Total immersion in French challenges Drury students

“Life is a foreign language, we all mispronounce it.”
Christopher Morley, Thunder on the Left

Eleven Drury students worked hard this summer learning about a foreign language and life as they spent part of their summer in France on a language study abroad trip. The students spent the bulk of their time at the Institut de Touraine in Tours, France. Their goal was total immersion in the French language. After the experience they can emphatically say: mission accomplished.

Drury students outside Chambord castle in Chambord, France

The program, led by Drury French Professor Dr. Catherine Blunk, was a beneficial and challenging experience for the students, many of whom were beginning French students. The study abroad opportunity could be utilized to fulfill a student’s foreign language requirement, a Breech School of Business study abroad requirement, or earn credit toward a minor or major in French. This was the first year that students were able to complete their entire foreign language requirement solely with a study abroad trip.

The full immersion process took many of the students out of their comfort zones. Classes at the Institut de Touraine, where the students studied, were taught solely in French. The students lived with host families, allowing them to experience language and culture from the locals. The change from a familiar and comfortable language to foreign language may have been overwhelming, but total immersion is an intense way to quickly adapt to the new language. This teaching structure encouraged the students to apply learned knowledge and to keep learning.

Students were able to journey throughout the country, visiting Paris, several castles, and students engaged in independent travel throughout Europe.

“The program was very rigorous, even from the first week,” explained Dr. Blunk. “But the language skills they gained at the end of the experience, as well as the French cultural exposure, were the most significant benefits of the trip. At the end of four weeks, I could see them thinking in French.”

The trip cost the students between five and six thousand dollars, but many students offset a large portion of that cost with CW Titus Foundation Scholarships for Language Study Abroad. Through an annual grant to Drury from the CW Titus Foundation, students are able to apply for those scholarships if their study abroad involves studying a foreign language.


Author Amber Perdue is a soon-to-be senior Public Relations and Advertising major at Drury University and a 2009 graduate of Kickapoo High School.

Drury vice president earns a prestigious fellowship

SPRINGFIELD, Mo., Aug. 7, 2012 — Drury vice president of enrollment management Dawn Hiles has earned an American Council on Education (ACE) fellowship for the 2012-2013 academic year. Hiles is just the second Drury employee to earn an ACE fellowship. Robert Wyatt, the former director of the Breech School of Business, was the other. She is one of 57 people to earn an ACE fellowship this school year.

Dawn Hiles

Hiles will spend twelve weeks over the fall and spring semesters at Washington University in St. Louis. During the course of her one-week visits, Hiles will take part in cabinet deliberations and Washington University Chancellor Mark Wrighton and Chief of Staff Robert Wild will mentor her. Hiles is the first ACE Fellow that Washington University has ever hosted.

The American Council on Education Fellows Program is a one-year comprehensive leadership development exercise that condenses on-the-job leadership training and skills development into an intensive time frame.  The program is based on the premise that the exchange of ideas and best practices will benefit all involved.

“Dawn’s experience will be an opportunity for all of us to learn from the knowledge she gains at Wash. U.,” said Drury President Todd Parnell.

Media Contact: Dawn Hiles, MBA, Vice president of enrollment management, Office: (417) 873-7614, E-mail:


Drury student hopes to counsel soldiers after her military career

Springfield, Mo., July 30, 2012 — As a senior NCO (non-commissioned officer), Geri Hopkins is accustomed to serving as the shoulder that soldiers lean on when times get tough. Currently stationed at Fort Polk, La., Hopkins counsels soldiers and their families. Now in her 20th year of service, she will be retiring from the Army in February. However, she is looking forward to her second career— thanks to the degree she just completed through Drury University.

Hopkins is very grateful to Raeleen Ziegler, coordinator at Drury’s Fort Leonard Wood campus, where Hopkins was stationed from 2008-2010. “Raeleen convinced me that I needed to complete my degree, and she showed me how. She lit a fire underneath me,” said Hopkins.

While Hopkins was working in the hospital on the base she had set hours, so it was easy for her to schedule and attend classes. Hopkins stated, “When I moved back into the field—I was deployed to Afghanistan on December 26 of 2010—I was concerned about how I would be able to continue my studies.” Ziegler showed her a degree plan as well as the order in which she needed to take her classes, and Hopkins was able to continue working toward her degree by taking classes online.

Hopkins graduated this past May with a double major in sociology and psychology. “I am so happy to have graduated and am finished with this leg of my journey. I feel that so many doors have been opened for me now that I have my degree. I am so thankful to Raeleen and the faculty at Drury University for helping me every step of the way which allowed me to complete this portion of my dreams,” said Hopkins.

Next, Hopkins plans to obtain her master’s in counseling psychology, work in the field and then go back and earn her Ph.D.

“I would like to work at the Resiliency Center at Fort Hood, Texas,” said Hopkins. “Even though I am retiring from the military, I still want to be able to work with soldiers. There truly is a need; especially for those who are coming back from deployment.”


Story by Jann Holland, executive director of marketing and communications at Drury University.

Drury student gets ONE outstanding internship

Springfield, Mo., August 6, 2012 — In 2010, I was asked to help start ONE Drury—a campus chapter for the international advocacy organization ONE. Co-founded by U2’s Bono, ONE advocates for smart programs that effectively combat preventable diseases, extreme poverty and elevate people to become productive members of society. Since its formation, ONE Drury has become a nationally recognized chapter of ONE.

Brian Hendershot at the Korean American Coalition in Los Angeles

Each semester, every ONE Campus competes in the ONE Campus Challenge. Points are based on the quantity and quality of a chapter’s members and events. I am proud to say that despite Drury’s relatively small size, we have excelled in both the number of chapter members and events. Through general advocacy events and engaging our members of Congress on a regular basis, we have become one of the top campus chapters (#12 of 2581).  We have done so well that we were selected to host a training session for ONE Midwest on campus and also to lobby on Capitol Hill with top ONE members from around the country.

Leading ONE Drury has opened many doors for me—most notably an internship at the Korean American Coalition (KAC) in Los Angeles this summer.  KAC is a non-profit advocacy organization that promotes the civic and civil interests of Korean Americans—one of the fastest growing and most underrepresented ethnic groups in the United States.

My primary task at KAC is to seek support for the North Korean Refugee Adoption Act (NKRAA) in the Midwest.  This bill seeks to give currently stateless and orphaned children the status and visibility to help them lift themselves out of poverty and achieve economic self-sufficiency for a brighter future.

My experience at KAC and at ONE has made me aware of how powerful voices can be when combined into one.  I can shout and scream all day long but, unless I have people to support me, no one will listen. An organization can only achieves its goals when it speaks with one voice and demands change.

I hope that I can make people realize that humanitarian crises are not limited to their country of origin—they are global crises and must be solved by the global community. That is why I will continue to add my voice to the fray, long after I leave KAC and Drury.


Story Written by Brian Hendershot. He will be a junior at Drury and plans to graduate with two degrees in religion and philosophy as well as an associate’s degree in Asian studies in May 2014.

Chris Tuckness joins Drury as Director of Alumni & Development

SPRINGFIELD, Mo., July 25, 2012 — Drury University announces the hiring of Chris Tuckness as Director of Alumni and Development.

Tuckness’s responsibilities include working with alumni and donor relations in Breech School of Business and the Hammons School of Architecture.

Chris Tuckness

Tuckness’s work experience includes: director of volunteer services at CoxHealth, vice president of community development and special events at the Springfield Chamber of Commerce, and executive director of the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Tuckness’s Drury roots run deep. He graduated from Drury with a triple major in communication, public relations and business in 1994, and he went on to earn a master’s in communication from Drury in 2000. Tuckness also has a certificate in nonprofit organization management from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

“I spent so much of my life here, it feels like I’m coming home. I’m just excited to be a part of this institution and help to connect my fellow alumni back to their alma mater,” Tuckness said.

Media Contact: Dr. Krystal McCulloch, Vice President of Alumni and Development, Office: (417) 873-7303, Email:


Ellen Hammock joins Drury as Director of Alumni & Development

SPRINGFIELD, Mo., July 25, 2012 — Drury University announces the hiring of Ellen Hammock as Director of Alumni and Development. Hammock’s responsibilities include working with alumni and donor relations in the northeast part of the United States. She will also focus on working with alumni within the health, environmental sciences and the theatre departments at Drury University.

For seven years, Hammock worked as the executive director of the Breast Cancer Foundation of the Ozarks. Recently, Hammock worked as an administrator for Family Medicine Residency at Cox North.

Ellen Hammock

Hammock has an undergraduate degree in political science from Truman State and a master’s in public administration from Missouri State.

“I have always wanted to work for Drury,” said Hammock. “It is a great institution and I am excited to find out what accomplishments alumni have achieved and connect them back to the university.”

Media Contact: Dr. Krystal McCulloch, Vice President of Alumni and Development, Office: (417) 873-7303, Email:


Drury student plans to make a difference in her community

Springfield, Mo., July 23, 2012 — A native of Licking, Mo., Anna Kaley recalls a time in 2008 when she knew she was ready for a change. She wanted to go back to school and earn a degree that would enable her to make a difference in her community. Kaley readily admits that she was a little overwhelmed at the thought of returning to school. “I hadn’t been in school since 1987, and believe me, the classroom has changed,” said Kaley. “The campus director and the instructors were very helpful as I acclimated to the new learning environment.”

Anna Kaley by Sesha Shannon

Now in her fourth year, Kaley has come a long way. She regularly interfaces with Blackboard, an online learning management system used by Drury faculty, and she actually prefers Drury’s online courses. “Because I currently work two jobs, the online classes work really well with my schedule,” said Kaley.

Kaley already has an associate’s degree in business administration and is pursuing one in criminal justice. She’s looking ahead to graduating with a bachelor’s in business administration in 2013. Kaley is interested in pursuing a career in the field of economic development. While writing a paper for one of her classes, Kaley met Ron Reed, the economic developer for the city of Houston, Mo. This year, Kaley interviewed with Reed and secured an internship. “It is through my internship that I have realized what career I want to pursue after I graduate,” said Kaley. “I love what I do, and I can give back to the community.” Currently, Kaley is conducting surveys with local businesses, collecting insights on how they have sustained through the last several years of economic challenge. Kaley said the experience has been invaluable.

“I always tell people that you’ll never go wrong with furthering your education. Drury has been one of the most positive aspects of my life,” said Kaley. “It has opened doors and given me opportunities that I would not have otherwise had.”


Story by Jann Holland, executive director of marketing and communications at Drury University.

Drury’s Scholars program has come a long way in five years

SPRINGFIELD, Mo., July 23, 2012 — The fifth class of Drury’s Scholars, an enrichment program for Springfield African-American youth, will return to campus on Monday, July 30. Founded in 2008 by Drury professors, Summer Scholars brought 15 middle school, African-American males to campus for a week of activities. Since that time, the program has expanded to include females, offer year-round programming and dropped the “Summer” in the name to reflect the ongoing nature of educational opportunities the Scholars program provides.

This year, the Scholars program has received a great deal of good news, including:

  • In July, Drury hired Francine Pratt, the former President of the Springfield Chapter of the NAACP, to lead the Scholars as program coordinator.
  • In June, Springfield-based accounting firm BKD awarded the Scholars program with a $9,000 grant from the BKD Foundation to buy Netbook computers for the Scholars to use throughout the year.
  • In April, the Missouri Department of Higher Education awarded the Scholars program with a College Access Challenge Grant for $84,511. The grant will pay for food, Pratt’s salary, salaries for Drury student workers who serve as mentors to the Scholars, stipends for guest speakers, fees for cultural trips, and educational supplies including books.

In August, Drury will enroll its first Scholars’ alumnae. LaShonda Johnson and Bailey McCormick each attended Scholars for one summer and will begin their college careers at Drury in the fall.

Five of the young men from that first class of 15 males in 2008 are returning for the fifth year. Several have either graduated from high school or moved away. Many are enrolled in college for fall 2012 or plan to attend college once they graduate, which was one of the goals when the Scholars program was founded. “When we started the Scholars, our inspiration was the achievement gap in Springfield Public Schools between African-American and Caucasian students, especially among male students,” said Dr. Peter Meidlinger, English professor and one of the Scholars founders. “We wanted the students to realize that college was a possibility for them, and, now, we have several heading to college, including Drury. We couldn’t be happier with that outcome.”

The only cost to the Scholars is a $25 fee, which is waived for students who complete meaningful work projects designated by the director of the program.

Increasing diversity on-campus and in the community.

John Beuerlein

Over the last several years, Drury University has made a concerted effort to increase the diversity of its student population. Those efforts have been successful in large part due to the Edward Jones Minority Scholarships. Drury graduate, and the former chairman of Drury’s Board of Trustees, John Beuerlein and his wife Crystal established the scholarships in 2007 for the entering class in the fall of 2008. The Edward Jones Minority Scholarships are competitive scholarships for ten self-identified minorities in each freshman class.

In 2011-2012, 18.5 percent of Drury’s freshman class was made up of international students and domestic minorities. That’s the most diversity in a freshman class at Drury ever. The percentage of diverse students was even higher than the first day of classes at Drury on September 25, 1873, when seven of Drury’s first 39 students (or 18 percent) were Native Americans.

“I was concerned when I learned that Springfield was the second least diverse city in the United States,” said Drury President Todd Parnell. “We suffer as a community from that distinction when it comes to attracting businesses and talent to our region. Drury’s increasing diversity can serve as a mini-oasis in the community profile. The more we learn about that role, the more effective we can be as an institution in providing leadership on campus and in the community. The Scholars program and its continued growth is one of the ways in which Drury is offering that leadership.”

Media Contact: Francine Pratt, Drury Scholars Program Coordinator, Mobile: (916) 541-1675, E-mail:


Drury’s Scholars program receives funding to buy computers

SPRINGFIELD, Mo., July 18, 2012 — Drury University’s Scholars program, an enrichment program for Springfield African-American youth, has received a $9,000 grant from the BKD Foundation to buy Netbook computers for the Scholars to use throughout the school year.

“The Scholars program is designed to close the achievement gap between African-American students and Caucasian students. What really impressed me about the program was that the professors are looking beyond school and asking the students, ‘Is success going to college or getting out of high school and getting a job?’” said Zach Swartz, a BKD employee who will volunteer with the Scholars this summer. “I think this program can make a real change by taking some at-risk kids, putting some enrichment in place, and helping them achieve success.”

BKD, a national accounting firm based in Springfield, has been involved with the Scholars program since 2010. BKD employees have talked to the Scholars about business, leadership, ethics and marketing.

“From the foundation’s perspective, we look at projects BKD partners and employees are involved with, and projects that have a community impact. This program exemplifies both of those qualities,” said Rachel Dwiggins, a member of the BKD Foundation advisory committee.

“We are extremely thankful for BKD’s involvement with the Scholars program. This gift will help the students have a more robust classroom experience and will assist with programming throughout the school year,” said Dr. Mark Wood, chemistry professor and one of the Scholars founders.

Drury faculty founded Summer Scholars in 2008 as a way to connect with young African-Americans in the neighborhood near the Drury campus through academic and cultural classes and outings. The program directors, Wood, Bruce Callen, Peter Meidlinger, and Charlyn Ingwerson, all live in the midtown community and teach at the university. Since its founding, the Scholars program has expanded to include young females, offering year-round activities and it has tripled in size to serve about fifty students annually. Drury recently hired Francine Pratt, former president of the Springfield chapter of the NAACP, as the Scholars program director.

This summer, the Scholars will be on the Drury campus for a week beginning July 30.

Media Contact: Dr. Mark Wood, Professor of Chemistry, Office: (417) 873-7474, Mobile: (417) 693-9938, E-mail:


Drury President overcomes apprehension to skydive with daughter

During his time as President of Drury University, Todd Parnell has taken pies in the face and comically tipped his canoe over in a fountain for a fundraising video. “I’ve never been afraid to laugh at myself. It generally results in fun!” Parnell said.

On July 8, to celebrate his 65th birthday, Parnell took a risk that had consequences far beyond getting laughed at. “I’d always wanted to go skydiving, but I’m afraid of heights. I’d just never worked up the nerve,” he said. “Then Charles Taylor (vice president of academic affairs) went skydiving with his parents for their 63rd anniversary. It piqued my interest again.”

Pres. Parnell skydiving. Photo by Andrea Gill.

Parnell talked to his daughter Patricia (a 20-year-old junior-to-be at Drury) about what they were going to do for his 65th birthday. He was thinking of an overnight float trip, but when he mentioned skydiving Patricia jumped on it, “Dad, you promised me when I was little that you would take me skydiving,” she said.

Parnell still wasn’t sure, but his daughter encouraged him and, after talking it over with Betty, Todd’s wife and Patricia’s mother, they got the okay.

“Driving to the jump center in Miller, I was pretty leery; but my daughter was sitting right beside me so I knew I was locked,” Parnell said. “Getting into that little plane with four of us crammed in together, I was having second, third and fourth thoughts, but once we took off I knew that there was no backing out.

“I went first. It’s a tandem jump so the instructor was attached to my back. He threw open the side door. We stepped out onto the strut, counted to three and jumped. At that point all fear was gone. We jumped from 10,000 feet and fell a mile in less than a minute at 120 miles per hour. What a sensory overload! When the chute deployed, there was this incredible sense of peace and quiet. Almost like being frozen in time and space. The instructor allowed me to make some turns as we came in for a landing. From the time we stepped out of the plane to landing on the ground, the whole thing only took six or seven minutes.”

Parnell will retire as Drury’s president in May of 2013. He won’t get a golden parachute when he retires, but he may have a new hobby, “It was a remarkable experience. I hope to do it again.”