Campus Notes

Students settle in with dinner at faculty homes

Drury’s four-day new student orientation includes moving into residence halls, keynote speakers, fun competitive games, a day of volunteer service, and even a huge fireworks show the night before classes begin.

It’s an intense introduction. But there are relaxing moments, too. One of the unique aspects of this annual tradition is the Sunday evening dinner and dessert with faculty. Groups of students gather at faculty homes and in some campus locations for food and conversation. It’s moment of personal connection in a time of transition.

New students relax and converse following the annual faculty dinner and dessert, held at various sites on campus and in professor’s nearby homes. PHOTO: Aaron Scott

New students relax and converse following the annual faculty dinner and dessert, held at various sites on campus and in professor’s nearby homes. PHOTO: Aaron Scott

“It was really interesting – it was very casual,” says freshman Trevor Cobb, who is from Springfield. “At a larger university, you wouldn’t necessarily have that kind of close relationship with the teachers.”

Conversations ranged from music and movies to what students should expect once they dig into their coursework. Dr. Charles Taylor, Drury’s vice president for academic affairs and a professor of communication, hosted Cobb’s group. Each group is actually a required class, called CORE 101, which brings new students into the college experience by way of various cultural topics.

“The faculty dinner and dessert experience underscores the inclusive, personalized and supportive environment that defines the Drury community,” says Taylor, whose CORE class is titled Politics of Rock and Roll.

Dr. Charles Taylor, left, talks to incoming freshman during the annual faculty dinner and dessert. PHOTO: Aaron Scott

Dr. Charles Taylor, left, talks to incoming freshman during the annual faculty dinner and dessert. PHOTO: Aaron Scott

Megan Henson, a freshman elementary and secondary education major, appreciated the dinner as a great way to get to know her new peers.

“We played outdoor games and just relaxed,” she says. “Truly an awesome time. Drury did a fantastic job of welcoming us and integrating us into the Drury community.”

The personal touch provided by the dinners was important to Vikas Jagwani when he was a new student. Now the junior seeking a bachelor’s degree in accounting is an orientation leader who helped guide the four-day experience.

“It’s always a great way to introduce you to professors that are you taking a class from now, or potentially in the future,” Jagwani says. “This could have not been possible if Drury was a huge school, but the ability to have this opportunity during orientation – that is what makes Drury different.

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Story by Mike Brothers, Drury’s director of media relations. A version of this story first appeared in the Springfield News-Leader.

Emergency Management degree prepares students for the field

For years, emergency management was a field in which people primarily learned “on the job.” But that’s changing.

Drury University’s College of Continuing Professional Studies now offers a bachelor’s degree in emergency management, giving students a formal education in the field. Emergency management is the art and science of preparing for, responding to and recovering from high impact events that cause a significant amount of deaths, injuries or property damage.

Ryan Nicholls is an instructor in the program. He was the longtime Director of Emergency Management for Springfield-Greene County until earlier this year.

“Emergency Management is growing as events are on the rise, costs are on the rise, people living in hazardous areas are on the rise,” Nicholls says. “The benefit and cost value has been recognized in organized planning and response management to such events.”

One of the benefits of the program, which launched in the fall of 2013, is in-depth training that truly gives an overview of the proven, researched-based practices in the field. The program is fairly unique – Drury is one of the only colleges in Missouri offering such a degree.

Classes focus on subjects such as disaster planning and preparedness, response and recovery, grant writing, public information and leadership. The program is versatile enough to fit the needs of those in the field, as well as business owners, non-profit and hospital personnel, and even those in education and ministry who need to be prepared for emergencies. The mostly online program requires about 50 hours of coursework.

Erin Pope

Erin Pope

Erin Pope is currently enrolled. She began working for the Springfield-Greene County Office of Emergency Management two years ago, but is now working to obtain a degree in the field to advance her career.

“I feel this field is growing exponentially,” Pope says. “I am extremely pleased that Drury got involved and added this program to the many degrees they offer. It is a huge benefit to myself and anyone else who is on this career path.”

Nicholls agrees that the field shows no signs of slowing down. “The value is demonstrated after every disaster,” he says.

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 Story by Colombe Iyeza, intern with Drury’s marketing & communication office. A version of this story first appeared in the Springfield News-Leader.

Undergrads focus on science research during summer

It’s relatively rare for undergraduates majoring in the sciences to have the opportunity to do meaningful research. It’s rarer still for them to be able to get paid to do it.

A new program this year at Drury is allowing five undergraduates to do just that. It’s called the Research Experience in the Natural Sciences, or RENS. The program provides a stipend for students conducting self-directed research under the guidance of science faculty.

Summer is the perfect time for students to be able to focus intensely on in-depth research because they don’t have to devote time to classes, says Dr. Beth Harville, Assistant Professor of Biology at Drury. The stipend allows students to consider skipping a summer job in favor of conducting research that will help them in their future careers – especially those seeking to enter medical schools or Ph.D. programs.

Deborah Peana, senior chemistry and physics major, is using computer software to model and research protein interactions this summer. A stipend has helped her focus solely on this work.

Deborah Peana, senior chemistry and physics major, is using computer software to model and research protein interactions this summer. A stipend has helped her focus solely on this work.

Two of the students conducting RENS projects this summer are Breanna Tuhlei and Deborah Peana. Both are using high-powered computers to simulate the interactions between certain types of molecules and model the potential outcomes. Their research, conducted under the guidance of assistant professor of physics Dr. Christos Deligkaris, combines concepts from biology, chemistry and physics.

“It’s teaching me a lot about how to discipline myself; how to solve problems by myself independently,” says Tuhlei, who is studying how a molecule commonly found in fruits and vegetables could be used to prevent DNA damage caused by a carcinogen found in tobacco smoke. “And the stipend is definitely great because it’s helping with tuition expenses.”

Locating, reading and extrapolating relevant information from journal articles is one aspect that separates these projects from class work. There are no textbook assignments here.

“It forces me to take information I’ve learned in my classes, use it on my own and actually apply it, which is really rewarding – and fun,” says Peana, who is studying glycosaminoglycan-protein interactions. “It requires a lot of mental discipline to stay focused and work out problems on your own, but I think it’s definitely worth it.”

Both students feel that conducting this research as undergraduates will go a long way toward helping prepare them for graduate programs and medical schools, not to mention make them better candidates for acceptance to their programs of choice. Tuhlei is a sophomore double majoring in biology and chemistry, who hopes to be accepted into an MD-PhD program in order to become a neurosurgeon and conduct medical research. Peana is a senior double majoring in chemistry and physics, and is currently applying to MD-PhD programs.

But neither of these students has to wait until the next phase of the education to make a difference. The RENS stipend and always-accessible faculty at Drury have helped Peana truly dive into her research, which in turn has made her feel as though she’s already contributing to her field before ever leaving campus.

“I’m just starting out, but this kind of research makes me feel like a scientist and I feel like we really are practicing good research techniques,” she says.

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Story by Mike Brothers, Drury’s director of media relations. A version of this story first appeared in the Springfield News-Leader. 

Student chooses Drury thanks to summer camps

Aaron Sawyer begins his college career at Drury University this fall. But unlike most incoming freshmen who’ve spent perhaps a day or two on campus prior to move-in day, Sawyer has spent the last six summers here making memories with truly like-minded friends.

The Sikeston native is one of hundreds who have attended Drury’s summer camps for academically gifted students since 1981. The camps give kids like Sawyer a chance to be around others who are equally as bright, curious and engaged.

Aaron Sawyer

“It can be difficult” to be a gifted kid in school, he says. “You almost feel like you don’t want to talk for fear of being different.”

The camps are for students from pre-K to 12th grade and are divided by age groups. The camp for middle school students (called Summerscape) and the camp for high schoolers (Drury Leadership Academy) are wrapping up this week. Programs for younger students took place in June.

Sawyer began coming to the camps in middle school. He’s taken classes on digital photography, philosophy, speech and debate, the human body, Rube Goldberg machines and more. He’s made great friends, too.

“You’ll make friends here and come back next year and continue a conversation you left off last summer like no time has passed,” he says. “It’s a unique experience I feel like you don’t get many other places.”

Sawyer says being away from home in a college-like environment has helped him come out of his shell.

“If I hadn’t been (coming to the camps) for this long, I probably wouldn’t be able to give this interview,” says the soft-spoken Sawyer. “I would have been way too nervous.”

Sawyer plans to double major in history and education and hopes to become a college professor. He chose Drury before his sophomore year in high school.

“I feel like (Drury) has invested a lot of time in me and I’ve invested a lot of time here,” he says. “It almost felt like there wasn’t a question that I wouldn’t go here.”

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Story by Mike Brothers, Drury’s director of media relations. A version of this story first appeared in the Springfield News-Leader. 

 

 

Greece trip combines science and business studies

Citizenship, business sense and science came together for a few weeks this summer as 10 Drury students traveled to Greece to study geography and the environment.

The group traveled to Aigina, Greece – a town on an island of the same name where the university has a satellite campus called the Drury Center. They spent three weeks working in two teams. One team focused on the physical geography of the Aigina coastline by conducting water quality tests and studying marine debris. The other team addressed cultural geography by studying how recycling and composting can help local agriculture.  Both projects were connected to real life on Aigina with the active participation and expertise of local farmers and civic leaders.

“The Drury Center was amazing,” said professor of the class, Dr. Sean Terry. “They set up meetings with local experts and even translated from Greek to English in live interviews.  This local knowledge inspired our students about local sustainability efforts.

The students conducted academic research in advance so they could more easily focus on actual fieldwork once they arrived, Terry says, adding that they were able to “see how science can be applied in real-world situations to make a positive difference in a community.”

DU students in Aigina

Despite the science focus of this class, most of the students weren’t science majors – nine of the 10 were business majors. A study abroad experience is required of all students in Drury’s Breech School of Business. The trip and its impact on the students illustrate Drury’s interdisciplinary approach to education and engaged learning.

“This was my first trip abroad and it was the most enlightening trip on which I’ve ever been,” said student Jesse Allard. “It was a completely new experience seeing another culture and really trying to immerse myself within it.”

Results from each project highlighted the need to increase local participation in environmental initiatives. Water quality tests at several beach locations came up clean, but plastic trash on shore was an issue. The beach team cleaned up approximately 600 pounds of plastic waste in two days, and the Drury Center itself is committed to a plan that will see Drury students “adopt” Colona Beach permanently. It is hoped that this could lay the groundwork for local schools to “adopt a beach” and maintain the momentum in the future. The students met with local environmental leaders and a middle-school principal in order to learn how the adoption efforts might move forward.

“The projects were a great way to connect with the local community members and make a difference that will be visible to all people who visit the island of Aigina,” says Mallory Long, a junior majoring in accounting and finance.

Ryan Fitzgerald, a senior biology major, said the trip has already changed the way he lives at home.

“The influence that the project has had on my daily actions at home is incredible,” he says. “I have begun to recycle more and look for any chance to help make a cleaner world.”

The second team learned about the relationships between agriculture, solid waste and the Aigina economy. The island currently ships in much of the fertilizer used by local farmers and ships away its trash because of lack of landfill space. All of that costs money, and there’s currently an effort on Aigina to increase composting of food waste to reduce these shipping and hauling costs. Food waste typically makes up 30 to 40 percent of the trash we throw away, Terry says.

“Our study was to calculate the potential benefit of taking that food and separating it from the trash and composting it on the island. Would there be a local use for it and a local market for it?” Terry says.

The head of the local composting association and the president of the farmers’ association both agreed that composting is not only a benefit, it is becoming an economic necessity. A project in Kalamata, Greece, indicated that local farmers and the community can both benefit from the use of fertilizer made from local food waste. A composting demonstration hosted by the Kalamata group drove home how science, the community, and government must all be involved in order to solve this type of problem.

“In a short period of time, this group of students was able to apply concepts they were learning in the classroom to the local context through meaningful engagement with community leaders,” says Eleni Dellagrammaticas, director of the Drury Center in Aigina.

The community nature of the projects made an impact on Jesse Allard, a senior accounting major.

“It was so much fun to see the community members so interested and excited about the work we were setting up,” Allard says. “They genuinely appreciated what we were doing and wanted to be involved.  I think studying abroad is essential. As the world becomes ‘smaller,’ I think it is more important than ever to understand and appreciate other cultures so we can all work together and maximize the potential of the human experience.”

Terry hopes the groundwork laid during this experience can be used by future Drury students to help explain the global nature of sustainability issues.

“I was so impressed by the progressive ideas of the Aigina community,” he said. “The beauty of the island, and the passion of the local people to improve it make it a perfect learning laboratory for our students.”

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Story by Mike Brothers, Drury’s director of media relations. A version of this story first appeared in the Springfield News-Leader.

Drury grad heads to Oxford for three-year research fellowship

From Nixa to Drury to Oxford, Ashley Maher is an example of how a liberal arts education can open unexpected doors.

The Nixa native graduated from Drury in 2008 with a degree in English and creative writing. But she began as architecture major. She was then able to combine her interests in architecture and literature while earning a Ph.D. at Washington University in St. Louis. Her dissertation looks at the influence of modern architecture on 20th century British authors, many of which worked as contributors or editors for architectural journals. This fall she will begin a three-year Junior Research Fellowship at Oxford University.

Maher was interested in studying architecture from the time she was in the third grade, and Drury’s architecture program was one of the major reasons Maher decided to attend Drury.

AshleyMaher

“I liked math, art history, and the fine arts and my father manages a lumber and hardware store, so I had some early exposure to the building industry,” she says. “I also took a couple of drafting classes in high school. I found the architecture classes I took at Drury interesting, but I felt that a change of major might be in order when I realized my favorite part about the classes was writing the analysis papers.”

Maher appreciated how her instructors at Drury made themselves available to continue discussing topics raised in class during their office hours. Several faculty members were great sources of advice as she began her own academic career. She also had the opportunity to study abroad in the U.K. where she conducted research at the archives of the Royal Institute of British Architects.

“Studying abroad in London gave me a better understanding of British politics and culture, which fanned my interest in 20th century British literature,” Maher says. “I’m looking forward to digging into the literary archives at the British Library and other locations around the U.K. when I move to Oxford in September.”

The Oxford fellowship is extremely competitive and is typically awarded to those approaching the end of their doctoral research. Maher will use the fellowship primarily to expand her Ph.D. dissertation into a book and to start her next research project. She will teach classes as well as participate in seminars and other programs across the university.

Maher and her husband David Ruvolo, are excited to start their journey in London as newlyweds.

“As for the charm of Oxford, the university has wonderful archives and academic resources,” Maher said. “I look forward to interacting with and learning from the scholars working there who are further along in their careers than I am.”

After Maher completes her three-year Junior Research Fellowship, she hopes to find a position as an assistant professor either in the United States or London.

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Story by Colombe Iyeza, Drury marketing & communication office intern. A version of this story first appeared in the Springfield News-Leader.

 

Drury MBA students explore global connections in China

A group of Drury University MBA students recently returned from a study abroad experience they won’t soon forget.

Drury’s MBA program requires a trip abroad to China. Unlike many other study abroad opportunities, the China trip is built into the MBA curriculum, and it serves as a cultural and academic capstone for the program.

This year’s trip was more interesting than usual because it occurred in the days leading up to the 25th anniversary of the Chinese government’s crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.

But the Drury contingent wasn’t even aware of the upcoming date until the group of 24 students visited the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. No Chinese spoke of it.

“What I found out is we’re more similar than we are dissimilar – except in the area of the personal freedom,” says Sherry Coker, Director of Workforce Development at Ozarks Technical Community College. It was Coker’s first international trip.

Drury MBA China group

“For example, the ‘one child policy – I looked at it from a woman’s perspective,” Coker says. “To have a child in China means you go to your employer and say you want to have a child, and they tell you when you can have a child.”

For Andrea Gill, the trip brought the differences in language and culture into stark relief.

“To do business with (the Chinese) you really need to focus on understanding the importance of family, their overall culture and the complexity of the language,” Gill says.

The trip gives students a first-hand view of a market that is both essential and enigmatic, says Associate Professor of Management Dr. Janis Prewitt Auner, who went on this year’s trip. The tour included visits to companies such as online media company Sina[cq], tech giant iSoftStone and Beijing Hyundai.

“We visit various businesses and they tell us what the challenges are to doing business in China, and they are pretty honest about the difficulties,” Auner says. “I think this is part of what distinguishes our program from others in the state and the region.”

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Story by Mike Brothers, Drury’s director of media relations. A version of this story first appeared in the Springfield News-Leader. 

Recent Drury grad completes White House internship

From Drury to Washington, D.C., Austin Seaborn is proving that with perseverance, the right attitude, and hard work, anything is possible. Seaborn, a 2013 graduate with a bachelor’s in German and International Political studies, has spent the last year pursuing a Master’s degree at Georgetown University while also interning at the White House, continuing the legacy of leadership that he left at Drury.

Georgetown has top-ranked programs in international affairs, and only about 20 people were accepted into Seaborn’s program at the BMW Center for German and European Studies.

“I knew it was competitive so I beefed up other areas of my resume — I had great internships, a lot of leadership positions and experiences, and studied abroad while I was at Drury,” Seaborn said. “One of my professors, Dr. John Taylor, got his Master’s and Ph.D. (at Georgetown), too, and he gave me a lot of encouragement.”

Seaborn

During his first semester in grad school, Seaborn applied to be an intern at the White House and found out this past December that he would be working in the Office of Legislative Affairs — the President’s liaison to Congress.

From January to May, he worked 50 hours a week and was a full-time student. He met and escorted members of Congress to events and meetings at the White House, monitored the Senate floor and counted votes, and helped manage and track correspondence from members of Congress to the President and other senior officials.

During his internship, Seaborn spoke with the President, First Lady, Vice President, and Chief of Staff. He even got the chance to play with the President’s two dogs, Sunny and Bo.

“I most enjoyed the opportunity to work alongside some of America’s best and brightest. Both the staff and my fellow interns are brilliant, hardworking people who wake up every morning and come to work hoping to make a positive impact on people’s lives,” Seaborn said. “It was great getting to meet so many members of Congress, and see what goes in to making a meeting or event happen at the White House was unforgettable.”

Seaborn’s internship and experiences reaffirmed his commitment to public service. He is excited at the possibility of starting a career that raises discussion about important issues and helps positively affect the people around him.

“I hope to use the skills I have learned and the experiences I have been so fortunate to have to help others who are going through a tough time and to inspire people to set lofty goals, work efficiently, be flexible to different opportunities, and to give back to people in need,” Seaborn said.

This summer, Seaborn will be working at the Georgetown Law Center and will start his last year of graduate school in the fall.

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Story by Kaleigh Jurgensmeyer, and English and writing major at Drury. A version of this story first appeared in the Springfield News-Leader. 

Studying abroad helps architecture grad gain global perspective

Not many 23-year-olds can say they’ve travelled the world, have a master’s degree and had multiple internships during their college career. Wil Toedtmann can. He graduated Drury this month with a degree in architecture and a minor in Design Arts and Global Studies.

The Hermann, Missouri, native became interested in architecture in high school when he would sketch buildings on his notes during class. He came to Drury for the five-year Master of Architecture program.

During those years, Toedtmann counts his travel abroad opportunities as some of his biggest learning experiences. In total, he visited seven countries, including China, Italy, Spain, Greece and the United Kingdom.

Toedtmann1

“Studying abroad was such a life changing experience and I not only learned about other cultures, but I also learned a lot about myself and what my values were,” Toedtmann says. “It really changed my whole perspective on life. I think traveling is one of the best ways to learn and it really gives you a global perspective.”

This past spring break, Toedtmann and two other Drury students traveled to China to present their fifth year urban design projects to the Suzhou Industrial Park Design & Research Institute. The projects focused on the anticipated future growth of an area west of Shanghai, and looked at redevelopment strategies addressing issues of sustainability, culture and population density.

“One of professors was actually born in Beijing, which made the trip even better because it was like having a personal tour guide,” Toedtmann says. “I was really glad he came with us because he showed us authentic Chinese cuisine, which was great!”

Aside from his study abroad travels, Toedtmann also appreciates the networking opportunities Drury has provided him. Because of a Drury connection, Toedtmann was able to spend a week in New York City working with Daniel Libeskind, one of the world’s most well-known architects. Another Drury connection helped him secure a part-time job at Casey Architecture, where he works today. He hopes to move to a large city in the future.

“I honestly feel like Drury couldn’t have done any more to better prepare me for the field of architecture,” Toedtmann says. “I am not only grateful for the degree and education I received, but more importantly, I am grateful for all the relationships that were created through my experiences and the opportunities that molded me into the person I am today.”

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Story by Kaleigh Jurgensmeyer, an English and Writing major at Drury. A version of this story first appeared in the Springfield News-Leader. 

Engaged Learning Summit highlights community action

Community engagement is a lynchpin of education at Drury University, and a recent event spotlighted students’ efforts  to reach out beyond the campus’s borders.

Drury’s first Engaged Learning Summit was a chance for local leaders to hear first-hand from students who are translating their course work into community action in a variety of ways. The efforts are also summarized in a new Annual Community Engagement Report available online.

“We are committed to measuring our worth in part by our capacity to leave the Ozarks better than the way we found it,” Charles Taylor, vice president for academic affairs, told those gathered.

When measured in time and dollar value, that worth is large indeed. Drury students provide more than 148,000 hours of local service annually, and the estimated value of those hours is more than $2.8 million.

Students discussed projects such as multi-year study of invertibrates and water quality in Jordan Creek. The data collected and analyzed by environmental science students could help guide the City of Springfield’s efforts to further update the waterway with a more natural streambed. Another highlight was the “Art of Space” projects undertaken by architecture students who create interactive spatial art installations during events such as First Friday Art Walks.

Former Springfield Mayor Tom Carlson listens to Drury architecture students describe "Art of Space."

Former Springfield Mayor Tom Carlson listens to Drury architecture students describe “Art of Space.”

Others included Drury Scholars, which gives local African-American middle and high school students a taste of the college experience, and the Intergenerational Rock Band, which pairs music therapy students with older community members to perform live concerts together.

“What is good for Drury is good for the community, and vice versa,” said Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce President Jim Anderson. “This event is the embodiment of what’s good for Drury and the community.”

Brian Fogle, president of the Community Foundation of the Ozarks, appreciated hearing from the students themselves.

“It’s a rewarding experience to see students so engaged in the community, and excited to talk about their work and impact,” Fogle said. “Not only will that benefit them throughout their lives, it should benefit Springfield as they feel more connected to our community.”

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Story by Mike Brothers, Drury’s director of media relations. A version of this story first appeared in the Springfield News-Leader.