COMM notes

Keeping up with Drury's Department of Communication

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Zac RantzZac Rantz, director of communication for Nixa Public Schools, has released his first book, Hindsight:  Lessons learned from the Joplin tornado and other crisis events. Contributing to the book is Dr. Stephen Kleinsmith, Nixa superintendent.

The Joplin school district was hit hard by this event, but through the chaos, many lessons for schools can be learned. Looking back at the days, weeks, and months after the tornado, as well as other crisis events, this book asks questions and gives answers to help schools better prepare for a crisis.

Zac, along with other communication colleagues, worked in Joplin in the weeks, months, and years after the tornado to help the school district get back on its feet.  The book offers insights from Zac’s experiences in Joplin as well as his efforts to develop a crisis communication plan for Nixa schools.   The book offers guidance to school administrators on how to prepare for a crisis.

Zac earned a bachelor’s in secondary English education and master’s in integrated marketing communication from Drury. Prior to his current position, he taught English and journalism at Nixa High School.

For his work in communications, he has been recognized with numerous honors including “20 Under 30” for 417 Magazine, “Rookie of the Year” for MOSPRA, “Men of the Year” from the Springfield Business Journal, “35 Under 35” in the nation for the National School Public Relations Association, and the 2014 national “Leadership Through Communication” award from the American Association of School Administrators and the National School Public Relations Association.

Zac’s free time is spent as the lead singer for Human Anyway, a local band whose singles are played in markets across the nation.

A portion of the proceeds from Hindsight:  Lessons learned from the Joplin tornado and other crisis events will go to Joplin schools to help with recovery efforts.


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Now Playing: Dr. Rick Maxson and the DUkes

DUkes at the President Manuel's House

DUkes at President Manuel’s House

Ukulele player extraordinaire launches DUkes

There is a new student group on campus that aims to make the world a better place…one ukulele strum at a time.

Dr. Rick Maxson, associate professor of communication, picked up a ukulele eight years ago and he has been playing ever since.  “Somewhere someone is playing a uke,” says Dr. Maxson, “and I’m really glad that somewhere is Drury University.”

A lifetime guitar player, Dr. Maxson taught a communication course in Honolulu in 2005 and discovered the  four string instrument on an afternoon adventure. Last year he decided it was time to share his passion for the uke with Drury students. At first, Dr. Maxson met with one other student, but by the end of the year, there were more than 10 students attending the group’s jam sessions. Calling themselves the DUkes, they now meet on a weekly basis and are officially recognized as a campus club.

All of the DUkes’ practice is paying off. The group has received invitations to play at numerous events including the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial March, the spring celebration in the Department of Communication, and the Drury Women’s Auxiliary Fall Kickoff.

As much as the students love the sound of ukulele music, they also care deeply about the friendships they have formed in the club. Tragically, the group experienced the loss of a founding member this summer when Libby Hill died in a car accident in Minnesota. DUkes recently hosted a memorial event for Libby where Dr. Maxson and students played some of Libby’s favorite songs including Let It Be and You and I.

The DUkes jam at Dr. Maxson's house. Libby Hill is pictured. (center)

The DUkes jam at Dr. Maxson’s house. Libby Hill is pictured. (center)

Visitors to a jam session will experience a warm and welcoming greeting. There are no contracts and no requirements for membership. It is not even necessary to own a ukulele to join the group.  Dr. Maxson’s thinks the freedom students experience in the group is a key draw. “Last spring, during finals week, one student said to me, ‘This is the one thing I do because I want to’.” And that was music to Dr. Maxson’s ears.

Jake Shimabukuro, a ukulele composer and virtuoso, once said, “If everyone played the ukulele, the world would be a better place.” DUkes is doing its part, one joyous strum at a time.

Come visit the DUkes every Tuesday at 5 p.m. at The HUB Coffee and Bicycles (811 N. Boonville Ave.) and check them out at the First Friday Art Walk on Nov. 1 at Maggie’s Boutique on Commercial Street.


Dr. Maxson plays at a summer camp in Indiana.