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.


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.”


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

Two Drury music ensembles will perform at statewide MMEA conference

SPRINGFIELD, Mo., Nov. 21, 2014 — Two Drury ensembles, the Drury Wind Symphony and the Springfield-Drury Girls Choir, have been selected to perform at the statewide Missouri Music Educators Association’s annual conference in January. Both will hold free local performances in December.

“Being selected to perform for the Missouri Music Educators Association is one of the highest honors for ensembles in the state of Missouri,” said Dr. Allin Sorenson, chair of Drury’s music department. “It is a highly selective process that allows only the very best performing groups to be chosen.”

Drury’s Wind Symphony, led by Dr. Christopher Koch, will perform at MMEA for the second time. The Springfield-Drury Girls Choir, a new ensemble founded in 2012, will make its first appearance at MMEA under the direction of Mr. Mark Lawley.

“We are thrilled that we will be represented this year by two groups,” said Sorenson. “It is an honor to work with such gifted and talented students and faculty, and it is a great achievement for both the music department and indeed all of Drury.”

The Springfield community can see both ensembles perform this December at the groups’ annual Winter Concerts. The Drury Wind Symphony will perform at 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 2 in Clara Thompson Hall. The Drury-Springfield Girls Choir will perform at 3 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 14 in Stone Chapel. Both events are free and open to the public.


Drury hires Mark Fisher as next Director of Athletics

SPRINGFIELD, Mo., Nov. 19, 2014 — Drury University has selected Mark Fisher to become its next Director of Athletics. Fisher will begin his duties at Drury on July 1, 2015. Fisher is currently the Director of Athletics for Springfield Public Schools, where he has been AD since 2003.

“We are delighted to bring Mark on board,” said Drury President Dr. David Manuel. “I like both the leadership and management qualities he brings to the table. He has a breadth of experience dealing with a wide array sports and administrations during his career. Mark has deep local and statewide connections at both the collegiate and high school levels, and a proven track record in fundraising and managing high-profile events.”

Mark Fisher

Mark Fisher

“I want to thank Dr. Manuel and the Board of Trustees for the opportunity to serve at Drury University, where academics and athletics stand for excellence,” Fisher said. “Drury has a great group of coaches and I’m excited to be able to assist them in continuing the outstanding tradition of DU athletics, and helping student athletes fulfill their goals through their academic and athletic experiences.”

Fisher’s 12-year career with SPS includes success both on and off the field. In addition to overseeing all athletic activities for Missouri’s largest public school district, he also spearheaded a $3.5 million campaign for stadium improvements and implemented systems to continually evaluate the progress of student athletes and coaches. Fisher is the director of the Bass Pro Tournament of Champions, one of the highest profile high school basketball tournaments in the nation. A former Missouri Basketball Coach of the Year, he has mentored 18 former players or assistant coaches to careers as head basketball coaches.

Beginning Jan. 5, 2015, former DU athletic director Edsel Matthews will return to campus to serve as interim AD until Fisher’s full-time arrival in July. Scott Puryear, associate athletic director for marketing and communications, has served as the interim AD for the past five months.

“I want to thank Scott for his hard work in these dual roles during the past few months,” Dr. Manuel said. “We are thrilled that Edsel can step in and fill the gap next year so Scott can return to his AAD post and lay the promotional groundwork for our slate of home basketball games and, we hope, another deep postseason run by both teams.”

Matthews was Drury’s AD from 2002 to 2010, then served in an athletics fundraising role for two years before retiring in 2012. He will return to many familiar faces in the coaching ranks and across campus.

“I’m pleased to come back and help in any way that I can,” Matthews said. “I’m certainly thrilled that Mark Fisher will take over. He’s a great hire who will do a great job. I’ll work very closely with Mark in the interim and try to set the table as best I can for what he and the University want to accomplish.”

Media Contact: Scott Puryear, Associate Director of Athletics for Marketing & Communications; (417) 873-4097 or


SBU comes out on top in inaugural CatFight Giving Challenge

SPRINGFIELD, Mo., Nov. 18, 2014 — Alumni and supporters of Drury and Southwest Baptist universities raised a total of $21,535 during the inaugural Highway 13 CatFight Giving Challenge. SBU came out on top in the friendly competition, raising $13,161 to Drury’s $8,375.

The fundraising event was a new addition this year to the longstanding on-court rivalry between the Panther and Bearcat basketball teams. The schools sought to raise $13,000 each over the course of six days. The final push for donations took place during tonight’s CatFight double-header at the O’Reilly Family Event Center.

“We’re excited about this new event and plan to do it again, so look for the rivalry to continue next year,” said Andrea Battaglia, director of annual giving and alumni relations at Drury. “This is a great competition between the two schools and, in the end, students at both universities will benefit.”

Money raised by Drury will support students through the Drury Fund and the athletics fund. Money raised by SBU will go to the university’s annual scholarship fund.

For more information about Development & Alumni Relations at Drury, visit


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.”


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

“Design Matters SGF” closing reception, panel discussion to be held Thursday

SPRINGFIELD, Mo., Nov. 17, 2014 — Drury University’s Hammons School of Architecture and the Springfield Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) will host a closing reception and panel discussion Thursday night for the “Design Matters SGF” exhibit, now on display at the C-Street Gallery. The exhibit recognizes exceptional architecture in the community.

The free reception runs from 6 to 8 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 20 at the Drury on C-Street Gallery, 233 E. Commercial St. There will be a cash bar as well as food provided by That Lebanese Place.

The “Creative Conversation” panel discussion begins at 6:30 p.m. The panel represents a range of scales at which quality design is crucial — from the scale of infrastructure and large public projects to the scale of media and graphic design. The round-table discussion will raise questions about how design can help create a more dynamic, efficient and satisfying community life — and how business owners, developers and arts patrons can help foster these values through their commitment to design quality.

The panel will be moderated by Robert Weddle, professor and interim director at the Hammons School of Architecture. The panelists will include: Katie Canada, creative director and partner, Departika; Jonathan Gano, interim co-director of public works, City of Springfield; Nick Nelson, director, Springfield Art Museum; and Matt O’Reilly, owner, Green Circle Projects.

For more information, contact: Robert Weddle, interim director at the Hammons School of Architecture, (417) 873-7450 or


Founders of Freecell Architecture will speak at Drury Friday

SPRINGFIELD, Mo., Nov. 12, 2014 —The Hammons School of Architecture’s 2014-2015 Lecture Series continues at 3 p.m., Friday, Nov. 14 at in the HSA auditorium with a lecture by Lauren Crahan and John Hartmann of Freecell Architecture of New York.

In 1999, Crahan and Hartmann founded Freecell, a design and fabrication studio for furniture and exhibition design based in Brooklyn. Their work has been displayed at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and in New York City at the Henry Urbach Architecture Gallery, Artists Space, the Van Alen Institute and the Architectural League of New York.

Crahan and Hartmann will speak as part of the HSA “Locating Design” series, which explores the practice of critically engaging sites through the act of design.

This event is free and open to the public. For more information about the Hammons School of Architecture, visit


CatFight Giving Challenge adds new dimension to Drury-SBU rivalry

SPRINGFIELD, Mo., Nov. 10, 2014 — Drury University in Springfield and Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar are taking their on-court basketball rivalry, the Highway 13 CatFight, to a new level this year by adding the CatFight Giving Challenge. The universities have a goal of raising $13,000 each in this fundraising contest.

The challenge begins Thursday, Nov. 13, and concludes at the end of halftime of the Drury vs. SBU men’s basketball game Tuesday, Nov. 18. The winner will be announced at the end of the men’s game.


Money raised by Drury will be split between the university’s annual fund and athletics fund.

“Drury’s annual fund supports a wide range of academic needs for our students, from classroom materials to merit scholarships. The athletics fund helps us continue to support our outstanding scholar-athletes across all sports,” says Dr. David Manuel, Drury’s president. “This fundraising competition adds a truly beneficial and meaningful component to what’s already a really fun rivalry on the court.”

Money raised by SBU will go to the university’s annual scholarship fund.

“Ninety-eight percent of our students receive some type of scholarship or financial assistance, and contributions given to this fund will make it possible for more students to attend SBU, where they will receive an education in a Christ-centered, caring academic community,” said Dr. C. Pat Taylor, president of Southwest Baptist University. “I am so thankful that Bearcats give back to our university.”

Both universities are encouraging online donations during this six-day challenge. Drury donations can be made at, and SBU donations can be made at Alumni and friends of the university are encouraged to make a donation and then challenge other alumni and friends to donate, as well.

Cash or check donations must be received by the universities before halftime of the men’s basketball game on Nov. 18 in order to count as part of the competition.

For more information, contact Andrea Battaglia, director of annual giving and alumni relations at Drury, at (417) 873-7353 or; or Megan Hibma, assistant director of annual fund at SBU, at (417) 328-1801 or


Solar Decathlon team sets sights on 2015 national competition, fundraising

SPRINGFIELD, Mo., Nov. 7, 2014 — The race is on for the Crowder-Drury Solar Decathlon Team. In less than a year, the student-led team of more than 50 undergraduates will be in Irvine, Calif., competing against groups from Yale, Vanderbilt, Missouri S&T and more in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon 2015.

The competition challenges collegiate teams to design, engineer, market and construct solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient and attractive. While all teams will be building homes that are “green,” the Crowder-Drury team has self-imposed the additional challenge of making its home disaster resilient following the devastation of the 2011 Joplin tornado.

The Department of Energy requires teams to take a multi-disciplinary approach, which has drawn students from a variety of majors. Students from Crowder College’s Alternative Energy Program have teamed up with peers at Drury’s Hammons School of Architecture for the concept and design phases. They’re joined by business, communication and art students who are tasked with helping market the project. The team’s website is now live.

Team seeks funding

The team has also secured several crucial gifts and in-kind donations to help make the project a reality. While the Dept. of Energy provides a stipend for some aspects of the competition, the teams themselves need to raise approximately $250,000 for materials and construction, as well as transportation of the team and house itself to California. Right now, the Crowder-Drury total is approximately $115,000, or about 46 percent of the overall goal.

Major gifts so far include:

  • Springfield-based transportation company TCSI Transland, Inc., has donated the use of three semi-trucks to haul the materials to California – a value of approximately $24,000. TCSI CEO Mark Walker ’79 is a Drury University alumnus and has participated in four Solar Decathlons in the past.
  • An anonymous gift of $20,000.
  • Community Bank and Trust in Neosho has donated $10,000.
  • Drury’s Student Government Association has directed $30,000 for use by the team.

“The Solar Decathlon is one of the best forms of applied learning I’ve seen,” says TCSI Transland CEO Walker. “It also increases public awareness of the importance and practicality of using renewable natural resources in public housing. All of us at Transland are excited about the responsibility of safely transporting the Crowder-Drury Team house to Irvine.”

Those interested in supporting the project with a gift or in-kind donation can contact Traci Sooter, associate professor of architecture, at (417) 873-7416.

The public can follow updates from the Crowder-Drury Solar Decathlon Team on Facebook and Twitter, in addition to the