Article Category Archives: Around the Quad

Cheers to Truman!

University Celebrates 21 years at No. 1

This school year kicked off the same way as the last 20 – with Truman at the top of the Midwest regional rankings compiled by U.S. News & World Report.

Truman was listed as the No. 1 public university in the Midwest regional category in the 2018 Best College rankings. Overall, Truman was No. 8 among both public and private schools. It was the only Missouri university in the top 10, and it was the state’s only public school listed among the top 85 institutions rated in the Midwest regional rankings. This makes the 21st year in a row Truman has earned the top spot.

Truman received high praise as one of U.S. News & World Report’s 2018 Best Value Schools. In the “Great Schools, Great Prices” section, Truman was the No. 1 public university – No. 2 overall – for the Midwest region. Of the 15 schools included on the list, Truman was one of only two public institutions.

U.S. News & World Report bases its rankings on several indicators of academic excellence, including graduation and retention rates, assessment by peers and counselors, student-to-faculty ratio and alumni giving rate. Complete listings are available at usnews.com/colleges.

Truman also placed well in the 2017 College Guide and rankings conducted by Washington
Monthly, coming in as the No. 4 master’s university in the nation. Truman has become a fixture in the Washington Monthly rankings, finishing in the top five in each of the last five years.

The Washington Monthly rankings are unique in that they place an importance on social mobility, research and service. Along with traditional benchmarks such as graduation rates and costs, schools are rewarded for criteria including the number of first-generation students enrolled and the number of students contributing to community service projects, participating in ROTC and going on to serve in the Peace Corps. Additionally, Washington Monthly looks at the number of bachelor’s recipients who go on to earn a Ph.D. and the success rates and earning potential of students 10 years after enrollment.

Washington Monthly ranked nearly 900 institutions across the categories of national universities, master’s universities, liberal arts colleges and baccalaureate colleges. Truman was the only Missouri school to be included in the entire top 150 entries for the master’s university category, and it was the state’s only public school to crack the top 40 in any of the four categories. 

Truman’s affordability led to another distinction in this year’s ranking. In the supplemental category, “Best Bang for the Buck,” Truman was recognized as the No. 6 public school – No. 17 overall – in the Midwest region.

The college guide and rankings appeared in the magazine’s September/October issue and can be found online at washingtonmonthly.com/2017college-guide.

Photo Donation Honors University History

During this sesquicentennial year, those interested in University history have a new resource to explore thanks to a unique donation from an alumnus.

In the summer of 2017, John R. Andrews (’83) generously donated an old photo album containing 1860s and 1870s tintype photos to the University. His hope was that such a collection might generate additional interest and spark research opportunities during Truman’s 150th anniversary.

“Images tell such a more interesting story than just facts,” Andrews said. “I was hoping this album would be a great tool for the sesquicentennial celebration, to tell real stories.”

The album contains tintypes and early photographs of Joseph Baldwin, John R. Kirk and William P. Nason, as well as many other faculty and students from the earliest years of the normal school.

“We deeply appreciate Mr. Andrews’ gift to the University archives,” said Amanda Langendoerfer, associate dean of libraries for special collections and museums. “An album containing early photographs of our founder and the other people who helped shape the University is indeed a treasure. Donations such as this one help us keep our legacy alive.”

The album, which is now part of the University’s special collections, is currently on display in the Ruth W. Towne Museum and Visitors Center.

Also on display is “Truman Memorabilia Thru the Years,” which spotlights some never-before-exhibited objects that tell the story of the University’s history. It includes china cups from the normal school, a 125th celebratory license plate, colorful Homecoming memorabilia and much more. One feature of the exhibit is the story of the 1924 campus fire as told by student and former faculty member Pauline Dingle Knobbs. Her account can be heard at library.truman.edu/gallery/BaldwinFire/big_fire_baldwin.asp.

Joseph Baldwin and professors of the normal school are pictured in a photo album on display in the Ruth W. Towne Museum and Visitors Center.

NSF Grant to Provide $1 Million for STEM

Truman has received a $1 million grant to support students pursuing majors in the agriculture science, biology, chemistry and physics departments.

The five-year Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (S-STEM) Program, administered through the National Science Foundation, will provide more than $600,000 in scholarships for participants. In addition to receiving academic and professional development support from Truman’s STEM Talent Expansion Programs (STEP) Office, participants in the STEP Scholars Program will also enroll in a unique four-year series of scaffolded interdisciplinary research seminars and have the opportunity to earn a proposed interdisciplinary minor in scientific research.

The Truman team is led by Barbara Kramer, professor of chemistry; Stephanie Maiden, assistant professor of biology; and Tim Walston, associate professor of biology and interim dean of the School of Science and Mathematics.

More information about the STEP Scholars Program at Truman can be found at step.truman.edu.

Celebrating 150 Years

Sept. 2 marked the start of the University’s 150th year, but the festivities began a little early.

Truman is in the middle of a celebration of its sesquicentennial, which officially started July 1, 2017 and will conclude in May 2018. Since late summer, reminders of the anniversary have been popping up all over Kirksville, including on the street banners surrounding campus and the doors of most buildings. The 150 logo can be found on a number of T-shirts and memorabilia as well.

A back-to-school bash in August was the first campus celebration. Students, faculty and staff marked the start of the school year with games and live music on the quad, along with a 150th birthday cake. September saw Truman host a community event in conjunction with A.T. Still University, in the midst of its own 125th anniversary, and the city of Kirksville, which is celebrating 175 years.

Special events at Homecoming included ribbon cutting ceremonies for the newly reopened Baldwin Hall and improvements to the track, field and press box at Stokes Stadium. A concert featuring alumni bands was also scheduled during the weekend.

Students graduating this year will have the inside of their diploma cover adorned with an embossed, gold foil sticker of the 150th logo, and the Alumni Office will be giving them sesquicentennial T-shirts to mark the milestone.

During the school year, the weekly Truman Today newsletter has included small stories revisiting historical moments and bits of trivia from the University’s first 150 years. The archived stories can be found at 150.truman.edu/memories, and the most recent issue can be found at trumantoday.truman.edu.

McNair Program Receives Grant to 2022

Truman’s McNair program has been refunded by the U.S. Department of Education, and service to first-generation, income-eligible and underrepresented minority students will continue through at least September 2022.

The five-year award for more than $1.3 million in federal funds is matched by $97,850 per year in funds from Truman as well as generous in-kind support provided by University faculty and staff across campus offices.

Students participating in the Truman McNair program are encouraged to pursue graduate study leading to a Ph.D. or research doctorate degrees in a wide variety of fields. The program provides paid summer internships, graduate school preparation, faculty mentoring, academic advising and the opportunity to conduct an original research project as well as participate in a vibrant community of learners.

Truman McNair usually admits sophomores and juniors, but any student who has been involved in undergraduate research, or is potentially interested in doing so, is encouraged to meet with the McNair staff to determine whether they are eligible and whether the program may be a good fit for them. In this new grant cycle, Truman initiated a Pre-McNair Fellows program that allows McNair-eligible students with interest in graduate school to learn more about what they do.

For more information on the program, eligibility or the application process, visit mcnair.truman.edu or call (660) 785-5393.

Interfaith Connections Strengthen Student Bonds

Social niceties suggest it is best to avoid religion and politics as topics of discussion. With emotionally charged subjects, conversations can easily escalate from discussion to division, further increasing the chasm between participants. Students in one particular organization, however, are doing their part to create an atmosphere of understanding with the hope of finding common ground.

Hillel is Truman’s only Jewish organization, and while it is not unusual for the group to have non-Jewish members, the past year saw the inclusion of its first Muslim member.

A health science major from Kansas City, Mo., Maha Mohamed was always interested in learning more about the Jewish faith. After reading some ancient Jewish literature, she saw many parallels with her Islamic faith. She found it disturbing the groups had been fighting for so long with no intent of reaching a solution. During an especially rough time in Palestinian-Israeli relations, Mohamed began a friendship with fellow student Tori Thompson, a member of Hillel.

“I had met a lot of Jews in my life and had been good friends with them, but she was one of the only ones to openly talk about her faith with me,” Mohamed said.

Thompson invited Mohamed to a Hillel meeting, but she was reluctant to attend, assuming she may not be accepted. After about a year, and many invitations from Thompson, Mohamed came around, based in part on her experiences in the Muslim Student Association.

“I didn’t know how Hillel members would receive me initially, and I assumed they would be uncomfortable with my presence,” she said. “But, in MSA we always encourage people who aren’t Muslim to join us, and I assumed Hillel would be the same.”

Mohamed found the group to be friendly and welcoming, and she continued to attend meetings.

“Hillel members have taught me more about Judaism than any history book about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict ever has,” she said. “It’s that willingness to learn from the people of the group you’re studying that will push this generation on a positive and inclusive trajectory.”

That sentiment is also shared by the members of Hillel.

“We have had people in the organization who are not Jewish, and every new person and viewpoint gives us different insights on what we can do and how to improve from year to year,” said Devin Gant, president of Hillel.

Members of Hillel were so impressed by Mohamed’s contributions to the group they elected her to serve as the organization’s vice president for the current school year.

“This decision was not based upon her faith, but rather our faith in her,” Gant said. “Her faith does not diminish her ability to serve in that role. Even though we might have different viewpoints, and subscribe to different religious ideologies, we both want what is best for Hillel.”

Mohamed hopes to use her leadership role to build relationships with other campus religious organizations like she has already done with Hillel and MSA.

“We can’t claim to try to build bridges with other groups if we’re always just with our group and in our comfort zone,” she said.

Hillel students Devin Gant, Maha Mohamed and Tori Thompson

Progress Continues On Campus and in the Community

For alumni and friends who have not been back to Kirksville in quite some time, certain elements of town and the campus might look a little different. The community has seen steady improvement in recent years, and the progress is starting to show.

In December 2015, Kraft Heinz announced a $250 million expansion of its facilities in Kirksville. The deal included a guarantee the company would employ in the neighborhood of 500 full-time positions through 2026. Commercially, the area has seen a ripple effect, with more stores and restaurants having already opened, or with plans to do so in the near future.

Among the new businesses in town are two hotels, one near the North Park complex and one at the south end of town near the intersection of Franklin Street and Highway 63. The additional hotel rooms should make it easier for visitors to find lodging during graduations, Homecoming and Family Day. The increase will afford Truman the opportunity to host expanded athletic events such as conference tournaments and championships. Information on securing a room can be found at visitkirksville.com.

Members of the Kirksville community have also come together to support various infrastructure projects. In April 2016, voters overwhelmingly supported extending the economic development sales tax, which had previously been used to aid in the expansion of Highway 63 to four lanes and the bypass project. A majority of the revenue is now invested in repairing and maintaining the local streets, with about 25 percent of the funds directed toward economic development.

The following April, voters went to the polls in support of a half-cent parks and recreation sales tax predicted to generate an estimated $1.2 million annually for the city’s parks and programs during the next 15 years. A new aquatic center is part of the plan with the passage of the tax, the location of which is still to be determined.

An all-volunteer community organization is working to construct a four-mile paved trail system connecting Thousand Hills State Park with the city. The Forest Lake Area Trail System (FLATS) has been in operation since 2009, and the first of a three-phase project was completed in December 2015 with the addition of an eight-foot wide concrete path between the park’s campground and marina areas. FLATS received a $147,000 federal grant to help complete the next phase of the project – a .7-mile section running west from Osteopathy Street on the south side of Missouri Trail – and expects to begin construction in spring 2018. The group has collaborated with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, the city, county and the National Park Service to ensure the trail meets the needs of all residents. Fundraising efforts have included partnerships with area businesses, and, most notably, the FLATS Uncle Sam 5K Run during the Independence Day holiday and the FLATS Trail Half Marathon each fall.

Specific to Truman, the University continues to maintain the aesthetic charm of campus and the structural integrity of its buildings, all while operating on a tight budget. This fall saw the reopening of Baldwin Hall, which had been shuttered during the previous school year while the nearly 80-year-old building received upgrades including new heating, air conditioning, lighting, plumbing, wiring, walls and flooring.

Baldwin Auditorium

Since opening in 1938, Baldwin Hall had seen little in the way of renovation. An elevator was added in the late 1980s, and the building received some structural attention to the exterior in the summer of 2012. Previously, the largest capital improvement to Baldwin Hall included the addition of the auditorium in 1959. Under the recently completed renovation, the auditorium received new paint and updated lighting.

While Baldwin Hall might be most widely known for its auditorium, much of the 85,000-square-foot building is dedicated to academics and student services. The first floor is now home to the Study Abroad Office, the Center for International Students and the Multicultural Affairs Center. Along with 47 offices for faculty members and GTRAs, the rest of the building now houses two large classrooms, two seminar rooms and 12 general classrooms. Other academic areas include five collaborative study rooms, two foreign language computer labs and six dedicated foreign language tutor rooms. Additional functional spaces include six music practice rooms, interfaith prayer spaces and two conference/meeting rooms, as well as informal lounges and study spaces on all three floors. A major component of the update is new restrooms on all three floors.

Stokes Stadium

On the other end of campus, Stokes Stadium received several notable improvements in the previous year. New turf and a new, larger track were unveiled in the fall. Additionally, a new press box was added, primarily with funding provided by private donors after years of the Office of Advancement pursing gifts specifically for the project. The press box facility includes a new ticket booth on the ground level, an elevator, restrooms, two hospitality suites and six suites that are used for game operations.

Notable projects still in store for the campus include continued work on the mall. The area between the Student Union Building and McClain Hall was renovated in 2015. Currently, the Office of Advancement is conducting a brick campaign to renovate the remaining area directly to the east of the Student Union Building (click here). More information on that project, including how to purchase a personalized brick for the campaign, can be found at 150plaza.truman.edu.