Faculty Focus

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May 15, 2018

Table of Contents

Moreira, PhD

Pratt, PhD

Lynn, PhD

Gatzke, MS

Gergely, MFA

Brunner, PhD

Devonis, PhD

Robbins, PhD

Chvala-Smith, PhD

Leoce, MM

“My colleagues inspire me every day. I still have a lot to learn — from them and from my students. Students tell me that I changed their life, but really, they’ve changed mine. I enjoy scholarship, but teaching is why I do this. It’s for the students.”

– Raquel Moreira, PhD
Assistant Professor of Communication


The award is given annually to recognize the best article published in the organization’s peer-reviewed journal, Women’s Studies in Communication. Moreira’s article explores the importance of embodied politics for marginalized women in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, as a point of entry to instigate structural changes in sexist, racist and classist contexts.”

“I sort of called out the white feminist scholars from the global north to rethink how they universalize or generalize experiences of white women with oppression, as though the path to overcome structural oppression is the same for everyone,” she explained. “Through those Brazilian women I interviewed, I was able to gain those insights — a multifaceted viewpoint. Their lives are really hard. They challenge the status quo, and noticing that, and validating their experience, gave me a different way to look at feminism and a way to fight structural oppression.”

After a long revision process, the piece was finally published in April 2017. Unaware that her article would even be considered for the award, Moreira was surprised in January of 2018 when the organization contacted her with news that her piece had been selected for the prize.

Moreira’s grandmother and mother, both hemmed in by the walls of gender constraints in Brazil, gave her examples of strength under oppression as she began forging her own path.

“Grandma was pulled out of school in third grade to take care of her family — she struggled and wanted to be more than a wife and a mother. She wanted to be an independent person and paid a high price because the world was against her.”

Moreira’s mother, who is currently attending university, would advise, “The world will tell you what you can or can’t do, but you stand on your own.”

Growing up in Brazil, Moreira was also significantly impacted by her grandfather. “I’ve always been concerned with social justice. My grandpa was very influential in my life – he was in the Brazilian navy and was one of the few who opposed the military coup. It cost him his career, and he went to prison.” Watching him struggle for justice inspired Moreira to fight for causes she believes in.

Moreira’s undergraduate degree was in journalism, and she thought that was a tangible way to make changes. She interned and found there were too many restraints in journalism. Teachers and professors inspired and challenged her, and she realized that teaching provided a way to empower generations. Combining research and teaching, this headstrong woman is making a difference. “I wanted to change the world,” explained Moreira.

There were no classes for Moreira to take on the topic of gender in Rio, but that didn’t stop her. She went in her own direction. Rather than writing on the political coup like everyone else, her first serious research was investigating what life was like for women during that historical period.

“People didn’t think gender was important to study, but I had a wonderful professor who challenged me,” she explained. “I needed to
feel like what I was studying and would inevitably teach was validated.” That’s what motivated her to attend the University of Denver’s doctoral program in communication and culture.

Moreira’s journey was challenging and fast. One month after defending her master’s thesis, she left Brazil to work on her doctorate in another language, which she completed in May 2014. She’s been at Graceland for four years now and has an empathetic understanding for students with challenges of all kinds. On her office door is a poster that concludes, “You are an invaluable part of our campus community. I am committed to building an inclusive, supportive and equitable space where you know you belong, you are safe and you can thrive.”

“A friend once told me that the students don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. I want my students to understand how science affects their everyday lives.”

– Dan Pratt, PhD
Professor of Chemistry


He is part of the legacy fabric of Graceland University. One of his initial conversations with people is usually on the line of “how are we connected?” and, undoubtedly, he will find the link.

Pratt has been teaching chemistry at Graceland for nearly 20 years and is famous for his grueling organic chemistry courses. Hundreds of students have had to pass the course to continue in their pursuit of a science career. In his defense, he is aware of the class stigma, and to prepare his students, he holds study-group meetings in his home. “Cookies and milk help,” he explained.

An atmosphere of trust and respect is cultivated with his students, and Pratt tries to provide them with experiential opportunities. His wide net of connections, through a large family of Graceland graduates, Community of Christ affiliation, six different universities and his growing number of student devotees, provide him with a vast map of contacts to tap into when students leave Lamoni.

Quick to share the spotlight, Pratt will point to the success of many of his students and boast about what they’re up to after graduating, peppering names with impressive achievements.

Pratt was awarded a summer fellowship at the University of Iowa through their program Fostering Undergraduate Talent Uniting Research and Education (FUTURE). What made it especially rewarding for him was that he was able to include his student Ryan Sheehy ‘10.

Sheehy went on to earn a PhD in 2015 and is now a professor at Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences.

Pratt encourages his students to question and to be curious about their world. “I do not believe there is a ‘stupid’ question,” he relayed. “Students should be able to ask questions without feeling intimidated.” He requires them to dissect problems into smaller pieces, solve the small problems first and then go on to the more complex ones. “These are skills that are not only important to become a good scientist, but they are necessary to successfully survive in today’s workplace.” He also asks them to communicate their scientific findings in written form as well as verbal presentations, preparing them for future graduate work.

Pratt graduated from Graceland in 1981 and received a PhD from the University of Washington. His fields of expertise include organic synthesis, analytical chemistry and instrumental analysis, and he has conducted two postdoctoral studies — one at Iowa State University and the other at the University of Kansas. Additionally, he spent a short stint in industry working for a small pharmaceutical company in New Jersey.

In March, Pratt was named first chairholder of the Daniel E. and Alice D. Waite Endowed Chair in Science. In his acceptance, Pratt told of his connection to the Waites and that his intent was to promote the science programs at Graceland and to help students — both science majors and nonmajors — see the relevance of science in daily life.

 The Graceland faculty encouraged, ‘Jolene, how did you do it at UMKC?’ They’ve wanted me to share my previous experience and perspectives.

– Jolene Lynn, PhD, RN
Associate Dean – School of Nursing (Graduate)


A registered nurse for 36 years, she graduated from Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, Kansas, with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). She has been a nurse educator for over 20 years, teaching for Johnson County Community College and the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) nursing programs. Her practice experience includes emergency, day surgery and wound care.

Serving as the BSN Program Director at UMKC for over nine years, Lynn completed her MSN-Nurse Educator at UMKC and her Doctor of Philosophy-Nursing at the University of Missouri-Saint Louis.

Q:Describe your new position?

My position deals with administrative responsibilities like budgets and planning, but since we’re such a small group of faculty for the nursing program, we do a lot of things together. We meet on Mondays and address all kinds of issues — from student concerns to teaching techniques — and have a good team approach. With nearly 700 students in the nursing program, our relatively small staff is busy.

I’m still teaching the introduction courses and am the lead for the Theory of Nursing course — my favorite.

Q:How did you choose nursing?

I’m a first-generation college student, and my parents were adamant that my sisters and I continue our education. My dad was frustrated without a degree to get ahead and wanted better possibilities for us. I was a candy striper in junior high, and the nurses were so kind and inspiring. They treated me like I was part of the team even though I was just passing out water and magazines. It was because of that experience that I went into nursing.

I was the first nurse in my family. My husband was a respiratory therapist for 30 years and six years ago went to nursing school. My son is a nurse, and my niece is a nurse now too. I guess I’ve been recruiting for nursing school! It’s such a good career and so flexible.

Q:Why did you move into academia?

I had worked in an emergency department and ran a wound care center, but we needed to adjust our schedules to accommodate child care, so I actually moved to teaching for the flexible schedule.

I started out at Johnson County Community College and then got my master’s at UMKC, which was starting a BSN program, so I got in on the ground floor. It was perfect for raising our three sons. I don’t know how it happened, but they’re all grown!

Q:Best part of your job?

I love the collegiality of Graceland and the process of problem-solving at the lowest level. You can’t get that at a lot of places. Everyone’s been so welcoming to me as a new person. When new nurses came to UMKC, they would drone on and on about their last place, so I was hesitant to say much. The Graceland faculty encouraged, “Jolene, how did you do it at UMKC?” They’ve wanted me to share my previous experience and perspectives.

I originally didn’t think I wanted to be in administration again, but the faculty was very supportive, and Dr. Jan Rice was so organized and helpful in the transition. In the past, I had to invent or create my position, so it is exciting to find that there are such good pieces already in place.


Reading fiction, bargain thrifting, Royals baseball, boy scouting — my husband and three boys are all Eagle Scouts —  and our 1920s house is a hobby all in and of itself.

 I had a vision of where we wanted to go — to bring in a stronger scientific base. We want students to know what they’re doing, but also why.

– Bryan Gatzke, MS
Division Chair – Health and Movement Science

Bryan Gatzke, MS, is the division chair for Graceland’s health and movement science program.

Health and movement science has concentrations in allied health, coaching, health, health education and physical education, which often leads to graduate work in physical therapy, occupational therapy or chiropractic studies.

Gatzke has been leading the program toward an evidence-based practice model using research and experience to help drive the decision-making process as a practitioner.

Gatzke is up to date with this changing and prevalent area in higher education. Currently, all the health and movement science professors are working toward their terminal degrees — the highest in their field. Gatzke is in a doctoral program in human sport performance at Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions in Provo, Utah.

He plans to complete his dissertation in strength conditioning with the Graceland women’s volleyball team and coach Stew McDole.

“I was in Utah for my doctoral work and spent time with physical therapists, occupational therapists, nutritionists, athletic trainers, strength conditioning folks and all kinds of professionals, which really let me collaborate with them. I’m always concerned for Graceland’s students and thinking of ways that we can make our program better. We are trying to prepare them at this level for what they’ll need at the next.”

Growing up in Wisconsin, Gatzke comes from a blue-collar factory working family and is a first-generation college graduate. He nearly didn’t make it through undergrad and had never considered graduate school as an option, but once he found his path, he made up for lost time.

“I changed my major four times — I can relate to many students who haven’t found just what they want to do yet. I had terrible grades and took time off; I just wasn’t focused,” explained Gatzke. “I had to come back from that. I was readmitted conditionally at the university. I switched over to fitness management and took anatomy physiology, and it turned out to be the best class I’d ever taken. Something clicked, and I realized I needed to put in serious effort. I couldn’t get through by guessing — I needed to really know the content. There is no easy street. It was the first class that really instilled my academic work ethic.”

Gatzke finished his undergraduate degree at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside in fitness management. He made an amazing comeback from a 1.0 grade point average to finish top of his class for fitness management students. While he was there, he worked in their biomechanics lab, presented at the state symposium and attended a few national conferences.

Now working on his doctorate, he realizes the importance of the academic field and brings his expertise to the classroom. Gatzke is making sure Graceland students are as well-equipped as any in the country.

Student-athlete Lucky Lovan ’19 noted the time Gatzke has taken to answer questions from lectures and help him prepare for physical therapy school: “Professor Gatzke is very knowledgeable in his field and values my learning by explaining the material in great detail,” says Lovan. “He expects the most out of his students and wants us to succeed in our future endeavors as clinicians.”

Awarded six-week artist residency

Assistant Professor of Art Karen Gergely was awarded a six-week artist residency at Brickscape in Charlestown, West Virginia, this summer. Gergely was one of 10 artists selected to create an immersive, socially-engaged installation responding to the history and culture of the Charleston community. The residency culminated in an exhibition for FestivALL June 15-24.




Take Students to Midwest Instruction and Computing Symposium

Professor of Information Technology Kevin Brunner and Assistant Professor of Computer Science Jacob Belmore attended the annual Midwest Instruction and Computing Symposium at the College of Saint Scholastica in Duluth, Minnesota. They were accompanied by nine Graceland University Computer Science and Information Technology students. The students participated in a programming contest, and all participated in listening to presentations and posters on current topics.




Cross-Cultural Psych Text Published

Professor of Psychology David Devonis’ cross-cultural psych text, Interactive Exercises for Cross-Cultural Psychology: Encounters With a Complex World, was published in May with Routledge. The text emanates from the collective efforts of classes over the past three years to identify and give voice to personally important cultural issues. The cover illustration is an adaptation of a diptych by Anne Simpkins ’82, and the indexing was done by Graceland Honors student Madeline Glodowski.



Open educational resources Handbook with Essays by
and Matt Moore ’18 Wins 2018 Open Education Award for Excellence

The Open Education Consortium, a global nonprofit network promoting open pedagogy, recently announced the 2018 Open Education Awards for Excellence. This year’s best Open Textbook — “an openly licensed textbook of exemplary quality in its presentation of educational content” — was awarded to A Guide to Making Open Textbooks with Students, a collection containing essays from Assistant Professor of English Tim Robbins, PhD, and English and art double major Matt Moore. Robbins and Moore are currently editing the Open Anthology of Earlier American Literature with support from the Rebus Foundation. Their essays discuss the anthology’s genesis from a collaborative course project in Robbins’ Early American Literature survey course at Graceland.


Article Published

An article by Assistant Professor of Theology and Scripture and Paul E. Morden Seminary Chair of Religion Anthony Chvala-Smith titled In Life and in Death: Barth, Bonhoeffer, and the Path from the Great War to the Confessing Church was just published in the Mennonite Quarterly Review 92 (April 2018): 149-172.




Selected as Clinician at Percussion Festival

Visiting Instructor of Percussion and Director of Athletic Bands Melinda Leoce was a clinician at the Point Percussion Festival at University of Wisconsin, Steven’s Point April 14. Leoce presented on Brazilian drumming and performed a steel pan solo for the Guest Artist Recital.

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