Missouri State University
Arts & Letters Expressions
An online publication for the alumni and friends of the College of Arts and Letters

English department welcomes new faculty

Please help us welcome the following professors who joined us this fall.

Dr. Suneeta Thomas, TESOL


Dr. Thomas was born in India and raised in United Arab Emirates. She specializes in different styles of English spoken throughout world.

Dr. Jonathan Newman, English before the 1800s


Dr. Newman is currently working on a book project that focuses on the practical connections between literary competence, masculinity and professional identity from which humanistic authorship emerged in the Middle Ages.

Dr. Leslie Seawright, technical and professional writing


Dr. Seawright has been teaching at the Texas A&M University at Qatar. She specializes in police report analysis and how those reports affect the legal system.

Posted in English, News | Leave a comment

Five reasons to choose COAL as your college

They are the storytellers. The creators. The visualizers.

The students who make up Missouri State’s College of Arts and Letters take pride in standing out amongst the crowd and making their Missouri Statement a distinct one. How? Here are five ways COAL is making itself known at MSU.

Giving Voice will open your eyes to oppression


Giving Voice, a theatre troupe housed in the theatre and dance department, puts on an interactive performance that is inspired by Augusto Boal’s Theatre. Their goal is to give a voice to those who are oppressed, underrepresented and marginalized.

The troupe helps many groups tackle topics like gender, racial, political and religious discrimination. This is done through a series of presentations and workshops. The Giving Voice facilitator and actors work with participants to explore how to approach taboo situations in a safe environment.

Student Exhibition Center gives you space to exhibit your creativity


The Student Exhibition Center, or SEC, is a gallery festooned with student artwork and funded through the Student Activity Fee.

Think your art should be featured? All you have to do is fill out a proposal form and you have a chance to have your own artwork on display.

You can even hold a reception there (but it does cost an extra fee, so check out the SEC website for more details).

The SEC is located on Historic Walnut Street at the north end of the Missouri State University campus.

But wait — there’s more! The SEC isn’t the only Missouri State gallery looking to display student artwork. The Brick City Gallery features distinguished, as well as up-and-coming artists, in this urban oasis of creativity. Plus, admission is free and open to the public.

You can immerse yourself in TV industry with ‘Show-Me Chefs’


Imagine a television show run by college students. That’s exactly what “Show-Me Chefs” is!

The show is produced by the department of media, journalism and film as part of a class. Students produce and film the whole series — a reality competitive cooking show that highlights local food producers and chefs.

The show’s second season is about to premier on KOZL-TV, and they are already in pre-production for Season 3. On Oct. 22, the show will host a fundraising gala at Springfield’s 319 Event Center.

Untamed Tongues will empower you to use your voice


Untamed Tongues is a poetry collective dedicated to establishing a place on campus for poets and musicians to share their creative works with others, be active servants to the community and maintain high academic achievement.

The group was co-founded nearly a year ago by Taylor Vinson, an MSU junior in communication. To celebrate this organization’s first birthday, a poetry slam is being held at 7:30 Oct. 3 in Plaster Student Union, room 400. There will be three rounds with three different time limits: Free topic, no props. Everyone with an original poem is welcome to participate

Study Away will take you around the world


We encourage our students to travel the world. There are several COAL faculty-led study away opportunities, including a few listed here:

  • In summer 2016, Dr. Andy Cline, a media, journalism and film associate professor, led a group of students on a 10-day train ride to the Trans-Siberian Railway. The goal was to create a documentary film as they travelled through Moscow, Vladivostok and Lake Baikal.
  • In another summer adventure, Dr. Cameron LaBarr, choral studies director, and the MSU Chorale took an 18-day tour of South Africa. Highlights included performing at the American Embassy, hiking in the mountains and attending a safari ride.
  • Center for Dispute Resolution took a 10-day study away trip to Ireland in June 2015. The program explored the country’s historical and cultural roots of conflict and the subsequent peacemaking processes and reconciliations. This cultural experience toured students around Dublin, Belfast and Derry/Londonderry.
  • For the last several summers, art professor Gwen Walstrand has led students on a trip to Florence, Italy. The courses offered abroad range from drawing, photography and general education options. For more information about the summer 2017 Italy trip, attend one of the info sessions on Oct. 5, Oct. 19, Nov. 14 or Nov. 23, each at 7 p.m. in Brick City, building 1, room 211.
Posted in Art + Design, Communication, Media Journalism & Film, Music, News, News Releases, Student Accomplishments, Student News, Theatre and Dance Department | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Terrifying audition turns into rewarding student experience

To hear Darian Bengston tell it, the day he auditioned for Missouri State’s acting program was the worst of his life.

Photo by MSU photo services.
Photo by Jesse Scheve, MSU Photo Services.

Bengston expected to have normal performance jitters going into his one-on-one audition with Missouri State’s acting program coordinator, Dr. Kurt Heinlein. MSU, after all, was his top-choice school.

However, all chance of normal was soon derailed. Minutes before the audition at a hotel, Heinlein broke the news that the scheduled space was unavailable. They would have to go around the corner the kitchen instead.

“I wasn’t going to tell him ‘No,’ so we go into the kitchen and there’s people moving food in and out. I’m so torn inside.”

But Bengston drew a deep breath, took off his glasses and bravely launched into his monologues, despite the bustle of the wait staff preparing food and walking between them.

“It was a fiasco, and I was terrified,” he said. “I did not think I was going to get in.”

‘You belong with our family’

Those fears were nearly confirmed when he returned later to check MSU’s call-back roster, and he wasn’t among the eight people listed.

Then, he noticed a second page. On it, his name stood alone with the note: “Just stop by.”

“I sat down with Kurt and (then-Department Head) Dr. (Chris) Herr thinking they were going to politely let me go. But then Kurt said, ‘We don’t normally do this, but we really think that you belong with our family, and if you want, we’d like to offer you a spot at our school — right here, right now.’”

Bengston unequivocally said “Yes,” and now, more than two years later, it is clear why Heinlein and Herr were so quick to bring him into the competitive program.

Darian Bengston played Francis Flute in MSU's 2015 production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream." Photo by Jesse Scheve, MSU's Photo Services.
Darian Bengston played Francis Flute in MSU’s 2015 production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Photo by Jesse Scheve, MSU’s Photo Services.

Hard work is paying off

Bengston’s staggering talent, impressive work ethic and infectious positivity make him a catch for the university.

By the end of his sophomore year, he had acted in several MSU and student stage productions, including “Hair,” “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “Runaways” and “Topdog/Underdog.” He had also appeared in the student-produced films “Bad Beat,” “Liven” and “Paradox.”

Bengston, now a junior, is part of the theatre-of-the-oppressed group Giving Voice and is the president of MSU’s University Coalition of Young Artists; he works at the university bookstore and interns at Springfield Contemporary Theatre.

He is the recipient of the Joseph Cantlin Memorial Scholarship, the Giving Voice Scholarship and the Theatre Regents Scholarship.

In fall 2016, Bengston will be studying abroad at Theatre Academy London, a program run by Florida State University. There, he will work with some of London’s leading artists and in locations where many theater giants got their starts, like William Shakespeare’s Stratford-upon-Avon.

Darian Bengston was part of the ensemble for MSU's 2016 production of "Hair." Photo by Jesse Scheve, MSU Photo Services.
Darian Bengston was part of the ensemble for MSU’s 2016 production of “Hair.” Photo by Jesse Scheve, MSU Photo Services.

Catch his next performance

All these experiences, he said has helped him hone his craft and shape what his future will look like. And surviving every actor’s worst nightmare of an audition has given this Waterloo, Iowa, native a leg up — at least where nerves are concerned.

“I could be auditioning for Steven Spielberg tomorrow, and I would not be as scared as I was that day.”

Darian Bengston played the lead role in the 2016 student film, "Liven." Photo provided.
Darian Bengston played the lead role in the 2016 student film, “Liven.” Photo provided.

As for what is next after graduation, Bengston said he’s still figuring that out.

“Up until months ago, I was gung-ho on going to Los Angeles. I wanted to be the biggest movie star in the world. But after being here (at Missouri State), working and learning, I’m very divided between stage and film. And now it’s more about the art and about what I want to do with my life, instead of just the generic end goal of making it big.”

Bengston will return from London in time for the theatre and dance department’s spring 2017 production season, when you’ll have a chance to see him on the MSU stage once again.

Posted in News, Student Accomplishments | Leave a comment

Dance student studying abroad in Israel blogs about experience

Brittney Banaei, a senior dance major, recently earned a spot at the Rothberg International School’s DanceJerusalem program. She landed in Israel in late August, and has been documenting her journey on her blog “An American Dancer in Israel.”


Brittney Banaei. Photo submitted.

This is a preview of her first entry, where we get a peek into the life of a study away student:

Man with AK47 Walks Donkey and Other Travel Highlights

It is Thursday night in Israel, which is like Friday night in the US. Our studies are done for the week and now we are all taking some hard-won downtime.

I’m sitting in my modest (but cute!) dorm room and writing this entry, wondering how in the world I’m going to relay to you the magic that is Jerusalem.

I wanted to tell you all about my first week, academics, dance, new friends, etc., but I think that is too much to read in one sitting. I will tell you that I had my first (language immersion) class today and all feels right with the world.

So here is the story of my journey …

Read more about Brittney’s intriguing two-day journey from the U.S. to Jerusalem, and her first few days in Israel on her blog, “An American Dancer in Israel.”

Brittney flew standby and lucked into a first-class seat to Tel-Aviv. Photo submitted.
In her post, Brittney describes her two-hour shuttle bus ride to Jerusalem, which included a man with an AK47 walking a donkey. Photo submitted.
"I arrived at the student village in-tact and un-puked. I got all checked in (thank you housing office for staying open), spilled coffee all over myself, had several incoherent (it’s not you, it’s me) conversations with strangers and unpacked my stuff." Photo submitted.
On her first morning in Jerusalem: "My open window brought in the crisp breeze along with drifting the tones of morning call to prayer and a stunning sunrise view." Photo submitted.

Posted in News | Leave a comment

Cast your vote at the Manhattan Short Film Festival

The Manhattan Short Film Festival is coming back to Missouri State at 7 p.m. on Sept. 24 in Plaster Student Union Theatre. 

People from all over the world gather in over 250 cities come together for this global film festival where they vote on their favorite film.

How does it work?

Viewers will be given a ballot upon arrival that they will fill out at the end of the 10 films, participating in the instantaneous celebration occurring in over 300 cities around the globe during the span of a week. Votes are tallied by each cinema and sent to the festival headquarters. The winner will be announced Oct. 6.

Directed by Romain Quirot, "The Last Journey of the Enigmatic Paul W.R." is a French film that follows astronaut Paul WR, mankind's only hope of salvation, as he prepares to go to space. Mysteriously, a few hours before the mission launch, Paul has disappeared.

Manhattan Film Festival finalist: “The Last Journey of the Enigmatic Paul W.R.,” directed by Romain Quirot


Cost is $10 at the door. Proceeds benefit the media, journalism and film department‘s Digital Film Production Scholarship.

Posted in Media Journalism & Film, News | Leave a comment

Join MSU’s journey to become an All-Steinway School

Many changes are on the horizon for students as Missouri State continues its push to overhaul the facilities and accommodations the music department offers. The Steinway Initiative is key to that plan.

What does it mean to be an All-Steinway School?

The Steinway Initiative will pave the way for Missouri State to become an All-Steinway school, a prestigious designation given to those institutions that only carry Steinway & Sons pianos.

This will ensure that music students will have the best pianos at their fingertips to learn and practice. It is an endeavor supported by the university, the Missouri State University Foundation, the College of Arts and Letters and the music department.

How are we able to purchase the pianos?

Music students’ lesson fees have already purchased 10 Steinway-built Boston upright pianos and one Boston 7-foot grand. And thanks to a generous gift by Sam Hamra, chairman of Hamra Enterprises, the university recently purchased its first new Steinway grand piano.

“Mr. Hamra’s generosity will provide the industry standard in grand pianos for not just our piano majors to perform on,” said Dr. Julie Combs, head of the music department. “Every music student who performs a junior degree recital or takes part in a master class will also be accompanied by this instrument.”


Combs said an estate gift this year from Al and Rosemond Clapp will also help secure the All-Steinway designation: “They love their Steinway grand piano and want to be sure it is re-homed at a later time.”

Why do we want Steinway?

Combs said becoming an All-Steinway School demonstrates MSU’s dedication to making certain students have the opportunity to learn on the gold standard of instruments. This will help in recruiting efforts, as well.

“Great teachers, facilities, and equipment are major factors in students choosing a music school,” she said. “We have the great teachers; our facilities are going to be renovated, and we are aiming to replace our piano inventory. These steps will help with our recruiting and retention and move the MSU music department to a new and higher level.”

Where can I learn more and play a Steinway?

You can learn more about Steinway’s hand-crafted pianos by playing one and hearing the story of its creation. Come to our exhibition on Sept. 17 and 18. There, you’ll watch a short film to see a Steinway piano disassembled and hear the story of its quality and creation told. You will also be able to play the Steinway L1037 piano.

Piece by Piece: The Secrets of Steinway Exhibition

Date: Sept. 17 & 18
Time: 2 – 4 p.m.
Location: Wehr Band Hall

Posted in Announcement, News, Special Event | Leave a comment

MSU Talks hosts debate on two-party system

On Tuesday, Sept. 13, the Missouri State debate team will host an open-forum MSU Talks debate on whether the U.S. should keep its two-party system or explore expanding into multiple parties.

The debate is part of MSU’s Public Affairs Week. Once the debaters present their arguments, attendees are encouraged to participate in the discussion by sharing their ideas and opinions.

Want to come?

Date: Sept. 13
Time: 4 p.m.
Location: Meyer Library 101

Posted in Communication, News, News Releases, Public Affairs | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment