Article Category Archives: Around the Quad

SKGRSP, Find Out What It Means

The University is known for its beautiful grounds, and now visitors have a new spot to consider for their favorite place on campus.

After years of planning, a total makeover of the campus mall and a generous gift from an alumna, Truman has a functional area for events, complete with an updated fountain. The Sandra K. Giachino Reavey Sesquicentennial Plaza was officially unveiled in late 2019, so many alumni and friends have yet to visit the location in person.

Often referred to as the SKGRSP by students, the plaza is the culmination of Truman’s 150th anniversary brick campaign and a naming-level donation from the estate of alumna Sandra K. Giachino Reavey.

A Kirksville native and 1962 graduate of Truman, Reavey earned a Bachelor of Science degree in business education. In addition to the plaza naming gift, she also established the Sandra K. Giachino Reavey Scholarship to support Kirksville High School graduates who are majoring in business at Truman. Reavey passed away in January 2018.

The plaza features inscribed bricks and pavers that were donated through the sesquicentennial campaign. The brick lookup tool, available at, can be used to pinpoint the section where bricks or pavers are located on the plaza.

The fountain includes nine water spouts and 17 LED lights that can be set to different colors and run multiple programs. The new space has quickly become a popular location with students and visitors. Students have also started a new tradition of running through the fountain during the Truman Week ice cream social.

Greenwood Project Picks Up Steam

A massive project several years in the making is set to become a reality after significant funding has been secured from multiple sources.

Since 2015, the Greenwood Interprofessional Autism Center has been Truman’s vision for the former elementary school located at the corner of Halliburton and Normal. When complete, the center will provide in-depth, interdisciplinary assessment and intervention for children with autism or suspected autism, as well as other neurodevelopmental disorders.

This past year saw the University receive support in the form of state appropriations and potential federal funding. In June, spearheaded by state Sen. Cindy O’Laughlin, the Missouri legislature appropriated $4.6 million for the project. In the most recent federal appropriations bill, U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt earmarked $3.42 million for facilities and equipment, along with an additional $900,000 to expand degree programs. This appropriations bill is now moving through Congress.

“While at times the challenges of obtaining funding for the Greenwood Interprofessional Autism Center seemed insurmountable, Truman and the community never gave up. The drive to address the unmet needs of our community kept all of us going,” said University President Susan L. Thomas. “Truman is honored to lead this truly collaborative effort to make the center a reality, and we are enormously grateful for the dedication and hard work of so many to make it happen. The unrelenting efforts over the past six years are a true testament to the caring, committed and resilient nature of our University and the community.”

In addition to state and federal support, Truman has received a $1.1 million grant from the Sunderland Foundation of Kansas City and community support from the Adair County SB40 Developmental Disability Board in the form of financial backing to develop a cost analysis and initially fund an executive director position. That position is slated to be filled as soon as possible and will be responsible for the successful planning, administration coordination and management of the center. The director will serve as the primary supervisor and coordinator for all faculty, staff and external collaborative partners associated with the center and provide the leadership and vision that drives its future growth.

The Greenwood Interprofessional Autism Center will be staffed with licensed professionals and provide a variety of services. It will also offer opportunities for graduate and undergraduate students enrolled in academic programs at Truman and A.T. Still University to gain real-world experience in their fields.

Originally built in 1935, the Greenwood School served elementary students in Kirksville for more than six decades. Truman bought the building in 1999 when the Kirksville School District built a new elementary school, and the property has primarily been used as a storage facility since that time. Expected completion of the Greenwood Interprofessional Autism Center is fall 2023.

More information about the Greenwood Interprofessional Autism Center, including a timeline, funding history and information on how to support the project, can be found at

State Support Will Lead to Increase in Nursing Students

Truman secured more than $500,000 through the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) fund that will soon lead to an increase in the number of nursing students and ultimately help the state’s workforce.

A project of Missouri’s Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development, GEER funds were created in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. They are designed to provide educational opportunities for students, drive progress toward economic recovery and meet specific workforce needs.

“We receive more student applicants for nursing than we have capacity to enroll, so this addresses some of the issues preventing increased admission,” said Brenda Wheeler, Nursing Department chair and associate professor of nursing. “Also, the nursing profession continues to have high demand in the job market.”

Impacts from GEER have already been seen with the addition of two temporary nursing faculty members. A tenure-track position is being advertised as well. New faculty members will enable the department to restructure its clinical offering, allowing for more students to participate. Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) students and Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) students will have classes on opposite days, with clinical offerings taking place on the alternate days.

“We anticipate that we can increase our student enrollment by using a varied clinical schedule. While this will allow for increased use of our clinical sites, the redesign will require additional faculty,” Wheeler said. “The first cohort in the redesigned ABSN program will begin in summer 2022.”

While the nursing program typically enrolls about 220 students, it should be able to accommodate an additional 20 students per year once the new structure is fully in place. The ABSN program is 15 months in length, so once the program gets started, there will be an overlap of students beginning and completing the program each summer.

Another key benefit of the GEER funding will be the addition of cutting-edge technology. Among the new equipment the University has purchased with GEER funding is a high-tech geriatric simulator.

“We did not have a geriatric simulator with the capabilities this new simulator provides,” Wheeler said. “The simulator offers the opportunity for a much more realistic clinical exposure to the geriatric clientele.”

Other equipment slated to be purchased with GEER funding includes three point-of-care computer medication carts, which will enable students to simulate safe medication administration at the bedside. Additionally, bedside workstations on wheels with new laptop computers will allow students some opportunities for patient electronic bedside charting.

Capital renovations were also included as part of Truman’s grant. Portions of the Pershing Building will be converted into learning spaces for nursing, allowing the program to accommodate more students.

Truman was able to secure these competitively awarded GEER funds thanks to the collaboration of the School of Health Sciences and Education, the Nursing Department, the Business Office and the Provost’s Office.

JBA Looks to Establish Alumni Network

At the onset of the pandemic, most of Truman’s summer programming for pre-college students was suspended. Joseph Baldwin Academy was the lone exception, as sessions were swiftly converted to online offerings.

“The virtual JBA program got very positive feedback from those who participated, but students and their families were disappointed it was not in person,” said Jeanne Harding, director of the Institute for Academic Outreach.

For summer 2021, JBA returned to in-person programming, and the academy saw participation levels on par with pre-pandemic numbers. More than 360 students came to Kirksville to take part in one of the two available summer sessions.

“It was refreshing to have students back on campus,” Harding said. “JBA is best experienced in person, and there was an excitement and energy created by having our scholars in classrooms and residence halls.”

Other summer offerings also returned to in-person formats, including the ATSU-Truman Healthcare Academy, designed for students in grades 9-11 interested in health-related professions, and JBA Jr., for students in grades 4-6. All three programs saw participation levels at or exceeding pre-pandemic numbers.

Although summer academies returned, they were not entirely “back to normal.” All University protocols were still in place, including social distance guidelines, facial coverings and additional meal options, such as eating outside or in the student’s residence hall room. For JBA, the closing reception and scheduled family visit day were also suspended to reduce travel to campus. Despite those challenges, participants and their families were glad to be back.

If JBA were a high school, it would be Truman’s largest feeder school. An estimated 10,000 JBA alumni have attended the University since the program began in 1985.

The Institute for Academic Outreach is in the early stages of developing a JBA alumni network. Students who attended the program are encouraged to provide their contact information online at

“JBA played a prominent role in the educational experience of many of our alumni,” Harding said. “We have a significant number of program alumni, and as we approach its 40th anniversary we would like to reinvigorate our ties with them. JBA is a unique program, and everyone who participated in it shares a special bond.”

The Joseph Baldwin Academy offers highly talented students a head start on their future university careers by allowing them to live like college freshmen for three weeks. Students move in to a residence hall, interact with fellow classmates and participate in discipline-specific courses. The primary goal is to increase their appreciation for education, intellectual engagement and the college experience. Students enrolled in grades 7-9 may be nominated by their school counselor or principal to participate in JBA. For more information, visit or email

Starting Strong

Truman’s new First-Year Experience establishes the framework for a lifetime of success.

Truman is a school that prides itself on being distinct, and nowhere is that more apparent than its new First-Year Experience for incoming students. Every college has some form of orientation or new-student programming, but Truman’s is designed with a number of lofty goals in mind. Not only does it help new students adjust to college, it establishes a foundation to help them succeed academically, socially and professionally for the rest of their lives.

To achieve such ambitious goals, Truman’s First-Year Experience was implemented in fall 2020. In addition to the existing Truman Week component, the University added a self and society seminar class and a symposium series. Each element of the First-Year Experience has a specific goal, and in conjunction with one another, the infrastructure they create puts students on a path to reach their full potential.

The self and society seminar courses are a selection of unique classes meant to inspire and engage new students with the big questions, cultivate their intellectual and practical values and foster their character as they become grounded in methods of critical, multidisciplinary and intercultural thinking.

“Truman students like to engage in ideas. I would say that’s something I’ve encountered with all the students that I teach at Truman,” said Jocelyn Prendergast, associate professor of music. “They’re excited about their content area or their major for sure, but they’re also really interested in wrestling with the big ideas, like ‘how am I going to be in the world’ and ‘what does it mean to be a good citizen of this country’ or ‘what does it mean to be a good friend,’ for example. Those are the kind of big questions we engage in these seminar classes.”

For the self and society seminars, students can choose from a variety of subjects. Past seminars have addressed topics such as sustainability, fake news and the psychological effects of music, to name just a few.

The self and society seminars are three-credit courses that run the entirety of the semester. They are taken in conjunction with the one-credit Truman Symposium, the final component of the First-Year Experience. While the seminars focus on thought, the symposium is about action, and it provides a shared experience for all new students.

“The idea of our symposium is to introduce students to Truman, to Kirksville, and hopefully for the students to form a community where the students can interact with each other and support each other,” said Vayujeet Gokhale, associate professor of physics.

The symposium consists of three distinct parts: a discovery component, where students learn about themselves and their new environment; an action project, which enables them to make a positive impact in the community; and a shared experience to help them come together as classmates.

“Developing a sense of community is a goal of pretty much everything we do at Truman,” Prendergast said. “Community is a pretty critical part of living a well-lived life. It’s important for us to consciously develop community so that we can make sure that everyone is involved, all voices are heard, and that everyone feels like they have a place, because we want everyone to have a place.”

For the discovery portion of the symposium, students are asked to choose one experience from each category of social, cultural, natural and self. The goal is to help students realize what it means to be a responsible member of the Truman community.

In the action part of the symposium, students choose from a list of projects to consider how and where they want to get involved, and they work with a small team of fellow students to achieve a common goal. Action projects have included a literacy outreach program for children in the community, combating light pollution and contributing to an accessible trail connecting Kirksville to Thousand Hills State Park. They are all noble endeavors that make an impact in town and on campus, but the value to students goes beyond the immediate returns of their projects.

“The first thing I would like the students to appreciate is that this is your chance to make new friends. This is the first time you will be taking a class where a significant number of students will be with you working towards the same or very similar goals,” Gokhale said. “So, it’s a chance to learn from them, to share your experiences with them and form friendships and bonds that can last a lifetime.”

The shared experience component of the First-Year Experience involves all new students coming together for a series of events, approximately one per month. It reinforces many of the ideas students encounter during their self and society seminars and their action projects. It also provides an opportunity to hear from alumni and leaders in the community.

By the time students have completed their first semester, they should feel like a part of the community, have a fundamental understanding of how to learn and work with others, and realize how their actions contribute to things beyond themselves. That combination sets them up for success the rest of their academic careers and beyond.

Truman Symposium Action Projects

The action projects of the Truman Symposium promote engagement, community and collaboration. For fall 2020 and 2021, student team members worked on projects designed to make a positive impact in the community and beyond.

CREATE: Making Your Mark
This class explored how art can celebrate and strengthen a community. Students got firsthand experience using art as a tool to educate and connect with those around them through the use of cyanotype, an alternative photo process, to create collaborative artworks.

DESIGN: Sustainability Through Puppets
Using materials that otherwise would end up in landfills, students collaborated to create found object puppets. They used puppet theatre to raise community awareness about sustainability, waste and recycling, creating engaging characters and stories that advocate for social change.

ENABLE: FLATS Accessibility Project
Students assisted the Forest Lake Area Trail System nonprofit organization to establish an inclusive, accessible trail head inside the city limits. Action projects included fundraising, a community educational presentation, marketing and publicity, generating funding proposals and researching accessible recreation.

ENGAGE: Connecting the Community
Students learned communication planning and strategies for community engagement. They applied these skills to create awareness of campus projects and activities, as well as building a sense of community for all of the symposium projects and affiliated partners.

EXPLORE: Welcome to Fabulous Kirksville
Based upon interests, students developed a project with a team of peers that connected Truman and the community in order to cultivate an appreciation for the richness of life in Kirksville. Students were able to participate in civic engagement, have fun and learn about their new home.

FEED: Hunger in Adair County
To help alleviate the problem of food insecurity, students dedicated time to researching, volunteering, collecting and growing food for people in need. By participating in the course, students learn to lead, serve, organize, research and take satisfaction in giving to the community in a meaningful way.

FOCUS: Mindfulness in Student Life
Being mindful means understanding how stress, anxiety and even one’s own thoughts can influence their actions, impacting their lives and the lives of others. Action projects explored how mindfulness can deepen an understanding of the world.

ILLUMINATE: Combating Light Pollution
Students learned about the harmful effects of light pollution and ways to mitigate it. They participated in civic engagement and activism by working with law enforcement, parks and city administrators to install night-sky-friendly outdoor lighting with the aim of establishing a ‘dark sky community’ in Kirksville.

READ: Literacy Outreach Project
Students passionate about reading and working with kids participated in outreach projects to support literacy and a love of reading in Kirksville children, pre-K to 5th grade.

REDUCE: Finding a Sustainable Life
This course examined how people structure their lives and how they consume in an effort to take charge of Earth’s limited resources and establish a sustainable future.

WALK: Move-In Community
Students in this class explored the literal and metaphorical values of walking while they reflected on their place in the landscape. They also used walking to get to know the Kirksville community.

More information about Truman Symposium action projects can be found at