Crows Nest

The Crow’s Nest — May 3, 2024

Academic, Leadership Achievements Recognized as Part of Honors Convocation and Howell Awards

Park University students, faculty and staff were recognized for their exceptional scholarly efforts from the 2023-24 academic year as part of the University’s annual Honors Convocation held April 17 on the flagship Parkville (Mo.) Campus. The University acknowledged outstanding students, faculty and staff with a variety of special awards, in addition to a number of departmental academic honors.

Skyler JensenAnnastasia BairThe most prestigious honor bestowed on any student at Park University — the Outstanding Parkite Award — went to seniors Annastasia Bair (left) and Skyler Jensen (right). The Outstanding Parkite Award is given to two students on the Parkville Campus who best exemplify the ideals of the University in their character, conduct, scholarship and student activity participation. Read more about the Parkite Award winners and all other awards presented during the Honors Convocation at

In celebration of the leadership achievements of Park University students, faculty and staff during the 2023-24 academic year, the Office of Student Life and the Park Student Government Association announced recipients of honors as part of the 29th annual Dr. Doris A. Howell Leadership Awards. The awards program, held on April 10 on the Parkville Campus, is named for Howell, a 1944 Park graduate who was an internationally renowned leader in pediatrics and hospice care before passing away in November 2018. Read about the awards presented at

Kansas City Area Commencement Set for May 4

CiCi RojasCiCi Rojas, co-founder of Kansas City, Mo., based Tico Productions and Tico Sports, will present the keynote address during Park University’s Kansas City Area Commencement on Saturday, May 4. The ceremony will be held at Cable Dahmer Arena in Independence, Mo., starting at 10 a.m.

The event will include 687 Park University students eligible to participate in the ceremony — 242 students are set to receive a master’s degree and/or graduate certificate, and 445 students are scheduled to receive a bachelor’s degree, associate degree and/or undergraduate certificate.

Rojas is an accomplished C-suite executive turned entrepreneur. In 2017, after three decades of leading organizations dedicated to advancing key population growth segments, Rojas transferred her development skills to co-lead the two Tico entities which were established by Rojas and her husband in 2013. The enterprise is a full-service multimedia production and bilingual marketing company that developed a Spanish language broadcast and a community engagement platform for professional sports teams. For more information about Rojas, visit

Gilbert Campus Adds Competitive Cheer

Bree BintOn the heels of Park University’s flagship Parkville (Mo.) Campus announcing in February the start of a competitive cheer program, the Gilbert (Ariz.) Campus has revealed that it will also begin the same program at the start of the 2024-25. In addition, Angelique Claussen, Park-Gilbert director of athletics, announced that Bree Bint has been appointed as the program’s head coach. Bint previously served as the cheer head coach at Queen Creek (Ariz.) High School since 2019, and she has served as a stunt official since 2022. She earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Northern Arizona University where she was on the cheer team for four years. Read more about Bint at

Lupercio Appointed Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations

Celeste LupercioCeleste Lupercio has been appointed as the director of corporate and foundation relations within the Office of University Advancement and Alumni Relations at Park University. Lupercio began her duties on April 15. In her role, Lupercio will serve as a link between the University and the corporate/foundation community, building partnerships through engagement, sponsorship and funding opportunities. In addition, she will closely partner with key stakeholders across the University to develop and retain relationships between Park’s academic colleges and targeted corporate and foundation funders, as well as creating strategies to advance Park’s mission by leveraging funding and engagement opportunities. Lupercio will also work closely with Park’s advancement team to build strategic stewardship plans for funders.

Lupercio, has held a number of roles with a variety of organizations over her career, most recently as director of marketing and community engagement for Visit Kansas City Kansas. She also spent nearly 10 years with the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in Kansas City, Mo., as the senior director of sales, marketing and events. Read more about Lupercio at

Faculty Center for Innovation Announces Fellows for 2024-25

Park University’s Faculty Center for Innovation has announced its scholarship and teaching fellows for the 2024-25 academic year. The Scholarship Fellows program is designed exclusively to support pre-tenure, full-time faculty along their journey to tenure. In this year-long fellowship, the Fellow is provided with support, structure, resources and mentoring to create and submit a scholarly manuscript at the conclusion of the year.
Dr. Becky KudrnaDr. Jornaz Abdelmonaem          •  Abdelmonaem Jornaz, Ph.D. (left), associate professor of information systems and business analytics, “When to Use a Linear Regression Model Instead of Beta Regression to Analyze Continuous Data”
          •  Rebecca Kudrna, Ph.D. (right), associate professor of sport and exercise science, “Scoping Review of Tactical Strength and Conditioning”

Friedrich Named All-American for Fourth Time

Joao FriedrichPark University Parkville (Mo.) Campus men’s volleyball senior outside hitter Joao Friedrich was named to the American Volleyball Coaches Association 2024 NAIA All-America first team on April 29. Friedrich is just the seventh four-time AVCA NAIA All-American in history. He averaged 3.71 kills per set with a hitting percentage of .316. Teammate Eduardo Sabi, sophomore setter, received honorable mention honors. Both Friedrich and Sabi were selected to the Heart of America Athletic Conference first team, with Sabi earning Setter of the Year honors.

The California Pacific Conference announced its all-conference teams for baseball and softball, with four Park-Gilbert (Ariz.) Campus players earning first team honors. Junior centerfielder Caleb Rozier and junior catcher Andrew Allanson were recognized in baseball, while freshman catcher Noelle Gumm was recognized in softball. In addition, Rozier and senior first baseman Diego Bejarano received all-defensive team selections.

Faculty, Staff, Student News

Park University’s student newspaper, The Stylus, was recognized with a number of honors during the Missouri College Media Association Conference on April 6 in Kansas City. The newspaper, competing in Division 3 (small four-year schools), placed second in the sweepstakes competition in the division. Individually, Park student journalists came away with 13 individual awards, including four first place finishes — Danny Burger, non-political or entertainment cartoon; Nathan Dunn, sports photography; Skyler Jensen, sports page writing and design; and Elisha Knapp, column writing.

Tatiana DorokhovaTatiana Dorokhova, graduate piano student in the International Center for Music, placed second at the 6th annual Weatherford (Texas) College International Piano Competition on April 20. Dorokhova received a $2,500 prize for her efforts. Watch Dorokhova’s finals performance (starts approximately 5:31:40).

Robert PalmerRobert Palmer, ’12, and Parkville (Mo.) Campus men’s soccer assistant coach who is a defender for the Kansas City Comets in the Major Arena Soccer League, was named the MASL Defender of the Year and to the MASL Elite Six. Palmer, who became the MASL record-holder in career blocks earlier this year, set a MASL single-season record with 86 blocks, while scoring six goals and dishing out nine assists.

Brandi HandleyBrandi Handley, assistant teaching professor of English, authored “Sycamore on Waldo Avenue,” a creative nonfiction story that was published in The Dodge, an online literary magazine, in mid-April. The eco-essay is about the impact of a large sycamore tree being cut down in Handley’s backyard and the question of whether or not it was the right thing to do.

Dr. Wen HsinJohn Cigas, Ph.D., and Wen Hsin, Ph.D. (left), both professor of computer science, presented at the Consortium for Computing Sciences in Colleges Central Plains Region, April 5-6 in Lamoni, Iowa. Cigas presented a session on “Coding Practice with Advent of Code.” Hsin moderated a session on “Distributing, Collecting and Autograding Assignments with GitHub Classroom” and presented a session on “Teach Me Video Project.” Hsin also presented a paper on “The Effect of ChatGPT: Student Perspective and Performance Achievement” that was published in the April edition of the Journal of Computing Sciences in Colleges.

Dr. Brad KleindlBrad Kleindl, Ph.D., professor of marketing, led an Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs accreditation visit to Shanghai (China) Polytechnic University’s School of Economics and Management, April 10-12.

Kay BarnesKay Barnes, senior director for university engagement, served as a panelist at the Downtown Council (Kansas City, Mo.) annual luncheon on April 12 about “The Evolution of Downtown.” Barnes, who served as mayor of Kansas City, Mo., from 1999-2007, talked about her time in office and how she helped revitalize downtown redevelopment.

Dr. Susan KeimSusan Keim, Ph.D., associate professor of public administration, presented “Preparing Public Servants in Technology and Business Analytics” as part of a session on “Forging Frontiers: Public Administration’s Role in Science, Technology and More” at the American Society for Public Administration’s annual conference in Minneapolis on April 13.

Alivia ZubrodAlivia Zubrod, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology, presented a session on “Unraveling Language Complexity: Past, Present and Future” at the Midwestern Psychological Association conference in Chicago on April 18. The session explored classic and contemporary work on the nature of language complexity while highlighting research exploring new theoretical insights.

Nancy Almodovar, Ph.D., director of the Mountain Home (Idaho) Air Force Base Campus, presented a session on “Him We Proclaim” the International Society of Christian Apologetics on April 6 in Carlsbad, Calif.

Park in the News

Matt Harris, Ph.D., associate professor of political science, appeared in-studio on KCTV in Kansas City on April 2 as part of its election coverage of the Kansas City Royals/Kansas City Chiefs stadiums/tax extension vote. Harris appeared in two livestream segments as results were coming in and he appeared on-set after the results were known.

On April 3, Harris was also interviewed about the stadium/tax extension vote by RTVI, a Russian-language television network based in New York City.

Harris was interviewed for stories that aired on KMBZ-FM in Kansas City on April 17 related to the lack of legislation going through the Missouri Legislature this year.

In addition, Harris appeared on KMBZ’s “Dana and Parks” program on April 29 for a live, 12-minute interview related to protests on college campuses across the country in recent weeks.

Park University International Center for Music graduate student pianist Michael Davidman was featured on KWJC-FM (Classical KC) in Kansas City on April 6-7, which included interview segments and recorded performances.

Erik Bergrud, chief strategic communications officer, who also serves as the color commentator for Kansas City Comets (Major Arena Soccer League) broadcasts, was tabbed to handle color commentary for the Comets MASL Eastern Conference semifinal game on April 15 at Utica (N.Y.) City FC. The game was streamed on the CBS Sports Golazo Network.

Stephanie Bowerson, ’15, was honored with an Excellence in Education Award from the Michigan Lottery in mid-April. Bowerson, an English teacher at DeWitt (Mich.) High School, received a $2,000 cash prize. Bowerson was highlighted in a story on the Michigan Lottery Connect website on April 16.

The Park University Parkville (Mo.) Campus women’s beach volleyball team was featured on KMBC-TV in Kansas City on April 19 in advance of the Pirates competing in the NAIA National Invitational Tournament in Greeneville, Tenn., April 25-27. Mike Talamantes, head coach, and players Jullia Alvarez and Grecia Ung were interviewed.

Photos from the Park University International Center for Music’s Stanislav and Friends Benefactor Party appeared in The Independent, Kansas City’s journal of society, in the April 20 issue.

Steve Youngblood, associate professor of communication arts and director of the Center for Global Peace Journalism, was interviewed for a question-and-answer article that appeared April 24 in Libertatea, a publication in Romania, about peace journalism as it relates to developments in Iran, Israel and Ukraine. Youngblood is completing his third Fulbright Scholar award teaching at Moldova State University in the capital city of Chisinău.

A story about Garret Ferrell, a senior at Benton High School in St. Joseph, Mo., signing a letter-of-intent to play baseball for Park University’s Parkville (Mo.) Campus, aired on KQTV in St. Joseph on April 24.

Park University was ranked No. 4 on Forbes Advisor’s list of “Best Project Management Certificates Online of 2024” and selected as “Best for Industry Newcomers.”

Upcoming Events

(All events are Central time and on the flagship Parkville [Mo.] Campus unless noted)
          •  Through May 10 — Faculty Biennial Art Exhibit, Campanella Gallery (Norrington Center)
          •  May 3 — Ellen Finley Earhart Department of Nursing Pinning Ceremony, 2 p.m., Graham Tyler Memorial Chapel
          •  May 3 — Graduation Final Walk, 3:15 p.m., Norrington Center Courtyard
          •  May 3 — International Sash Ceremony, 5 p.m., Graham Tyler Memorial Chapel
          •  May 3 — School of Education Cording Ceremony, 5:30 p.m., David Theater (Alumni Hall)
          •  May 4 — Kansas City Area Commencement Ceremony, 10 a.m., Cable Dahmer Arena, Independence, Mo.
          •  May 5 — Spring Semester / Spring II Term Ends
          •  May 6 — Maymester Begins
          •  May 12 — Founders Day: Park University’s 149th Anniversary
          •  May 16 — Malmstrom Air Force Base (Mont.) Campus Commencement, 2 p.m., Grizzly Bend Community Center
          •  May 17 — Board of Trustees Meeting, Parkville Campus
          •  May 19 — Maymester Ends
          •  May 27 — Memorial Day Holiday (all University offices closed nationwide)
          •  May 29 — Faculty/Staff Town Hall Meeting, 10 a.m., Graham Tyler Memorial Chapel and Virtual
          •  June 3 — Summer Session / Junemester Classes Begin
          •  June 7 — Cherry Point (N.C.) Marine Corps Air Station Campus Commencement Ceremony, 9 a.m., MCAS Cherry Point
          •  June 19 — Juneteenth Holiday (all University offices closed nationwide; all Summer Session and Junemester classes held as scheduled)
          •  June 21 — Beaufort (S.C.) Marine Corps Air Station Campus Commencement Ceremony, 1 p.m., Beaufort Education Center
          •  June 30 — Junemester Classes End

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.