Author Archives: kbest

Autism Center Becomes a Reality

After years of planning, the Greenwood Interprofessional Autism Center will provide services for the community and give students hands-on experiences in a growing field.

This summer, the long-awaited Greenwood Interprofessional Autism Center should be fully operational, providing in-depth, interdisciplinary assessment and intervention for children with autism or suspected autism, as well as other neurodevelopmental disorders.

Since 2015, Truman has worked to convert the former elementary school into a resource for the community that also trains interested students for careers in the autism sector. With the help of the Missouri Legislature, federal funding secured by U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt and a grant from the Sunderland Foundation of Kansas City, a total of nearly $9.4 million was generated to bring the center to fruition. Adair County SB40 also contributed to salary for the center’s director.

“The community effort to bring this project to reality has been truly inspiring,” said University President Sue Thomas. “It is very exciting that Greenwood will now provide a much-needed service in the region, and Truman is proud to be the driving force behind this impactful project.”

A majority of the funding for the Greenwood Center came by way of the Missouri Legislature where the project received bipartisan support through three gubernatorial administrations and a number of local officials, most recently Sen. Cindy O’Laughlin and Reps. Danny Busick and Greg Sharp.

During the planning phase, many of the steps required to establish the center were conducted remotely. As the launch phase approached, Dr. Maryellen Jensen was selected as the new director to oversee the activity taking place on site. She previously served as a special education teacher at the Early Childhood Learning Center in the Kirksville R-III School District where she was the lead teacher in an early intensive behavior intervention classroom for four years. She continued to work with students as an in-district autism consultant and eventually as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst for the next six years at the school district. Before coming to Truman, she worked as a BCBA serving adults with autism and behavioral challenges in their homes and the community. She also worked for the State of Missouri as a BCBA contracted to rural school districts in need of behavioral analytic services.

“The Greenwood Interprofessional Autism Center is a dream come truevfor Kirksville and northeast Missouri,” Jensen said. “I know I speak for the entire Greenwood team in the belief that everyone deserves excellent service and opportunities to help them reach their full potential. We are excited to be a part of Truman and to serve the individuals in our community.”

As the center gets established, the academic components of its mission will soon be integrated and offer an outlet for students to enhance their skills. Licensed professionals will supervise Truman students enrolled in health-related academic programs including applied behavior analysis, communication disorders, counseling, education, exercise science, health science, nursing and psychology.

Services will also be available for Truman students who are on the autism spectrum.

More information about the center, including updates, available services and online inquires for potential clients and their family members, can be found online at

Academic Reorganization Provides Future Opportunity

By realigning academic departments, Truman is poised to build new programs that draw from the knowledge and skills of faculty members.

Starting this fall, Truman will operate under its biggest academic reorganization in nearly 20 years, with three distinct schools comprised of 18 departments. Since the 1980s, the University has operated with some version of schools or divisions overseeing subsets of majors. This new iteration is a reorganization based on current enrollment and staffing needs, while also creating new disciplinary bridges across existing majors and programs.

“Academic reorganization is a critical and organic part of sustaining a university’s academic drive,” said Eric Freedman, executive vice president for academic affairs and provost. “At Truman, we have pursued this work from a position of strength that honors our commitment to the liberal arts and sciences, as well as a broad range of professional fields. And we have pursued this work by drawing on the skills and expertise of our faculty while aligning with the needs and interests of our students and the world beyond our walls.”

While a forward-looking curriculum is an intended byproduct of the reorganization, it is important to note all existing programs will remain intact, no majors will be eliminated, no requirements will be changed and no personnel will be dismissed. Some programs may be shifted into different departments and possibly physically relocated on campus. Depending on the circumstances related to particular departments, the position of chair may change. Nothing related to the reorganization affects current students’ ability to graduate on their established timelines and with their desired degrees.

“Our students need to be able to construct a vision of the world and their place in it, and we believe creating stronger disciplinary bridges within newly aligned academic units will allow us to realize this honorable goal,” Freedman said. “The exciting aspect of this reorganization is creating new affinities within and across clusters of academic fields that better reflect the type of knowledge sharing and interdisciplinary collaboration that are so critical to answering big questions.”

All of Truman’s 72 degree offerings – including undergraduate majors and graduate programs – can be found under the School of Arts and Humanities, the School of Science and Mathematics, or the School of Business and Professional Studies. Each school has its own dean and associate dean.

More information about the academic reorganization, including an FAQ section, can be found at Details on specific degrees can be found at

Truman schools and academic departments starting July 1, 2024

School of Arts and Humanities

Art and Design

Communication and Theatre Arts


Languages and Linguistics


Social Sciences and Human Inquiry

School of Science and Mathematics

Agricultural and Biological Sciences

Computer and Data Sciences

Health Science


Physical Sciences

School of Business and Professional Studies

Business and Economics

Communication Disorders


Exercise Science

Military Science


Psychology and Counseling

Faculty Net Truman Nearly $1 Million in NSF Grants

Faculty pursuits of National Science Foundation grants have enabled Truman to secure access to two key pieces of cutting-edge technology.

In the past academic year, Truman faculty members helped secure nearly $1 million in National Science Foundation grants. One award has allowed the University to purchase a fluorescent confocal microscope. The other is providing Truman access to a supercomputer.

Through the NSF’s Major Research Instrumentation program, a cohort of five faculty members received $300,000 for the fluorescent confocal microscope, which will open research avenues and provide more hands-on opportunities for students. This unique tool can remove out-of-focus light from regions of a sample and can detect light emitted from a protein or molecule. Many techniques in cell biology use fluorescent probes to visualize where specific proteins or processes are happening in a cell. Taken together, this microscope gives users crisp, clear and detailed images of cell structure and function, which can help better understand animal development and even human disease.

A fluorescent confocal microscope is not something typically found at most undergraduate institutions. When interviewing for faculty positions in 2015, access to equipment like this was a high priority for Stephanie Maiden, associate professor of biology.

“It was one of the questions I asked – ‘does your department have a fluorescent confocal microscope?’ – and the answer in all cases except Truman was no,” Maiden said. “Other colleagues I know at undergraduate-focused institutions either do not have one or use one at a nearby R01 school.”

Truman previously had an older version of a fluorescent confocal microscope, which was also made available through the Major Research Instrumentation program, but the technology aged and it was too costly to fix or replace its components. Also, it was more difficult to use, so it was not readily available to students. This new model is more amenable to undergraduate use, which should lead to more course-based research projects, as well as expanded opportunities in faculty members’ independent research labs.

Maiden was one of five co-principal investigators who collaborated to secure funding. Brett Berke, associate professor of biology; Joyce Patrick, associate professor of biology; Hajee Mendis, assistant professor of biology; and Daniela Ostrowski, a former faculty member now with A.T. Still University, all played a role in securing the grant. All are pursuing research that benefits immediately by having a fluorescent confocal microscope. Additionally, the new equipment creates expanded research opportunities, as well as potential collaborative projects with ATSU.

Colin DeGraf, assistant professor of physics, was the co-principal investigator for a nearly $700,000 NSF grant that will provide Truman access to a high-performance computer (HPC), commonly referred to as a “supercomputer.” Truman is one of four primarily undergraduate schools – along with Missouri Western State University, Webster University and Southeast Missouri State University – collaborating to develop the HPC. Although the majority of NSF funding tends to go to research universities, schools like those in the consortium have been estimated to produce approximately 40% of STEM bachelor’s degrees.

Beyond career readiness, supercomputer access will expand potential research opportunities for Truman students and faculty members alike. That was a key factor in DeGraf’s involvement with the consortium. His current research examines how galaxies collide, which can involve looking at data from 15 to 20 million galaxies.

“On a very personal level, my research is computational. All of the research that I work on are using what are called cosmological simulations,” he said. “It’s a simulation that attempts to model as much of the universe as possible. Running those really requires a national- or international-level supercomputer.”

To solve the type of computationally intensive problems involved with research such as DeGraf’s requires a machine that can do a lot of calculations in a short amount of time. Central processing units have gotten faster over the years, but there are still limits in areas such as how many transistors can fit on a chip, or how to handle the heat they produce or transmission delays. Similarly, the number of cores a computer has will increase its speed. Modern home computers can have multiple cores, but it still is not enough to process the amount of data in some research. An HPC counters this speed problem by utilizing nodes, which are multiple servers networked together. Each node works almost like its own computer, but they can also work together to tackle bigger and more difficult problems. A single program can be run across multiple nodes resulting in more power and the ability to perform larger, more computationally expensive jobs. The current plan for the HPC in this project calls for 20 nodes, with each node having 128 computing cores and 512 GB of RAM.

Having access to this kind of computing power will allow for more cutting-edge research at Truman and can enable projects which would otherwise not be feasible. While his own research will benefit immediately, DeGraf foresees students getting the most out of this project. The NSF grant includes funding to send students to a summer workshop to learn more about high-performance computing so they can then act as student leaders on campus to help others make the most of the supercomputer. This will also provide them with additional hands-on experience with HPC use, administration and construction.

Students and researchers who benefit from the HPC could come from almost any scientific discipline. In their NSF application, DeGraf and his fellow investigators included cases ranging from astrophysical simulations, computational chemistry, data science, cybersecurity and genetics.   

Truman and its partner schools on the HPC project will operate as the Computational Infusion for Missouri Undergraduate Science and Education (CIMUSE) consortium. Initially, that group will consist of only the four institutions listed in the grant, but eventually more will be invited to participate. All primarily undergraduate institutions across Missouri will be eligible to join, and the CIMUSE consortium will look to expand in order to maximize the use of the HPC and the impact it has on both faculty researchers and undergraduate students.

“The goal of this project is to bring more supercomputer access to students across Missouri,” DeGraf said. “It will be used for faculty research, but also we want the best for all of our students, and the more experience we can give them, the better suited they will be.”

The HPC itself will be physically housed at the University of Missouri’s HPC center, but it will be accessible from anywhere in the world. Tentative plans are for Truman faculty and students to have HPC access as soon as the coming academic year.


Five Questions with Dave Rector

With 50 years of service to his credit, Dave Rector has seen a lot of change at the University. As the vice president for administration, finance and planning, he’s also had a hand in many of those changes. His financial stewardship is one of the key reasons Truman is poised for success at a time when the forecast for higher education isn’t always sunny. Don’t expect Rector to take any credit, though. He prefers to avoid the spotlight, and cites the solid foundation put in place decades ago, along with the ability to adapt to and create new programs, as reasons for the University’s sustained success.

Rector (’73, ’76) has a Bachelor of Science degree in history and a Master of Arts degree in social science. He also earned an MBA from the University of Oklahoma. Given those areas of interest, most people are surprised to learn about the activity that led him to campus and, ultimately, his wife.

As a native of Macon, Missouri, a town steeped in railroad history, it’s no surprise Rector has a love of all things train related, from books and maps to his occasional method of travel. When he is not investing his time with that longstanding hobby, Rector can be found working in the yard or spending time with his three grandsons.

How have you seen the University evolve during your time as an employee?

There have been significant changes in the institution ranging from the academic program mix, the organizational structure and the physical environment of the campus. In recent years I have been more involved with campus construction, and it is amazing the changes that have occurred, including acquisition of property adjacent to campus and the renovation and expansion of numerous buildings. Today’s campus has structures designed to support the mission. This was not the case 30-40 years ago when many programs were in temporary locations, including former private properties.

As you look to the future, what should alumni, students and friends be excited about for Truman?

I think Truman will continue to evolve and adapt to changes in demand for academic programs. Many of our new programs – data science for example – would not have been considered within our mission a few years ago.

What is something you wish everyone understood about Truman?

The University has a very solid financial base and should successfully adapt to the changes facing higher education over the next few years.

What is the nicest thing someone has said to you?

I’m not sure it’s a compliment, but I’m often told by others on campus that they wouldn’t want my job.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

My wife Carol and I both attended college here on full tuition music scholarships. We met in marching band.

More to be Done

A standout athlete at the University, Ellie Weltha is taking her talents to a new school.

As a sanctioning body, no one has ever accused the NCAA of being warm and fuzzy, but when the organization decided to extend eligibility for student-athletes who played during the COVID era, it made all the difference in the world to Ellie Weltha.

“That was the biggest reason for staying another year and getting my master’s,” she said.

For Weltha, the bonus season was not about putting off adulthood. It provided a way to achieve her dream of being a teacher. After transferring into Truman at the start of her sophomore year, Weltha didn’t think she would have enough time to earn a Master of Arts in Education before her scholarship was exhausted. The extended eligibility allowed her to earn two degrees from Truman and have a job offer in hand by the time she graduated in May.

Weltha started her college career playing Division I softball, but after one season she felt the urge to compete in multiple sports like she did in high school. When exploring transfer options, she was hoping to go somewhere closer to her home in Bloomington, Illinois. Truman’s charm, and the opportunity it presented, convinced her it was the right fit.

“I wanted to play more than one sport, and Truman was one of the few schools that was going to allow me to do that,” she said. “I wasn’t originally going to visit Truman, and as soon as I visited, I loved it.”

History will remember Weltha as one of the University’s most accomplished student-athletes. While she played in more than 50 softball games, she truly shined on the hardwood, earning all-conference honors four times, including three-straight appearances on the first team. She holds the record for games played at 127, and she finished her career at fourth all-time in scoring and second in rebounds. Weltha also walked on to the track and field team because “it looked pretty fun.” That turned into an All-America season and a ninth-place finish in the shot put at the national meet. For all those accolades, Weltha is quick to credit her teammates and coaches.

“I’ve been able to play with really good players and surround myself with people who make it a lot easier to do those things,” she said. “I’ve been focused on having fun with everything and enjoying everything while I can. Maybe in a couple of months or years I’ll be able to reflect on what I’ve accomplished.”

In addition to being humble, Weltha is a self-described easy-going person. Her ability to go with the flow should come in handy with her next endeavor as an elementary school teacher. She started working at the Kirksville Primary School last summer and did her MAE internship with a first-grade class during the fall. That experience worked out for everyone, and Weltha was hired to teach full time at Kirksville Primary starting with the 2024-25 school year.

“It was just a good environment. People are fun there, people are smiling, and it was very welcoming,” she said. “Kirksville is very homey. It’s been good to me. It will be good to get on my feet for the first couple of years and then see where life takes me after that.”

Staying in town also affords Weltha the opportunity to see her brother Jack play his final seasons for the Bulldog football team. The siblings have been
each other’s biggest supporters during their time on campus, and Ellie thinks one of her proudest moments on the court may have helped convince Jack to attend the University. His recruiting visit coincided with Truman hosting the No. 1 team in the nation, and Ellie’s late free throws secured an upset victory that sent Pershing Arena into a frenzy.

“I definitely persuaded him a lot that night,” she said. “It was good for him to be there that night.”

Her brother is far from the only person who was excited to follow Weltha’s success. During the past season, the team hosted a primary school night, and kids from her class came to cheer on their teacher. Even after completing the internship, her mentor teacher kept the class up to date with Weltha’s accomplishments.

“They were super supportive the whole year,” she said. “They don’t really understand what’s going on with college basketball, but they couldn’t care less. They’re just there to see me do well, and it’s been pretty awesome.”

Although her playing days may be over, Weltha is not finished with basketball. She will serve as an assistant coach for the Kirksville High School girls’ team in the coming season.

“I’ve met some of my best friends through sports. I have lifelong mentors in my life because of the great coaches I’ve had. They’ve impacted me and made me a significantly better person and athlete. I want to be able to do that for kids and athletes,” she said. “I don’t really want to leave the sports world. It’s enjoyable, and most of the time uplifting, and I would love to be around that for a while.”

All the Right Notes

A couple of serendipitous events led Jesse Krebs to a career he loves and a place he has called home for nearly 20 years.

Jesse Krebs arrived at Truman like someone who overslept for a flight and barely made it to the airport in time. Just two weeks before classes were to start, a last-minute vacancy came up at the University, and he quickly applied. As a native of North Carolina, he wasn’t overly familiar with Missouri – and for a brief period, mistakenly thought he was applying to a school in Montana – but by the time his inaugural year was complete, Krebs was all in on his impromptu decision.

“I quickly fell in love with the campus and people at Truman. It really is a special place made up of exceptional students, dedicated professors and supportive administrators,” he said. “I honestly can’t imagine a better place to raise a family and grow as an educator, musician and scholar.”

This fall will mark 20 years Krebs has called Kirksville home. He and wife Kate have three children together, and Krebs is now a tenured professor in the Music Department. It’s a pretty charmed life considering much of it is courtesy of an instrument he never wanted to play in the first place.

“I actually wanted to play the trumpet or drums in beginning band, but my parents had recently purchased a used clarinet from a yard sale, so they convinced me to play it instead,” he said. “I was one of the worst in the band that year, and I would have quit if it wasn’t for the encouragement I received to continue from my middle school band director, Mrs. Caves.”

With Caves’ support, Krebs worked his way from second-to-last chair to North Carolina All-State Band in high school, earning a music scholarship to UNC Greensboro. He would go on to add a master’s degree and doctor of music in clarinet performance from the University of North Texas and Florida State University, respectively.

Now the student has become the teacher. In addition to his course load, Krebs conducts the Truman Clarinet Choir and coordinates weekly applied lessons with all undergraduate and graduate music students who play the clarinet.

“Unlike typical professors who might have a student in class for one semester and then never really sees them again, in applied music we have the privilege of getting to know our students in very meaningful ways over a long period of time, from recruiting them from high school, all the way through their capstone senior recital,” Krebs said. “I tell each incoming class during Truman Week that this will be a journey on which we’re about to embark together, and I’m grateful to share in that journey with each of them.”

In recent years, Krebs has been able to share the journey with students beyond the Music Department. Since 2018 he has regularly taught the Junior Interdisciplinary Seminar class “Music and Political Protest.” Along with musical selections, the course incorporates readings from a variety of authors to examine patriotism, censorship and the power of music to create a sense of unity and solidarity as both an agent and mirror of change. Since it is an interdisciplinary class, Krebs gets the opportunity to watch as students’ pessimism in exploring a topic outside of their major turns to enthusiasm.

“As we go through the semester together everything changes. They become transformed – inevitably sucked in by the exciting music and fascinating stories – with the eventual realization that music is a crucial part of what makes us human,” Krebs said. “With high expectations and positive motivation, students can be encouraged to strive for more than they ever thought was possible. And when all the facts, dates, people and places have been long forgotten, I hope my students will still listen to and perform music with greater intensity and understanding, enhancing both their lives and those around them.”

Stepping outside of one’s comfort zone isn’t just something Krebs asks of his students, it is advice he takes himself. For the past few years, he has dabbled with a faculty rock band, playing live shows every Reading Day Eve. If nothing else, it gives him a chance to think about what might have been if not for his parents purchasing that yard sale clarinet so many years ago.

“It’s been a blast jamming out on bass or drums and singing pop songs to an energetic, dancing group of students,” Krebs said. “For me, this has been a wonderful way to relieve stress and build the sense of community in our department.”

That sort of ‘good vibes’ mentality is something Krebs tries to instill in all his students. He knows years from now they will not remember a low grade on a quiz or a note missed in a performance. Perspective and perseverance are what matter in the end.

“Don’t take any day for granted, and make the most out of every opportunity,” he said. “Play it loud, play it proud, and if you play it wrong, it will make you strong.”

Morris, Weltha Named Top Senior Student-Athletes

All-Americans Jacob Morris (track and field) and Ellie Weltha (women’s basketball/track and field) were named the Outstanding Senior Student-Athletes at the “Dogspy” Awards.

Morris owns three school records, the indoor weight throw, and outdoor discus and hammer throws. He is a four-time NCAA All-American, five-time conference event champion and a 10-time conference athlete of the week during his four years at Truman. A GLVC champion in the shot put this past February and repeated for the third time as GLVC discus champion in May. Morris has been a top three performer 12 times in either the indoor or outdoor conference meets. In 2023, he won the prestigious discus throw at the Drake Relays.

In May 2024, in his last event as a collegiate athlete, he won the national championship in the men’s discus throw at the NCAA Division II Track and Field Championships.

Weltha was one of the most versatile athletes in recent years at Truman. She lettered in three different sports: softball, women’s basketball and outdoor track and field. She is only the fifth Bulldog basketball player to earn all-league honors for four seasons, and is only the second player to garner first-team accolades for three-straight seasons.

Having played the most games of any women’s basketball player, Weltha finished her hoops career fourth on the all-time scoring list with 1,686 points and second in all-time rebounds with 1,100.

Weltha stepped into the throws during the 2023 outdoor track and field season and found immediate success. She was the GLVC champion in the discus throw and finished second in the shot put. After qualifying for the 2023 NCAA Division II championship meet, she was an honorable mention All-American in the shot put with a ninth-place finish.

Pair of Bulldog Hoopsters Named Conference Freshmen of the Year

Both the Truman men’s and women’s basketball teams had players earn the league’s Freshman of the Year award. Molly Joyce, women’s basketball, and Kobi Williams, men’s basketball, were voted by league coaches as the top newcomers of the past season.

Joyce led all GLVC freshmen in points per game at 11.9 and in field goals made at 93. She finished second in steals (25) and rebounds per game (3.8). After being inserted into the starting lineup Jan. 18 she scored in double figures in nine games, with four games of 20 or more points during the final 14 games of the season. Her single-game high was 24 points, scored twice against Southwest Baptist.

Williams was an impact player from the start of the season for Jeff Horner and the Bulldogs. He started all 29 games and was second on the team in scoring at 12.1 points per game. He also finished second in rebounds, first in steals and tied for first in blocked shots. Williams led all freshmen in the GLVC with a 12.3 points per game mark in conference games. He scored a season-high 29 points against Quincy, Jan. 11.

Gregg Nesbitt Retires from Truman Football, Kellen Nesbitt Named Interim Coach

After 14 seasons at the helm of Truman football, and more than 40 years of coaching, mentoring and leading countless players, Gregg Nesbitt stepped down
in February.

Nesbitt began his collegiate football journey at Stokes Stadium, as he was the leading rusher for the team in 1979. After rebuilding his hometown Hannibal Pirates from 1984-89, he returned to Kirksville and joined Eric Holm’s staff, helping lead the Bulldogs to two NCAA Division II playoff appearances and a 23-9 overall record.

Upon returning to the high school ranks, Nesbitt guided Columbia’s Hickman High School for 13 seasons cumulating in the 2004 Class Six state championship.

In 2010 Nesbitt was named the 22nd head coach at Truman and helped navigate the Bulldogs’ transition from the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association to the Great Lakes Valley Conference. In 2016, the Bulldogs claimed a share of the GLVC football championship, the first league title for the school since 1988 and 27th overall. The team won a school-record 10 games in the 2019 season and were the inaugural America’s Crossroads Bowl champions. In 2021, Cody Schrader led all three NCAA divisions in rushing yards and earned first-team All-America honors as the Bulldogs won nine games. The team has since posted consecutive 9-2 seasons and was consistently ranked in the top 25 by the American Football Coaches Association.

Longtime defensive coordinator and assistant coach Kellen Nesbitt was named interim head coach for the 2024 season. Under his guidance the Truman defense has been one of the top units in all of NCAA Division II. They have been first or second in the GLVC in both rushing yards and points allowed in nine of the 11 seasons and ranked in the top 25 of Division II schools in rushing yards allowed in eight of the past nine campaigns.

Kellen has coached 82 Bulldog players to all-conference defensive honors since 2010, including 34 first-team selections and four players – Austin Zoda, Isaiah Estes, Sam Reeves and Tremaine Millender – that were four-time all-conference honorees. He coordinated the special teams for the Bulldogs, which have been known for exceptional play in all three phases of the kicking game. Lawrence Woods was named an All-American and a GLVC Special Teams Player of the Year following the 2018 season.

Prior to joining his father’s staff at Truman in 2010, Kellen coached three seasons at his alma mater, the University of Central Missouri, as defensive backs coach. He was a four-year letterwinner for the Mules with more than 120 career tackles. He was the Special Teams Player of the Year in 2004 and earned the school’s Markey Football Scholarship in 2006.

1999 Men’s Basketball Team Honored For 25th Anniversary of Final Four Run

This spring marked the 25th anniversary of the men’s basketball team’s historic run to the NCAA Division II national semifinals, and the players of that team came back to Pershing Arena for a celebration, Feb. 3.

After suffering their worst loss of the season of 24 points and trailing by 20 two nights later to Washburn (Kan.) at halftime, the Bulldogs found lightning in a bottle following a three-pointer by Mike Peterson to win 67-65. That victory sparked a 15-game winning streak running all the way to the Final Four in Louisville, Kentucky. Along the way, the Bulldogs produced memorable games that were featured in a highlight video showed online and on the Pershing Arena video board. 

The team was inducted into the Truman Athletics Hall of Fame in 2009.