Student Profile – Ayla Parham

With more than 22,000 students, Park had a wealth of great stories to tell. Our first student profile features Ayla Parham.

A sophomore in the Park University Honors Academy, Parham is majoring in secondary education with a science concentration, and was recently announced as a recipient of the Gilman Scholarship. She will spend the Spring 2014 semester at Al Akhawayn University in Morocco, and was selected out of a pool of more than 2,600 applicants for the prestigious award. The Clever, Mo., native is the third Park University recipient of the Gilman Scholarship.

For more information on the Gilman Scholarship, please visit To learn more about our student profile series, contact John Roushkolb, Social Media Manager at

Graduation Behind The Scenes

Park University celebrated commencement exercises for the December Class of 2013 graduates last Saturday. With more than 400 students and around 100 faculty and staff members participating, and several thousands of spectators, the event requires great planning and excellent choreography to achieve a flawless execution.

We wanted to share a few behind-the-scenes photos and give you an all-access peek into what makes it happen.


Map of graduates

Every well-planned event needs a map.

Footprints indicating the position of the president for photos.

So that every graduate will have a photograph to commemorate the achievement, the president is locked into one spot.

Close-up of a Master's candidate's manicured hands and her hood draped over her arm.

Capturing a sense of accomplishment is all in the little details.

Photo of the graduation script displayed on the screen of a smartphone.

Faculty members responsible for directing the flow of the event need to know the script front and back. But a backup copy is always handy.

Here’s a gallery of all of the behind-the-scenes shots from the day.

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Stepping Back In Time At Mackay

Students standing with Christmas Tree

Several students from the Zeta Omicron chapter of Phi Alpha Theta helped return Mackay Hall to its early days, decorating the foyer in the style of 1863. Clockwise from bottom – Thomas Scheckel, Anna Fleming, Laurel Bruening, Jace Davis, Riann Rosenquist, Alexander Hahn.

As the living icon of Park University, Mackay Hall has seen its share of holiday spirit over the years. But this year, a group of students decided to bring the festive atmosphere to a new level in a building already steeped in history. The Zeta Omicron chapter of Phi Alpha Theta – the national history honor society – started a new tradition, recognizing the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg and honoring the soldiers from Kansas and Missouri who fought and died by decorating Mackay Hall in the fashion of 1863.

Burlap ribbons, garlands and dehydrated oranges festoon the stair rails and fence, while hand-laced cranberries encircle the Christmas tree in the center of the Mackay Foyer. Hand-crafted ornaments with photos from the period hang on the tree while holly bouquets dangle from the ceiling light fixtures.

Laurel Bruening hopes that the tradition will take hold.

“We hope that the decorations will continue in the future,” she said. “It’s a good way for people to get involved with history.”

The new spirit is guaranteed to last at least two years, as the students already have plans for the 2014 holiday season.

“We have a ton of new ideas for next year,” said Bruening. “2014 is the 100th anniversary of the Christmas Truce in World War I, and we’re trying to get other (students) involved as well.”

With the enthusiasm of this group, the tradition should easily take hold.

“We’re very excited to be able to pass this tradition on to future classes,” said Thomas Scheckel. “It helps bring the Christmas spirit to Mackay.”

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In Unexpected Character

With the responsibilities of the legal compliance of an organization resting on the shoulders of the office, the mental picture of a general counsel is often that of a calm, composed, unflappable professional, with a general confidence. Pictured as somewhat conservative, it may seem out of character for someone who serves as the most trusted legal advisor to also be a practicing artist. At Park University, however, Assistant General Counsel Courtney Goddard shatters that stereotype.

A member of the Board for the Kansas City Repertory Theatre, Goddard recently won a walk-on role in the Rep’s 2013 production of “A Christmas Carol.” One of several prizes offered in a silent auction raising money for the Rep, filling the role was originally the furthest thing from Goddard’s mind.

“I thought if I kept bidding the role up, we could raise more money, but I ended up really wanting to do the show,” said Goddard. “I’ve been going to see the Rep since I was in high school, probably 25 years, and have always wanted to perform.”

The opportunity wasn’t much of a stretch for Goddard, as she has been around the theatre for most of her life. From her first turn across the stage in grade school to her most memorable role as Rose of Sharon in a high school production of “The Grapes of Wrath,” acting has been a big part of her life. Indeed, she continued performing throughout college and law school, and into her early days as a practicing attorney.

“Just about anything there was to try out for, I did,” said Goddard. “I’ve done ‘The Sound of Music’ several times. I’ve done it as the little girl, I’ve done it as the 16-going-on-17 girl; I think I’ve played every female role in ‘The Sound of Music’.”

But despite all of her experience, Goddard still found herself quite nervous as the performance approached. Joining a cast of professional actors who have spent weeks rehearsing the show was a daunting task. Her busy schedule with Park complicated matters, as she wasn’t able to take part in many of the rehearsals.

“The cast rehearsed for a full month before they went on and I did one night,” said Goddard. “And on that night, I had none of my other cast members to block with, I just walked through it and blocked it myself.”

But as the saying goes, the show must go on, and when the curtain went up for her show, she was thrust into the limelight.

“When I walked out on stage, it was the first time I was interacting with my husband in the show,” said Goddard. “It was kind of overwhelming and very nerve-wracking.”

Despite her fears, her appearance on stage earned stout praise from the cast and crew. Kyle Hatley, associate artistic director for the KC Rep and director of “A Christmas Carol” applauded her on-stage presence.

“Courtney was very nervous about her role, but handled it like a professional,” said Hatley. “She was engaged in the scenes and was a delight to watch. The cast was happy to have her as a temporary addition to their Christmas family.”

And although another walk-on role is likely not in the cards for Goddard, she certainly has aspirations of performing again.

“But,” she said, “if I’m going to go back to performing again, I want to do a full rehearsal schedule.”

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Park Warrior Center Launches Holiday Care Package Drive

For the men and women of our armed services serving overseas, a small bit of home is often a huge comfort. And as the holidays approach, the Park Warrior Center will again look to fill that need with its annual care package drive. Until December 12, the Office of Military and Veteran Student Services will be collecting items for care packages to send to a U.S. Marine Corps unit serving in Operation Enduring Freedom.

56 Care Packages In Bags Sitting In Front Of Military Flags

56 care packages ready to be shipped to the 1138th Engineer Company in Afghanistan.

In 2012, Park University faculty, staff and students donated items that helped send 56 care packages to the 1138th Engineer Company, Army National Guard, based out of Farmington, Mo. This year finds an even closer connection to Park, as incoming student Jacob Anderson approached the Warrior Center staff with a US Marine Corps unit in mind.

Some of the most requested and appreciated items are snack items – protein bars, sunflower/pumpkin seeds, beef jerky and chocolate – and favorite name brands of shampoos, soaps and other toiletry items. A full list of items can be found here.

If you’d like to help, donations are being accepted at the Park Warrior Center, located in Thompson Commons. For more information on the program or for other ways to help, contact Ashley Beets (, Student Services Coordinator at 816-584-6536.

#GivingTuesday with Park University

As the hullabaloo surrounding Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday dies down, we wanted to invite you to join us as we take part in #GivingTuesday.

In many ways, the Park Fund is the lifeblood of Park University. It impacts nearly every one of Park’s more than 22,000 students, by helping with facilities maintenance, scholarships, academic program support and many other projects throughout the year. Kirby Appollis is just one of the many students who have felt the impact of your gifts to the Park Fund over the years, and we’d like to introduce you to her.

Listen to Kirby’s story and then visit to help Park University continue to give the gift of opportunity to students like her.