Current and Past Presentations

Drury University > The Institute for Mature Learners > Current and Past Presentations

Presentations for March 2023

March 7
Mr. Rick Dines, Managing Artistic Director, Springfield Contemporary Theatre (SCT)

Topic: The history of the Springfield Contemporary Theatre, the impact of the pandemic and the exciting plans for the theatre’s future.

Now in its 27th season, SCT’s Managing Artistic Director Rick has directed over 60 plays. In addition, Rick’s directing credits also include productions in New York City, Kansas City, and elsewhere. Rick is also a performer most recently seen at SCT in the title role in Sweeney Todd.

March 14    
Dr. Lloyd Smith, Professor of Computer Sciences, MSU and a Member of the National Academy of Sciences.

Topic:  What is Artificial Intelligence and “ChatGPT” and what promise or threat to they present to our way of life?
As you may know, ChatGPT is one of the latest programs available on the Internet which creates text as though written by a human being. It can write term, letters, and much more.

March 21
Mr. Steve Pokin. Staff writer, Springfield Daily Citizen. He’s just “Pokin’ around!”

Topic:  Steve will share stories of his recent investigative reporting on the unusual happenings in the Springfield area. 
As a long-time journalist, Steve’s ventures into the Ozarks often result in interesting facts becoming well-known. He also has a passion for delving into matters of crime. 

Bio: Steve received his bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has worked for various newspapers including Greater St. Louis Journals, and was recognized as Journalist of the Year in 2009. He worked for nine and a half years at Springfield’s News-Leader and currently serves as the Springfield Life Columnist for the on-line Springfield Daily Citizen.

March 28
Lance Luria. M.D., F.A.C.P., A.B.O.I.M. Internal Medicine Specialist and President of the Institute of Integrative Pain Management

Topic: What is integrative medicine and why is it such an important aspect of health care?

Integrative medicine is the practice of medicine that reaffirms the importance of the relationship between practitioner and patient. [It] focuses on the whole person, is informed by evidence, and makes use of all appropriate therapeutic approaches, healthcare professionals, and disciplines to achieve optimal health and healing.

Bio: Luria is a graduate of Boston University of Medicine and has been affiliated with The Cleveland Clinic, Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City, and other well-respected medical institutions. 

Presentations for February 2023

February 7, 2023
Ms. Gwen Marshall
Equity and Access Specialist with Springfield Public Schools
Ms. Gwen Marshall will share experiences of working 35 years with parents and students teaching the power of loving and respecting themselves and others.  She has been involved in the creation of the summer Black History Academy and the theatrical production “The Milly Project.”
Feb 14, 2023
Ms. Cathy Webb
Dickerson Park Zoo docent and board member of the Greater Ozarks Audubon Society
Ms. Cathy Webb will speak on birds and their challenges in today’s ecological environment. She is an active participant with the Lights Out Heartland organization to promote awareness of light pollution.  She will be accompanied to our meeting by several small feathered friends.
February 21, 2023
Jonathan Groves, Ph.D.
Professor of Communication and Department Chair, Drury
The Community Focus Report for Springfield & Greene County is the biennial report card that highlights the community’s strengths and challenges—its Blue Ribbons and Red Flags.  Dr. Groves serves as facilitator for the report.
February 28, 2023
David Mitchell, Ph.D.
Professor, Economics, MSU
Cryptocurrency is a hot topic, but one that most of us don’t understand.  What is it?  How does it differ from “real” money?  Where does it derive its value?  Can it be exchanged for tangible goods and services?  Dr. Mitchell will answer our questions.

Past Presentations



Presentations for October 2022

October 4 – Cynthia Moore, MFA Adjunct Art instructor at MSU and OTC
“The Shakespeare Authorship Question” Did Shakespeare write Shakespeare? Yes, of course! But who was the person behind the name? Did the name refer to the man from Stratford-upon-Avon or could it have been a pen name used by another writer? Cynthia has been studying the topic for over 20 years. She will survey the clues and lay out the evidence for and against the suspects in what has been called the world’s greatest literary mystery.
October 11 – Sherry Buchanan, Ph.D., co-president of the League of Women Voters of Southwest.
Sherry will share information about HB 1878 which significantly changes several rules about voting in Missouri. She will also provide an overview of the League’s purposes and priorities.

October 18 – Dan Ponder, L.E. Meador Professor of Political Science, Drury University
The 2022 Mid-Term Elections-Part 1 This first presentation will examine the 2022 Midterms, placing the current political situation in context. Partisan polarization, which has been growing for several decades but particularly since 2000, makes it difficult for bipartisanship to take hold in the United States and makes elections increasingly predictable. This talk will examine midterm elections in historical perspective, what the recent round of redistricting, in Missouri and across the country, might mean for party fortunes in November. External factors such as President Biden, ex-President Trump, the economy, turnout, and the turn toward the 2024 presidential election, will be considered. Missouri State University Political Scientist Mark Rushefsky will join Dan Ponder in discussing the summary and answering questions

October 25 – Mark Rushefsky, Professor Emeritus, Department of Political Science, Missouri State University and member of IML
The 2022 Mid-Term Elections-Part 2 Mark will focus his presentation on policy issues that are facing the country and may impact the2022 elections at all levels. These issues include: abortion and reproductive rights, the economy, the war in Ukraine, culture wars, the Covid epidemic, crime and guns, education, and LGBTQ. It ends with a summary of the 2022 mid-terms elections that will come in a few short weeks, November 8th. Drury Political Science Professor Dan Ponder will join MSU Professor Emeritus Mark Rushefsky in discussing the summary and answering questions.

Presentations for September 2022

September 6 – Kyle Wiley Pickett, Music Director – Springfield Symphony Orchestra
Kyle will give an overview of the 2022-2023 Symphony season running September through May that includes both classical and pop concerts with this year’s theme “Swipe Right – It’s a Match!” all to be held at Juanita K. Hammons Hall.  You will also learn how our Springfield Symphony was one of very few Orchestras that continued to perform during COVID.

September 13 – Kai Sutton, President – Springfield NAACP
Kai will touch on being an active member of the community, the urgency to use your voice, and what issues the NAACP is focusing on and how students can join.

September 20 – David Stoecker, Clinical Supervisor – Preferred Family Healthcare
“Opioid Epidemic” want to learn more about opioids, why so many people are dying from them and how to save someone’s life? Don’t miss this presentation!

September 27 – Carol Miller, Distinguished Professor – Missouri State University
Carol will provide several examples of endangered species and efforts to save them. She will discuss her Mississippi visit to the long-leaf pine forest which provides necessary habitat for the endangered Dusky Gopher frog and the keystone species, the Gopher tortoise and much more.

Presentations for July 2022

July 5 – No meeting due to 4th of July holiday

July 12
Larry Woods, CEM – Director, Springfield-Greene County Office of Emergency Management

Emergency Preparedness: Living Your Best Disaster Life. 

Are You Prepared for Disaster? Make an Emergency Action Plan

When a disaster strikes, it’s too late to plan. Being prepared means planning ahead of time for you and your family. Regularly discuss the plan with your family, and update the plan as needs or circumstances change.

July 19
Kenda Burnham, Sr. Director Donor Recruitment, Community Blood Center of the Ozarks

Kenda will present compelling information about the importance of blood donation and the impact it has on our community. There will be some fun trivia to test your knowledge about blood donation, blood types and more. CBCO will also share a touching story from a local recipient who’s alive today thanks to generous blood donors. Find out what you can do to make a difference in your community.

July 26
Ilace Mears, Hammered Dulcimer Musician

Today’s hammered dulcimer is not your grandmother’s zither – nor is it a mountain dulcimer. With roots in ancient Persia, this versatile instrument lends itself well to a broad spectrum of musical styles. Learn about its evolution and listen to its expressive potential from Bach to Old-Time Mountain and Three Dog Night. Ilace is the 2016 Hammered Dulcimer National Champion and has declared her 17-year love of the instrument “the best mid-life crisis ever!

Presentations for June 2022

Presentations are held from 2-3 pm each Tuesday in Olin Library, lower level.

Institute for Mature Learners Curriculum

June 7
Missouri Courts, Judicial Branch of Government, Judge Jason Brown

In this engaging and interactive program, Greene County Circuit Judge Jason Brown will discuss three landmark cases addressing the extent to which the First Amendment’s free speech clause protects student speech, and, whether schools can regulate and discipline their students for speech that is generated off-campus, using social media. Two of the cases made their way to the U.S. Supreme Court, one of which was decided only a year ago. Come join this discussion and share your opinions! “

June 14
University of Missouri – Extension, Amber Allen, Field Specialist in Human Development & Family Science

“Keep Your Keys” Amber will discuss how to stay medically and physically fit to drive, when and how to prepare for “driving retirement” and other tools and resources to help keep you safe on the road.

June 21
Council of Churches, Tina Miller, Director of Math & Reading Buddy Programs

Starting next school year (2022-23), our Math & Reading Buddy volunteers can be any age. We still have our AmeriCorps Seniors RSVP volunteers as the majority of our “Buddies,” but we are hoping to engage volunteers of all ages. There is a need for Math & Reading Buddy volunteers in our local schools, learn what Buddies do, what the program hopes to accomplish, and how to volunteer.

June 28
Springfield Daily Citizen, Tom Carlson, Former Mayor who spearheaded the launch of the news site to help fill the void being left by traditional for-profit news organizations in the area.

David Stoeffler, former executive editor of the Springfield News-Leader, who is the President and CEO.
Springfield Daily Citizen is community’s newest news source — A new, independent, nonprofit and nonpartisan source of news for Springfield and Greene County launched in mid-February. The Springfield Daily Citizen is a digital-only source of news, focusing on in-depth coverage of local issues and on providing a daily slice of life in Springfield and the area. The staff of 11, including 8 journalists, is housed at Missouri State University. Learn about the background on the Daily Citizen and its goals to inform the community and be a catalyst for good in this presentation from Tom and David.

Presentations for March 22, 2022 – May 31, 2022 

March 22
Sara Forhetz, Lead Reporter/National Spokesperson & Ethan Forhetz, VP Public Engagement/National Spokesperson ~ Convoy of Hope
After 15 years on television as news anchors on KY3, Ethan and Sara Forhetz left the broadcast industry in 2021 to work for Springfield-based Convoy of Hope. Convoy is a faith-based international relief organization with a driving passion to feed the world. With a long history as an early responder in times of natural disasters, Convoy of Hope has been a Four-Star Charity as recognized by Charity Navigator since 2002. Convoy of Hope has served more than 193 million people since it was founded in 1994.  Please join us as they share the mission of this organization.

March 29
Erika Schwartz, Holocaust Survivor and IML member
Erika was born in a Hungarian Nazi ghetto in April 1944. Of the entire family, Erika and her mother were the sole survivors of the Holocaust. She will recount the story of the murder of her entire family and how she was able to change her life from one of depression and anger to daily celebrations of gratitude and joy.

April 5
Jessica Luras, Guest Advocate & Volunteer Coordinator ~ “Safe to Sleep-More than a homeless shelter”
Safe to Sleep is a homeless shelter for women in Springfield. In addition to providing year-round shelter to over 30 women a night, we are working with each guest on a case-by-case basis to find stable and sustainable housing.

April 12
Bill Piston & John Rutherford, Authors of “We Gave Them Thunder: Marmaduke’s Raid on Springfield and Hartville.
In the winter of 1862-1863, following a series of battlefield disasters, Confederate leaders in Arkansas attempted to recoup their fortunes by raiding Union supply lines in Missouri. The raid was led by Brigadier General John Sappington Marmaduke and his attack on Springfield (January 8, 1863) and Hartville (January 11, 1863), produced two of the most interesting, if minor, battles to occur in Missouri during the Civil War.

April 19
Tom Peters, Dean of Library Services, MSU ~ 100 Years of the Hillbilly Variety Show: From the Weaver Brothers & Elviry to Presley’s Country Jubilee 
Tom will describe how the hillbilly variety show as a type of viable commercial entertainment is over one hundred years old now, and it’s still going strong. Every hillbilly variety show combines four basic elements: the playing of music on instruments such as the fiddle, banjo, guitar, bass, and mandolin; singing; dancing; and comedy. Tom will discuss the formal and historic aspects and impact of hillbilly variety shows.

April 26
Dr. Peter Browning, History, Philosophy & Religion Faculty ~ Drury University
“Obesity, Health measurement, and the Food industry.” Dr. Browning wrote a short academic book that came out in 2019 will share with us his discoveries. It argued that the food culture in America has created ill health through its proliferation of highly processed foods but that society should not engage in discrimination based on body size. The language of obesity makes assumptions about the link between weight and health that are not accurate, and that harm people, especially women.

May 3
Laurie Davis and Ashley Fears, Education Outreach Coordinators, City of Springfield Recycle Right
Recycling….why bother?  Does it really matter?  And are there things I’m doing that might actually be contaminating my materials?  There really is a way to make sure you are doing your part to Recycle Right!

May 10
Helen Murray White
Boonville Road and the Butterfield Overland Mail Helen has written a history of the Overland Butterfield Stage Coach journey which passed through her ancestral farm that was established in 1870 just north of Springfield. She is the 5th generation to live on the farm and will present a slide show……etc. Helen’s book “The Murray Family, History and Heritage from Lena’s Trunk” has just been published by Heritage Books.

May 17
Kathleen O’Dell, Community Relations Director
Kathleen will provide an update on what’s happened and will happen at all branches of the Springfield-Greene County Library System since COVID 19.

May 24
Tom Van De Berg, Chief Forensic Investigator, Greene County Medical Examiner’s Office
Tom will discuss how COVID-19 pandemic affected work at the ME’s office. 

May 31
Amy Jardell, Executive Director, Ozarks Literacy Council  
Amy will discuss literacy in Springfield and how the community is working to increase its literacy rate, specifically adult low literacy, how to recognize it and how to help.


Presentations for February – March 2020 

February 4
History Museum on the Square: Then and Now
John Sellars, executive director

John will share scenes from old and new Springfield as he travels down memory lane and as a native Springfieldian, he has lots of them.

February 11
Springfield Ballet Company: Passion for Dance, Poise for Life
Ashley Walden, executive director, and/or Andrew Parker, artistic director

Discussion will center around Springfield Ballet’s history in the community, its mission, how it impacts the community and ways to get involved with the organization, if interested.

February 18
All Maps are Lies
Kelly Johnston

Maps spur our imagination. Maps transport us. In maps we trust. But all maps are lies. Filled with examples of maps from the Show-Me State and beyond, this presentation will forever change the way you look at maps. You will come away as a more informed and discerning map reader with an understanding that not only is it easy to lie with maps, it is essential.

February 25
Ozarks Literacy Council
Amy Jardell, executive director

Amy will discuss literacy in Springfield and how the community is working to increase its literacy rate, specifically adult low literacy, how to recognize it and how to help.

March 3
Investing in Education, Innovation and Economic Development
Allen Kunkel, associate vice president for Economic Development and director of Jordan Valley Innovation Center

The IDEA Commons district is home to the Jordan Valley Innovation Center and the eFactory. This presentation will provide an overview of the IDEA Commons district, and the expansion plans for the future.

March 10
A Debt of Dignity: History Flight’s work to recover missing American servicemen from World War II
Bill Garvin, director of Library and Information Services, Drury University

Bill will discuss his work as a volunteer with History Flight, a nonprofit dedicated to recovering the remains of more than 70,000 American servicemen still listed as missing in action from World War II, working in concert with the Pentagon’s Defense POW/ MIA Accounting Agency. Bill will describe the work he did on a project in July 2019 to recover the remains of three American airman lost on a bombing mission over Germany in May 1944.

March 17
Safe to Sleep: More than a homeless shelter
Jessica Lurass, Council of Churches

Safe to Sleep is a homeless shelter for women in Springfield. In addition to providing year-round shelter to more than 30 women a night, the shelter works with each guest on a case-by-case basis to find stable and sustainable housing.

March 24
Convoy of Hope: 25 years of delivering hope
Jessica Blake, public relations director, Convoy of Hope

Jessica will share the history and the mission having served more than 115 million people worldwide through six different initiatives: agriculture, children’s feeding, community events, disaster service, rural compassion and women’s empowerment. The group’s goal is to bring hope to people who need it most in the United States and vulnerable communities around the world.

March 31
Recycle Right
Laurie Duncan, education outreach coordinator, and Ashley Krug, market development coordinator, city of Springfield

Recycling, why bother? Does it really matter? And are there things I’m doing that might actually be contaminating my materials? There really is a way to make sure you are doing your part to recycle right.

April 7
Ten of the 6 Million: Please remember them, Hungarian Jews in 1944
Erika Schwartz, IML member

The family decimated by the Nazi Holocaust, Erika and her mother were the lone survivors. As one of the youngest Holocaust survivors, Erika has been a featured speaker in Los Angeles at the Museum of the Holocaust, the Museum of Tolerance and at various high schools. Now living in Springfield, she has told the story of her family at high schools and at the St. Louis Museum of the Holocaust.

April 14
A Region in Conflict: The Civil War era in the Ozarks
Dr. Brooks Blevins, history professor, History, Missouri State University

Brooks is the Noel Boyd Professor of Ozarks Studies at Missouri State University. He has written or edited nine books, including “Ghost of the Ozarks: Murder and Memory in the Upland South” and “A History of the Ozarks, Volume 1: The Old Ozarks.” His talk comes from his most recent book, “A History of the Ozarks, Volume 2: The Conflicted Ozarks.”

April 21
The Ethics of Eating: How do we eat in a way that is good to ourselves, others, animals and the environment?
Dr. Peter Browning, philosophy and religion professor, Drury University

In this presentation, Eating is more morally complicated than we might think. Peter will explore processed foods, health, weight and body diversity, world hunger, the treatment of animals and the impact of food production and consumption on the environment.

April 28
Boonville Road and the Butterfield Overland Mail
Helen Murray White, author

Helen will discuss her research on the Boonville Road and describe the Butterfield Mail Route to Springfield, which ran front of her old farmhouse. She will describe the route from Tipton to Springfield, the focus of her book, “Butterfield Overland Mail Route, a History of Early Settlers Along Boonville Road in Northern Greene County, Missouri.”


Past Presentations

Click here to see past offerings.