By Dianne Johnson

Over the last three months since I assumed the position of vice president of development and alumni relations, so many have warmly and readily adopted me into the Drury family.

Every day another person writes, calls, shakes my hand, emails, Facebooks me, or pulls me aside and shares their Drury connection. This has happened in Springfield, New York City, Tulsa, over Christmas break in St. Louis, on campus, and on vacation in Orlando. As I have met hundreds of new, now close friends and enthusiastic members of the Drury community, this question keeps coming to mind: what makes the Drury experience so powerful?

Drury is a wonderful liberal arts university focused on preparing globally aware, critically thinking and community-involved students for success in their chosen disciplines or professions and lives. Named No 8. Best Midwest Regional University according to the U.S. News & World Report; one of only 24 schools recognized with the 2012 NCAA-II President’s Award for Academic Excellence; 98% of graduating students are either employed or in graduate school within six months; 51% of graduates complete study abroad experiences; a leading feeder for Fulbright Scholars; a top competitor in Enactus (national business competition); graduating two of the 2014 AIA Young Architects: this is an institution that delivers on its educational mission. But those statistics do not tell the whole story of what draws faculty from all over the country, students from California to Maine, and me, a non-alum, to Drury. What is that “something special” I see in each faculty member, staff, student, alum, trustee, and volunteer that makes this learning community so irresistible?

Whether I’m talking to a current student about their classes as they work their way through school or visiting with a retired alumna in New York City whose career accomplishments took her far and away from her home in Springfield, Mo. to the top of the publishing world, one thing repeats over and over —mentoring and faculty. Drury faculty members are committed to the success of students both in their careers and in their lives. Talking with a tech company CEO about the cutting edge positions in technology that Drury can prepare graduates to land, listening to a faculty member share a student’s life-changing story from a recent study abroad trip to Greece, or holding the hand of a Drury alum interviewing for her post-medical school residency, knowledge gained through faculty interaction shines through. One-on-one experiences, collaboration during a research project or working through a conference presentation: all of these moments where students interact with faculty create confidence in a student’s ability to succeed in that first position and the one after that. It is this connection that each student and alum sees between their time at Drury and their success in life and chosen careers.

So, after three months in the Drury community, as I begin to understand this very special community of people and experience all that is Drury, this much is true: Drury University is a Best Midwest University. Drury University students and alumni receive a great education from incredible faculty, challenging academic curriculum and experiential learning. Drury students and alumni connect and are passionate about this university beyond their academic studies, athletics and extracurricular activities. As you read through this issue focused on mentoring and the future of education, maybe you will take a moment to reflect on the value of your Drury experience. When you do, please consider sharing it with us. You can find me through our alumni relations webpage, call me or stop by and say “hi” when you are next on campus.