CREDIT: Aaron J. Scott)

Shawn Billings, left, and Shae Dunaway, discuss cases during a staff session of the Veterans Treatment Court. (CREDIT: Aaron J. Scott)

“It’s a combination of a mental health court with a drug and DWI court, with the addition of a team partner in the VA,” says Judge Scott Sifferman, who oversees the docket.

Veterans often bear “invisible scars” from their service, Sifferman says, which can lead to PSTD, family strife, addiction and even homelessness. That’s why a specialized focus on this population is helpful, he says.

It’s already making an impact.

“I totally have a different outlook on life – a more positive outlook, for sure,” says Cory Dodson, a 31-year-old Army veteran who was arrested for possession of a controlled substance about a year ago.

Cory Dodson

Cory Dodson

Dodson served in Iraq in the early 2000s and says he was addicted to opiates for years after leaving the service. He credits the Veterans Treatment Court and his wife for getting his life back on track.

“Within 90 days of being in the program and being off drugs, we managed to put the money together to buy our first home,” says Dodson, also a father of five girls. “It’s been a 180. I feel like I have so much to live for now.”

Junior criminology major Shae Dunaway is the program coordinator. The full-time job provides her real-world experience in the criminal justice system before graduation. She says she wants to help remove stigmas associated with offenders who are turning their lives around. She points to participants such as Dodson as an example of someone who is helping himself with the support of others.

“The transformation is incredible and they are worth every bit of the time and money we put into them,” she says.

The 39th Circuit Veterans Treatment Court team.

The 39th Circuit Veterans Treatment Court team.

Billings says Drury’s focus on relationship building is a natural fit for criminologists who want to use the justice system to improve lives.

“Drury centers on people; that’s important,” he says. “That’s basically what I’ve based my career on for the last 20 years – serving people.”

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By Mike Brothers, director of media relations. A version of this story originally appeared in the Springfield News-Leader.

Recent grad thrives, finds her path during time at Drury

The new year looks bright for Emily Cline, one of more than 280 December Drury graduates.

A Springfield native who majored in biology and Spanish while also playing on the women’s soccer team, Cline is headed for a career in physical therapy. She’ll begin work on her doctorate this fall. A 4.0 student, she’s already been accepted to Washington University in St. Louis and has interviews at several other top-flight schools such as the University of Colorado and Northern Arizona.

Dr. Kevin Jansen, professor of biology and one of Cline’s faculty advisors, says he won’t be surprised if Cline is among the top in her class no matter where she chooses to pursue her advanced degree.

“She’s excellent at critically evaluating what’s in front of her, whether it’s a defense on the soccer field, a question on an exam or a patient’s needs,” Jansen says.

Emily Cline at Trustee Science Center

Evaluating her career at Drury, Cline says it’s been a time of growth and self-discovery. She chose Drury because it was a place where she could pursue both athletics and academics in “a place where I wouldn’t be just a number.” She finished knowing more about her path in life.

Studying Spanish opened her eyes to other cultures, especially after a semester abroad in Spain. Beyond getting to know the people and the language better, the time spent in an unfamiliar setting taught her something important about herself.

“I’ve never felt great about making mistakes,” she admits. “My time abroad put me in situations where I felt a little unsure at times, but I started to feel OK with that. I learned to navigate places I’ve never been before and that gave me confidence to do other things. I became more independent.”

Cline currently lives in Drury’s Foreign Languages House, an on-campus residence that is also a gathering place for foreign language club events and international student dinners. Living on campus has also taught her a lot, she says, beginning with having freshman year roommates she’d never previously met.

“That was the start of opening up to more people and being more receptive to different ways of life,” she says.

But it was her time in Drury’s rigorous science curriculum and multiple physical therapy internships that revealed a career path to Cline. She wants to specialize in neurologic physical therapy, where she will be able to form very close one-on-one relationships with patients who need direct care to fight diseases like Parkinson’s or multiple sclerosis.

Emily Cline soccer goal

“When I came to Drury it was because I wanted to be able to get to know my professors, and later in life I want to have that kind of relationship with my patients, too,” she says.

Jansen says Cline’s combination of intellect and people skills will serve her well in the field. Like many Drury students, Cline is exceptionally accomplished but knows she still has so much to learn, he says.

“That combination of intelligence and gratitude for the opportunities to reach higher goals is what makes our students special,” Jansen says.

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The Open Table: Food for the body & spirit

On most Tuesdays, you can find an ever-changing group of Drury students, faculty and staff enjoying fellowship and food at an inter-faith gathering called The Open Table.

Dr. Peter Browning, Drury’s chaplain and a professor of philosophy and religion for more than 20 years, hosts the long running series. The main draw is the diverse array of guest speakers who address a variety of topics and ideas through a lens of faith. Prayer, a bit of worship music and free pizza are also part of the mix.

“We chose the name ‘The Open Table’ because it communicates that we’re welcoming to everyone and we’re trying to learn about one another,” Browning says.

Dr. Peter Browning (standing), leads a discussion at The Open Table.

Dr. Peter Browning (standing), leads a discussion at a recent Open Table gathering on campus.

Primarily a Christian gathering, the lunchtime events feature speakers from the campus community as well as guests from around the Ozarks. Recent topics discussed include dealing with change in one’s life and focusing on gratitude.

Though a number of faith-oriented student groups exist on campus, The Open Table in particular reflects Drury’s historical connection with the Christian faith (the school was founded by Congregationalists, now the Church of Christ, in 1873) as well as the exchange of ideas that is a natural part of a liberal arts education.

“Once or twice a year, we will invite someone from a different faith tradition,” Browning says. “Last year, we had the new rabbi in town, Dr. Barbara Block, come and teach us about Jewish prayers.”

Drury freshman Jessica Knowles is now a regular attendee and she says that the short meeting time works well with her busy schedule, but her favorite part is the sense of fellowship she feels.

“I always feel really welcomed,” she says. “I went the first week and Dr. Browning already knew my name when I came back.”

Open Table prayer

“The Open Table is something I look forward to on a weekly basis,” says Lisa Luu, a senior music therapy major from Springfield who has attended throughout her four years. “I think the Open Table shows that Drury is accepting and inclusive of people of all faiths no matter what religious or non-religious background they are from.”

Robert McGinnis is a Drury staff member who is also a part time pastor at rural church near Bolivar. He attends The Open Table somewhat regularly and has spoken on a few occasions over the last several years, including a recent presentation comparing a person of faith’s life to the singing of a song.

Open Table hands

“To me it’s an opportunity to talk to a crowd that I normally wouldn’t be able to,” says McGinnis, a locksmith on Drury’s facilities staff. “It’s always my hope that I might be able to connect with people in ways that perhaps others aren’t able to.”

McGinnis said the intimate setting of the group allows for an inviting conversation, despite the often weighty subject matter.

“I think it fits in well with the Drury idea of the liberal arts because you have broad exposure to not only other faiths but other ways of thinking,” he says.

If you’re interested in speaking at The Open Table, contact Dr. Browning at pbrowning@drury.edu or (417) 873-7231.

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Story by Chaniqua Crook, student writer, and Mike Brothers, director of media relations.