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Drury honors six faculty members for community engagement

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 Jennifer Silva Brown, and communications professor Regina Waters were recognized for not only dedicating countless hours of service to help Joplin rebuild in the aftermath of the May 22, 2011 tornado, but for also engaging the larger Drury community in meaningful service.

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, 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.

Left to right: Keith Hedges, Jennifer Silva Brown, Traci Sooter, Nancy Chikaraishi, Regina Waters, Rufus Louderback

Dr. Silva Brown and several behavioral science undergraduates conducted research in the fall of 2011 on tornado victims 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.

Drury’s 2013 rankings in U.S. News and the Princeton Review

Drury University is ranked 11th among Midwest Regional Universities in the United States in the U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges 2013, which was released in September.

Regional universities are defined by U.S. News as institutions that provide a full range of undergraduate and graduate degrees, but few, if any, doctoral programs.

“While no external ranking can fully capture the essence of the Drury experience, whenever an unbiased, respected third party tells an institution that it is doing a good job, it is a source of pride,” said Dr. Charles Taylor, vice president of academic affairs. “Drury students, faculty, staff members and alumni should be proud knowing that we are highly regarded by our peers, and it is gratifying to know that we’re one of only two schools in the state ranked in the top 20.”

Drury was also included in The Princeton Review’s best colleges in the Midwest list. Drury was one of 153 institutions The Princeton Review recommended in its website feature “2013 Best Colleges: Region by Region,” which was released in August.

In the profile about Drury at Princeton Review’s website, students offered the following description, “The campus is beautiful and the class sizes are just right.” Another anonymous student comment said, “Drury has the mission to give students the opportunity to fight for what they believe in, but to understand the views of others as well.”

The Princeton Review also included Drury in the The Princeton Review’s Guide to Green Colleges for the third straight year. According to the Princeton Review, the book profiles institutions of higher education that “demonstrate notable commitments to sustainability in their academic offerings, campus infrastructure, activities and career preparation.”

Drury and the University of Missouri are the only two schools in Missouri listed in the 2012 Green Guide.

University Suites opens for students

Drury’s new 72-bed University Suites residence hall opened to students on move-in day, Friday, Aug. 17.

“I love it! I walked in and thought, ‘it’s awesome.’ I can’t complain at all. It’s definitely worth the money,” said Gabby Reppell, a sophomore from St. Louis.

Each student will pay between $4,180 and $5,240 per semester to live in the University Suites depending on which meal plan he or she chooses.

The 16 units are designed with large, private bedrooms and baths as well as washers and dryers in each apartment. Additionally, the University Suites complex was built to LEED Platinum specifications.

Next door, the restored Rose O’Neill House will be used for Drury events, meetings, community gatherings and educational purposes. The house was once the home of early 20th century artist Rose O’Neill.

Commencement 2012

Spring 2012 Commencement:

Drury University conferred degrees to more than 600 students on May 12, in spring graduation ceremonies at the O’Reilly Family Event Center. The president of the New American Colleges and Universities (NACU), Nancy Hensel, was the commencement speaker. NACU is a consortium of 19 independent colleges and universities, including Drury, that value liberal learning, professional studies and civic engagement.

“As you pursue success in your career, I hope you will also seek a balance between your work and your personal life,” Hensel said. “You are our social hope for the future, and I know that you are capable of meeting that responsibility. My very best wishes to you for your success and happiness in your future.”

Even in a fragile economy, Drury graduates are finding jobs and going to graduate school.

More than 99 percent of 2011 graduates are employed or furthering their education, according to an annual study conducted by Drury’s Office of Career Planning and Development.

The survey measures the status of traditional undergraduates six months after graduation who received bachelor’s degrees in December 2010, May 2011 and August 2011. Drury received information on 235 out of a possible 312 graduates for a response rate of more than 75 percent. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the average national response rate for the Class of 2010 was just 60.8 percent.

“These numbers help to answer the question, ‘Is college worth it?’” said Jill Wiggins ’94, director of Career Planning and Development at Drury. “When the unemployment rate for people with an undergraduate degree is half of the national average, the answer clearly is, yes, college is worth it.”

Drury Scholars celebrates five years

In 2008, three Drury professors had an idea to offer a summer college enrichment program to African-American students in the Drury neighborhood. That program for seventh and eighth graders began with about 15 boys; now, five years later, it annually serves about 50 African-American students.

The program, begun by professors Bruce Callen, Peter Meidlinger and Mark Wood, expanded to include girls in 2009 when the three founders brought on English Instructor Charlyn Ingwerson. Many in that first group of middle school students have come back to the Scholars program every summer. This year, some of the first Scholars alumni enrolled in college. In August, LaShonda Johnson and Bailey McCormick began their college careers at Drury.

“Our goal has always been to recruit these students to college, whichever college that might be,” said Bruce Callen, associate dean of the college. “We want to provide them with an introduction to a lot of the experiences that college can provide. We’ve had a strong concentration in reading, mathematics and writing, but we’ve also introduced philosophy, architecture, theatre and art.”

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

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 the program coordinator 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 June, Springfield-based accounting firm BKD awarded the Scholars program with a $9,000 grant from the BKD Foundation to buy computers for the Scholars to use throughout the year.

In July, Drury hired Francine Pratt, the former President of the Springfield Chapter of the NAACP, to lead the Scholars as program coordinator.

Pratt says that the Scholars position combines two of her passions: children and helping young African-Americans realize their potential.

“I understand the Springfield Public Schools’ achievement gap between some African-American students and Caucasian students and I want to help close that gap,” Pratt said. “Being able to work one-on-one with students and the ability to give them opportunities that they may not even know exist, that excites me.”

Wellness goes for the gold

Drury was named a Gold Fit-Friendly Company by the American Heart Association.

In a letter to President Todd Parnell, American Heart Association Chief Executive Officer Nancy Brown said, “As a Gold Level Award recipient you have not only recognized the importance of a healthy workplace for your employees, but you have taken important steps to create a culture of physical activity in the workplace. Promoting a wellness culture by providing support to employees and implementing physical, nutritional and cultural changes are extraordinary efforts, and we commend you and your employees.”

Over the past several years, Drury has:

  • Installed air conditioning, flat screen televisions and new weight and cardio machines in Barber Fitness Center.
  • Began offering wellness classes for employees on-campus, including: yoga, tai chi, cycling, stress reduction and healthy cooking.
  • Implemented the President’s Walking Challenge, which provides incentives for employees based on pedometer steps accumulated, combined with percentage of weight loss.
  • Become a tobacco-free campus, to protect the health of students, faculty, staff and visitors.

“Wellness not only means that Drury staff and faculty are in better shape, it also means that they’re more productive, more present and happier,” said Amy Blansit ‘01, director of campus wellness and fitness. “There’s a whole body of research that shows that well organizations are better organizations and that, hopefully, means a better educational experience for our students.”

It's Raining CATs and Todds

By Kaitlyn Schwers ‘14

President Todd Parnell (left) and Vice President for Academic Affairs Charles Taylor complete their respective skydives

Two of Drury’s leaders took to the skies this summer, only to plummet quickly back to earth. President Todd Parnell and Charles Taylor, vice president for academic affairs, each marked separate occasions in their lives by skydiving from 10,000 feet.

Parnell turned 65 this year, and he was interested in taking a leap of faith – literally. It was his first skydiving trip, but he wasn’t alone. Parnell and his daughter, Patricia, faced the challenge together.

“Driving to the jump center in Miller, Mo., 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.”

Taylor also had the pleasure of skydiving with family members close by his side. Taylor accompanied his parents to celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary and his dad’s 83rd birthday.

“I was really quite proud of them. It was a terrific, once in a lifetime experience.” Taylor said, “It was a wonderful day. The experience is one that I honestly recommend for anybody.”

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Video: KY3 Feature
View more about Ilga Vise

Ilga Vise

Ilga Vise began teaching world geography at Drury in 1967, eventually teaching in the day school and advising evening school students before her retirement in 1998. Sandy Asher began as an instructor in creative writing at Drury in 1978 and was writer-in-residence from 1985 to 2003. She is a talented author of many books and plays for young people and adults.

The two women have known each other for over 40 years, and Asher has long wanted Vise to write down and share her stories. When Asher was invited to “bring a new play to New York University’s Provincetown Playhouse series, the first thing that came to my mind was Ilga’s story,” Asher said.

Vise’s life as a girl from Latvia is the subject for the one-woman play “Walking Toward America,” written by Asher and performed by Annie Meek Montgomery for the Springfield community this summer.

The play tells of Ilga Katais-Paeglis and her family’s plight to survive during World War II. After a month-long imprisonment in a forced labor camp, they were released on January 13, 1945. The family then began walking across Germany in the cold winter to find safety. They walked for two months and traveled over 500 miles.

The story of Ilga Vise can be found in the public library’s digital collection as part of The Ethnic Life Stories Project. In addition, the Open Eye Theater in Margaretville, N.Y. will restage the production in November.

The American Alliance for Theater and Education recently awarded the script the Unpublished Play Reading Project award, and it will be published soon by Dramatic Publishing Company.

Athletics Update

Scott Puryear
Director of Athletic and Event Communications

Drury finishes 30th in Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup

Drury Athletics finished 30th out of the 300+ NCAA Division II schools in the final Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup all-sports competition standings for the 2011-12 school year. Drury has finished in the Top 35 nationally for 15 consecutive years.

The Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup was developed as a joint effort between the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA) and USA Today. Points are awarded based on each institution’s finish in up to 14 sports—seven women’s and seven men’s.

Among the highlights for the Panthers this year were the eighth-straight national championship won for men’s swimming and diving and the national runner-up finish by the women’s team. Drury also picked up points for NCAA post-season appearances in women’s basketball, men’s and women’s tennis and women’s golf.

Panthers excel in the classroom and in competition

In 2011-12, the Lady Panthers basketball team posted the nation’s highest grade point average (3.709) at all levels, NCAA and NAIA, according to the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association Academic Team Honor Rolls.

“It’s just a tribute to the work ethic and sense of purpose of these young ladies,” said Coach Steve Harold, whose Lady Panthers finished 20-8 on the season, shared the GLVC West Division title and qualified for the NCAA-II tourney for a tenth straight year.

Despite leading the nation among women’s basketball teams, the Lady Panthers hoops squad did not have the highest team GPA on Drury’s campus. That honor goes to the women’s golf team, which posted a cumulative 3.72. That was the highest GPA in all of the Great Lakes Valley Conference. The women’s golf team set the pace with 10 Drury teams earning Team Academic All-GLVC awards.

Alumna Kelsey Ward honored by NCAA

Former Drury swimming standout Kelsey Ward has been named the nation’s female recipient of the NCAA’s prestigious Walter Byers Post-Graduate Award, one of the highest honors bestowed by the collegiate organization.

Ward, who has completed her first year of study at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, will receive a renewable $24,000 scholarship award. She was also a finalist for the NCAA’s Woman of the Year Award last fall and had a 3.97 grade point average as a student. She helped the Panthers to NCAA-II national championships in 2009, 2010 and 2011.

“Kelsey is the utmost example of the kind of student-athlete we want to recruit for our program,” coach Brian Reynolds said. “She made us very proud of her accomplishments, both in and out of the pool, during her four years at Drury, and certainly continues to do so with her efforts at medical school and the recognition that goes with this tremendous honor.”

Former Drury athletics director inducted into Springfield Area Sports Hall of Fame

The late Bruce Harger, the former Drury athletic director who guided the Panthers in their transition from the NAIA to NCAA-II level back in the mid-1990s, was inducted posthumously into the Springfield Area Sports Hall of Fame on September 25.

Harger served as Drury’s athletic director from 1988 to 2003 before his passing due to cancer. A former United States Air Force colonel, Harger was also instrumental in the formation of the Heartland Conference - Drury’s first NCAA-II league affiliation - and in helping the Drury program grow from six to 13 intercollegiate sports teams.

Joining Dr. Harger in the 2012 class is Dr. John Ferguson. He attended Drury from 1932-34 before transferring to Yale University where he also attended medical school. Dr. Ferguson returned to Springfield to practice medicine and became an accomplished amateur golfer as well as a loyal supporter of Drury athletics until his death at the age of 97 in June of 2012.

Both men are in the Drury Sports Hall of Fame.