Drury graduate travels the world and returns to her alma mater

It’s a widely held notion that the days of staying in one job or even one career throughout a lifetime are long gone, and for Drury’s director of international admissions, the shifts in her career have taken her around the world and back to where she started.

Beth Nichols graduated from Glendale in the late nineties and initially planned to attend the University of Missouri, but even before classes began, she knew a large a state school wasn’t for her. “The day before classes began at Drury, I applied, got accepted and started school,” Nichols said, continuing a three-generation tradition for her family. Nichols’ grandparents, Louise and Dick Aton, attended Drury and it was her grandfather who encouraged and convinced her to become a Panther.

Beth Nichols with her mother, and fellow Drury graduate, Carolyn Naegler in Shanghai, China

Nichols began as a pre-med student, but after taking a handful of design classes, she switched to architecture mid-way through her college career and graduated in 2003. Upon graduation, she moved to Los Angeles where she worked for internationally known architect Eric Owen Moss. From there, she worked at a private firm in Springfield and in planning for the City of Springfield. Then, she was off to graduate school at the Architectural Association in London, England.

“At Drury the professors and my fellow Architecture classmates were so helpful and friendly. The Drury way is centered on community and inclusion so the transition to an extremely competitive academic environment in London, where other students would destroy your work or sabotage your computer, was interesting. The rigorous nature of the program was easy to handle, but the lack of community proved to be more difficult.” Nichols said. But she made it through and graduated with a Master of Architecture and Urbanism.

She wanted to stay in London to work, but wound up in Beijing, China working for a small British firm, “The enormous scale of the projects in China is quite mesmerizing. There are currently limitless architectural possibilities in Asia and the speed of construction is unbelievable,” Nichols said. “In Springfield, you might plan and design a strip center. In Asia, I was designing enormous planned communities and 120-meter tall skyscrapers. A project that would take two years in the states would take three months in China. The pace was amazing.”

From there, Nichols went to a firm in Hong Kong where she worked on similarly enormous projects, but the workload was enormous, as well, “I was working at least 12 hours a day. The first three months I was there, I didn’t have a day off,” Nichols said. “It was typical to be in the office until 2 a.m.”

Missing her hometown and a normal life, Nichols sought a job in higher education with the intention of becoming a professor, but when the position for director of international admission came open, it was a good fit combining her desire to work with students and her experience living abroad. Now, she visits about 20 countries a year, attending college fairs where she introduces international students to Drury where she hopes they’ll attend college and increase campus diversity.

“While doing business with someone in China or the Middle East feels normal to me, most of our students have not been exposed to people of other cultures–that’s why it is so important to have international students in your university,” Nichols said. “If a student in Springfield gets to know a student from Kuwait or Korea, learns about their culture and their country, it makes the typical Drury student more well rounded and more prepared to work in the global economy.”


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

Recent Drury graduate combined copywriting, social media skills for a job at LivingSocial

“People my age didn’t grow up using social media, but we grew with it.”
Ellen Ennes, 2011 Drury graduate.

When 24-year-old Ellen Ennes began her college career at Drury in the fall of 2007, social media was just getting started. Twitter was only a year old and Facebook had only been open to anyone over the age of 13 for a year. Now, six years removed from the start of her freshman year of college, Ennes actually works in social media as a copywriter for the deals website LivingSocial.

2011 Drury graduate Ellen Ennes

“Drury was ahead of the curve when it comes to social media,” Ennes said. “I credit the media writing class I took as a sophomore because my professor Jonathan Groves made everyone get a Twitter account and we had to tweet.”

During her senior year at Drury, Ennes began following LivingSocial on Twitter and actually tweeted this message to LivingSocial, “I’m envious of your job. This is a great account to manage.”

A few months later, Ennes said she was looking at pages and pages of job listings and saw an ad for a job at LivingSocial, “I immediately applied at 2 o’clock in the morning,” Ennes said.

It wasn’t long before Ennes received a response, was asked for writing samples and took a writing test, then, she was flown to LivingSocial headquarters in Washington, D.C. She’s been with LivingSocial for two years now where she works, literally, within sight of the White House. As an added bonus, she’s close to her parents who live in Maryland.

Ennes’s professors saw her potential in the growing field early on, “Ellen immediately understood the power and potential of social media,” said Dr. Regina Waters, chair of the communication department. “She posts interesting content and engages others in her networks. I’m not surprised that LivingSocial hired her for her copywriting skills.”

Now, Ennes puts her Drury degree to use writing advertisements, direct mail pieces, billboards, radio ads, and social media posts. “I came to Drury because it had an advertising major and it was far less expensive than the schools I was considering in the Northeast,” Ennes said. “I received a Trustee Scholarship at Drury, which covered my tuition and I’m so thankful I got out of college without any debt. Many of my friends are dealing with some huge college bills.”

Ennes considers herself lucky in other ways, too:  living in D.C. she doesn’t need a car, she lives with three other young professionals in the heart of the city, she can walk or ride her bike to work, she’s surrounded by government workers in suits while she wears jeans to work, and Ennes counts her co-workers as some of her best friends.

“I love what I’m doing and the people I work with. Now, I want to get really good at my craft and develop a portfolio I can be really proud of,” Ennes said.


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

Drury’s College of Continuing Professional Studies unveils new degree offerings for the fall of 2013

SPRINGFIELD, Mo., July 26, 2013 — Beginning in the fall of 2013, Drury students in the College of Continuing Professional Studies (CCPS) will have the opportunity to pursue degrees in emergency management and public administration.

Aaron Jones, Dean of Drury's CCPS

“These two areas of study are applicable to many different professions. Whether a person desires a position in local government, with a non-profit, or furthering his or her career with their current employer, these degree offerings can give them tools necessary to reach their goals,” said Aaron Jones, dean of the College of Continuing Professional Studies.

The U.S. Department of Labor classifies emergency management as a “bright outlook occupation.” Emergency management experts teach the classes, and the curriculum was designed by working professionals with years of experience in the field. Students can choose from either a bachelor’s degree or an associate degree. The first two courses in the degree program, “Introduction to Emergency Management Principles” and “Practice and Hazard Identification,” will be offered online in the fall of 2013.

For students interested in a career in government or with a non-profit or non-governmental organization, Drury will begin bachelor’s and associate degree programs in public administration this fall. Coursework in this degree program addresses everything from grant writing and Constitutional law to economics and writing.

For more information about these new degree offerings, go to www.drury.edu/ccps or call 417-873-7373.


Drury graduate spends post-graduate years working and learning in Turkey

Missouri native Mark Twain once said, “Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

Another Missouri native Brett Marler took that quote to heart. Except for a couple of summer internships in Washington D.C., Marler spent all of his life in Springfield where he attended Greenwood Laboratory School and Drury University. When he graduated from Drury in 2010, Marler wanted to stretch his wings, but a job in Kansas City or even New York wasn’t going to cut it. Marler went far afield to Turkey on a Fulbright English Teaching Grant.

2010 Drury graduate Brett Marler in Turkey

“I wanted to learn from being a foreigner in another culture,” Marler said. “Teaching English is a really accessible path for students wanting to go abroad. It doesn’t require a lot of previous experience and allows you to engage with the local culture.”

Marler quickly learned that in the Turkish culture it is impolite for a host to even remotely suggest that a guest has worn out his welcome, “I learned that you have to practically insist on leaving because a host will expect you to spend the night, just to be polite,” Marler said.

He enjoyed his time in Turkey so much, after a few months back in Springfield following his Fulbright experience, he went back to Turkey as part of a U.S. Embassy program to teach English in the divinity department of a Turkish University. After another few months back home, Marler went back for a third stint in Turkey, but this time at an English-language newspaper in Istanbul.

During his time in Turkey, Marler had very little formal education in Turkish, but he figured it out, “I learned when I got hungry or when I got bored. I learned the language by necessity,” Marler said.

He’s home for the summer again preparing for another trip, but this journey is just up I-44 to St. Louis where he’ll begin a master’s program in Islamic Studies in the fall at Washington University in St. Louis with a plan to eventually complete a Ph.D. and become a professor. “Istanbul is a safe city and is statistically safer than St. Louis. I’ll be more on the lookout in St. Louis than I was in Istanbul,” Marler said. “It’s incredible how welcome and safe I felt in that country. The only fear of kidnapping I felt was someone trying to get me to stay at their house and they’d over-feed me. It was great, in those three years in Turkey I really grew up.”


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

Drury Trustee Rick Lester dies at age 61

From: Dr. David Manuel

It saddens me to report to you that Drury Trustee William F. (Rick) Lester died Saturday afternoon, July 20, 2013. Rick died after suffering a medical crisis while riding in the Courage Classic bicycle tour through Colorado. The specific cause of death has not been determined.

Drury Trustee Rick Lester

Rick was a 1974 graduate of Drury University and was elected to serve on the Board of Trustees in 2001.  As a member of the Board, Rick chaired the Development Committee and served on special committees at the request of various Chairmen.  He was an unabashedly vibrant supporter of Drury University and kept student success at the forefront of his efforts.  Most recently, Rick served on the Performing Arts Advisory Council as part of the Drury Connect Initiative.

Rick Lester was the CEO of TRG (Target Resource Group), a company he founded in 1995 following a career in arts management. He served as president and executive director of the San Antonio Symphony, the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra and the Knoxville Symphony. Before that, he was a marketing and public relations professional for the Cincinnati Symphony and the Cleveland Orchestra. At each of his career stops he helped bring in record revenue and contributions. Throughout his career he consulted for orchestras and other non-profit organizations.

Rick earned a bachelor of arts in political science from Drury in 1974, and a master of business administration from Queens College in Charlotte, N.C.   Over the past few months, Rick served as a visiting professor at Southern Methodist University.  He resided in Woodland Park, Colorado.

Please keep Sandy Lester and all of Rick’s family in your thoughts and prayers.  As more information on funeral arrangements becomes available, I will communicate those to you.

Drury business students raise money to help fellow students study overseas

Drury’s Breech School of Business’s Mission Statement is, “Preparing ethical leaders for the global business community.”

The “global” part of that mission statement is much more than just words for Breech faculty and students. All of Drury’s business majors must participate in a study abroad experience, the purpose of which is to increase students’ intercultural competence. “Ultimately, we want our students to thrive in a variety of environments. A big part of this is learning to recognize cultural variations and to respond appropriately,” said Dr. Robin Sronce, associate professor of management at Drury.

However, the cost to study abroad can be considerable when tuition, program costs and travel expenses are all added together.

In the spring of 2012, Dr. Sronce’s project management class set out to help their peers pay for this enriching requirement. The class conceived and designed study abroad scholarships, and presented the idea to the Breech Advisory Board and Drury’s Office of Alumni and Development. Once the class had the go-ahead, it raised $2,000 from faculty, students and Advisory Board members. Then, over the next year, enough was raised to award three $2,500 scholarships.

In the spring of 2013, Dr. Sronce’s Project Management class built on what the 2012 class had started to help their peers afford a study abroad experience. The class conceived and organized a golf tournament at Millwood Golf and Racquet Club. Between golf fees, sponsorships and donations, the class quadrupled their fundraising goal, coming up with $10,000.

Brooke Hickman at the Roman Forum

Senior-to-be Brooke Hickman was one of the project leaders for the golf tournament. On the day of the tournament, while Hickman was working, the scholarship committee voted to award Hickman one of the $2500 scholarships to study in Rome earlier this summer.

“It was a huge surprise. I had planned to take a study abroad trip for a little more than a year, I had saved most of the money, but it was a struggle,” Hickman said. “I applied for the scholarship and hoped for the best. It was nice that my work paid off and helped me a little bit, too.”

And the experience overseas put Hickman well on her way to intercultural competence, “It gave me a better understanding of how other cultures operate. I’m prepared to work with people who have different beliefs and come from different cultures. You can’t learn in the classroom what I learned by being surrounded by the culture,” Hickman said.

While the focus continues to be on current students’ need, there is a study abroad scholarship fund raising committee that hopes to raise enough money to endow these scholarships for the future.


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

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.