New book by DU professor explores “Presidential Leverage”

SPRINGFIELD, Mo., Jan. 30, 2018 — How does a president’s popularity affect his or her ability to govern effectively? A new book by Drury University Political Science Professor Dr. Daniel E. Ponder seeks to answer that question in a quantifiable way.

“Presidential Leverage: Presidents, Approval and the American State,” published by Stanford University Press, examines an aspect of the presidency that is frequently talked about, but not always clearly understood. Approval ratings are usually reported in a vacuum, dissociated from the American state as a whole. Ponder’s research reveals how these ratings shape presidential strategies by situating them within the context of public trust in government.

Ponder’s “Index of Presidential Leverage,” is essentially calculated by dividing presidential approval by the public’s trust in government. The more the public’s esteem for the president exceeds the trust in government, the more leverage a president has in the political world. Using this index, Ponder’s book examines each administration from John F. Kennedy’s through Barack Obama’s, and demonstrates how leverage has shaped presidential capacity and autonomy, agenda setting, landmark legislation, and unilateral action.

Dr. Daniel E. Ponder

“Just looking at approval ratings as a measure of power really ignores the rest of government and the system as a whole,” Ponder says. “Americans view the presidency in a fundamentally different light than the rest of the federal government. Trust matters, and when the president is seen as the ‘best’ or ‘only’ game in town relative to the other branches, then the executive has more leverage to enact their agenda.”

MORE: Read how President Trump measures up so far in the Index of Presidential Leverage in a blog post by Dr. Ponder at the Stanford University Press website.

About the Author

Dr. Daniel Ponder is the L.E. Meador Professor of Political Science and Director of the Meador Center for Politics and Citizenship at Drury University. He is a presidential scholar whose previous book, “Good Advice: Information and Policy Making in the White House,” was published by Texas A&M University Press.

He is a frequent commentator on American and Missouri politics for both local and national media outlets, including NPR’s Morning Edition, the Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and CBS Radio. Ponder has also written several published book chapters, articles, and essays in journals such as Presidential Studies Quarterly, American Politics Research, Congress and the Presidency, Political Science and Politics, and the International Journal of Public Administration.

Praise for “Presidential Leverage”

“Daniel Ponder has unearthed one of the most important theoretical and empirical advances in the presidency studies in decades. It is not presidential approval that matters but approval nested in public trust of government that yields political leverage for the highest office in the land.” —Raymond Tatalovich, Loyola University-Chicago

“Dan Ponder’s research reminds us that presidents lead in a complex political environment. ‘Presidential Leverage’ helps us to understand a wide range of presidential decisions, from agenda-setting to unilateral policy-making. Using rigorous quantitative analysis, this book sheds light on many facets of presidential behavior. It is an important read for scholars of the American presidency.” — Julia Azari, Marquette University


Professor’s Research Turns Architectural Plans into Virtual Worlds

Virtual reality technology is making mainstream headlines following Facebook’s $2 billion acquisition of Oculus VR, maker of the Oculus Rift headset.  Though designed primarily as an entertainment and gaming device, the Rift headset also holds incredible promise as a powerful design tool.

David Beach, assistant professor at Drury University’s Hammons School of Architecture, has spent the past three years working to apply VR technology to the field of architecture and design. He has specifically worked with the Oculus Rift hardware for about six months.

Now Beach, with the help of senior architecture student Sam McBride, is set to demonstrate the results of his research – namely, a custom software solution that takes plans built with today’s commonly used design software and turns them into virtual spaces designers and their clients can explore in three dimensions using the Oculus Rift.

Beach and McBride will demonstrate their work to area architects from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday, April 8 at the Hammons School of Architecture auditorium. The event is open to the public and the media are invited to attend.

“The idea of virtual reality has been around for more than 20 years, but the technology is only just now becoming affordable and user-friendly,” Beach says. “The Oculus Rift is the tipping point for hardware, which then opens up countless possibilities in architectural design.”

The process Beach and McBride have developed is highly iterative, allowing design decisions to be made based on the visceral experience of exploring ideas in virtual space. Beach’s research has focused on making the use of VR technology as easy and affordable as possible for practicing architects. A firm would need to invest less than $2,000 and a few hours of training time to be able to port their existing designs into virtual space.

For more information, contact: David Beach, Assistant Professor of Architecture, (417) 873-7055 or


Tax professor offers tips for tax season

After Congress’s long-fought battle over taxes, the tax change that the average taxpayer will see on his or her 2012 tax return is minimal. Just as important as tax law changes are filing deadlines and procedures.  Make sure you are prepared this tax season:

  • Delayed filing – Same deadlines. Due to Congress’s last-minute decisions on tax legislation, tax season is off to a delayed start. While some returns can now be filed, other returns cannot be submitted until February 14. Your return submission will be delayed if you claim any of the following: education credits for college students, educator expenses, or itemized deductions.  Despite the delayed start, the filing deadline is still April 15.

    Drury students working on tax returns

  • Need more time? Wish granted. Sometimes a taxpayer just cannot get his or her tax return filed by the April 15 deadline. The good news is that the Federal government and states grant an automatic six-month extension of the time to file your taxes, no questions asked. Simply log on to to enter the extension request or complete and mail form 4868 by the original tax deadline.

  • Extension of time to file – not an extension of time to pay. Keep in mind that when the government allows you an extension of time to file your tax return, it does not grant an extension of time to pay taxes due. The government will expect you to be paid-up by April 15. If you do not know how much you owe, it is always better to overestimate a little and get a refund, rather than have penalties and interest begin running on an underpayment.

  • When it doubt – do not prepare returns yourself. Even the most user-friendly software can be scary, difficult to use, or confusing. Any of these things can cause you to file an incorrect tax return. Also, software is no substitute for a live person who can ask questions to help make sure they are catching the important things, and to whom you can ask questions to make sure you understand what is happening.

  • Save it – Once you have completed your tax return, do not close down your computer or leave the tax preparation site without a paper copy of your tax return. Once you have the paper copy, put it somewhere that you will be able to find it again. If the government does not deliver the check on time and you need to track your refund, you will need information from this return to help track it. Rely on paper as your primary source, computers crash and digital storage gets corrupted. 

Drury University accounting students will provide free tax service for low income and elderly tax filers through April 1. This week, students will prepare tax returns on Wednesday, Feb. 13 at Willard South Elementary, on Saturday, Feb. 16 at Drury’s Breech School of Business from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m., and on Sunday, Feb. 17 from 1 – 5 p.m. at Deliverance Temple. For more information, call (417) 873-7522 or email:


Story by Dr. Tiffany Cossey, assistant professor of accounting at Drury.

MEDIA ADVISORY: Drury to host Constitution Day discussion

SPRINGFIELD, Mo., Sept. 14, 2012 — On Monday, Sept. 17, Drury will celebrate Constitution Day with a brown bag panel of Drury faculty. The event is from noon-1 p.m. in room 204 of the Findlay Student Center.

The cross-discipline panel will discuss the role of the Constitution in their work and their teaching.

A few faculty members will be available before the panel discussion to offer their thoughts on the Constitution and its relevance more than 200 years after ratification.


Drury’s Dr. Dan Ponder explains caucuses, Missouri’s primary and why the state has a caucus and a primary this year

Drury Political Science Professor Dr. Dan Ponder explains why Missouri had a non-binding primary, why it’s holding a caucus and a primary and the difference between those two political exercises in this series of videos.

Videos: Dr. Dan Ponder

Dr. Dan Ponder on the significance of Missouri’s non-binding primary.

Dr. Dan Ponder on why Missouri has a primary and a caucus in 2012.

Dr. Dan Ponder on the differences between primaries and caucuses.

Drury to offer minor in Animal Studies

SPRINGFIELD, Mo., Jan. 25, 2012 —Students interested in examining the ways in which humans and animals interact will have the opportunity to earn a minor in Animal Studies from Drury University. The minor was approved by Drury’s faculty in the fall of 2011. The six required courses for the minor will all be available in the 2012-2013 Drury Catalog, but several students have already expressed a desire to pursue the minor.

“The Animal Studies minor is for students interested in gaining an in-depth understanding of the diverse ways in which the lives of animals and humans intersect,” says Dr. Patricia McEachern, the Dorothy Jo Barker Endowed Professor of Animal Rights. “The interdisciplinary nature of the minor allows students to consider historical and contemporary interactions between humans and animals from a range of perspectives.”

Dr. Patricia McEachern

The foundational course for the minor is Animal Ethics. It is team-taught by instructors from the fields of biology, criminology, philosophy, psychology, religion, and sociology.  Besides Animal Ethics, the other five courses required for the 18 credit hour minor are:

  • Animals in Literature
  • Animals and Society
  • Animal Law I
  • Social Movements
  • Undergraduate Internship Experience

For the internship experience, students are permitted to select instructor-approved sites of interest. Some students may wish to complete their internship abroad, others may want to travel to a different state, and still others may desire to intern at a local or state organization.

Faculty members participating in the Animal Studies minor are:

  • Dr. Wendy Anderson, Ph.D., Biological Sciences, Professor and Director of Campus Sustainability
  • Tony Brown, J.D., Assistant District Attorney, Taney County Prosecutor’s Office
  • Dr. Peter Browning, Ph.D., Religion, Professor and University Chaplain
  • Dr. Jana Bufkin, Ph.D., Criminology & Criminal Justice, Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Programs in Criminology & Criminal Justice
  • Dr. Donald Deeds, Ph.D., Biological Sciences, Professor
  • Dr. David Derossett, Ph.D., Sociology, Assistant Professor
  • Dr. Lisa Esposito, Ph.D., Philosophy, Associate Professor and Chair of the Philosophy and Religion Department
  • Dr. Vickie Luttrell, Ph.D., Psychology, Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Behavioral Sciences
  • Dr. Patricia McEachern, Ph.D., French, Professor, Dorothy Jo Barker Endowed Chair, and Director of the Drury University Forum on Animal Rights
  • Dr. Patricia Morris, Ph.D., Sociology, Assistant Professor

Media Contact: Dr. Patricia McEachern, Dorothy Jo Barker Endowed Professor of Animal Rights and Director of the Drury Forum on Animal Rights, Office: (417) 873-7875, E-mail:


Drury Professor Studies Junk….in Outer Space

Have you ever wondered what sorts of things are orbiting the earth? It’s easy to imagine satellites and space stations, but there are also small pieces of space junk that could do serious damage to the billions of dollars of equipment in orbit, or which could take the lives of astronauts and cosmonauts. Figuring out what those small pieces of junk are and where they’re headed is a part-time job for Drury physics professor and NASA consultant Dr. Greg Ojakangas.

Dr. Greg Ojakangas

Ojakangas points out that these small objects could collide with a satellite or spacecraft at over twenty times the speed of a bullet and with several hundred times the energy. Therefore, small pieces of space debris are potentially very dangerous.

The challenge says Ojakangas, is that there are literally hundreds of thousands of pieces of space debris outside the earth’s atmosphere and they’re too small to resolve as shapes, even with strong telescopes. Ojakangas has spent parts of many summers at the Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston producing mathematical models of man-made space debris to help assess the hazards of collisions between these objects and spacecraft near the Earth. In September, Ojakangas was in Maui, presenting his research at a conference on space surveillance.

“The goal is to be able to look at a piece of orbiting debris, far too distant to resolve directly, and be able to tell its size, shape and probable composition just by the way it reflects light as it rotates. One day, humans will travel to Mars and getting astronauts and spacecraft safely beyond our own orbiting junkyard is a prerequisite.”

Ojakangas is a former full-time NASA scientist, and he has continued working with NASA for over 20 years creating mathematical models of man-made space debris. He has also been a finalist in the astronaut program.


Drury professor moves to Tanzania for teaching and research

Helen Keller once said, “Life is either a great adventure, or nothing.” Drury professor Erin Kenny is opting for the adventure. Beginning today, Kenny and her seven-year-old daughter Kiera will move to the east African country Tanzania where Kenny will teach and conduct research as a Fulbright Scholar for the next 10 months.

Dr. Erin Kenny

Kenny, an associate professor of anthropology, will teach graduate courses in development studies for the Center for Gender Development at the Morogoro campus of Mzumbe University. This is not Kenny’s first trip to Africa.  From 1995-1997, Kenny lived in Mali as a Peace Corps volunteer and she did doctoral research in Guinea in 2003 where she met her former husband and Kiera’s father. She also visited the continent three other times. Like any mother, Kenny has concerns about taking her daughter to Africa.   “If there’s any time to bring a 7-year-old, it’s through the Fulbright program. I will work through the U.S. embassy. We’re really fortunate. In the Horn of Africa today, there are mothers of 15,000 children dying every day from famine and disease.”

Dr. Kenny with Mariame Kaba. A woman who worked on women's health issues in Africa.

It’s those women that Kenny has studied during her career. In Tanzania, Kenny will continue her research on women wage earners and household heads that she has conducted in Mali, Guinea and Jamaica. She’s found that women invest differently than men, “Men often invest in high risk, high reward businesses. Women will invest in a goat or a uniform so children can go to school. When women are wage earners, the nutritional and educational profile of the household improves.”

Ultimately, Kenny hopes that through her research and advocacy, she can improve lives. “The system breaks down for poor people over and over again. That’s why I keep doing what I do, to try to get policy makers to listen to researchers.”


Drury’s Edward Jones Center to host a Minorities in Business meeting

SPRINGFIELD, Mo., Sept. 29, 2011 — Drury University Communications Professor, Regina Waters, will serve as a keynote speaker at the October Minorities in Business Meeting.  The meeting, which is hosted by The Edward Jones Center for Entrepreneurship, will be held on Tuesday, Oct. 4 from 5:15 – 7 p.m. at Q Enoteca, located at 308 W. Commercial St.  This event is free and open to the public.

The Edward Jones Center for Entrepreneurship will host the meeting as part of the Center’s Minority Entrepreneurship Workshop series.  The workshop will focus on implementing social media and email to market a business.

Dr. Regina Waters

Dr. Waters will lead a discussion titled Social Media 101: Spark a Connection with Your Customers. During this session, attendees will learn how various social media platforms can influence and strengthen customer relationships.

“A solid social media strategy can create meaningful two-way interaction between businesses and their stakeholders,” said Waters.  “I am thrilled that area business owners are eager to learn more about social interactions in the online world.”

Dr. Waters will be joined in speaking at the meeting by Paige Cahill of Constant Contact.  Cahill will lead a session called REV UP Your Customer Relationships, Referrals & Revenues with Email Marketing.

Media Contact: Dr. Kelley Still, Executive Director, The Edward Jones Center for Entrepreneurship, Office: (417) 873-7458, E-mail:


Drury professors to produce a PBS history series

SPRINGFIELD, Mo., July 27, 2011 The history of America on the eastern seaboard from the time Europeans first settled the continent is well-known. Less known is the history of what is now the United States along the frontier. Dr. Monty Dobson, a visiting assistant professor of history at Drury, is producing a four-part television series that tells the story of the U.S. frontier through archaeology. America from the Ground Up will be available nationwide for Public Broadcasting Stations to air in the spring of 2013.

Dr. Lemont Dobson

“Through archaeology, we can tell the history of everybody who has lived in a place. That includes Native Americans and Europeans,” Dobson said. “It tells an inclusive history of America. It’s more democratic because it tells the history of everyone, not just the rich and famous or powerful.”
The four episodes will examine the following:
  1. Frontier History: Dobson will look at the Big Eddy site where there is evidence of 14,000 years of civilization on the Sac River. The episode will also focus on Cahokia a few miles east of St. Louis in Illinois. One-thousand years ago, Cahokia had a population that was 2-3 times larger than that of Paris or London at the same time.
  2. The Europeans: This episode looks at the French Colonial fur trade in Dobson’s native Michigan in the mid-1700s along with naval battles on the Great Lakes prior to the American Revolution. The second half of the episode reveals that the British did not leave the Great Lakes region after they were defeated in the Revolutionary War, and actually held Mackinac (Pronounced: Mack-i-naw) Island until the War of 1812.
  3. Revolutions: This episode focuses on the American Revolution in Virginia and North Carolina, and Ft. St. Joseph in Western Michigan, which was attacked by the French and their Native American allies. The second half-hour explores the War of 1812 and will include wreck diving in the Great Lakes.
  4. We the People: The final episode in the series looks at the settlement of New Philadelphia in Southern Illinois along the Mississippi River. Founded by a former slave, New Philadelphia is considered to be the first planned racially mixed town in the country. The second half-hour explores the Civil War in Missouri, which was home to more than 1,000 battles. Only Virginia and Tennessee saw more fighting.

Dr. Dobson searches for artifacts in Drury's Civil War trench.

The pilot episode that focuses on Cahokia has been shot and is currently in post-production. Drury Artist in Residence Patrick Muriethi directed and is editing the pilot. Drury English Professor Dr. Randy Fuller is co-executive producer with Dobson.

Dobson’s production company called ShovelReady Productions is producing the series. Dobson says he is working on a $500,000 budget of which he’s raised about $125,000 in cash and in-kind donations.

Dobson is working with Drury University’s education department to develop a multiplatform educational resource website that will adapt the series content for school social studies curricula. The website will feature interactive social media applications that will allow students and teachers to collaboratively use the content in the classroom.

Dobson will begin production of the rest of the episodes in the spring of 2012, he plans to air the pilot at the fall 2012 PBS programming conference, and the episodes will be broadcast in spring 2013. The episodes will be free to stations.

Media Contact:
Dr. Lemont Dobson
Visiting Assistant Professor of History
Office: (417) 873-7368
Mobile: (313) 461-4808