Campus Notes

Grant will send professor back to his native Kenya to teach

Academic life brought Dr. Albert Korir from Kenya to the United States. Now, academics are taking him back home.

Korir, an associate professor of chemistry at Drury, is one of 60 scholars in the United States and Canada from a variety of fields to be selected for the latest round of Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowships. The program facilitates engagement between U.S. and Canadian scholars born in Africa with their African counterparts.

Albert Korir

Albert Korir

Korir will teach at Moi University this summer. His project will involve co-developing a curriculum that uses innovative technological strategies for teaching chemistry using the “flipped-class” model. While there, he’ll have the opportunity to teach using a set of web-based tools he and a group of colleagues have been developing for several years called the Analytical Sciences Digital Library (ASDL).

“We’ve developed web-based material that is peer-reviewed and freely available to both instructors and students,” he says.

There’s no shortage of online tools for learning, Korir says, but few are peer-reviewed in this way.

Korir became involved with ASDL after coming to a typical crossroads for chemistry graduates: research industry or academia? A faculty mentor during his graduate school years at the University of Kansas saw Korir’s potential as a teacher and encouraged him to remain in academia while at the same time conducting research.

A handful of students have worked directly with Korir on research projects every year since he joined the Drury faculty in 2008, giving him a chance to pass on the mentorship and guidance that helped him find his own career footing.

Korir will bring this personalized style of teaching with him to Kenya. The “flipped” classroom model sees students take in the lectures at home via the web and come to class for discussions and apply their knowledge and collaborate with others on projects.

“My colleagues in Africa tell me the students have become very receptive to this style of learning – they’re getting to interact with the professors more closely now,” Korir says.

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

Professor’s photos capture small town “relics” & celebrations

Greg Booker has a keen eye for out-of-the-way places.

The assistant professor of art and communication at Drury has for several years now been photographing and documenting everyday scenes in small – sometimes very small – towns in Missouri, Oklahoma and some southern states.

A barbershop scene in Clinton, Missouri.

A barbershop scene in Clinton, Missouri.

An exhibit of Booker’s work, titled “Small Town & Quiet Spaces” is now open at the Lightwell Gallery at the University of Oklahoma’s School of Art and Art History. The exhibit will come to Drury’s Pool Art Center this fall.

It’s a passion project that began when Booker returned to Springfield to join Drury’s faculty in 2009. Born in Chicago and raised in St. Louis, Booker earned an art degree from Drury in 1987 before moving to Oklahoma, where he earned a graduate degree in art at OU. He later landed on the photo staff of the Kansas City Star.

An abandoned storefront in Niangua, Missouri.

An abandoned storefront in Niangua, Missouri.

When he and his wife returned to the area, they bought a home outside of Marshfield. That was the first time Booker had lived in the country.

“I’m used to city life,” he says, and the change of scenery brought small and sometimes even forgotten places into focus for him. With camera in hand, he began seeking out the kind of tiny towns that are today little more than places on a map because highways passed them by or because they were simply too small to survive.

“They’re almost like relics,” Booker says. “It just seems like that was a bit of history that needed to be documented, so it was a chance for me to explore the small towns and document them.”

A four-way stop in the heart of Houston, Missouri.

A four-way stop in the heart of Houston, Missouri.

Booker later began shooting the larger but still small towns where people live, work and play. He’s captured celebrations like parades and fall festivals and everyday moments in local shops and sidewalks – the “places where the community can come together and celebrate their heritage, their small towns and their neighbors,” he says.

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

Memphis trip brings classroom lessons to life for freshmen

Nearly 30 Drury University freshmen had the chance to travel to Memphis to spend a weekend visiting the National Civil Rights Museum and the Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum as part of their first-year experience

The trip was tied to Drury’s general education curriculum, called Drury CORE. CORE classes are designed for incoming students and emphasize the interconnectedness of all areas of study.

Experiences like the Memphis trip help form bonds that carry students through the transition into college life. Those bonds are also formed though “Living Learning Communities” – students with common interests and areas of study who are grouped together in residence halls.

Drury freshmen at the Lorriane Motel, now the site of the National Civil Rights Museum.

Drury freshmen at the Lorraine Motel, now the site of the National Civil Rights Museum.

“It’s a really comfortable environment – it’s really easy to open up,” says Jacob Wyatt, one the students who was on the Memphis trip. “No one is afraid to say how they feel and we have a lot of good classroom discussions.”

Two CORE classes joined together for the Memphis trip: Dr. Charles Taylor’s class, themed “The Politics of Rock ‘n’ Roll,” and Dr. Rick Maxon’s class, themed “On Propaganda and Protest.” The museum trips helped bring to life some of the topics explored in the classroom throughout the semester.

At the Civil Rights Museum, students in the “Propaganda and Protest” class analyzed the variety of methods of protest seen during the Civil Rights movement in America. The “Politics of Rock n’ Roll” students gained a greater understanding of African-American influence on rock music and, in turn, society at large. In the Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum[cq], students learned more about rock music as a powerful medium for social change.

Through these activities, the students not only learned about their chosen topics, but were exposed to a much broader perspective on just how powerful these cultural change agents have been over the years.

While learning is the primary purpose, the trips certainly build connections and lasting memories for the students. Taylor says trips such as this “provide another forum in which students can get connected to each other and the university.”

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

Disney internship is “dream come true” for architecture student

Dreams do come true, as fifth-year architecture student Billy Miller proved after completing two internships at “The Happiest Place on Earth.” Miller interned with Disney Imagineering in 2010 and again in 2013.

“I’ve wanted to work for Disney since I was 7 years old,” Miller says.

Disney’s “Imagineers” are responsible for designing and building theme parks, resorts, and other entertainment venues. More than 140 different job titles fall under the banner of Imagineering, according to Disney, including illustrators, architects, engineers, writers, graphic designers and more.

Billy Miller

Drury architecture student Billy Miller

Miller worked with other Imagineers on a variety of projects such as Splash Mountain, as well as buildings, lighting and even animal pens. He also took on a key role on the team designing Disney Springs, a transformation of what is now Downtown Disney inside Walt Disney World into a space modeled after a classic Florida lakeside town.

The experience taught him the importance of collaboration with other disciplines both in and outside of the architectural field and about how to use architecture to tell a story. But he also took a great deal of knowledge with him into the job.

“Drury and the Hammons School of Architecture not only helped foster my design style, but gave me the confidence and knowledge that allowed me to become a leader at Disney,” he says. Miller cites mentors such as professor Jay Garrott and instructor Jeff Barber as specific influences at the beginning of his architectural career.

“I honestly did not realize the breadth of what I had learned until I got down to Disney and saw how many jobs I was able to accomplish that other interns could not,” he says.

Managers within the company gave interns the latitude to lead projects if they showed promise, Miller says. He adds that he was able to take hold of such an opportunity after only three weeks working under another architect.

But the biggest opportunity was simply a chance “to make people happy.”

“There is honestly nothing like seeing someone smile because of something you worked on,” Miller says

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Story by Trevor Cobb, writing major at Drury.

Students study future of genetics by examining their own past

DNA tells a story – a story about one’s past and, potentially, about one’s future.

A group of Drury science students learned more about their own genetic past this semester, and in the process learned important lessons about the future of medicine.

Twenty-four students in Dr. Roger Young’s advanced molecular genetics class took samples of their own spit before the class began and sent it to a company called 23andMe, which provides ancestry-related genetic reports for a fee. These reports, called genotypes, can help people generally understand their ancestry and also identify certain traits and health risks.

Just a few years ago, this testing was highly expensive, Young says. Today it can be done “for less than 100 bucks, which is incredible,” he says. That cost trajectory means genetic profiles will soon be an essential – and common – part of the medical industry.

“It seemed like a natural step forward to take this kind of modern business model and apply it to an academic setting,” Young says.

The students learned they each carry some Neanderthal DNA. They learned they might be pre-disposed to certain health conditions or be carriers for diseases that could manifest themselves in their children, if their partners are also carriers. The results largely remained private amongst the students, but it forced them to think about what they’ll do with the information.

“There’s the raw interpretation of the data, then there’s the philosophy and ethical implications of what you do with that information,” Young says.

In Drury’s typical liberal arts fashion, connections were drawn to other disciplines. Philosophy professor Dr. Chris Panza and a genetic counselor from CoxHealth spoke to the class about philosophical and ethical impacts. And the students even entered – and won – a photo contest with 23andMe. Titled “Human Karyotype,” the photo was of 23 of the students lying on the ground representing both the number and the shape of the 23 human chromosomes.

“Human Karyotype," by Drury student Ashleigh Spalding. The photo depicts Spalding's 23 classmates posing as human chromosomes.

“Human Karyotype,” by Drury student Ashleigh Spalding.

The students used a $300 prize from the contest to hold an event on campus and spoke to about 100 people about the process of genetic testing, condensing their 15-week journey into about a 15-minute presentation.

“A fair number of these students are going into the medical field on some level, and because genetics will be ubiquitous in a decade or less, these students will be prepared to understand this, and teach other people about it,” Young says. “When they sit for their MCATs or medical school interviews, they’ll be able to talk on a knowledgeable level about the future of medicine.”

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

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.