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Drury takes first major steps in 25-year plan

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While Drury University’s campus stretches nearly 100 acres in Springfield’s Midtown neighborhood, a 25-year master plan is poised to boost the campus’ profile across the college town.

The first of the upgrades included the purchase of a prominent 1.5-acre corner lot at Benton Avenue and Chestnut Expressway – for a newly designed entryway to campus – and planned construction on the new home of Breech School of Business Administration later this year, said David Hinson, the Drury administrator over staff and operations. “We feel like we’re taking everything that makes Drury great and making it better,” he said.

Discussions on the long-range plan began two years ago, Hinson said, with the goal of better defining the university’s borders and visibility, while bringing residential life and academics back to the center of campus.

While the refresh will overhaul the look of campus, President Tim Cloyd said the new facilities are not the heart of the master plan.

“You don’t just build or expand to build and expand. Form follows function,” he said. “What are the buildings that we need to intervene in and build or renovate to be able to deliver the academic program that we’re envisioning?”

That academic vision rolls out this fall with Drury’s new day school curriculum, Your Drury Fusion. Provost Beth Harville said the basis for the model is to ensure work-readiness of each graduate by blending academic courses with experiential learning.

“Everyone who leaves Drury will have a credentialed experience that is both professional in nature and geared toward skills in the marketplace and also a credential that we call life, which is about intellectual passions and academic interests,” she said.

Incoming freshmen now will graduate with three credentials, which is a combination of a major, certificate and one additional major, minor or certificate of the students’ choosing. Your Drury Fusion bucks traditional single majors in favor of mixing in 12-credit-hour certificates consisting of three multidisciplinary courses followed by a hands-on capstone project.

Harville said the curriculum was the brainchild of faculty members, now numbering 100, and was spurred by Cloyd, who is wrapping up his third year leading the university.

“He challenged us to think about what type of educational experiences do students need to have to be successful when they graduate,” she said.

Visual changes
The first major physical step toward Drury’s campus overhaul began with the recent razing of a cluster of businesses – Autotronics gas station, Dr. Phil’s Glenstone Motor Co., Route 66 Food Shop and Ozark Mountain Gourmet Popcorn – operating at 700-730 N. Benton Ave. The university acquired the property last summer. Hinson said the move will boost Drury’s presence off Chestnut Expressway as the corner is slated for construction of an academic building, likely an expansion of health sciences from the adjacent Trustee Science Center.

“One big goal of the master plan is that it helps extend the shadow of the institution. It allows people from afar to see what we’re doing here,” Hinson said. “We start moving dirt here on the corner and it’s become the most popular conversation everywhere we go. That allows us entree into the academic program. It’s about placemaking.”

Other major campus improvements include ending car traffic on Drury Lane just north of Central Street, making the majority of the campus center a pedestrian promenade. As well, the construction of a new student center, residential halls and academic buildings are in the plan.

While university officials have formed its plans for future buildings and projects with New York City-based architecture and design firm Cooper Robertson & Partners LLP, the development staff and administration are fundraising to make the plan a reality.

Hinson said the university is on track to break ground on its first new building, the 53,000-square-foot Design Enterprise Solution Center, later this year. The new home for the Breech School of Business Administration will replace surface parking off Central Street and Drury Lane. The current Breech building will be repurposed and may eventually be demolished.

Cloyd said roughly 25 major donors have made five-year pledges representing about 65% of the Enterprise Solution Center goal.

The building also will house The Robert and Mary Cox Compass Center, which will serve as a hub for student advising, said Harville. Each student will have a faculty adviser, staff adviser, career planning and development mentor, and a success coach.

“The whole building, the way it’s designed, the way the classrooms are set up, the way there are going to be numerous project rooms for students … it really all is about Your Drury Fusion and really the types of experiences we’ll be providing students,” she said.

Cloyd declined to disclose the cost of the master plan projects, adding the university is in the quiet phase of the fundraising campaign.

“I believe in raising the money and building it the old-fashioned way, which is raising all the money in pledges first,” he said.

In the 2017-18 school year, Drury raised $20.9 million, some of which will go toward the master plan. The fundraising tally was up 121% from the year before.

When Cloyd arrived on campus as Drury’s 18th president in 2016, he identified aggressive fundraising among his plans for campus, along with doubling the $89 million endowment. As of the end of the 2017-18 school year, the endowment was $97.5 million, said Drury spokesman Mike Brothers.

Academic updates
In developing a new curriculum model, Harville said faculty engaged the university’s board of trustees and the business community to determine what skills students need to enter the workforce following graduation.

One of the key messages, she said, was that employers were “looking for employees who had the ability to address issues from multiple vantage points” and to “see more than just classes and grades on a transcript.”

That led to the concept of multidisciplinary certificates with hands-on projects that will be translated to a digital portfolio for students to easily showcase their work. She said the capstone projects would engage businesses and nonprofits directly by connecting students with a problem faced by a local organization and requiring students to develop real-world solutions.

She said most of the certificates utilized existing courses, but roughly 35 new courses were added and a number of courses were retooled.

“Our current general education model is fairly traditional where students take a breadth of courses, but they’re not directly connected to one another,” Harville said. “Instead of taking classes that were unrelated … we wanted to be much more explicit in connecting courses together around topics and issues.”

Drury’s traditional, or day school, fall enrollment is up 13 percent since 2015, at 1,491 students in 2018, said Brothers. The university’s overall student population, however, has steadily declined in the same time period. It’s down 36 percent from 4,646 students in 2014 to 2,987 this spring. Cloyd attributed the decline to the low unemployment rate and the flux in the economy that sent professionals back to school after the Great Recession.

Hinson said better preparing students for life after Drury is the goal of the revamped curriculum and related master plan, but he also noted recruitment as a goal.

“Your Drury Fusion is geared toward marrying that aspect of passion and profession. You have to cut through the noise. You can’t just be a beautiful campus in flyover country,” he said. “You have to speak to ‘why Drury?’”

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