Drury University Team Selected to Compete in 2015 Solar Decathlon

Students from across Drury University and Crowder College have been selected to compete in the 2015 Solar Decathlon against peers from 19 other colleges from around the nation, including Yale and Stanford and Missouri University of Science & Technology.

The race is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, which announced the 20 invited collegiate teams this afternoon. The competition will take place at the Orange County Great Park in Irvine, Calif.

Drury is partnering with Crowder College in Neosho to form a team. The Department of Energy selects the teams based on an application process. The complete list of schools to compete can be found at

The teams now begin a two-year process to design and build solar-powered, highly efficient houses that combine affordability, innovation and design excellence. The teams will design, construct and test their houses before reassembling them in the fall of 2015 at the competition site in California.

True to Drury’s commitment to the liberal arts, students from all areas of study will be able to take part in the team. The formal application was made possible through a partnership between the Drury’s Hammons School of Architecture, the Breech School of Business Administration and the Department of Communication.

“This is an interdisciplinary project,” said Traci Sooter, Director of the Design/Build Program at the Hammons School of Architecture. “It will be open to students of all majors and it’s an incredible opportunity for our students. We’re looking for leaders. We need people who will step up and be great partners in the project. There’s marketing to do, web design, writing, and more. We have lots of room on the team, and we welcome all students of diverse backgrounds.”

Crowder College, a two-year school, has twice before participated in the Solar Decathlon, and has a strong program for solar technology and innovative construction technology, Sooter says. Applicants are now required to have an accredited architecture school, and following Drury’s ongoing efforts in the rebuilding of Joplin, Mo., after the May 2011 tornado, a bond was formed between the two schools, Sooter says.

Sponsors will be needed for the project. Sooter says the community can help the Solar Decathlon team both with both financial support and in-kind support, such as donations of building materials, interior finishing and transportation of the materials to California.

Drury’s Design/Build Program designs and builds projects for communities and agencies in need. In addition to multiple projects in the Joplin area following the 2011 tornado, the program participated in four episodes of ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” and numerous other projects.

For more information, contact Traci Sooter, Associate Professor of Architecture, at (417) 873-7416 or (417) 234-6405.

Smart Mob builds butterfly garden in Joplin


Drury University’s “Smart Mob!” heads to Joplin Nov. 8

SPRINGFIELD, Mo., Nov. 6, 2013 – Drury University’s “Smart Mob!” will head to Joplin, Mo. for the second time on Friday, Nov. 8 to help build the Butterfly Garden and Overlook in Cunningham Park. The project elements were designed by third-year architecture students at Drury.

“Smart Mob!” is an on-campus student-run service organization that focuses on emergency rescue and community service. Michael Ligibel, president of Drury’s Smart Mob said, “It’s an awesome experience. We do a flash mob to help people. Being able to go out into the community and make a significant impact in only a few hours is one of the best experiences you could ever go through.”

A team of students, led by Drury professors Traci Sooter, Design/Build Program Director and Nancy Chikaraishi, will also be in Joplin from Nov. 4 through Nov. 9 to orchestrate a “blitz build” of the site to include water features, a pavilion and benches. Sooter and her group refer to this type of energetic work as Extreme Design/Build: Drury Style.

This project was made possible through many partners, including Cornell University, U.S. Forest Service, Drury University, Forest ReLeaf of Missouri, Great River Associates, Till Design, Missouri Department of Conservation Joplin and Joplin Parks and Recreation, as well as the TKF Foundation’s Open Spaces Sacred Places initiative, which creates natural settings for the public to help people cope with stress andburdens resulting from disasters.

For more details about this event, please contact Traci Sooter at (417) 873-7416 o remail

Ozark High School graduate will intern at prestigious, online architecture magazine

SPRINGFIELD, Mo., Sept. 12, 2013 — Eric Baldwin, a 2010 Ozark High School graduate, has been offered an internship position as an architecture critic for the online magazine ArchDaily, the most visited architecture website in the world.  After a month-long application process, Baldwin, a fourth-year architecture student at Drury University, was selected among 340 applicants to be a writer and researcher for the 2013 fall semester.

Eric Baldwin

When asked about what he was most looking forward to, Baldwin said, “I’m excited about being able to bring local issues to an international audience; my words hold weight.” Baldwin added that he is sincerely thankful for the opportunity and looks forward to writing and learning about the web-based, global company.

Baldwin will graduate from Drury with a Masters in Architecture in May 2015.


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.

Drury architecture students help cities plan their futures

SPRINGFIELD, Mo., Dec. 3, 2012 — Every semester, Drury University architecture students put their skills to the test in an applied learning class that engages them with communities throughout Missouri. This semester, Drury’s Center for Community Studies (CCS) is working with three communities in the Ozarks:

  • Springfield. Drury students are working with members of the Rountree neighborhood, Missouri State University, and the City of Springfield to create a visioning document for a section of National Avenue between Cherry and Grand. Students are looking out two and three decades as they identify pros, cons, and recommendations for development along the corridor. Drury students will present their findings to stakeholders on Monday, Dec. 10, 6-8 p.m., at The Madison House on the Missouri State University campus.
  • Bolivar, Mo. Drury students are hoping to build up the city’s reputation as a vibrant economic, social and environmental destination. The Drury team is looking at cosmetic upgrades, such as, façade renewal to Bolivar’s ability to geographically connect with its citizens and with other communities in the region. Students are also exploring issues, such as: identity and branding of the community, sustainable development, and the integration of the arts. Students will make their final presentation to the community on Thursday, Dec. 13, 6-8 p.m., at Main Street Event Center on the southwest corner of the square in Bolivar.
  • Buffalo, Mo. By focusing on physical renewal of the city’s infrastructure, Drury students are hoping to create a more healthy and active lifestyle for the Buffalo community.  Elements of the 20 to 30 year visioning study focuses on parks, trails, sidewalks, after school recreation, biking/pedestrian communities, sustainability, the physical renewal of the city’s architectural infrastructure, identity, branding and connectivity. Drury students will present to the Buffalo community on Tuesday, Dec. 11, 6-8 p.m., at the O’Bannon Community Center in Buffalo.

Once a vision is written for the community, it becomes a “tool kit” that makes implementation easier. Jay Garrott is a Drury architecture professor and the director of the community studio. Garrott says that visions “provide the ability to dream of what could be done to a community, which people seldom have the time to do.”

CCS projects also build a stronger connection between Drury and the communities they help. Tracy Slagle, resource director for the City of Bolivar, is working with the Bolivar project group to help secure a grant for a potential cultural arts center. Slagle’s nephew, John Luce, graduated from Drury’s Architecture program and currently works as an architect. “Rural communities have limited resources,” Slagle said. “When we can partner with universities and get their resources, it accomplishes amazing things.”

On average, Drury CCS only charges the communities it works with the direct cost for materials and travel, while the students provide about 2,700 hours of in-kind architecture and planning work for the communities per semester.

Five communities that the CCS has worked with in the past have received DREAM grants (Downtown Revitalization and Economic Assistance for Missouri (DREAM) Initiative).


Story by Amber Perdue, a senior public relations and advertising major at Drury.

Drury one of the top 14 architecture schools in the Midwest

November 1, 2012, Springfield, Mo. For the second year in a row, Drury’s Hammons School of Architecture has been ranked among the top 14 schools in the MidWest region, out of the 24 professionally accredited programs by Design Intelligence, the only ranking agency for architecture schools in the US.

Drury is included among undergraduate professional programs because Drury graduates are, so far, on the job market with a professionally accredited Bachelor of Architecture degree. The first class with a Master of Architecture degree, the only accredited degree now granted by Drury University, will graduate in May 2013.


MASS Design Group’s work to be featured at Drury

SPRINGFIELD, Mo., Sept. 10, 2012 — The work of Boston’s MASS Design Group will be exhibited at the Hammons School of Architecture from Sept. 14 – Nov. 16. The exhibition, “Buildings that Heal: Towards an Architecture (of Impact),” will open on Friday, Sept. 14 from 4-6 p.m. Michael Murphy, the founding partner and executive director of MASS Design Group, will present a lecture at the Hammons School of Architecture on Monday, Sept. 17 at 3 p.m.

Based in Boston, but with additional offices in Los Angeles, Rwanda, and Haiti, the non-profit MASS Design Group offers a new model for architecture’s engagement with communities and with social issues. Combining award-winning design with a commitment to collaboration, the practice aims to “deliver a more efficient, effective, and empowering built environment” to communities in need. This requires “building the systems needed to address the social determinants of architecture; in particular making the facility serve as an engine for economic growth and addressing long-term sustainability.”

The prominent design magazine Contract, in naming MASS Design Group its 2012 Designer of the Year, recognized that the firm is “on a trajectory to continue designing for dignity, to improve people’s lives through design, and to be a primary example for how designers can rethink their role in a world of increasingly global impact.” Drury University is proud to host this visually compelling exhibition of the work of this important firm.

Media Contact: Robert Weddle, AIA, Professor of Architecture, Office: (417) 873-7450,


Six faculty members earn award for community engagement

Springfield, Mo., Aug. 16, 2012 – Six Drury faculty members earned the inaugural President’s Award of Excellence for Community Engagement.

Architecture Professors Nancy Chikaraishi, Keith Hedges, and Traci Sooter, Adjunct Architecture Instructor Rufus Louderback, Psychology Professor Dr. Jennifer Silva Brown, and Communication Professor Dr. Regina Waters were recognized for dedicating countless hours of service to help Joplin rebuild in the aftermath of the May 22, 2011 tornado and for engaging the larger Drury community in meaningful service.

(L to R) Keith Hedges, Jennifer Silva Brown, Traci Sooter, Nancy Chikaraishi, Regina Waters, Rufus Louderback.

In the fall of 2011, Drury students, led by the architecture faculty, designed and built a volunteer tribute at Cunningham Park in Joplin in just one week. The park had been destroyed by the May 22, 2011 tornado. As part of that project, Waters’ communication class organized a “Smart Mob” of more than 100 members of the Drury community who converged on Joplin in one day to help meet the construction deadline.

Dr. Silva Brown and several behavioral science undergraduates conducted research on tornado victims in the fall of 2011 that focused on the victims’ mental health post-disaster and effective coping skills. In 2012, Silva Brown partnered with the architecture department to complete a longitudinal study of those same victims.

Drury faculty, staff, alumni and students recorded a combined 13,463 hours of service to Joplin projects.

The award reads, in part, “…this greatly deserved recognition is for much more than an impressive quantity of service hours; for in their response to the disaster in Joplin, these individuals truly embodied the Drury mission and vision.  Through their commitment to community engagement and service-learning, they provided our students with educational opportunities that ‘foster the integration of theoretical and practical knowledge, that liberates persons to participate responsibly in and contribute to life in a global community, and that educates students to become engaged, ethical, and compassionate citizens for servant leadership in communities characterized by change, complexity and global interdependence.’”


Green building expert to speak at Drury on Thursday, March 1

SPRINGFIELD, Mo., Feb. 28, 2012 — Dr. William Braham will illustrate the importance of architecture and the environment in his discussion on Thursday, March 1 at 11 a.m. in Clara Thompson Hall at Drury University.

Braham (pronounced Bram) believes that a building is only as energy efficient as those who live or work within it. Braham studies how the places where we live affect the planet. Braham teaches graduate courses on ecology, technology, and design at the University of Pennsylvania where he is director of the Master of Environmental Building Design.

Bill Braham

Braham received an engineering degree from Princeton University and a master’s and doctorate in architecture from Penn, where he has taught since 1988. He is currently working on a book called Ecology, Technology, and Design.

Drury University’s 2011-2012 convocation series, The Changing Planet: Our Role in Nature’s Economy, considers human connections to the environment, while also examining potential solutions to current problems.

All events are free and open to the public unless otherwise noted. For more details about speakers visit or contact Theme Year Director Dr. Sean Terry at (417) 873-6963.