solar decathlon

Mr. Melgren goes to Washington: Grad takes part in Congressional briefing

SPRINGFIELD, Mo., Jan. 15, 2016 — Recent Drury graduate Evan Melgren will take part in a Congressional briefing in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, Jan. 19, as part of panel hosted by the New American Colleges & Universities (NAC&U). Melgren will describe how his experience on Drury’s Solar Decathlon team contributed to his education and career success.

The panel is part of a series of events hosted next week by the NAC&U, which is a national consortium of selective, independent colleges and universities dedicated to the integration of liberal arts education, professional studies, and civic engagement. Drury is one of 25 member schools.

Evan Melgren

The briefing will be held from noon to 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday in the Rayburn Office Building. Melgren and two other students will share their experiences of how their integrative education, including undergraduate research, business consulting, and multidisciplinary team projects improved the quality of their college experiences and prepared them with real-world skills.

“Not only was the multidisciplinary aspect of the Decathlon a perfect challenge for a liberal arts student like myself, it was also a perfect model of an advanced professional endeavor,” Melgren says. “It necessitated teamwork and the inclusion of multiple perspectives to create a home that worked in all regards.”

Melgren is a 2014 Drury graduate with a degree in advertising and public relations. He was the communication chair for the Crowder-Drury Solar Decathlon team, which spent 18 months designing, building and marketing a solar-powered and storm-resistant home for the national contest sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy. About 140 teams from around the world applied and only 20 were accepted, of which only 14 successfully made it to the competition site. The Crowder-Drury team placed 8th overall. The experience led directly to a job with Killian Construction Company, where Melgren is a market research analyst.

“I feel honored to have been selected by our professors to take this important message to such a powerful forum,” he says. “A liberal arts education is an excellent route to a deeper appreciation for life, but it’s also more than that. It’s an excellent option for anyone looking to obtain an education that will prepare them for whatever life throws at them, and I can’t wait to take that message to our nation’s capitol.”

More information about the slate of events, including a similar briefing at the National Press Club on Wednesday, can be found in the NAC&U’s full news release.

Media Contact: Mike Brothers, Director of Media Relations: (417) 873-7390 or mikebrothers@drury.edu. For information about NAC&U, contact Michelle Apuzzio at apuzzio@newamericancolleges.org.

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Solar Decathlon leads to hands-on experience, job offers for students

After 18 months of work, the Solar Decathlon competition has come and gone for the 100-plus students on the Drury University and Crowder College team. Their house, dubbed ShelteR3 or “Shelter Cubed,” won 8th place in the contest sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy in Irvine, California last month.

Reflecting on the experience reveals many tangible takeaways: pride in a job well done, experience on a build site, professional connections – even job offers.

Avery Smith, a Drury business major and member of the ShelteR3 communication team, said finally being at the big competition opened his eyes to how far the team had truly come.

“Each team had such an original idea and original story about how they were able to make it,” Smith said. “140 teams applied, 20 were accepted and only 14 made it to Irvine. Even then, four teams were unable to finish on time.”

Solar Decathletes

Perhaps that was a light way of putting it, as the Crowder-Drury team was one of the few undergraduate teams that made it all the way.

“I was the most surprised to learn how many graduate students and doctoral candidates we were up against,” said Evan Melgren, a 2014 Drury advertising/PR graduate who was the team’s communication lead. “That we as undergrads were competitive with such established designers and engineers became a great source of pride.”

Being undergrads also led to increased pressure for the students who spent days and weeks in Irvine, said mentor and Hammons School of Architecture Professor Nancy Chikaraishi.

“Our students had homework, they had papers, they had tests they had to take and we were running them back to and from the hotel about five times a day and making sure they had time to get their work done,” she said.

The effort was worth it. Not only did the competition help students expand their horizons, but it also got them thinking about the finer points of project management and on-the-spot problem solving.

Project Manager Jarren Welch, a Crowder student, said that while he felt prepared for the competition thanks to the mentorship of his advisors, there were still unexpected bumps in the road.

“When we did get out there, we ran into a couple of problems, so I learned ways to improvise and work around that,” he said. “I learned that there isn’t just one answer to a problem and it’s all about picking the best idea.”

ShelteR3 house

Though they couldn’t have known it going in, experiences with solving problems on the fly ultimately led to job offers. Project co-lead Alaa Al Radwan credits the Decathlon for helping her land a job at M.I.T.’s prestigious Senseable City Lab. Melgren cites his readiness to adapt as the reason he landed his current job at Killian Construction Co.

“They saw a video walk-through of our home and concept, which had required me to learn an architectural software program in about a week,” he says.

Welch’s new job with Missouri Sun Solar also came as a result of stretching beyond his comfort zone. His offer came not from the building phase, but during a fundraiser.

“I handed them my card and they called me a few weeks later and offered me an interview and I got hired,” he said.

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Story by Chaniqua Crook, student writer with Drury’s Marketing & Communication Department.

Crowder-Drury team finishes 8th overall in Solar Decathlon competition

The Crowder-Drury team finished in 8th place overall in the 2015 Solar Decathlon, the U.S. Department of Energy announced today in Irvine, California. The team’s ShelteR3 (pronounced “Shelter Cubed”) home was more than 18 months in the making. The highly interdisciplinary project brought Crowder and Drury students to the national stage to showcase their expertise in architecture, engineering, marketing, communication and design. About 140 teams applied for entry into the competition – 20 were accepted and 14 actually made it to the competition itself.

“We are extremely proud of what this team has accomplished here over the last year and a half,” said Dr. Robert Weddle, dean of the Hammons School of Architecture at Drury. “The atmosphere surrounding this competition here in Irvine has been a once-in-a-lifetime experience for our students. The opportunity to design and build this home from concept to competition has been an invaluable learning process for each of them.”

Drury student Michaela Cantrell plugs in a Nissan Leaf after the electric car was driven 25 miles for a competition during the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon in Irvine, California on Friday, Oct. 9. (Credit: Thomas Kelsey/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon)

Drury student Michaela Cantrell plugs in a Nissan Leaf after the electric car was driven 25 miles for a competition during the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon in Irvine, California on Friday, Oct. 9. (Credit: Thomas Kelsey/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon)

The team will disassemble the house in the coming days. Following transport back to the Ozarks, the house will find a permanent place in Joplin, the community that inspired its unique design.

Follow, connect with and congratulate the team:

Visitors line up to tour the Crowder College and Drury University house during the  Decathlon. (Credit: Thomas Kelsey/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon)

Visitors line up to tour the Crowder College and Drury University house during the Decathlon. (Credit: Thomas Kelsey/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon)

About the Solar Decathlon

Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, the Decathlon pits future architects, engineers, marketers and business people from the nation’s top colleges against one another, challenging them to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient and attractive. The winner of the competition will be the team that best blends affordability, consumer appeal, and design excellence with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency.

The Crowder-Drury entry accomplishes all this – and more. The ShelteR3 house has a three-prong design philosophy of Respond, Recover and Resist. Inspired by the devastating and deadly 2011 Joplin tornado, the house is transportable so that it can be trucked to disaster areas during emergency response and recovery efforts. It can then be converted in a permanent and stylish living structure that is designed to resist the extreme winds and debris clouds of potential tornadoes. For more on the house, check out this overview video.

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Crowder-Drury team feeling confident as Solar Decathlon begins in California

DecathlonSPRINGFIELD, Mo., Oct. 9, 2015 — The Crowder-Drury Solar Decathlon team has been on the ground in Irvine, California for more than 10 days now, assembling, furnishing and preparing the ShelteR3 (pronounced “Shelter Cubed”) home for a series of 10 contests as part of this international competition sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy.

Today is first full day of the competition and the Crowder-Drury Decathletes are feeling confident about their showing. The student-led team is pumping out numerous updates from the contest online. Local residents and media outlets can track the team’s progress in the following ways:

Here are a few storylines to know so far:

Get social: The Crowder-Drury team is in first place in the social media engagement portion of the contest. Local residents can help by continuing to share, comment, and like the content on the Facebook and Twitter pages linked above. Use these hash tags: #‎SD2015 and #CrowderDrurySol and mention @‎SolarDecathlon. Engagement yields more points than mere likes or re-tweets, so feel free to ask the team questions or offer words of encouragement online.

Helping hands: Instead of going to a reception event on Wednesday night, several Crowder-Drury students helped the team from New York City College of Technology finish its house. “It’s moments like this that show the character of our students and remind us that this is about much more than a competition,” says Drury professor of architecture Traci Sooter.

Emergency plants: After the team realized the plants they’d ordered for the home were a bit … underwhelming, supporters formed a “crisis plant fund” that raised more than $500 in about 24 hours for some stellar plants that will help with ShelteR3’s curb appeal. That’s just the latest fundraising success for a team that has raised more than $458,000 for the project overall through in-kind and cash donations.

Hang loose: The team is having some fun using a Malibu Ken doll as its unofficial on-site mascot. When you’re in a high-pressure environment like the Decathlon, you have to look for ways to keep things loose while remaining highly focused on the work at hand.

In print: ShelteR3 was featured in a story published in the OC Register on Wednesday.

On air: NBC Nightly News interviewed the ShelteR3 team at Crowder College in September as part of a larger package on the Decathlon. The story will air nationally on NBC at a later date as the Decathlon wraps up.

The contests: The first of 10 contests took place Thursday night. In the Home Life Contest, students hosted a dinner party in the house for other teams. Remaining measured contests include: Commuting, Appliances, Comfort Zone and Energy Balance. Juried contests include: Architecture, Market Appeal, Engineering, Communications and Affordability.

The competition: Check out the other teams in the contest.

About the Solar Decathlon

Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, the Decathlon pits future architects, engineers, marketers and business people from the nation’s top colleges against one another, challenging them to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient and attractive. The winner of the competition will be the team that best blends affordability, consumer appeal, and design excellence with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency.

The Crowder-Drury entry accomplishes all this – and more. The ShelteR3 house has a three-part design philosophy of Respond, Recover and Resist. Inspired by the devastating and deadly 2011 Joplin tornado, the house is transportable so that it can be trucked to disaster areas during emergency response and recovery efforts. It can then be converted in a permanent and stylish living structure that is designed to resist the extreme winds and debris clouds of potential tornadoes. For more on the house, check out this overview video.

Solar Decathlon house nears completion; open house Sept. 22

SPRINGFIELD, Mo., Sept. 17, 2015 — A diverse team of students from Drury University and Crowder College is entering the final stretch of an 18-month-long effort to design, build and operate a cutting-edge home for the national Solar Decathlon competition.

The media and public are invited to the Crowder College campus to tour the house and help send off the team from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 22. Student team members, faculty advisors and representatives from some of the project’s many sponsors will be present and available for interviews. Team members are also available in the days before and after the open house, both in Springfield and Neosho.

Outside rendering

The house will be disassembled and loaded onto trucks on Sept. 23 for the trip to the Decathlon, which takes place during the month of October in the desert outside Irvine, California.

Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, this international contest pits future architects, engineers, marketers and business people from the nation’s top colleges against one another, challenging them to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient and attractive. The winner of the competition will be the team that best blends affordability, consumer appeal, and design excellence with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency.

The Crowder-Drury entry accomplishes all this – and more. Dubbed ShelteR3, or “Shelter Cubed,” the house has a three-prong design philosophy of Respond, Recover and Resist. Inspired by the devastating and deadly 2011 Joplin tornado, the house is transportable so that it can be trucked to disaster areas during emergency response and recovery efforts. It can then be converted in a permanent and stylish living structure that is designed to resist the extreme winds and debris clouds of potential tornadoes.

“Students from 22 different majors here at Drury and from Crowder have poured countless hours of time and talent into this project over the last year and a half,” said Traci Sooter, project manager and a faculty advisor to the team. “It’s incredibly exciting to see the ShelteR3 house become a reality, and we cannot wait to finally stack our ideas up against the other teams.”

For much more information, including renderings, videos and more about the team’s inspiration, visit http://shelter.drury.edu. For more information about the Decathlon, including a list of other schools in the competition, visit www.solardecathlon.gov.

Media Contacts:

  • Traci Sooter, Professor of Architecture, (417) 234-6405
  • Evan Melgren, Student Communication Chair, (417) 827-1793
  • Cindy Brown, Director of Public Information, Crowder College, (417) 455-5540

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Solar-powered home for competition takes shape with “build day”

SPRINGFIELD, Mo., April 9, 2015 — The Crowder-Drury Solar Decathlon Team will hold a “build day” for the ShelteR³ disaster resilient house from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. this Saturday on the Crowder College campus in Neosho.

Students from Crowder College and Drury University have partnered to design, engineer, market, and construct a solar powered and storm resistant home for the Solar Decathlon 2015, a national event hosted by the U.S. Department of Energy.

Students from both schools will be on hand to continue building the house on site, as required by the competition. This fall the team will deconstruct, transport and rebuild the home at the competition site in Irvine, California. That’s where the team will compete against more than a dozen other respected schools such as Yale, Clemson, Missouri S&T and California Polytechnic State University in October.

Bird's eye view of the Shelter3 house.

Bird’s eye view of the Shelter3 house.

While all teams will be building an environmentally conscious solar powered home, the Crowder-Drury team has self-imposed the additional challenge of making its home disaster resilient. The idea for ShelteR³ is based on three Rs: respond, recover, and resist. The motivation began to develop after the immediate and long-term effects of the EF-5 tornado that hit Joplin in 2011 directly impacted students from both Drury and Crowder.

You can learn more at shelter.drury.edu or by following @CrowderDrurySol on Twitter.

For more information about the Crowder-Drury Solar Decathlon and to learn about sponsorship opportunities, visit: shelter.drury.edu, send an email to tsooter@drury.edu, or call (417) 234-6405.

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Media Contact: Traci Sooter, project manager, Crowder-Drury Solar Decathlon, Hammons School of Architecture Faculty. Cell: (417) 234-6405 or email: tsooter@drury.edu.

Groundbreaking for Solar Decathlon house will be held Tuesday, March 10

SPRINGFIELD, Mo., March 5, 2015 — Students from more than a dozen majors will come together this week to officially mark the beginning of the construction phase of the ShelterR3 home on Tuesday, March 10, at Drury University. The energy-neutral home is being constructed for competition in the Solar Decathlon 2015, a national event hosted by the U.S. Department of Energy.

The ceremony will take place in the Trustee Science Center on the university campus, from 2:30 to 4 p.m.

The house will be constructed on the campus of Crowder College in Neosho, Mo., Drury’s partner school in the Solar Decathlon 2015 competition. Crowder will hold a joint ceremony at the same time on its campus, and the two events will be linked by teleconference. During the Drury event, student leaders will share their inspiration for the project and offer an exclusive look at the some of the key aspects of the designs.

Students from Crowder College and Drury University have partnered to design, engineer, market, and construct a solar powered and storm resistant home for the 2015 Solar Decathlon competition. While all teams will be building an environmentally conservative solar powered home, the Crowder-Drury team has self-imposed the additional challenge of making its home disaster resilient.

Artist rendering of the Shelter3 house.

Artist rendering of the Shelter3 house.

The idea for ShelteR3 is based on three Rs: respond, recover, and resist. It’s the guiding philosophy for the project, and it’s what will make this home unique and effective. The motivation began to develop after the immediate and long-term effects of the EF-5 tornado that hit Joplin in 2011 directly impacted students from both Drury and Crowder.

The team will transport the home after it is built to the competition site in Irvine, California. That’s where the team will compete against more than a dozen other respected schools such as Yale, Clemson, Missouri S&T and California Polytechnic State University in October. More than a quarter million people are expected to tour the home at the competition site.

You can follow the event live online at shelter.drury.edu or on Twitter by following @CrowderDrurySol.

For more information about the Crowder-Drury Solar Decathlon and to learn about sponsorship opportunities, visit: shelter.drury.edu, send an email to tsooter@drury.edu, or call (417) 234-6405.

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Media Contacts: Chase Snider, Communications Team Leader; cell: (417) 631-9780, email: csnider@drury.edu.  Traci Sooter, Project Manager, Hammons School of Architecture Faculty, cell: (417) 234-6405, email: tsooter@drury.edu.

Solar Decathlon Team passes design milestones

Drury University and Crowder College continue to make headway on their Solar Decathlon project. The Decathlon is the U.S Department of Energy’s national competition challenging selected college teams to build solar-powered homes as a way of educating students and the public about the benefits and viability of renewable energy.

“The Solar Decathlon is an incubator for solar energy,” says Evan Melgren, a team member from Drury. “By tasking young and creative engineers to implement this technology, the Department of Energy is nurturing the possibilities presented by one of the most consumer-viable sources of renewable energy. By requiring the tech to be designed into a real home, they’re showing just how appealing the energy source is.”

About 10 members of the Solar Decathlon team traveled to California in January.

About 10 members of the Solar Decathlon team traveled to California in January.

Drury has partnered with Crowder College in Neosho, a state community college offering programs in renewable energy, to take a multi-disciplinary approach to design, build, and operate an off-the-grid home. There are about 50 Drury students with various majors involved in the project.

In recent weeks the team has gained professional feedback, created 3D models of its design and met numerous competition deadlines. One requirement was to generate a 63-page package of drawings displaying the house from every angle, including elevation drawings and the workings of the entire electrical system.

In January, a few members of the Crowder/Drury team traveled to Irvine, California – the site of the final showdown this October – for industry feedback on the project. Working professionals evaluated the project and had praise for the designs, especially the electrical schematics and the health and safety plans.

“I can’t say how fortunate we all felt that we were able to go to California and be in the presence of such forward thinking engineers and designers who really care about ecologically conscious design,” Melgren says. “The energy was like nothing else I’ve ever been a part of.”

They also had the opportunity to meet some of the other teams in the competition, including the likes of Yale, Vanderbilt and Missouri S&T.

“The biggest takeaway from Cali was the fact that it made the whole project feel a lot more real,” says Alaa Al-Radwan, a Drury team member. “Getting to meet the other teams and seeing everyone’s progress made us only want to work harder.”

Bird's eye view of the Shelter3 house.

Bird’s eye view of the ShelteR3 house.

With plans now finalized, the next major requirement is to build the house locally (it will be deconstructed, shipped to Irvine and rebuilt for the competition this fall). The construction will take place on the Crowder campus in Neosho, before the house is then deconstructed, shipped to Irvine and rebuilt on the competition site.

For more information about the Crowder/Drury Solar Decathlon project, including sponsorship and donor opportunities, visit shelter.drury.edu.

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

Solar Decathlon team sets sights on 2015 national competition, fundraising

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

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

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

Team seeks funding

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

Major gifts so far include:

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

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

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

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

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Solar Decathlon team gearing up for 2015 national competition

Rising gas prices and climate change are hot-topic issues that are drawing attention to the need for alternative energy sources. Drury University and Crowder College hope to be a part of this energy solution — they are designing, building, and operating an off-the-grid home as part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon 2015 competition.

The Solar Decathlon is a “green” home building competition among colleges that apply and are selected by the Department of Energy. It is meant to educate students and the public about the benefits, affordability and availability of renewable energy.

Crowder approached Drury to join forces on the project last year. Crowder offers programs in renewable energy and competed in the Decathlon in 2002 and 2005. Recognizing the strength of Drury’s architecture program, the Crowder team thought both colleges could benefit from each other’s expertise in order to design a top-notch home. They’re now competing against teams from Yale, Vanderbilt and Missouri S&T, among others.

Members of the Solar Decathlon team examine plans for the project.

Members of the Solar Decathlon team examine plans for the project.

At Drury, this project has attracted about 50 students from architecture, communication, economics, finance, and other majors. This interdisciplinary approach is actually a requirement of the Decathlon, making Drury a great fit.

“I’m extremely excited to be involved in such an interdisciplinary project that allows me to utilize all the liberal arts informed skills I’ve picked up while studying at Drury,” said Alaa Al-Radwan, a fifth-year architecture student at Drury. “Seeing so many students from so many different areas of study come together to work on one project is a humbling experience.”

Students from both schools are working hard to design a one-of-a-kind, solar-powered home that exceeds the competition’s requirements in 10 categories. The home must run appliances and even power an electric car, produce as much or more energy than it uses, and remain cost-effective.

To set their project apart, the Drury/Crowder team has added another element to their project: storm resistance. Inspired by the devastation from the Joplin tornado, Drury/Crowder recognized the importance of providing relief shelter to individuals affected by natural disaster.

They call it ShelteR3, which is based on three R’s: respond, recover and resist. The home will require minimal assembly at the destination, provide a comfortable living space for families, and withstand high-speed winds. Drury and Crowder students want to use this competition to show how people can protect themselves from unpredictable storms and have an affordable, stylish home that runs “off the grid.”

“As the effects of climate change become more and more obvious, the necessity for alternate forms of energy is becoming a self-evident reality,” said Evan Melgren, a senior advertising and public relations major. “I’m proud to be a part of such a large competitio that works towards a solution.”

The Solar Decathlon will be held in Irvine, California in October 2015. For more information on the Solar Decathlon, visit www.solardecathlon.gov. For more information on Drury and Crowder’s project, visit shelter.drury.edu. If you would like to support the project with a gift or in-kind donation, contact Traci Sooter at (417) 873-7416.

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Story by Kaleigh Jurgensmeyer, English and Writing major at Drury. A version of this story originally ran in the Springfield News-Leader.