The Crow’s Nest — January 4, 2024

Valor Medals Review Project Receives Extension

The Valor Medals Review Project, being conducted by Park University’s George S. Robb Centre for the Study of the Great War, has received an extension for its research efforts through Dec. 31, 2028. In mid-December, the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives approved the 2024 National Defense Authorization Act, and President Joe Biden signed the legislation.

The VMRP is conducting a systematic review of minority veterans from World War I who, in spite of valorous deeds, may have been unjustly denied high-level valor awards due to race or religion. In particular, the research includes servicemembers who may have been worthy of a Medal of Honor, but were downgraded to a Distinguished Service Cross/Navy Cross and/or a French Croix de Guerre with Palm and/or have an archived Medal of Honor recommendation. To date, researchers have identified 214 servicemembers — 105 Jewish Americans, 73 African Americans, 24 Native Americans, 11 Hispanic Americans and one Asian American — who have qualified for review.

International Center for Music Concerts Scheduled for January, February

A trio of events as part of the 2023-24 Park University International Center for Music concert season will be held in January and February. On Thursday, Jan. 25, the Rosamunde Trio, which has been performing together since 2002 and includes two ICM faculty — violinist Ben Sayevich and cellist Daniel Veis — as well as pianist Martino Tirimo, will perform pieces by Ludwig van Beethoven and Bedrich Smetana. On Thursday, Feb. 29, the husband-and-wife duo of Sayevich and ICM collaborative pianist Lolita Lisovskaya-Sayevich, will present a concert that will include works by Cesar Franck and other composers. Both events will be held at the 1900 Building in Mission Woods, Kan., starting at 7:30 p.m. Tickets for these concerts are $30 for general admission and $10 for students.

On Friday, Feb. 9, the Park ICM Orchestra will hold its annual Valentine’s Day themed concert, starting at 7:30 p.m. in Graham Tyler Memorial Chapel on the University’s flagship Parkville (Mo.) Campus. Timothy Hankewich, the music director of Orchestra Iowa, will be the guest conductor. Admission to this concert is free, but reservations are recommended at

In addition, the Park Quartet, featuring ICM students David Horak and Mumin Turgunov, violin; James Farquhar, cello; and Christian dos Santos, viola, will present a concert at The Church of Jesus Christ Outreach Restoration Branch in Independence, Mo., on Saturday, Feb. 24, starting at 7 p.m. Admission to this concert is free, but donations to the host organization are accepted. Also, ICM student Tatiana Dorokhova will present a piano recital on Friday, Jan. 12, starting at 5:30 p.m. in the Chapel. Admission is free.

Campanella Gallery Featuring Art by Park Seniors

Four Park University seniors are showcasing their work in an exhibit in Park’s Campanella Gallery through Friday, Feb. 23. The Gallery is located within Norrington Center on the University’s flagship Parkville (Mo.) Campus.

Barbara Almeida, fine art major, is showing mixed media paintings with the subject of family. She said the works are “more than just pictures; they’re a love letter to my family.” Cassidy Bradshaw, K-12 education/art major, is featuring mixed media works that explore the topic of escapism through reading, watching television and art itself. Reagan King, fine art and history major, is showing acrylic, oil and watercolor paintings portraying landscapes, buildings and people in a colorful, dynamic Impressionist style. Leah Niemeyer, fine art major is featuring drawings and paintings exploring the subject of female experiences in contemporary life through a personal lens.

Faculty, Staff, Student News

Ilya Shmukler, graduate student in Park University’s International Center for Music, was announced as the winner of the 2023 Wideman Piano Competition, held Dec. 1-3 in Shreveport, La. Shmukler, who won a $5,000 prize as the gold medalist, performed Sergei Rachmaninoff’s “Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Minor, Op. 40” in the final round.

Debora BernardiArianna MarinoThree members of the Park University Parkville (Mo.) Campus women’s volleyball team received 2023 All-America recognition on Dec. 11. Freshman setter Arianna Marino (left) received second team honors by the NAIA, while junior middle blocker Debora Bernardi (right) was placed on the third team. The two received the same, Grecia Ungwhile junior outside hitter Grecia Ung (below right) earned honorable mention status.

Dr. Tim WestcottTim Westcott, Ph.D., professor of history, associate university archivist, chair of the Department of Culture and Society, and director of the George S. Robb Centre for the Study of the Great War, was elected as the historian for the Independence (Mo.) Patriots Chapter of the National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution. Westcott’s sixth great-grandfather, Stukely Westcott, enlisted in February 1776 and was present at the siege of Boston and engagements at Princeton and Trenton, N.J.

Rita WilsonRita Wilson, associate registrar, authored the article “Technology Among Student Services Employees: Uncovering Intentions” that was published on the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers website on Dec. 8. In the article, Wilson said that scientific studies are necessary to assist with the growing demand for technology and to evaluate which variables best fit for student services employees.

Dr. Brad KleindlBrad Kleindl, Ph.D., professor of marketing, co-presented a webinar on Dec. 13 on “AI for CTE and Business Classes” for National Geographic Learning, a part of Cengage Learning. The webinar provided insights on how to survive and thrive in using artificial intelligence in career and technical education course planning, creating class assignments, and developing student AI career skills.

Park in the News

A story about SuEllen Fried, ’75, being honored by American Public Square at Jewell on Dec. 4 with its 2023 Founder’s Civility Award, appeared in the Kansas City Jewish Chronicle on Nov. 24. The award honors the accomplishments of a remarkable leader who has demonstrated a commitment to bringing together Kansas City’s diverse community to engage in civil, fact-based dialogue.

John Fierro, ’98, ’01 MPA, was featured in a story that was published in Dos Mundos, a Kansas City bilingual newspaper focused on the Hispanic community, on Dec. 1. Fierro is the president and chief executive officer of the Mattie Rhodes Center.

Part two of a feature story on John Gillette, an 1892 Park University graduate, appeared in The Forum of Fargo (N.D.) – Moorhead (Minn.) on Dec. 2. Gillette was tabbed as the “father of rural sociology” after having his book, Rural Sociology, published in 1913 while he was a professor at the University of North Dakota. If you missed part one, read it here.

Yira Brimage, vice president of Park University’s Gilbert (Ariz.) Campus, was featured in the Gilbert Chamber of Commerce’s “Guiding Growth: Conversations with Community Leaders” podcast on Dec. 5. Excerpts from the podcast were also posted in the Daily Independent (Arizona) that same day.

A story posted on Dec. 6 in The Hawk Newspaper (St. Joseph University [Pa.] student paper) included comments from Rosanna Kasemier, junior sport and exercise science major and former Parkville [Mo.] Campus women’s soccer player. The story focused on a mental health storytelling platform, Hope for Athletes, started by a women’s volleyball player at Messiah University.

Matt Harris, Ph.D., associate professor of political science, participated in two live interviews that aired on KCBS-AM in San Francisco on Dec. 6 (part 4) and on 630 CHED (Edmonton, Canada) / QR Radio (Calgary, Canada) on Dec. 8 related to an article Harris authored originally in July 2023 for The Conversation about Taylor Swift being a political influencer. The article, which Harris updated following Swift being named TIME’s Person of the Year, was picked up by numerous media outlets across the country.

Harris was also interviewed for stories that aired on WDAF-TV in Kansas City on Dec. 13 related to a campaign stop by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and how independent candidates can affect elections.

In addition, Harris was interviewed by Agence France-Presse, an international news agency based in Paris, for a story that appeared in news outlets around the world on Dec. 23 related to the influence Taylor Swift could have on the 2024 presidential election.

Retired U.S. Navy Capt. Chris Isleib, who served as a consultant for the Valor Medals Review Project being conducted by Park University’s George S. Robb Centre for the Study of the Great War, was honored by Aerotech News, the journal of aerospace, defense industry and veterans, as its “Veteran of the Day” on Dec. 6.

A story about Yiyi Pauls, daughter of Nikki Pauls DeSimone, assistant professor of social work, appeared in The Harbinger, the student newspaper at Shawnee Mission East High School in Prairie Village, Kan., on Dec. 10. The story focused on Yiyi, who graduated from SME in 2023, as she and her family maintain traditions of her Chinese heritage after being adopted by Pauls DeSimone and her husband, Brian, in 2014 when Yiyi was 11.

Park University Parkville (Mo.) Campus women’s volleyball player Grecia Ung was highlighted in an article that appeared in Score MX (a website focused on sports in Mexico) on Dec. 12.

Kathleen Ramon-Venable, ’14, was interviewed for a story that aired on WFAA-TV in Dallas on Dec. 12 related to a redevelopment plan in Arlington, Texas, as the development contract includes a 30 percent participation goal for minority and women-owned businesses. Ramon-Venable is a member of the Arlington Latino Advisory Council.

Hannah Reynoldson, an incoming (Fall 2024) Park University Parkville (Mo.) Campus student-athlete (nursing / women’s golf), was featured on WIBW-TV in Topeka, Kan., on Dec. 13 as its Scholar-Athlete of the Week.

A story about Brian Virden, ’15, MBA ’22, being appointed as the Lake County, Mich., 911 central dispatch director appeared in the Big Rapids (Mich.) News on Dec. 14.

Erik Bergrud, chief strategic communications officer, who serves as a color commentator for Kansas City Comets (Major Arena Soccer League) television/Twitch broadcasts alongside play-by-play announcer Nick Vasos, was interviewed for an “Inside the Indoor Game” article that appeared on the MASL website on Dec. 17.

A story that appeared in The Kansas City Star on Dec. 27 about a partnership between John Knox Village, a retirement community in Lee’s Summit, Mo., and Kansas City area health care facilities, included comments from Brian Opoka, ’22, who serves as director of public safety at JKV.

Billy Rivera, a member of the Parkville (Mo.) Campus baseball team, was honored during the Ban Johnson Collegiate Baseball League banquet on Dec. 28, receiving the Frank White Award for Fielding Excellence. In addition, Park baseball head coach Cary Lundy, who also coaches Rivera on the Ban Johnson Legends team during the summer, led the squad to its first title in five years, and Lundy’s eighth league title. A story about the awards appeared in The Kansas City Star on Dec. 29.

A story about Staff Sgt. Danny Tucker, ’19, appeared on the Kansas City Chiefs website on Dec. 29. Tucker was recognized by the Chiefs during the game against the Buffalo Bills on Dec. 10 as part of the team’s “Tribute to the Troops” program. announced its 2024 rankings on Dec. 15 Among the highlighted national rankings for Park University: Best Schools for the Money in the U.S. for Bachelor’s Degrees, No. 13 (out of 1,465); Best Associate Degree Schools in the U.S., No. 41 (out of 1,319); and Top Schools for Veterans for a Bachelor’s Degree, No. 48 (out of 1,405).

Park University was ranked No. 12 by on its “Best Open Admissions Colleges Online 2024” list.

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)
          •  January 8 — Spring Semester / Spring I Classes Begin
          •  January 12 — International Center for Music Concert: Tatiana Dorokhova Piano Recital, 5:30 p.m., Graham Tyler Memorial Chapel
          •  January 15 — Martin Luther King Jr. Day Holiday (all University offices closed nationwide; Parkville [Mo.] Campus and Gilbert [Ariz.] Campus daytime classes cancelled; Spring I term classes held as scheduled)
          •  January 25 — International Center for Music Concert: Rosamunde Trio, 7:30 p.m., 1900 Building, Mission Woods, Kan.
          •  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 24 — International Center for Music Concert: Park Quartet, 7 p.m., Church of Jesus Christ Outreach Restoration Branch, Independence, Mo.
          •  February 29 — International Center for Music Concert: Violinist Ben Sayevich and Pianist Lolita Lisovskaya-Sayevich, 7:30 p.m., 1900 Building, Mission Woods, Kan.

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



Park University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

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