Campus Notes

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. 

Internship at Whole Foods a natural fit for high-flying PR student

The first time Kathryn Wilson ever shopped at a Whole Foods Market was when she arrived at the company’s headquarters in Austin, Texas, this summer as an intern with the company’s public relations department.

But familiarity with the supermarket chain specializing in organic food wasn’t a job requirement. It was the talents and skills Wilson honed as an advertising major in Drury’s Department of Communication that took her to Austin.

She was one of just 19 college students across the nation selected for the American Advertising Federation’s highly selective Stickell internship program this year. Drury has a remarkable track record with the program. Wilson is the third Drury student in three years to be selected and seventh since 2005.

Kathryn Wilson

Kathryn Wilson

Wilson, who is from Nixa, says she soaked up an incredible amount of knowledge in her 10 weeks on the job.

“You can really tell they are leading the charge in a lot of areas,” she says of Whole Foods’ approach to PR and branding. “It’s just a great group of people who are incredibly talented.”

Wilson immediately jumped into working with industry-specific software, analyzing the company’s Twitter account and working with outside PR firms on a variety of projects. She recommended changes to the company’s PR Twitter account that are now taking shape, and she handled story requests from national media outlets such as Men’s Journal.

Throughout, she felt like a truly valued member of the team at market-leading company. She relished the opportunity to simply drop into the PR director’s office to talk, and felt gratified that Whole Foods was putting her work to good use.

“That was just a great philosophy for me because I felt appreciated and needed,” she says. “I felt like I was an asset.”

Wilson says Drury has been a major asset to her, especially her time on the AD Team with Dr. Regina Waters.

“The Drury communication department has been incredibly helpful in boosting me in my career and what I want to do later in life after college,” she says. “Dr. Waters in particular has been such a great mentor and cheerleader who’s always in my corner.”


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

Music professor’s work takes the stage at Edinburgh Festival

Three original works by a Drury music professor are headed to one of the top international music festivals on the planet later this month.

Dr. Carlyle Sharpe’s “Christ Church Mass” and two other pieces have been selected for a live performance at the Edinburgh International Festival in Scotland on Aug. 30.

The event focuses on classical music and opera, and was founded in 1947 as of way of showcasing “the flowering of the human spirit” in the wake of World War II. It grew rapidly and helped spawn dozens of other arts events at the same time, most notably the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, now the world’s largest arts festival.

These events are collectively known as the Edinburgh Festival, and artists whose works are selected for inclusion find themselves in a sought-after spotlight.

Dr. Carlyle Sharpe

Dr. Carlyle Sharpe

“I’ve been very fortunate to have had my works performed in numerous exciting venues, from the Kennedy Center to the International Sacred Music Festival in Riga, Latvia, and the Edinburg Festival is certainly included in those,” says Sharpe, who is professor of music composition and theory.

“Christ Church Mass” was written for Christ Episcopal Church in Springfield and performed there at the 2013 Easter service. It has since become a regular part of the church’s repertoire. Sharpe is a longtime member of the church’s choir.

“The work consists of the typical movements – Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus, Agnus Dei – performed in the context of a service,” Sharpe says. “Although it can be performed at any time, I added brass quintet and timpani to the standard organ part so that it could be performed for larger, more celebratory occasions such as Easter.”

The other pieces are “Flourishes,” a work for brass quintet and organ and “Laudate Nomen,” a festive work for chorus and organ.

They will be performed at the Church of St. John the Evangelist, an Episcopal Church in Edinburgh.

“Sacred music, in particular, has been a big part of my experience, because as a life-long Episcopalian, music of high quality historically plays a large role in the Episcopal Church,” he says.


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

Drury professor revels in discoveries, connections to Pluto mission

You can call it a planet, a dwarf planet, or even a ball of ice. But to Dr. Greg Ojakangas, there’s no doubt about what to call Pluto: “Amazingly beautiful.”

Ojakangas, an associate professor of physics at Drury, was one of millions around the world fascinated by the prospect of seeing Pluto up close as NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft recently flew by the icy outpost at a distance of just 7,800 miles.

Color-corrected image of Pluto from New Horizons. (NASA)

Color-corrected image of Pluto from New Horizons. (NASA)

“This is a part of the universe no human has ever seen before,” he says. “It’s not often that you’re able to see, for first time, something no human eyes have ever seen.”

Ojakangas has a deep professional interest in New Horizons. His doctoral work examined the large moons of Jupiter, and the remarkable manner in which such worlds can have orbits that are synchronized with each other, providing power for volcanic eruptions and other fascinating dynamical phenomena.  In a similar manner, it was recently discovered that three of Pluto’s 5 moons are also synchronized.  “The staggering beauty of these phenomena is beyond words,”  Ojakangas says.  New Horizons is yielding incredible new information about Pluto’s five moons.

Greg Ojakangas

Greg Ojakangas

But Ojakangas also has a personal connection. The former finalist in NASA’s astronaut selection program knows many of the researchers working on the New Horizons team. He’s thrilled to see the work of colleagues pay off after the probe launched from Earth more than nine years ago. The results have been spectacular, he says.

“As is usually the case when we see a new planetary body, it’s surpassing our expectations in terms of discoveries,” he says.

Glaciers of nitrogen, mountains as high as those in the Sierra Nevada, a mysterious source of geologic heat and even a faint comet-like tail were some of the revelations beamed back to NASA from the spacecraft. For scientists like Ojakangas, the discoveries are not unlike going down the proverbial rabbit hole from “Alice in Wonderland.”

“The laws of physics are the same but the substances are all different, and it’s surprising everybody,” he says. “We love that kind of thing because we learn from it.”

And the lessons aren’t confined to the edge of the solar system.

“To understand our Earth better, we should do everything we can to understand other planets,” he says. “They’re ready-made laboratories for testing our understanding of how the materials of the universe behave.”


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