Monthly Archives: February 2014

February 26, 2014: New Developments on Campus

I’m heading to a Texas State University System’s Board of Regents Meeting in San Marcos this week (my first one as interim president) but before I go I wanted to catch everyone up on some exciting developments at Sul Ross that I may not have previously mentioned. I’m also asking Steve Lang and Yvonne Realivasquez to supply lots of pictures to help supplement this week’s blog since I am rushing to get this one off before hitting the road.

As a guy who always has appreciated motorized vehicles as a major source of preoccupation, first up I want to recognize that Sul Ross has acquired a pride-worthy source of transportation to replace our old 30+ passenger bus with something considerably larger. Our athletes will be travelling in style when we begin basketball play offs this week thanks to the efforts of Jim Clouse and Noe Hernandez who found, negotiated, and purchased our new 40-passenger charter bus. And thanks to Steve Lang, we have an excellent story to tell about the acquisition and photos to boot!  Read the Story Here

New 40 Passenger Lobo Bus

New Lobo Bus

Jim Clouse and Noe Hernandez

Jim Clouse and Noe Hernandez

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am also excited to announce that last week I signed an agreement with the Dixon Water Foundation to accept a $1.2M donation that will establish an endowed chair in Natural Resources Management. I was honored to meet and dine with Mr. Clint Josey, the namesake on the endowment, and Mr. Robert Potts, CEO for the Dixon Water Foundation to sign the agreement that will appoint last year’s Outstanding Sul Ross Professor, Dr. Bonnie Warnock as the first ever Clint Josey Endowed Chair for Sustainable Ranch Management at SRSU.

From Top Left to Bottom Right: Dave Rogers, Bonnie Warnock, Rob Kinucan; Clint Josey, Quint Thurman, Robert Potts

From Top Left to Bottom Right: Dave Rogers, Bonnie Warnock, Rob Kinucan; Clint Josey, Quint Thurman, Robert Potts

A couple of important additions to campus that will make a big difference to our future. First, the addition to our website of the final version of our Strategic Plan which was begun last Spring thanks to the input of several dozen people who came to campus to assist in the process. This planning document will serve as a snapshot of who we believe ourselves to be and as a guide that will help to shape our priorities as an institution. Never to be mistaken for a completed and unchanging document, but rather, as a foundational touchstone from which we might build upon and branch out. Second, to help us along on our journey, a daily allotment of the best assortment of key coffee products also are now available at the Morgan University Center. Pictured here is Sasha, our very charming and capable barista. 

Sasha Estrada and Sul Ross Student

Sasha Estrada and Sul Ross Student

Finally, permit me to point out once again that the search for the 12th President is underway. Last week the position was posted and soon thereafter a website was published to allow interested parties to check the progress of the search. I understand that the initial call volume inquiring about the position was strong and so far 8 applicants have made their interest official. So if you know of anyone who would be a good fit, please send them to our website!

Presidential Search Webpage

 

 

February 21, 2014: Pride in Sul Ross

At Kiwanis we have a practice of putting up a dollar for every brag we care to share with the group, not unlike a similar practice probably conducted at many civic organizations. I’ve probably “spent” a  few dozen dollars over my year and a half in the Alpine Kiwanis chapter bragging on my wife, my family, and most often, on Sul Ross. A lot of the other Kiwanians also contribute a lot of money at each meeting “bragging” about Sul Ross and other items similar to mine.

I think it is perfectly fine to talk up the things which you are the proudest. We do live in Texas and to some extent, it probably is expected (Great State, Great People—that would cost me $2 if I said it at lunch on Wednesdays). But this morning had I been at a Kiwanis function I would have emptied my wallet talking about Sul Ross.

Early this morning I had the distinct privilege and honor of kicking off the 28th Annual Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Marshall Auditorium to a packed house. It also was a captive audience to share with them the benefits of Sul Ross as the #1 most affordable institution of higher education in Texas. Best residence halls, food, and teachers too, all with a low student to faculty ratio of less than 17 to 1. Great weather to boot, although I confess I forgot to tell them I think we have the most beautiful campus in the state and perhaps the best college town too (I would have been out of money at that point had there been a dollar brag jar!).

I also invited those several hundred people in attendance to apply for college admission at Sul Ross since they obviously could recognize a good deal when they saw one. Of course they laughed since probably most had already been to college and quite a few were my age or older. Nevertheless, I also implored them to share the Sul Ross message with their kids who might be thinking of going to school, and even more likely, their grandkids. Lastly, I shared with the audience a poem that I wrote to welcome them to our campus.

Speaking of kids, our own “kids” on campus, who I prefer to recognize as “young adults” (because that is who they have become by the time they show up in Alpine thanks to parenting efforts of a supportive family), I have enjoyed watching them discover the new Bronc Buster statue that was re-located from in front of Lawrence Hall to the anterior of the Museum of the Big Bend. This statue, generously commissioned and donated several years ago by Mr. and Mrs. Al Micallef, was hardly noticed by our student body at its previous location. Now when students walk by they really are seeing it for the first time. And what an impression it makes!

And speaking of the MOBB, last night, my wife and I attended the Trappings Cowboy Tales and Dinner at the Gage Hotel in Marathon, Texas. It was an evening of fond exaggerations and entertaining  Cowboy poetry.  I had the pleasure of sitting with Museum Board members and potential future members.  This was a great way to start out an early weekend of West Texas hospitality.  Later tonight, the Preview Party at the Museum promises to be chock-full of western memorabilia, art, along with new and old friends.

By the way, my wife is aware of my gift for writing poetry (meaning nada), and hence, asked me to keep it short if I was going to venture to give it a try. Having never done anything like this before since elementary school, what I recited is written below. You can be the judge if I should ever attempt this again.

Welcome to Sul Ross
We’re glad all ya’ll are here
To enjoy cowboy poetry
And evenings of good cheer.

Our campus is yours to come and go as you please
To bask in Alpine weather
And take in a fresh breeze.

There’ll be no cowpies to step in
Or decisions to consider
Just kick back and listen to these long-winded kidders.

You’re in Far West Texas
The Greatest of Places
So sit back and enjoy
Our Wide Open Spaces.

February 17, 2014: Busy, Busy, Busy!

Things are heating up at Sul Ross. Temperatures soared into the upper 80s this weekend, just in time to enjoy college softball and baseball in Alpine, as well as the Love Your Community 5K Walk/Run to benefit the Alpine Food Pantry and university scholarships. As an optimist, I am inclined to think that Spring has sprung and our trademark beautiful weather has returned for the year. Of course, I also have heard from long-time residents not to get too excited too soon since perennials planted before March 1st tempt the return of freezing weather.

Campus is heating up in other ways as well. In addition to recent softball and baseball games and the 5K Walk/Run (which was a huge success thanks to Karen Brown and company), Lobo men’s and women’s basketball teams competed on Saturday making it a college sports enthusiast’s dream day. And if this were not enough to fill a busy calendar we have several other significant events scheduled this week. Tomorrow begins with a visit by U.S. Representative Pete Gallego’s staff to learn more about exciting developments around campus. Immediately following that, our excellent theatre department wraps up its final showings of “Hamlette,” first to an audience of 500 middle schoolers from out of town (undoubtedly future Lobos), and later in the day to students from Alpine ISD (also future Lobos we hope!).  The next day we host another activity on campus, the San Antonio Livestock Event (SALE) address. This year’s presentation will be provided by Texas A & M Professor Dr. Jim Heird. His talk, entitled “Current Issues in the Equine Industry,” will begin at 7:30 PM in the University Center Conference Rooms. Thanks to the success of SALE, more than $1.5 million has been raised over the past  25 years to support student scholarships at Sul Ross.

Thursday evening Trappings comes to Sul Ross with a kick-off dinner in Marathon at the Gage Hotel. The next morning at 10 AM in Marshall Auditorium the Annual Cowboy Poetry extravaganza begins for the 28th consecutive year on our campus. Noted storytellers and poets including Allan Chapman and Rodeo Kate, Chris Isaacs, Cowboy Celtic and Amy Hale Auker will be on hand non-stop through Saturday to regale audiences with tall tales and homespun poetry suitable for hat and boot wearers of all sizes. Later that day the Museum of Big Bend opens at 5 PM for a well-catered reception to honor numerous artists who will be on hand to meet and greet prospective patrons as the MOBB kicks off its most prominent fundraising event of the year. Trappings events continue through the weekend with gatherings planned at the Reata on Friday night and culminating with the official opening exhibit, sale and reception the Museum of the Big Bend on Saturday evening.

The following week is jam packed too, with various Lobo athletes playing road games throughout central Texas, a Texas State University Systems Board of Regents Quarterly meeting taking place in San Marcos, a “Meet the New Head Football Coach”  alumni luncheon in San Antonio at the Oak Hills Country Club (organized by Ken Batchelor—Thanks Ken!) at noon on Friday, and then tentatively, a signing ceremony later that same afternoon in Uvalde to mark an agreement with Mexico to  accept students into Sul Ross on a more seamless basis.

So per usual this time of year, it is a sprint to Spring Break and mid-terms soon thereafter to plunge us into the second half of the term. So let’s keep going Lobos in a positive direction. There’s much to do and much to look forward to!

February 12, 2014: Great State of Texas!

OK, I admit it. I like Texas. It’s a great place to live, work, and vacation. That would have been really tough to say before my wife and I moved to the state more than 12 years ago, especially since we are originally from Oklahoma. Talking this weekend with a best friend and colleague who was born in Conroe and now has the misfortune to live in Florida, we discussed his current quest to move back to be closer to family and I chided him for living anywhere else.

Of course, no one who lives in Texas has to be sold on it. It is simply the case that if you live here, there’s a very high probability you are not interested in living anywhere else. It’s usually also true that if you are from here, chances are you are looking for a way to move back if you ever made the mistake of leaving. That’s one thing that works to great advantage for colleges and universities when they hire faculty and staff. While we always seek to hire the most qualified applicants, everything else being equal, if they’ve got Texas roots then we know they’ll probably fit better and be more likely to accept a job offer that brings them home.

Aside from our weather, and the vastness of the State and its topographical diversity (yes, we have mountains and yes, I get to gaze at them every day outside of my office window!), it is the people who live in Texas who make it the best of all choices. An article in this morning’s news is a case in point. The headline that caught my eye was this “Big-Hearted Texas Man Pays Off Lunch Account Deficits for 60 Kids.”

It seems that a Houston man by the name of Kenny Thompson heard about an incident in Salt Lake City, Utah where school lunches were thrown in the trash to punish kids with delinquent lunch account balances. Although I didn’t read that article (didn’t want to really), it apparently had to do with shaming them into paying up the next time or risk being embarrassed. After hearing about this, Mr. Thompson inquired about the number of negative lunch balances at the elementary school his son attended in Houston and where he, as a parent, volunteered his time as a school tutor and mentor. Mr. Thompson proceeded to settle the account for 60 children, to the tune of $465 of his own money.

The story of Mr. Thompson’s generosity and compassion made my day. And what he said during an interview with KPRC radio when asked about it made me smile: “[Children] don’t need to worry about finances. They need to be worried about what grade they got in spelling.”  He went on to say “When I left the building knowing that they were getting fed, they didn’t have that stress,…[it] was the best money I ever spent.”

I’m glad to wake up every day in Texas. It’s the greatest of States. But even better, it’s great to live in a place with people who have an attitude like Kenny Thompson. Maybe he’s a Lobo? If he’s not, he should have been! Over the next several weeks we will begin to design and develop a mentoring plan for next year’s incoming freshmen students. I hope we can unleash our own generosity of spirit that sets us apart as a campus community that cares about our students.

February 5, 2014: Dual Credit Courses

Last week’s blog mentioned that Sul Ross is even more affordable than the U.S. News and World Report has acknowledged. That’s because of opportunities for students to earn classes at Southwest Texas Junior College or acquire dual college course credits while still in high school. Both avenues are a great way to get a solid start on future college graduation. In fact, concerning the latter, recent research confirms that dual credit students are significantly more likely to finish college than those students who wait until after high school graduation to continue their studies.

High school students who take college courses as juniors and seniors build a foundation for success across many dimensions. First, not only are these students indicative of the kinds of young adults who are planning ahead for college, they also are learning about college instructional expectations firsthand so they will know what to expect at the next level. They also are gaining valuable experience about the time commitment that college will require once they get there. And, they are getting a head start on essential core classes that are building blocks for success in other, higher level courses that will exercise their abilities to read, write, and communicate more effectively.

I’ve already mentioned that dual credit courses are a particularly frugal way to reduce college costs but I don’t think I said much about how this works. In Alpine, Dr. Jimmy Case and Mary Beth Marks (Jimmy is interim Provost and Mary Beth is Assistant Vice President for Enrollment Management) are working closely with area high schools to provide dual credit, lower division courses. Students can earn these credits by attending classes on campus, through Interactive TV, or in some cases, on their own high school campuses in courses taught by familiar high school teachers who are qualified to teach college coursework. Sul Ross charges tuition for such courses at a reduced rate which is frequently picked up by the local school district.

Dual credit courses are just one important way that Sul Ross is working closely to celebrate our relationships with our K12 partners in the region.  We also are working in a more concerted fashion to help each other out across the spectrum of our mutual interests. For example, Alpine ISD has excellent athletic facilities. . Just this past week AISD invited Sul Ross to share their new track to help our track athletes prepare for the spring season while we begin an extensive project to rehabilitate our existing facilities near Jackson Field. Of course we readily accepted this generous offer and are very thankful for the willingness of the superintendent and the high school coaches to welcome us to their campus. Alpine ISD has also shared with us their extensive knowledge about track surfaces and companies we may wish to hire to upgrade our own facility. And they put us in contact with a company we might consider when we look into swapping out our ancient, Lobo bus with alternatives that will better suit our needs for reliable transportation as we send our student-athletes on numerous road trips to compete across a four state area and beyond.

While I plan on talking about this last item quite a bit more in a future blog, I’ll share one bit of information that I found particularly interesting when looking into our travel needs. Sul Ross student-athletes as a group travel approximately 50,000 miles each year to represent Lobo athletics and alumni in various sports. That’s a lot of driving! To make sure they arrive safely and in good shape to perform at their best, CFO Cesar Valenzuela, his staff, and interim Athletic Director Bobby Mesker have been looking at the best transportation options for the remainder of this year and for many years to come. I won’t say anymore than this right now but I am confident that the Lobo family will be pleased with the eventual outcome. I know I am excited about the prospects and I believe you will be too!