The Crow’s Nest — February 6, 2024

Park University Announces Top 10 Events, Stories from 2023

Park University celebrated another noteworthy year in 2023 as the University and its students, employees and alumni garnered national media attention, and earned international, national and local honors. Park’s Office of Strategic Communications compiled the University’s biggest events and stories of the year, and asked three members of the University’s staff and two Kansas City public relations professionals to pick their top 10 moments from 2023. The voting was extremely tight as only two of the 29 events/stories on the poll were named on all five ballots and two others appeared on four ballots. In fact, 25 of the 29 events/stories were named on at least one ballot. Here are the top three Park University stories/events from 2023:
          1.  The release of the blockbuster biographical film “Oppenheimer” over the summer put Park University and its Frances Fishburn Archives and Special Collections in the spotlight in Kansas City region news outlets in late July and early August. Three Park University alumni were connected to the Manhattan Project — a research and development program in World War II that produced the first nuclear weapons — a main feature in “Oppenheimer.” Joseph McKibben, ’33, Ph.D., Hugh Richards, ’39, Ph.D., and John Cory, ’42, participated in the Manhattan Project, two of whom played significant roles.
Mackay Hall          2.  Park University’s flagship Parkville (Mo.) Campus, and specifically, iconic Mackay Hall, was the subject of stories that appeared in Kansas City region news media on April 10. Mackay Hall’s clock tower was struck by lightning during a morning storm, prompting numerous fire and emergency crews to be summoned to the scene.
Dr. Matt Harris          3.  An article authored by Matt Harris, Ph.D., associate professor of political science, was published in The Conversation on July 24. The article, which was also picked up by media outlets around the globe, was titled “The Taylor Swift Official State Sandwich: Politicians Understand that Swifties are a Key Demographic.”

Read about the rest of the top 10 at

Andrew ShoffnerShoffner Appointed Vice President for Strategic Initiatives

Park University President Shane Smeed announced in late January that Andrew Shoffner, Ph.D., has been appointed as vice president for strategic initiatives, effective Feb. 5. As VPSI, Shoffner will synchronize and coordinate efforts across University departments and the administration. He will oversee and guide critical strategic initiatives, ensuring they align with the University’s goals and contribute to its overall success. Shoffner will also assume oversight responsibility for Park’s Vision 2025 strategic framework and lead the development and implementation of a longer-term strategic plan in collaboration with senior leadership, faculty and staff.

Additional responsibilities will include: fostering collaboration across departments and disciplines to enhance the integration of strategic initiatives and promote a unified approach to achieving institutional objectives; coordinating efforts for increasing revenue and balancing the budget; utilizing data and analytics to inform strategic decision-making and monitor the progress of initiatives; working closely with financial and administrative teams to allocate resources effectively, ensuring optimal support for strategic initiatives; providing regular updates to Smeed and the Board of Trustees on the progress and impact of strategic initiatives; and effectively communicating the University’s strategic vision to internal and external stakeholders.

Shoffner, a retired U.S. Army colonel, joins Park University following an illustrious career as a U.S. Army officer and civilian leader, most recently as director of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College’s Department of Command and Leadership at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. Prior to that role, Shoffner was the garrison commander at Fort Leavenworth. In 2018, Shoffner was elected to Park’s Board of Trustees, and in July 2023, he was elected as the BOT chair. With his new role with the University, he has resigned from the BOT. Terry Calaway, Ed.D., retired higher education leader and president emeritus of Johnson County (Kan.) Community College, who was appointed vice chair of the board last year, will become interim chair.

Park University / MCC Articulation Agreement SigningPark University, Metropolitan Community College Commit to Seamless Transfer Process for MCC Graduates

Leaders from Park University and Metropolitan Community College have signed an articulation agreement that will provide MCC graduates a straightforward path to earning a bachelor’s degree at Park. The two schools entered into the agreement during a ceremony on the University’s flagship Parkville (Mo.) Campus on Jan. 24.

Under the agreement, MCC students who earn an Associate in Arts degree will be eligible for guaranteed admission at Park and will enter the University with junior status. Park University will accept Metropolitan Community College’s designated freshman and sophomore level education credits, as well as all general education credits, to apply toward earning a bachelor’s degree at Park. In addition, transfer students from MCC to Park will be eligible for an annual $1,000 Park University Associate Degree Recognition Scholarship. Read more about the agreement at

Gwendolyn GrantBlack History Month Conversation to Feature Park Graduate

Gwendolyn Grant, president and chief executive officer of the Urban League of Greater Kansas City, and a 1994 Park University graduate, will be the featured speaker of a Black History Month program on Wednesday, Feb. 7. The event will be held in the Jenkin and Barbara David Theater located inside Alumni Hall on the University’s flagship Parkville (Mo.) Campus starting at 1 p.m. A livestream of the program will also be available at

Grant was appointed as the first female CEO of the ULGKC in 1995. Devoted to the causes of social justice, civil rights and parity, Grant is a true champion for change, and her limitless advocacy brings the plights of African Americans and women to the forefront. Grant convenes the Urban League’s Police Accountability Task Force, a coalition of civil rights, community-based, faith-based and civic organizations. She also serves on the Missouri Coordinating Board for Higher Education and Workforce Development and is the president of the Kansas City Public Schools Buildings Corporation Board. In addition, Additionally, Grant serves as publisher and editor-in-chief of the Urban League’s State of Black Kansas City, a biannual report on African American progress in five key areas — civic engagement, economics, education, health and social justice. For her efforts, Grant has received honors including the 2022 National Urban League’s Women of Power Award and the Whitney M. Young Leadership Award for Advancing Racial Equity.

Registration Open for Student Research and Creative Arts Symposium

Park University’s annual Student Research and Creative Arts Symposium showcases the scholarly and creative work of students from all disciplines and campuses across the University. Undergraduate and graduate students are invited to submit course work or independent research or creative projects developed with a faculty member’s supervision, either single or collaboratively-authored that take the form of: posters presenting laboratory or other applied research findings; research papers and oral presentations (oral presentations limited to 10 minutes); visual art and graphic design installations; musical presentations; and virtual presentations (slide or video presentations uploaded to Symposium website).

This year’s Symposium will be held Monday-Tuesday, April 22-23. For more information or to register (deadline is Sunday, April 14), visit or contact Patty Ryberg, Ph.D., director of the Honors Academy and associate professor of biology, at

The NavigatorThe Navigator Seeks Student Artwork for Cover

Park University’s undergraduate research journal, The Navigator: Excellent Student Writing Across the Disciplines, is inviting students to submit original artwork for the chance to be featured on the cover of the upcoming fourth volume. Interested students need to provide a high-resolution black and white images (photographs [without identifiable people], sketches, paintings and digital art), along with a short blurb about the artwork. There is not a specific theme for this edition of the journal, but students should consider images that represent and inspire the University’s mission and values. The winning selection will be published with the winner also receiving a $50 Amazon gift card. Submissions should be sent to by Friday, March 1.

Busy Schedule Ahead for International Center for Music

Park University’s International Center for Music is entering a very busy stretch during the next two months with three concerts in February and three more in March, including its signature event.

The fifth annual Stanislav and Friends concert will be held on Friday, March 8, at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City, Mo., starting at 7 p.m. Named in honor of the ICM’s esteemed artistic director, Stanislav Ioudenitch, the event will feature world-class performers, including Ioudenitch, Behzod Abduraimov, ICM artist-in-residence, a piano quartet with ICM faculty, the ICM Chamber Orchestra and two concertos with two pianos that will include the Kansas City Chamber Orchestra. Tickets are available for $23 to $58 via the Kauffman Center at

Additional concerts in February-March:
          •  Friday, Feb. 9 — Park ICM Orchestra’s Valentine’s Day concert, featuring guest conductor Timothy Hankewich, music director of Orchestra Iowa; 7:30 p.m., Graham Tyler Memorial Chapel
          •  Thursday, Feb. 29 — Husband-and-wife duo of Ben Sayevich, violinist and ICM professor of music, and ICM collaborative pianist Lolita Lisovskaya-Sayevich concert; 7:30 p.m., 1900 Building, Mission Woods, Kan.
          •  Friday, March 15 — Park ICM Orchestra concert, featuring guest conductor Laura Jackson, music director and conductor of the Reno (Nev.) Philharmonic Association; 7:30 p.m., Graham Tyler Memorial Chapel
          •  Friday, March 22 — Violinist Shmuel Ashkenasi concert, 7:30 p.m., 1900 Building, Mission Woods, Kan.

Admission for ICM Orchestra events in Graham Tyler Memorial Chapel is free, but reservations are recommended at For concerts at the 1900 Building, tickets are $30 for general admission and $10 for students at

Park University Announces Competitive Academic Scholarship Winners

Park University has announced the recipients of competitive academic scholarships. These scholarships have been awarded to current high school seniors who are expected to enroll in college starting with the Fall 2024 semester.

Sadie WatkinsLeslie Garcia-AudeloThe most prestigious Park University academic scholarship given is the Presidential Honors Scholarship. This award, traditionally given to two incoming freshmen, covers full tuition, fees, room and board for four years, as well as the opportunity for a study abroad semester. The award is valued at more than $109,000. The 2024 Presidential Honors Scholarship has been presented to Leslie Garcia-Audelo (left), Blue Springs (Mo.) High School, and Sadie Watkins (right), Liberty (Mo.) High School.

View the entire list of competitive scholarship awardees at

Faculty, Staff, Student News

Park University was represented at the Parkville (Mo.) Board of Aldermen meeting on Jan. 30 as part of a National Girls and Women in Sports Day proclamation. Kristin Gillette, Parkville Campus director of athletics, was joined by Parkville Campus student-athletes Emma Perry, Nevaeh Spillman and Kiersten Robbins, all members of the women’s basketball team. Allyson Berberich, a member of the PBA, read the proclamation.

Dr. Brad KleindlAn article co-authored by Brad Kleindl, Ph.D., professor of marketing, on “An Epigenetic View of Organizational Cultures, Learning and Memory in Dynamic Environments” was published in the December 2023 edition of Organizational Cultures: An International Journal. The co-authors were Kleindl’s son, Peter Kleindl, Ph.D., a process development scientist for Amgen in Thousand Oaks, Calif., and his brother, William Kleindl, Ph.D., assistant research professor of system ecology, wetlands, ecological assessment and ecosystem services, Montana State University.

Jamie ElsJamie Els, Ed.D., programming director for Park University’s Faculty Center for Innovation, authored the article: “WWW (When Websites Work): Students’ Perceptions of Their Engagement When Using a Website Creation Tool,” that was published in the December 2023 edition of Perspectives in Learning. The findings from the study help higher education faculty better understand students’ perceptions of their engagement when using website creation tools for assignments and activities, which may be applied in all modalities. Faculty interested in exploring using website creation tools in their courses to enhance student engagement may also view the questions of consideration before implementing within an assignment or activity.

Suzanne TiemannKathleen HoweKathy Howe, Ph.D. (left), associate professor of literacy education and director of the Watson Literacy Center, and Suzanne Tiemann (right), Ph.D., assistant professor of education, co-authored the article “Awareness and Access Matter: Making Professional Associations Available to Support Literacy Teachers’ Ongoing PL” that was published in the January 2024 edition of the Michigan Reading Journal. The article explores possible factors for decreases (changes to PL, technology and generational mix of teaching force) before adding others: two emergent themes (awareness and access) from related survey research with K-12 literacy teachers in a Midwestern state. Suggestions are offered to stakeholders for ways to raise awareness and improve access to associations for literacy teachers — an important tool for ongoing literacy professional learning.

Erik BergrudErik Bergrud, chief strategic communications officer, has been selected to serve as the host of “Ten for Ten,” a new podcast series for the Major Arena Soccer League that will highlight untold stories of the league’s tenure. Bergrud serves as the color commentator for the MASL’s Kansas City Comets television/Twitch broadcasts.

Adrian James, Ph.D., associate dean of Park University’s College of Management and associate professor of management, was elected in January as the secretary and treasurer of the board of directors for the Platte County (Mo.) Economic Development Council.

Park in the News

A trio of Park University-related articles appeared in the January/February edition of KC Studio:
          •  A story about the Vincent Campanella collection of Thomas Hart Benton artworks (page 28). Campanella served as professor emeritus of art and distinguished artist-in-residence at Park University until his death in 2001.
          •  A preview story about the Rosamunde Trio’s performance on Jan. 25 as part of the International Center for Music’s 2023-24 concert season (page 38). The trio includes ICM faculty Ben Sayevich, violinist, and Daniel Veis, cellist.
          •  A preview story on the ICM’s signature event, Stanislav and Friends, scheduled for Friday, March 8 (page 98).

Behzod Abduraimov, Park University International Center for Music artist-in-residence, was the featured cover photo for the January/February issue of International Piano magazine. Abduraimov’s new album, “Shadows of My Ancestors” was released in January.

codeAlgo Academy, co-founded by Triumfia Houmbie Fulks, ’14 (and a member of Park University’s Civic Advisory Council), was named as one of 10 “Kansas City Startups to Watch in 2024” as part of an article that appeared in Startland News on Jan. 2. codeAlgo Academy uses gamification to teach coding skills to students in kindergarten through eighth grade.

A story related to former U.S. Ambassador W. Stuart Symington IV’s conversation event at Park University’s flagship Parkville (Mo.) Campus in late October 2023 appeared in the Platte County (Mo.) Citizen on Jan. 2.

Brynn Bologna, director of student financial services, was interviewed for a story that appeared on KMBC-TV in Kansas City on Jan. 3 related to the new Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form.

Vlatko Andonovski, ’08, head coach and sporting director of the Kansas City Current in the National Women’s Soccer League, announced the appointment of Milan Ivanovic, ’10, as an assistant coach of the team. Both coaches provided comments in a story that appeared in The Kansas City Star on Jan. 10.

Matt Harris, Ph.D., associate professor of political science, was interviewed for stories that aired on WDAF-TV in Kansas City on Jan. 10 related to the Kansas City Royals looking for a community benefits agreement as the team seeks out a new downtown stadium.

Harris was also interviewed for stories that aired on KMBZ-FM in Kansas City on Jan. 18 related to a drive to change or abolish the food tax in Missouri.

Harris was interviewed for stories that aired on KCTV in Kansas City on Jan. 23 related to a sales tax ballot measure in Jackson County, Mo., to extend the lease agreement for the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium and for a new downtown stadium for the Kansas City Royals.

Victor Diaz, a graduate viola student in Park University’s International Center for Music, appeared on KCUR-FM’s “Up To Date” for a 12-minute live interview on Jan. 17 in advance of his performance at the Sphinx Competition in Detroit, Jan. 24-27.

A story about Washington Chapel C.M.E. Church in Parkville, Mo., receiving a $160,000 Preserving Black Churches grant from the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund, a program from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, aired on WDAF-TV in Kansas City on Jan. 17. The church, which opened in 1907, was built by freed slaves (that first started planning construction in 1870) and Park University students.

Thomas LaFontaine, ’96, authored an article “Old Dog, New Trick” that was published on the U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center’s website on Jan. 18. The article was related to LaFontaine pursuing a change in careers at the age of 55. He currently works as a Department of the Army systems coordinator supporting the Program Executive Office for Simulation, Training and Instrumentation.

Kelly Stinnett, head coach of the Park University Gilbert (Ariz.) Campus baseball team, appeared on the “Baseball and BBQ” podcast on Jan. 20 for a 45-minute interview segment (starts at 4:00).

Park University was ranked No. 4 by the Kansas City Business Journal on its list of colleges and universities in the Kansas City area, based on total local fall 2023 enrollment, on Jan. 12. In addition, Park’s Master of Business Administration program was ranked No. 4 by the KCBJ, also based on local fall 2023 enrollment.

Upcoming Events

(All events are Central time and on the flagship Parkville [Mo.] Campus unless noted)
          •  Through February 23 — Senior Fine Art Exhibit, Campanella Gallery (Norrington Center)
          •  February 7 — Black History Month Program with Gwendolyn Grant, ’94, 1 p.m. David Theater (Alumni Hall) and Virtual
          •  February 9 — International Center for Music Concert: ICM Orchestra, 7:30 p.m., Graham Tyler Memorial Chapel
          •  February 16 — Park University Board of Trustees Meeting, Parkville Campus
          •  February 19 — President’s Day Holiday (all University offices closed nationwide; Parkville [Mo.] Campus and Gilbert [Ariz.] Campus daytime classes cancelled; Spring I term classes held as scheduled)
          •  February 20 — Black History Month Speaker: John Brown Jr., 2:30 p.m., McCoy Meetin’ House
          •  February 22 — Arrr & Arrr, 5:30 p.m., Breckon Sports Center
          •  February 23-24 — Pirate Rendezvous Forensics Tournament, Parkville Campus
          •  February 29 — International Center for Music Concert: Violinist Ben Sayevich and Pianist Lolita Lisovskaya-Sayevich, 7:30 p.m., 1900 Building, Mission Woods, Kan.
          •  March 3 — Spring I Term Ends
          •  March 4-10 — Spring Recess (no classes nationwide; all University offices open)
          •  March 8 — International Center for Music Concert: Stanislav and Friends, 7 p.m., Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, Kansas City, Mo.
          •  March 11 — Spring II Classes Begin
          •  March 15 — International Center for Music Concert: ICM Orchestra, 7:30 p.m., Graham Tyler Memorial Chapel
          •  March 22 — International Center for Music Concert: Violinist Shmuel Ashkenasi, 7:30 p.m., 1900 Building, Mission Woods, Kan.
          •  March 26 — Valor Medals Review Program Discussion, 5:30 p.m., Kansas City (Mo.) Public Library Plaza Branch

To view a comprehensive schedule for all events, including athletics and student life, visit



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Park University is a private, non-profit, institution of higher learning since 1875.