Local University, Amazing Opportunity

CGCS connects area students to a Drury education

Through a combination of evening and online courses, Drury's College of Graduate and Continuing Studies offers busy adults an opportunity to complete their college degree at nine locations throughout Missouri.

In adult continuing education there is no 'average' student; they vary in age, profession, life stage and background. The reasons are as varied as the students we serve, but the dream is specific: each individual has the need, want or desire to complete a college degree. Even while working full time, juggling family and community responsibilities, each student has a dream of someday becoming a college graduate.

CSM James Schulz
Ft. Leonard Wood

Battalion Command Sergeant Major (CSM) James Schulz collaborates with Drury University in Ft. Leonard Wood to ensure that his soldiers are well rounded and have abundant opportunities.

"In reviewing records, I noticed a number of my soldiers had spent a lot of little time in the classroom," says James. "I want to make sure they have ample time in Iraq and Afghanistan and very opportunities both inside and outside of the military."

Considering a military weekday typically starts at 4 a.m. and often ends at 9 p.m., weekends are often the only time available for classroom study. "I asked and got a lot of 'no's.' Then I met Raeleen Ziegler, the coordinator of Ft. Leonard Wood campus. She was amazingly supportive," says James. Together, he and Raeleen crafted a schedule designed to help soldiers work toward degree completion. Classes are held in eight-week blocks, for five hours each Saturday, with class sizes averaging 15-20 students. To date, approximately 75 soldiers have taken over 300 hours of classes.

"He has been an incredible advocate for his drill sergeants in helping further their education," says Raeleen.

James understands the challenges of balancing army life and education. "I just took my last English class and have now completed my bachelor's degree," he says. "It will be exciting to walk across the stage and receive my diploma."

Jessica Joiner

In 2007, having been out of high school for seven years, Jessica Joiner decided to return to school. "I had four children ranging in age from two to five," says Jessica. "I knew I needed to further my education to help my large family move ahead in life." As Jessica watched teachers work with her oldest son, who has Down syndrome, she was inspired to become an educator.

Jessica began taking classes at Drury's Lebanon campus and was motivated by how passionate the teachers were about investing in the success of each student. Drury provided hands-on experience in actual schools, and she loved every minute of it.

Toward the end of her junior year, Dr. Elizabeth Hargrave encouraged Jessica to apply for a scholarship. She wrote an essay about how growing up in rural Missouri has shaped her life. She was awarded a $4,000 scholarship from the Ozark Teacher Corps. The scholarship award winners were able to take trips to rural Missouri schools.

As part of her coursework, Jessica was given the opportunity to serve as a student teacher in the Joel E. Barber (JEB) C-5 School District, located just outside of Lebanon. She considers the 16 weeks spent at the small K-8 school to be invaluable. "I learned how important it is to have a supportive administration, that the classroom management course is very important, and that your school secretaries and janitors are angels from heaven," says Jessica.

Jessica's student teaching turned into a temporary substitute teaching position. She was then offered a full-time job in the JEB School District. "I felt fully prepared for the job due to the education I had received from Drury," says Jessica. "Through my coursework, I was able to experience so much and learn what grades would be the best fit for the educator I had become." Jessica is now a certified birth through sixth grade elementary school educator. She took additional courses through Drury so she could pass her Praxis for Special Education.

Gailene Altis

When she was 11-years-old, Gailene Altis developed a fascination with bears after hearing several of her classmates discussing a bear-sighting near their Missouri home. As she grew older, her love of conservation continued to grow. Now a biology student at Drury's campus in Cabool, Gailene is gaining the hands-on experience she needs for her dream career with the Missouri Department of Conservation.

Field research is a requirement for her biology degree program, and by networking with adjunct instructor and Missouri Conservation Agent Brad Hadley, Gailene was able to secure a research project with the Missouri Black Bear Project, which is designed to determine the size and distribution of black bears in the state.

"I never expected to actually get to see a Missouri black bear, but I not only got to see a bear—I got to touch a bear," Gailene says.

In fact, she was able to play a pivotal role in trapping, tagging and releasing three bears as part of the project. In May, she helped set her first live bear trap, and she could barely contain her excitement when the trap was successful.

"The next day, I got a call from Hadley saying, 'Congratulations, you trapped a bear,'" Gailene recalls. "It was a big red bear, weighing in at an impressive 385 pounds."

The following day, a second bear was snared in the trap she helped set, and this time, she was called out to help take measurements and equip the bear with a GPS tracking collar before it was sent back to live in the forests of southern Missouri.

"Nothing is cooler than seeing an animal that was thought to be extirpated from our state make a comeback," she says. "Had I not been able to attend a college locally, I would not have received this amazing opportunity."

Reporting by Barbara Weathers, Mandy Seaman and Jann Holland. Map design by John Dozier '12.

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