Drury Scholars program is in its sixth year of connecting to the community

In the spring of 2008, three Drury professors hatched an idea to try to build bridges between different racial and ethnic groups, support education and do it all on a shoestring budget. Just a few months later, 15 African-American, middle school-aged young men spent a week on the Drury campus learning about literature and chemistry, attended a Springfield Cardinals games and realized the potential for their futures. Summer Scholars was born.

Since that time, Scholars has expanded to serve more than 50 Springfield Public Schools students, includes girls and provides year-round programming.

“The Drury Scholars program is consummate with the vision of higher education and Drury’s vision. I never doubted that we’d be doing this forever,” said Dr. Peter Meidlinger, a Drury English Professor and a Scholars founder.

Drury Theatre Professor works with Drury Scholars in the summer of 2012

Now entering its sixth year, the Scholars curriculum for this summer, which begins today, focuses on a theme of “Are you ready?” As in, are you ready to apply to college and take the ACT? All of the students heading into their junior and senior years of high school will finish their week at Drury with a practice ACT.

“College readiness is more than intellectual and academic,” said Dr. Bruce Callen, another Scholars founder a physics professor at Drury. “There also needs to be a familiarity with the college environment and a comfort with finding and applying to college.”

Last year, Drury Scholars hired Francine Pratt to be the Program Coordinator. In the past, Drury professors and students had some year-round contact with the Scholars and that has increased with a focus on college readiness. During the last academic year, Pratt took some of the Scholars to visit colleges around the state and region, including: UMKC, St. Louis University and Southeast Missouri State.

Pratt also took students to Infinite Scholars in Kansas City and St. Louis, which is a clearinghouse of colleges where, in just a few hours, students can apply to and get accepted to dozens of college and universities. However, to go on the trip, the students had to meet several requirements, “Students had to build a resume, get three letters of recommendation, write a college essay, and obtain an unofficial copy of transcripts. They had to earn the right to go on the trips, but when they got in front of the college representatives, they were ready,” Pratt said.

This fall, three Scholars alumni will be enrolled at Drury, but pushing Drury or college has never been the goal. For the Scholars founders, the goal has been to make the students aware of their potential and opportunities.

“One of the guys from the original class was the first person in his family to graduate from high school,” Callen said. “All along, we just wanted to show these kids that there were people in the community who cared about their success and make them realize that they have partners in the community who are committed to having a healthy, sustainable and viable community where everyone has an opportunity to succeed.”


Story by Mark Miller, associate director of marketing and communications at Drury University.

Sixth class of Drury Scholars comes to campus on July 8

SPRINGFIELD, Mo., July 3, 2013 — In the summer of 2008, 15 African-American, middle school-aged young men from Springfield Public Schools came to Drury for a week of academic enrichment, field trips and physical education classes. Summer Scholars was born. Now entering its sixth summer, the Drury Scholars has since expanded to include females, provides year-round activities, has a dedicated program coordinator, and the curriculum is more focused on preparing the students for college.

“What we wanted was to increase the awareness and capability for the young people in the program. So, if college was the right choice they’d be in the right place to make that decision,” said Dr. Bruce Callen, one of the founders of Scholars. “We also wanted them to know that there were people in the community who cared about their success.”

More than 50 African-American young men and women will arrive on Drury’s campus on July 8 for a week of education and fun. The theme this year is “Are you ready?” As in, “Are you ready to take the ACT and apply for college?” All of the students entering their junior or senior years of high school will finish the week by taking a practice ACT test.

Drury Theatre Professor Bob Westenberg works with Scholars in 2012

During the school year, students in the Scholars program take part in a variety of activities from a book club to getting help from Drury faculty writing their college essays. Scholars Program Coordinator Francine Pratt has also taken several high school students in the program on field trips to college campuses around Missouri, including: UMKC, SEMO, Lindenwood University and St. Louis University. She also took students to Infinite Scholars in St. Louis and Kansas City, a one-day conference where students can apply to and get accepted to multiple colleges in just a few hours.

“All of our team learned the importance of business casual attire, proper etiquette, how to greet people and good interpersonal skills before we attended Infinite Scholars,” Pratt said. “It was powerful watching how well they took to that experience and what they got out of it. Seven of our seniors got accepted at multiple colleges from the Infinite Scholars experience.”

The focus for the summer session is on high school-aged students, but middle school students spent a day on-campus in May that mirrors what the older students will do during their residential experience.

The only cost to the Scholars is a $25 fee, which is waived for students who complete community service.

Media Contact: Francine Pratt, Drury Scholars Program Coordinator, Mobile: (916) 541-1675, Email: fpratt@drury.ed


Mom with special needs child perseveres to get her Drury degree

“One night, I pulled over off of I-70 at a Barnes & Noble in Kansas City, and I used their Wi-Fi in my car to take a forensic psychology test. Another time, camping with my daughter, I wrote my final essay from a tent in the rain in Knob Noster State Park, a laundry basket was my desk,” said Dana Vansell, a May 2013 Drury graduate from the College of Continuing Professional Studies.

Dana with her daughter Grace at graduation

Dana Vansell earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology in May at the age of 37. Besides being a non-traditional student, Vansell faced other challenges: she’s a single mom and her ten-year-old daughter, Grace, has a rare congenital birth defect called laryngeal cleft that causes her to aspirate anything she eats or drinks.

Living north of Sedalia in the countryside, and with a high needs child; Vansell needed flexibility in her education schedule. That’s why, when she decided to go back to college to earn her bachelor’s in December 2011, she enrolled in Drury’s online psychology program. Her daughter’s medical treatments and surgeries forced Vansell to travel to Kansas City and St. Louis often during her Drury college career. That’s why her car, and anywhere else she could find, became Vansell’s classroom.

The experience not only served to educate Vansell, but her daughter, as well, “When I learned astronomy, my daughter learned astronomy,” Vansell said. “She’d make note cards and quiz me.”

Grace had been so involved in her mother’s education that she asked to be released early from the hospital so she could pin her mother at her Alpha Sigma Lambda honors society ceremony for CCPS students.

Vansell isn’t done with education. She recently said goodbye to friends and family and moved to Republic with her daughter, which will be home base as she pursues Drury’s one-year accelerated Master of Arts in Communication. She begins taking classes in the fall. “Grace and I are both excited about this opportunity for a fresh start,” Vansell said.

Eventually, when she’s done with school, Vansell would like to combine her education and life experience to become a child life specialist and a marriage and family therapist, “I want to work with families who are going to have procedures, who have lost children and work with families who are experiencing grief,” Vansell said. “Moving to Springfield and starting a master’s program is closure and a new start for me. I’ve been through a rough marriage and I have a high needs child, I want to make sure I help others so that the things I’ve gone through haven’t been in vain.”


Story by Mark Miller, associate director of marketing and communications.

Drury’s graduate program in criminal justice is recognized as one of the best in the nation

SPRINGFIELD, Mo., June 25, 2013 — The website Masters Degree Online has recognized Drury University’s Master of Criminal Justice as one of the top 50 programs in the country.

The website said this about Drury’s program, “Drury University provides a Master of Science in Criminal Justice that is ideal for those seeking a smaller school with personalized attention. Classes are taken in the evenings and online, and the program is designed for easy access to those already working in criminal justice. Research in Criminology and Terrorism are emphasized, giving the school a well-known reputation for expertise on these subjects.”

“It is gratifying to get external recognition for the quality of Drury’s graduate program in criminal justice,” said Dr. Jana Bufkin, director of the graduate program in criminology and criminal justice. “Beyond opportunities in local and state law enforcement, corrections, and child/adolescent services; a master’s degree in criminal justice opens doors for employment in an array of federal agencies, as well as private companies. Moreover, the demand for professionals with an educational background in criminal justice will continue to grow.”

According to its website, Masters Degree Online was created to promote discussion about higher education as a whole as well as to provide information to those looking for a way to begin their graduate program.  The goal of this ranking is to help prospective and current students gain information about the many options they have for a distinctive graduate educational experience. It provides succinct but valuable information in an easy to use format, allowing those who are searching for graduate schools to view the strengths of each individual program.


An Army veteran and Drury graduate encourages fellow vets to teach for America

“Growing up in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, there are only four options: jail, death, toughing it out, or using education as a vessel to get out of the black hole,” said Shaun Murphy. Murphy was able to attain his education and he continued to succeed in the military and private life.

Shaun Murphy at the White House

Murphy is an Army veteran and a 2009 Drury graduate who continued his service to the nation by joining Teach For America. He currently leads the Teach For America initiative that recruits military veterans called “You served America, now Teach for America.” This past April, First Lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden recognized Murphy for his work. Video of that recognition was featured on C-SPAN.

Education was always a top priority in Murphy’s life. “My mom came to the States from Barbados,” he said. “I lived in a single parent household in a rough neighborhood. Attaining the ‘American Dream’ was a serious goal for me and I knew the only way to do that was with an education.” Murphy joined the Army in 1998 and transitioned out in August 2006 as a staff sergeant. While on active duty, he was stationed at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri along with Fort Jackson in South Carolina, Fort Hood in Texas, and South Korea. He enrolled in evening and online classes with Drury’s College of Continuing Professional Studies and worked his way to associates and bachelor’s degrees. While at Drury, Murphy met Senior Academic Advisor and Career Counselor Tammie Black. “She laid down the blue print for my education and coached me through the long journey,” he said. “Her commitment to her work is second to none, and I am grateful to have had her as an advisor.”

A handful of milestones happened for Murphy in 2009. “I walked and received my degree from Drury, turned 30 and got accepted into Teach For America. It was a good year!” he said. Murphy wanted to join Teach for America for two main reasons: It gave him the opportunity to be a positive black male role model for young kids and it was a platform to continue serving. “From my background, I knew what it was like to grow up without that role model. I wanted to be someone who showed kids that they could be successful,” Murphy said.

Teach for America placed Murphy as a special education teacher at Prestige Academy, an all-boys middle school in Wilmington, Delaware. He was there from 2009-2012 before being approached by the organization to lead an initiative to recruit veterans into Teach For America. “Veterans have outstanding qualities: leadership, commitment to service, a strong work ethic and discipline. When you look closely, the qualities found in highly effective teachers and veterans are the same,” he said.

Taking the lead on this initiative led to an invitation from the White House for Murphy’s recognition. On April 30, the First Lady and the Vice President recognized Murphy’s accomplishments. “I soaked up the opportunity,” he said. “It was amazing that a kid from Brooklyn could be recognized on this level.”

The biggest takeaway has been the realization that anything is possible with hard work and humility. “Everyone has a different starting point but it boils down to the pursuit and desire of getting to the next level,” said Murphy. “I appreciate the journey and I’m thankful for my mom’s sacrifice of making sure I didn’t get caught up in the streets.” Murphy’s hope for his scholars is that they look at his life as an example of what is possible, “It’s important to be a dreamer. People may think you are crazy, but don’t worry about them.”


Story by Amber Perdue, a May 2013 Drury graduate.

Aaron Jones is named Dean of Drury’s College of Continuing Professional Studies

SPRINGFIELD, Mo., June 21, 2013 — Aaron Jones has been named the Dean of Drury’s College of Continuing Professional Studies (CCPS). Jones has been the interim dean since the spring of 2012.

“Aaron’s recent interim leadership in this position has been very valuable to Drury University and to the variety of regions we serve,” said Drury President David Manuel. “Aaron’s continued leadership will be instrumental in the future growth of CCPS.”

Aaron Jones, Dean of Drury's CCPS

Jones, a 1995 Drury graduate, received his Juris Doctor from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 1998. He also received a Master of Laws (LL.M.) in dispute resolution in 2009 from the University of Missouri-Columbia.

Jones began practicing law in Springfield with Hulston, Jones & Marsh, in 1998.  He has also served as a municipal prosecutor and municipal judge. From 2006 to 2008, he served on the Board of Governors for the Missouri Bar as the Young Lawyers liaison.  Jones is a member of King’s Way United Methodist Church and the Rotary Club of Springfield (Downtown). He was elected to the Drury Board of Trustees in 2009, but he took a leave from the board when he was appointed to serve as interim dean.

Drury’s College of Continuing and Professional Studies serves more than 3,000 students throughout southwest Missouri. Besides Springfield, Drury offers classes in: Monett, Cabool, Licking, Ava, Thayer, St. Robert, Rolla, Fort Leonard Wood, Lebanon and Owensville. Additionally, Drury has a robust online program with 18 degrees that can be completed entirely online with online offices in West Plains, Mo. and Bentonville, Ark.


Summers are filled with artistic creativity in Drury’s MART

Tapping into creativity can be a fun, challenging process, and, when it happens, the results are rewarding. Tom Parker, an Emeritus professor of Art and Art History at Drury, established artist, and Program Director of the Master of Arts in Studio Art and Theory (MART) encourages people to explore their imaginations and creative capabilities every summer. Beginning its sixth year, MART is a 30 credit hour graduate degree taught only in the summer. Faculty and artists of diverse backgrounds and experiences come from all over the nation to teach students and push their imaginations.

MART student Allison Simmons at work

The MART program is open to anyone with an undergraduate degree who has commitment and is focused on bringing art to life. Some students come in without any art background and leave with exceptional portfolio pieces. “It is all about drive and desire to learn,” said Parker. “We don’t differentiate between experiences and knowledge. Students are becoming artists, often for the first time.” Those that complete the program, which takes three summers, are able to launch into professional artistic careers or use their degrees and portfolio pieces to gain admission into Master of Fine Arts (MFA) programs.

“Having the Master’s Degree will afford me a higher salary as a teacher,” said Mary Resz Weston, a 2012 MART graduate. “But more importantly, having the experience and knowledge gained from the MART program will make me a more thoughtful, skilled, and capable artist for the rest of my life.”

Tom Parker (right) with MART graduate Meganne Rosen

Parker says that Drury’s MART is the only one of its kind in the Midwest. When developing MART, Parker met with an advisory council complied of faculty from the best fine arts graduate schools from across the nation. Beyond the curriculum offered in the program, it’s the collaboration between faculty and fellow students that can prove to be the most valuable. “I wasn’t even sure how to do much of the physical, structural work that was required to make some of my sculptures happen,” said Resz Weston. “But any time I got stuck, I had 3 or 4 teachers near that knew exactly how to make my ideas work. I had 3 or 4 other teachers who would walk through and offer ideas and critique, each day. And I had a dozen fellow students who gave me feedback through my creative process and were willing to help with the hard labor during installation.”

At the end of each two-month summer session, students’ work is showcased at Drury’s Pool Art Center. At the end of it all, students gain an ability to turn ideas into reality. “It is fulfilling to go through the entire challenge,” Parker said. “When students finish, they have pushed themselves to think beyond ideas floating in their heads. They give ideas a reason to belong to the world. They give ideas life.”


Story by Amber Perdue, a May 2013 Drury graduate.

From India to Drury with success on the way

While the idea that a student would travel more than 8,000 miles to attend a liberal arts university in Missouri may sound surprising to some, for recent Drury graduate Sayan Patra (Pronounced: Shy-own Pah-tra), choosing Drury was simply the next step. Patra is from Durgapur, India, and attended Hem Sheela Model School in his home country. Hem Sheela is Drury University’s sister school in Durgapur, which was founded by Drury professors Rabindra and Protima Roy in 1995. Attending elementary and secondary school at a place founded by Drury professors means Patra grew up with Drury in mind. “My family and friends didn’t want to see me travel so far away,” said Patra. “But I wanted to see the world with my own eyes.”

Patra in Chicago in 2010

With a scholarship in hand, Patra came to Drury to pursue undergraduate degrees in mathematics, computer science and physics. Chasing three majors at once is no easy task and Patra pressed his limits by becoming involved in numerous organizations around campus. By being associated with a wide diversity of departments at Drury, Patra was able to meet new people and make connections on a personal level. He tackled his busy schedule by developing time management skills and relationships with Drury faculty. “The Roys (Drs. Rabindra and Protima) pushed me to succeed, whether it was academics or involvement,” said Patra. With ambitions high, Patra accomplished a great deal in his four years at Drury, including creating the app Greeksr that helps Greek Life students connect with other Greeks via social media on one platform. In addition, he graduated Summa Cum Laude and was named Outstanding Senior Man for the 2012-2013 school year.

“We are very proud of Sayan because he made Hem Sheela very proud,” said Rabindra and Protima Roy. “The day we opened the doors at Hem Sheela, he was there to sign up for kindergarten.”

Patra is currently home in India where he will get a couple months of rest before starting his fall semester at Washington University in St. Louis. He is one of the few students selected for the Harold P. Brown Engineering Fellowship, a merit scholarship for students who excel in academic and co-curricular achievements. He will pursue a major in mechanical engineering with a minor in aerospace engineering.  Upon completion, he plans to obtain a doctorate in aerospace engineering. As a child, Patra dreamed of building planes and rockets, but growing up he learned building them did not help people, at least not the way he wanted to. “I want to build satellites because they help people,” he said. “We all need to do our part to make this world better. Blind ambition or personal satisfaction doesn’t do that. I want to do work that accomplishes a greater good.”


Story by Amber Perdue, a May 2013 Drury University graduate.

Drury inspires motivation by using art to connect on C-Street

SPRINGFIELD, Mo., June 7, 2013 — For the thirteenth year in a row, a Drury class is partnering with The Kitchen, Inc. to create and inspire art with residents of the Missouri Hotel.  The class is called Building Community through the Arts and its goal is to provide those living in the Missouri Hotel an artistic outlet over the course of two weeks, with a final exhibition on Friday, June 14 from 1-3:30 p.m. at Drury on C-Street located at 233 E. Commercial St.

This year, for the first time, the Drury class is also working with young people from the Rare Breed Youth Outreach Center. Rare Breed works with homeless and high-risk people between the ages of 13 and 20. “The young people from Rare Breed are so close in age to us that we get a perspective about how well we have it and we’re actually considered their peers,” said Philip Dozier, a fourth year accounting major. “We can impact their lives and let them know that they have a lot of opportunities left and they can seek out those opportunities.”

This year, the theme is: Community as masterpiece: The art of the fresh start. “Drury promotes engaged learning from a liberal arts perspective and this class synthesizes talent, insights and social concerns,” said Dr. Rebecca Burrell, the instructor for Building Community Through the Arts. “It gives us the opportunity to work together as a community studio. These Drury students are artists in working with the youth and residents through our various arts interests:  music, art, poetry and dance.”

Building Community Through the Arts, typically a graduate level course is also available to undergraduate students majoring or minoring in Arts Administration or Entrepreneurship. The class is designed to offer students an approach to creativity in everyday living and learning, while giving students the opportunity to make a difference within the Drury neighborhood by introducing those experiencing poverty to visual arts, music and literature. Students explore poverty through the text A Framework for Understanding Poverty by Ruby K. Payne.

“For the people we work with, the class is about motivation and inspiration,” said Tarynn Gritzner, a senior arts administration and theatre major. “Everyone can do some type of art. Hopefully, that will lead to some self-awareness.”

Also this year, the class has dedicated the exhibition to Sister Lorraine Biebel, who founded The Kitchen, Inc. in 1983.

The exhibition of the work is free and open to the public from 1-3:30 p.m. on Friday, June 14 at Drury on C-Street. The artwork will be on display at Drury on C-Street through the end of June.

Media Contact: Rebecca Burrell, Ed.D., Drury adjunct professor of education, Office: (417) 873-7349, E-mail: rburrell@drury.edu
Chelsea Mulkey, Student Media Relations Chair, Mobile: (417) 872-9682, Email: cmulkey@drury.edu


Drury swimmer turned runner is now focused on a triathlon future

Being a college athlete is a full time job that requires drive, ambition and hard work. Erin Dolan, a Drury student who graduated with her Master of Communication this spring is very familiar with all of these principles, and she has used them to her advantage. She was part of Drury’s swim team for four years, earning All-America status, as she pursued her undergraduate degree in integrated media. She went to nationals with the swim team all four years and, as a senior, qualified for the Olympic trials cut. Though she turned down that opportunity to continue her education, competing in the Olympics is her dream and one she is still actively pursuing even though her swim career is over.

Erin Dolan

After graduating with her undergraduate degree in May 2012, Dolan took advantage of an NCAA rule that allows a student-athlete a fifth year of eligibility if that student changes sports. Dolan was offered a scholarship to run cross-country for Drury, which allowed her the chance to attain her master’s degree. “Cross country was something I had never done before,” she said. “I was the oldest on the team and yet the newest, so I wanted to prove myself to my teammates by working extra hard.” Dolan had great success in cross-country and qualified for nationals, finishing 43rd in the nation, just three spots shy of All-America status. She then started running track for Drury, earned the Great Lakes Valley Conference Track Athlete of the Year award, and qualified for the indoor and outdoor NCAA-II meets. In May, she finished 17th in the 10,000 meters at the NCAA-II National Track and Field Championships in Pueblo, Colo.

In the summer of 2012, Dolan began the accelerated communication master’s program, meaning she completed her degree in only one year. In addition, Dolan started training to become a professional triathlete, adding to her already busy schedule. “I was taking overload as a graduate student in addition to training from three to four hours every day. It was really hard to balance it all,” she said. “But through swimming and good coaching, I knew the importance of time management. Sometimes, I felt in over my head but I worked my butt off to complete the program in a year.”

Erin Dolan

Her dream of competing in the Olympics is on the road to reality. Dolan was recently invited to the Olympic Training Center and will be traveling to Colorado Springs in July for development and critique. Triple Threat Racing is sponsoring her first year as a professional triathlete and she hopes to continue her progress and gain traction. “My goal is to be on Team USA, and since the Olympics are still three years away, I have time to get ready,” she said. Her strength lies in swimming and as far as running goes, she has only continued to get faster. Biking is where she feels the need to improve. Dolan credits her experience at Drury for building her confidence as an athlete and student. “Many schools don’t have the support system that Drury offers,” she said. “I have a ton of people pushing me to do better. Some people only have one person telling them ‘You can do it!’ Being at Drury, I had the whole school behind me.”


Story by Amber Perdue, a May 2013 Drury graduate.