Campus Notes

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.


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.


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.”



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.”


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.”


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.


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 or (417) 873-7231.


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

Solar Decathlon leads to hands-on experience, job offers for students

After 18 months of work, the Solar Decathlon competition has come and gone for the 100-plus students on the Drury University and Crowder College team. Their house, dubbed ShelteR3 or “Shelter Cubed,” won 8th place in the contest sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy in Irvine, California last month.

Reflecting on the experience reveals many tangible takeaways: pride in a job well done, experience on a build site, professional connections – even job offers.

Avery Smith, a Drury business major and member of the ShelteR3 communication team, said finally being at the big competition opened his eyes to how far the team had truly come.

“Each team had such an original idea and original story about how they were able to make it,” Smith said. “140 teams applied, 20 were accepted and only 14 made it to Irvine. Even then, four teams were unable to finish on time.”

Solar Decathletes

Perhaps that was a light way of putting it, as the Crowder-Drury team was one of the few undergraduate teams that made it all the way.

“I was the most surprised to learn how many graduate students and doctoral candidates we were up against,” said Evan Melgren, a 2014 Drury advertising/PR graduate who was the team’s communication lead. “That we as undergrads were competitive with such established designers and engineers became a great source of pride.”

Being undergrads also led to increased pressure for the students who spent days and weeks in Irvine, said mentor and Hammons School of Architecture Professor Nancy Chikaraishi.

“Our students had homework, they had papers, they had tests they had to take and we were running them back to and from the hotel about five times a day and making sure they had time to get their work done,” she said.

The effort was worth it. Not only did the competition help students expand their horizons, but it also got them thinking about the finer points of project management and on-the-spot problem solving.

Project Manager Jarren Welch, a Crowder student, said that while he felt prepared for the competition thanks to the mentorship of his advisors, there were still unexpected bumps in the road.

“When we did get out there, we ran into a couple of problems, so I learned ways to improvise and work around that,” he said. “I learned that there isn’t just one answer to a problem and it’s all about picking the best idea.”

ShelteR3 house

Though they couldn’t have known it going in, experiences with solving problems on the fly ultimately led to job offers. Project co-lead Alaa Al Radwan credits the Decathlon for helping her land a job at M.I.T.’s prestigious Senseable City Lab. Melgren cites his readiness to adapt as the reason he landed his current job at Killian Construction Co.

“They saw a video walk-through of our home and concept, which had required me to learn an architectural software program in about a week,” he says.

Welch’s new job with Missouri Sun Solar also came as a result of stretching beyond his comfort zone. His offer came not from the building phase, but during a fundraiser.

“I handed them my card and they called me a few weeks later and offered me an interview and I got hired,” he said.


Story by Chaniqua Crook, student writer with Drury’s Marketing & Communication Department.

Six pre-med students gain peace of mind through early acceptance

A group of six Drury pre-med students received some good news this fall about their future. They already know they’re accepted into the Saint Louis University School of Medicine, thanks to a longstanding program that fast-tracks outstanding students who know they want to be physicians.


Drury’s Pre-Medical Scholars Program is a set of partnerships with five universities throughout Missouri that offers undergraduate students a chance to be pre-accepted into medical school, typically at the beginning of their junior year.

Besides Saint Louis University, the other four medical schools are Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine, Kansas City University of Medicine & Biosciences, University of Missouri-Kansas City, and the University of Missouri School of Medicine. Altogether there are about a dozen Drury students currently pre-accepted to one of these schools with additional students awaiting decisions for this year’s pre-acceptance interviews.

The newest group headed to SLU is something of a bumper crop.

“This is the first time in the last 10 years that we’ve had so many students accepted into one pre-acceptance program in one year,” said Dr. Mark Wood[cq], a chemistry professor and head of Drury’s pre-health sciences program.

The six students – Kayla Whorton, Trey Hufham, Joshua Kimrey, Alex Flanagan, Kerri Raleigh and Breanna Stirewalt – are all undergraduates double majoring in some combination of biochemistry, biology or chemistry.

Each was required to have an ACT score of at least 30, maintain a 3.5 GPA throughout their undergraduate career, complete at least 135 hours of professional shadowing and ace an interview. In return, they will have no minimum MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) score requirement and don’t have to go through a series of grueling interviews at multiple medical schools.

“It’s a huge stress relief. Instead of spending $2,000-$3,000 on an MCAT prep program we get to save all that money,” says Kimrey, a junior who is actually triple majoring in biology, chemistry and philosophy. “And instead of spending 40 hours a week studying for that test, we can focus on our classes. It means the world.”

While each medical school has its own set of requirements for early acceptance, all are geared toward students who have demonstrated an early interest in going to medical school.

Senior Alex Flanagan said having “a lot of volunteer work in a variety of settings,” was a great help in the application and interview process.

“Getting into these medical school programs now requires more than just a GPA,” Wood said. “That is still a part of it, but it’s becoming a smaller one. What they’re looking for now is, ‘Have you done extensive shadowing? Have you done volunteer work that demonstrates that you care for other human beings?’ Yeah, they can do the academics, but what medical schools are really concerned with is if students truly want to do these jobs.”

To that end, Drury has a popular program that allows pre-health sciences students to volunteer and shadow doctors and other medical professionals at Jordan Valley Community Health Center.

The extra piece of mind and free time these students now have will allow them more opportunities to focus on the present during a pivotal time in their lives.

“You get to focus a lot more on enjoying learning rather than making yourself look good on paper,” said Hufham. 

Story by Chaniqua Crook, student writer in Drury’s marketing and communication department.

Drury ukulele players take tiny instruments on big trip to Japan

Anyone who has been to Big Momma’s Coffee and Espresso Bar on Tuesdays between 4:30 and 6 p.m. has heard the cheerful sounds of Drury students strumming their ukuleles and singing. These students are part of a club at called DUkes, and this summer they took a break from their normal coffee house venue and played three shows in Isesaki, Japan.

The opportunity was thanks to the Springfield Sister Cities Association. Each year, SSCA chooses a group from Springfield to play at the Isesaki Music Festival in August, and this year the DUkes were the guests of honor.

Members of the DUkes during an Isesaki street parade.

Members of the DUkes take part in an Isesaki street parade.

“It was such an amazing opportunity to represent Drury and Springfield,” says senior Kelsey Pressnall. “Everyone was so welcoming and hospitable during our time in Isesaki.”

The DUkes performed at a local hospital, a welcome dinner, and on the main stage at the festival.

“We found that people loved to clap along to the songs, even if they weren’t ones you’d normally clap to,” Pressnall says. “We’d be singing the folk song ‘500 Miles’ and they would be dutifully clapping. Our audiences were very engaged.”

Mitch Barrett, a senior theatre and education major, says the trip was “the perfect way to begin my senior year.”

Members of the DUkes performing on stage in Isesaki, Japan.

Members of the DUkes performing on stage in Isesaki.

While in Japan, students stayed with a host family to fully immerse themselves in the culture. For many, this was their favorite part.

“My host mom, brother and sister came to see me off when we left Isesaki,” Pressnall says. “I have to admit, I cried a little knowing I might never see them again. And I wasn’t the only DUkes member to do so!”

Led by professor of communication Dr. Rick Maxson, the DUkes have come a long way in their short life as a club – from a small group playing a few local gigs into international travelers representing all of Springfield.

“This was the trip of a lifetime,” Pressnall says. “I couldn’t have imagined a better experience.”

For more photos from the trip, check out the group’s Facebook page. DUkes plays the Japanese Fall Festival in Springfield on Sept. 12 & 13. The festival takes place at the Mizumoto Japanese Stroll Garden in Nathaniel Greene/Close Memorial Park.


 Story by Trevor Cobb, sophomore writing major at Drury.