Campus Notes

Vietnam veteran earns art degree — and respect from faculty

Drury art student Richard Hunter is proof that it’s never too late to learn something new. The 64-year-old graduated on Dec. 13 with an art degree. Hunter is a retired Vietnam veteran, and though he doesn’t consider himself a natural artist, he certainly has made an impression on his professors and classmates.

This year he received the Boyko Weltanschauung Award, which is presented to students who have made the biggest impact on art department faculty, and challenge instructors to re-examine their teaching strategies and think about why they teach. Hunter is just the second recipient in 11 years.

“As one of our older students, I find him completely open to critiques of his works and is one of the hardest working students that I have ever known,” said Rebecca Miller, a photography professor. “His life experiences bring so much to the classroom that he will be one of those students I will remember fondly for years to come because of his positive outlook on life.”

Richard Hunter in the ceramics workshop at Pool Art Center.

Richard Hunter in the ceramics workshop at Pool Art Center.

Hunter prefers working with ceramics and photography. As a beekeeper, he’s particularly inspired by bees and the hexagon shapes they make, which he’s incorporated into his art. He is also drawn to graffiti art and has photographed the traveling artwork on trains rolling through town.

One of Hunter’s biggest inspirations is his younger classmates.

“One of things I’ve absolutely loved is that I get to be around young artists and that I have had a chance to see art through their eyes,” said Hunter. “Being with young artists makes me feel young again! It stirs up my imagination.”

Hunter has also enjoyed working on the art department’s annual Veterans Day tradition of taking portrait photos of veterans free of charge. He would eventually like to start a volunteer art therapy program to aid disabled veterans.

“Art really helps disabled veterans to relax and seems to help heal people both mentally and physically,” said Hunter. “I just want to share what I have learned and maybe even learn from them.”

Hunter appreciated that his professors adjusted to his learning style and worked with him on an individual basis. The small school environment made him feel comfortable, he says.

“The teachers have really bent over backward to inspire me, encourage me to do good work and look at my art in different ways,” he says. “They’re willing to be more personal and they’re willing to listen.”

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

Alum’s tech company makes holiday shopping a little easier

An up-and-coming technology company co-founded by 2001 Drury alumnus Nathan Pettyjohn is making holiday shopping a little easier for many this year.

Aisle411 is an in-store mobile marketing platform that allows shoppers to search and navigate products and offers within a store. It also helps retailers and brands by decreasing the number of store walkouts by frustrated customers who cannot find the product they are looking for. Pettyjohn says that retailers can lose a substantial amount of sales from these walkouts.

“The light bulb moment came when I was in a home improvement store — I was looking for a surge protector — and 3 associates sent me in 3 different directions,” Pettyjohn said. “I became so frustrated at the wasted time and thought, ‘Wow, wouldn’t it be cool if I could create Google Maps in retail stores?’”

Aisle411 received early support from the Springfield Angel Network through the Edward Jones Center for Entrepreneurship at Drury University, as well as other angel investor groups. Since its 2008 founding, the company has raised more than $10 million in venture capital. Toys ‘R’ Us and Walgreens are two of the retailers currently working with aisle411.

Pettyjohn said he has had an “entrepreneurial buzz” since he was a kid, and even had his own lawn mowing business when he was a teenager. His college professors also encouraged creativity and innovative thinking.

“My professors always said that you need to think about the next wave of marketing—it’s all going to change,” Pettyjohn said. “My background and education played a critical role in molding me into this thinking.”

The future of aisle411 looks bright. A growth plan is in place for the company to expand globally and use more retail analytics about shopper location, which will allow retailers to understand aisle traffic and establish the value on every shelf.

“The vision is to create this whole new, in-store media network,” said Pettyjohn.

Pettyjohn, who was honored with a Distinguished Alumni Award in October, credits his three years on Drury’s AD Team to helping him assess real world problems and find creative solutions with marketing.

“Starting this company has been really fun,” said Pettyjohn. “Drury definitely played a role in my success now.”

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

Panel discusses impact of Ferguson grand jury decision

As release of the Ferguson grand jury’s decision loomed last Monday night, students and faculty gathered at Drury’s Diversity Center to have a dialog about the issue that has torn apart the St. Louis suburb and captured the nation’s attention.

The event featured a panel of three speakers, but it was also a chance for students to ask questions, vent frustrations and talk about how communities – including Springfield – can work toward meaningful change when it comes to race, justice and equality.

It starts with honest dialog, most agreed. That’s not easy.

“We’re still not very good at talking about race,” said English professor Dr. Peter Meidlinger, who moderated, “but we need to get better at it.”

Panelists Ron Hartman, Greg Booker and Katherine Gilbert discuss the Ferguson issue at Drury's Diversity Center.

Panelists Ron Hartman, Greg Booker and Katherine Gilbert discuss the Ferguson issue at Drury’s Diversity Center.

Panelist Dr. Katherine Gilbert, an assistant professor of English, agreed. Having these conversations is extremely difficult – but the only path to understanding.

“It’s worth it,” she said. “It’s worth taking that step

The fatal shooting of Michael Brown was tragic, but certainly not unique. That unfortunate fact is likely why this case has sparked such a backlash, said Assistant Professor of Art Greg Booker, who is African American. He specifically cited the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin in 2012.

“I think it was set up and ready to catch fire because of the Trayvon Martin situation,” he said.

Students such as Max Accardi, a political science and chemistry double major, pointedly questioned the use of military-grade vehicles and equipment by local law enforcement agencies before protests had even begun, suggesting they helped increase tensions rather than defuse them.

Panelist Ron Hartman said such equipment is justified in order to protect police officers, but conceded that the use is likely too widespread when even the smallest jurisdictions have access to it. Hartman is a retired major with the Springfield Police Department who has consulted for law enforcement across the world – including recently in Ferguson.

Booker said his greatest frustration was with the lack of known facts in the three months between the shooting and the grand jury decision.

“I think because we don’t have all the evidence people are pushing for this to go to trial so that we can know what happened,” he said, only minutes before the news that there would be no such trial.

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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.

 

Kids get free admission and special cheering section at basketball games

Wigs, boas, crazy hats, fake mustaches, pom poms and sunglasses are just some of the props that kids can use in the new Kids Corner section at Drury Basketball games. Not only is it fun, but’s also free.

Children 12 and under get into all Drury sporting events for free this this season, emphasizing Drury’s family-friendly environment. They must be accompanied by adult upon admission.

Similar to the Drury student section, the Kids Corner is a reserved area in the O’Reilly Family Event Center dedicated solely to kids ages 6 to 11, who are invited to cheer, hang out with friends, and even hold some of the giant posters of the players. Kids Corner allows parents to watch the game freely from their own seat and engages some of the younger audience members in their very own fan section.

Kids Corner

“As a parent, the biggest benefit for me is seeing the kids have fun and seeing a new and younger generation getting to enjoy the sport,” said Emily Givens, who supervises the section along with two other O’Reilly Center workers.

Janel Nibert, whose husband is a former DU basketball player, recently brought her two sons to a basketball game and they enjoyed the fun environment the Kids Corner.

“They had a great time — they dressed up in wigs and mustaches and, during a time out, they got to go on the court and shoot baskets,” she said. “I enjoyed watching them feel like they were a part of the game. I hope the 12 and under promotion brings in even more kids.”

Kids Corner D fence

The kids never have to worry about being too loud or “wild.” In fact, that is something the section encourages. They help with cheers and even get to go out on the floor and high-five the starting players. During the time outs, Drury cheerleaders will bring kids on court to dance to songs like “Shake It Off” and “Jump Around.”

“We want the whole event to be fun for kids and adults alike. The fun environment helps the players, too, and gets the team excited and more people in the stands,” Givens said. “It gives us a spirited stadium.”

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

Students, faculty gather for lively political discussion

Engaging, intellectual debate is part of the fabric of a college campus. Lively discussion of ideas need not be confined to the formal classroom setting.

A new group on Drury’s campus proves that point. “Pizza & Politics” meets every two weeks with few dozen people, students and faculty alike, discussing and contributing ideas over free food. Each gathering typically has a theme or topic, such as the recent election or Ebola.

Dr. Justin Leinaweaver, assistant professor of political science, begins the discussion, often by asking a broad question.

Once the conversation starts, the environment of the room quickly transforms into an arena for debate as students share their views and rebut others. While the professors begin conversation and ask questions, students are the main contributors.

“My primary hope is that the students take our conversations to the places they are most interested in,” Leinaweaver says.

Students who attend come from a variety of backgrounds and majors including history, philosophy, political science, English, business, and even pre-med.

“It gives me a chance to hear the opinions and ideas of other students, many of whom aren’t in the political science department,” says Laddie Miller, a junior political science major. “The variety of interests helps to diversify discussion and bring up many sides of a single issue. For example, Ebola was discussed with regard to healthcare, ethics, and finances as well as politics.”

Miller says it’s refreshing to be on “an equal playing field” with a cross-section of students and professors, where everyone is comfortable sharing opinions and questioning others.

Leinaweaver agrees, adding: “I love how involving faculty from departments across campus brings fascinating, often non-traditional, perspectives to our discussions of the political world.”

Some good-natured ribbing keeps things from getting too heavy, partly owing to the fact that most students and professors know one another well. Many of the students have had multiple political science classes together.

“The fact that those who attend Pizza & Politics can kid around with each other is a sign of respect and mutual appreciation for discourse,” Miller says.

It’s important for young people to become engaged in civic life, Leinaweaver says, and groups such as Pizza & Politics fuel their passion for involvement. At one point in the conversation, he urges students to voice their opinions by reminding them, “You are ‘The People’ now; you’re all voting age.”

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Story by Trevor Cobb, writing major at Drury. A version of this story first appeared in the Springfield News-Leader.

Solar Decathlon team gearing up for 2015 national competition

Rising gas prices and climate change are hot-topic issues that are drawing attention to the need for alternative energy sources. Drury University and Crowder College hope to be a part of this energy solution — they are designing, building, and operating an off-the-grid home as part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon 2015 competition.

The Solar Decathlon is a “green” home building competition among colleges that apply and are selected by the Department of Energy. It is meant to educate students and the public about the benefits, affordability and availability of renewable energy.

Crowder approached Drury to join forces on the project last year. Crowder offers programs in renewable energy and competed in the Decathlon in 2002 and 2005. Recognizing the strength of Drury’s architecture program, the Crowder team thought both colleges could benefit from each other’s expertise in order to design a top-notch home. They’re now competing against teams from Yale, Vanderbilt and Missouri S&T, among others.

Members of the Solar Decathlon team examine plans for the project.

Members of the Solar Decathlon team examine plans for the project.

At Drury, this project has attracted about 50 students from architecture, communication, economics, finance, and other majors. This interdisciplinary approach is actually a requirement of the Decathlon, making Drury a great fit.

“I’m extremely excited to be involved in such an interdisciplinary project that allows me to utilize all the liberal arts informed skills I’ve picked up while studying at Drury,” said Alaa Al-Radwan, a fifth-year architecture student at Drury. “Seeing so many students from so many different areas of study come together to work on one project is a humbling experience.”

Students from both schools are working hard to design a one-of-a-kind, solar-powered home that exceeds the competition’s requirements in 10 categories. The home must run appliances and even power an electric car, produce as much or more energy than it uses, and remain cost-effective.

To set their project apart, the Drury/Crowder team has added another element to their project: storm resistance. Inspired by the devastation from the Joplin tornado, Drury/Crowder recognized the importance of providing relief shelter to individuals affected by natural disaster.

They call it ShelteR3, which is based on three R’s: respond, recover and resist. The home will require minimal assembly at the destination, provide a comfortable living space for families, and withstand high-speed winds. Drury and Crowder students want to use this competition to show how people can protect themselves from unpredictable storms and have an affordable, stylish home that runs “off the grid.”

“As the effects of climate change become more and more obvious, the necessity for alternate forms of energy is becoming a self-evident reality,” said Evan Melgren, a senior advertising and public relations major. “I’m proud to be a part of such a large competitio that works towards a solution.”

The Solar Decathlon will be held in Irvine, California in October 2015. For more information on the Solar Decathlon, visit www.solardecathlon.gov. For more information on Drury and Crowder’s project, visit shelter.drury.edu. If you would like to support the project with a gift or in-kind donation, contact Traci Sooter at (417) 873-7416.

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

 

Livesay named 2014 Sherman Emerging Scholar

Dr. Dan Livesay, assistant history professor at Drury, has been named the Sherman Emerging Scholar for 2014. Livesay will travel to the University of North Carolina Wilmington in late October to deliver a public lecture about his research, speak in a graduate class and share his expertise with other scholars.

The Sherman Emerging Scholar award is a national award presented by UNC-Wilmington annually to a promising young scholar. It gives the winner a platform to discuss perspectives, research, concepts and approaches to modern issues and theories in history, politics and international affairs.

Dr. Daniel Livesay

Dr. Daniel Livesay

Livesay’s lecture, titled “Race and the Making of Family in the Atlantic World,” will relate his research about mixed-race families in the 18th century to modern day debates about race and family in the United States. Growing racial complexities and family belonging were important issues then as they are now.

“Because I was selected by a committee of historians working on lots of different periods of time and topics, it was very encouraging to discover that my particular research had something of a broad appeal,” Livesay says. “It’s also very exciting to present my work to a large group of people who know absolutely nothing about my area of expertise. As academics, we can sometimes feel that we are only talking to a very narrow group of people about our research, and so I’m thrilled that I can present it to people from all different walks of life and intellectual interests.”

In total, Livesay spent 10 years researching, writing, and revising his work, which is now in the process of being published in book form by UNC Press.

The Emerging Scholar Award comes at the heels of another honor – the National Endowment for the Humanities “We the People” Fellowship in African American History – which allowed him to spend this past summer researching at the Rockefeller Library in Williamsburg, Va.

Livesay conducts most of his research during the academic breaks and focuses on teaching during the semesters, but he does devote some time in the mornings to continue researching throughout the school year. As a scholar and professor, Livesay says he inevitably finds documents and sources that he can use in his syllabus. He also incorporates some his own research and findings into the classroom.

“I think students get excited to see what their professors are experts in,” Livesay says. “They give good feedback and often show me something I hadn’t thought about before—they add a new perspective.”

Livesay received his Ph.D. in History from the University of Michigan in 2010 and came to Drury in 2012. He teaches courses on the history of early America, transatlantic slavery and indigenous people in the Americas.

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

Daughter follows in dad’s footsteps into the Breech MBA program

Sometimes it’s tough to live up to the standards and expectations your parents have for you. It might be even be a little tougher when you follow in the footsteps of your father into a rigorous and challenging Masters in Business Administration program.

Liz Crain recently completed Drury’s five-week-long MBA “Boot Camp” that’s designed to prepare those without an undergraduate business degree for the MBA program. She begins classes in January.

Her father, Mike West, earned an MBA from Drury in 2010. Hav­ing graduated from Drury in 1996 with degrees in physics and mathematics, he also went through the Boot Camp to prep for his master’s degree. Then he recommended the program to his daughter.

“I don’t feel too competitive about it, but the standards are set pretty high,” Crain says with a grin, when asked if there’s any family rivalry in play.

Liz Crain and her father, Mike West

Liz Crain and her father, Mike West

Angie Adamick, director of the MBA program, says West and Crain represent two very different, but valued types of students who go through the program.

“Mike is the professional who has so much expertise and rich experience to offer in the classroom and Liz is full of fresh and innovative ideas,” she says. “The combination of these kinds of input in the Drury MBA classroom makes for incredibly dynamic discussions.”

Crain, 23, has seen that already. She says she enjoyed the stimulating mix of younger minds and experienced professionals during the “intense five weeks” of the Boot Camp.

West continues to be involved in the program post-graduation by serving as an MBA mentor, speaking at the orientation and encouraging his colleagues to pursue their MBA through Drury. Now he’s excited to bring his daughter into the Drury fold as well. He still has many close, personal and professional connections from both his undergraduate days and his MBA experience.

“Drury, to me, is a family school,” he says. “Everybody knows everyone.”

Those interested in applying for the program can find more information about www.drury.edu/mba, or by calling (417) 873-7612.

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Story by Trevor Cobb, writing major at Drury. A version of this story first appeared in the Springfield News-Leader. 

Moroccan professor teaches Arabic at Drury thanks to Fulbright program

For 10 years, Jalal Ismaili taught English to students in his home country, Morocco. This year, as part of the prestigious Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistantship program, he is teaching Arabic to American students at Drury, creating an important cultural exchange that emphasizes Drury’s global studies mission.

Ismaili teaches elementary and advanced Arabic courses as part of Drury’s Middle East Studies minor. Arabic is the official language of Morocco and 21 other countries in Africa and Asia.

Jalal Ismaili

Jalal Ismaili

The Fulbright program is funded by the U.S. State Department and managed by the International Institute of Education. It involves a rigorous, competitive application process, and provides opportunities for students, professors and scholars from the United States to teach and study abroad, and vice versa. Six current Drury professors and even some former students have been granted Fulbright awards to study and teach in their fields overseas.

For nine years, Drury has also hosted an Arabic Foreign Language Teaching Assistant through the program.

“One of the great benefits for Drury is that we get the opportunity for people to come from the Middle East and teach an important and challenging language,” says Dr. Jeff VanDenBerg, professor of political science and director of the Middle East Studies program. “More significantly, we get a view of the Arab world in a human way — a cultural exchange and understanding that’s not just through news headlines.”

Ismaili spoke with the previous Fulbright FLTA scholar who came to Drury last year and consequentially had high expectations about what he would experience when he came to Springfield.

“He told me that the people here were very kind and welcoming and I can see that throughout the campus,” Ismaili said. “I’ve taught about American culture, but I haven’t gotten to actually live it, so this opportunity has really helped me in my career and given me a better, cultural understanding.”

Ismaili holds an M.A. in multilingual translation and is currently working on his Ph.D. in English. During his time at Drury, he hopes to act as an ambassador for his country. He teaches Arab culture, history and customs in his language courses, and has guest-lectured in other professors’ classes.

“I think many students have misconceptions about the Arab world just as I have had misconceptions about Americans,” says Ismaili. “People tend to overgeneralize on both sides. Changing those views is one of my priorities. I don’t just want to tell others about the culture, I want to bring them into it and into the environment.”

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

 

Music professor wins statewide award for original composition

Dr. Carlyle Sharpe is both a professor and practitioner of music composition. His students have long recognized what he brings to the table as a teacher, and his peers have often recognized his talents as a composer – including a recent statewide nod.

Sharpe, professor of music composition and theory, was this summer honored with the Opus Award from the Missouri Choral Directors Association for his original composition, “Psalm 8.”

The award is presented annually to a Missouri composer with the most outstanding choral composition, nominated and voted on by members of the Missouri Music Educators Association (MMEA). Sharpe’s piece was written in honor of the 75th Anniversary Convention of MMEA, and was performed by the Boys Choir of Springfield under the direction of Mark Lawley, director of music education at Drury.

Sharpe has numerous awards in choral, solo, orchestral and combination pieces, but his favorite part of composing is the creative process behind it.

“The award is icing on the cake, but the cake is the process of composing and the rehearsal of it,” he says. “You have it in your head a certain way — so what’s magical about it is when it lines up the way you envisioned it and the music comes to life.”

Carlyle Sharpe

A working composer, Sharpe teaches composition lessons, music theory and ear training courses at Drury, while he composes original music at home.

“I love teaching college students because its keeps you young and engaged,” Sharpe says. “I use the principles and theories I teach in my own work, and I think students appreciate that the person educating them is also practicing those techniques outside of the classroom.”

Every piece he composes comes with its own challenges, but Sharpe values both the Drury and Springfield communities for their continuous support and appreciation of the arts. Springfield and Drury ensembles have performed 30 of Sharpe’s works.

Dr. Allin Sorenson, professor of music and director of Drury Singers says, “There’s incredible value in having the composer directly work with the performers because he is able to provide insight into the music that is usually unavailable to musicians.”

Now entering his 15th year at Drury, Sharpe has seen the music department grow from just 17 music majors to about 100 music majors and minors — a record high.

“Seeing all the exciting potential at Drury and watching the potential come to fruition is incredible,” Sharpe says. “We are still relatively small, but we’re doing things on a big scale. We may be small, but we don’t think small.”

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