An Evening with Author Wendy Walker

With school still more than a week away, the LEAP Ambassadors still have time for some fun learning before the semester gets underway.  So, six LEAP Ambassadors and friends traveled to Houston to visit Murder by the Book and enjoy a presentation by author (and family-law attorney) Wendy Walker.Wendy Walker, Emma in the Night, SHSU, LEAP Center

Ms. Walker has written several books, but her reputation as a writer was largely established with the publication of “All is Not Forgotten.” The book, addressing “memory science” and the affect that it can have on personality and the legal system, was a hit, and it prompted Walker to adopt a similar theme for her latest, “Emma in the Night.”  By “similar theme,” we don’t mean to suggest that she wrote “All is not Forgotten” part 2; rather, she is continuing her exploration of how cognitive or personality disorders can play out in families and in the legal system.

In “Emma,” Walker explores Narcissistic Personality Disorder.  As Walker notes, her books are a mix of psychology, family relationships, crime, and the legal system, and that is a good description of “Emma in the Night.”  It’s an engaging book.  In fact, it is so engaging, it has even prompted to Christina to read it!

Walker did a fine job of describing the book and her career at Murder By the Book.

Wendy Walker, Emma in the Night, SHSU, LEAP Center

She discussed her various careers, her slowish path to becoming an attorney, and—most interestingly—her foray into writing.  Her first books didn’t sell well (“friends and family”), and her agent told her to adopt a new approach to her plots.  Taking a step back, inspired by a NY Times article on memory science, and working more closely with her agent, she produced “All is not Forgotten.”  With that hit—and the film rights picked up by Reese Witherspoon—Walker got the sales and publicity needed to become a full-time writer.

Wendy Walker, Emma in the Night, SHSU, LEAP Center

Walker was more engaging than most authors, and she was particularly gracious in reaching out to us during her presentation, asking us what we were studying, what interested us, and thanking us for coming.

Wendy Walker, Emma in the Night, SHSU, LEAP Center

We had time for a nice group photo…

Wendy Walker, Emma in the Night, SHSU, LEAP Center

–she even indulged us in a selfie–

Wendy Walker, Emma in the Night, SHSU, LEAP Center

…and she spent time discussing her travels and career after her presentation.

We thought about inviting her to dinner with us, but she had previously mentioned her crazy book-tour schedule, and we didn’t want to impinge upon her sleep availability further.  So we headed off to Azuma on our own, to continue to expand our cultural horizons with six types of sushi!

It was also a chance for us to catch up—four of us work full-time, two of us work part-time—and to begin some preliminary plans for our trip to Big Bend National Park next week as well as the beginning of the fall semester.

The night was a nice break from the summer job grind, and many thanks to Wendy Walker for an educational and entertaining evening!



Bookin’ it at the Texas Capitol

By Beatriz Martinez

With only one more month to go in the legislative session is flying by, with the month of April flying by faster than Representative Stickland can call a parliamentary inquiry. Nonetheless, I have been able to explore and venture out into a city as diverse as it is weird. The best part of all is that I can work in one of the  most historic sites in Texas, the Austin State Capitol.

Sam Houston Austin Internship Program, SHAIP, Austin Interns, Texas State Capitol, SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Armando Martinez, Mando Martinez

I have the honor of working for Representative Armando “Mando” Martinez (we are both named Martinez, but we are not related!). An outstanding public servant, he happens to live and represent the city near my hometown.

Sam Houston Austin Internship Program, SHAIP, Austin Interns, Texas State Capitol, SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Armando Martinez, Mando Martinez

He is a veteran at the capitol with more than 7 sessions under his belt and holds the position of Deputy Whip and Vice Chair of Transportation. It’s been a pleasure working for him this session, and I have had the chance to learn a lot while also being inspired by his hard-work and perseverance.

Sam Houston Austin Internship Program, SHAIP, Austin Interns, Texas State Capitol, SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Armando Martinez, Mando Martinez

Because  most of the staff come from the Rio Grande Valley, the area our office represents, we are all at home in the office. It is a good thing too because I can spend up to 18 hours in the Capitol office in a given day. My office hours start in the morning before the sun is up and end until the moon is high in the starry sky. Even though work days are long, I enjoy the hours since that is the time when there is a lot of peace and quiet.

As part of Representative Martinez’s team, my duties entail various responsibilities. My primary function is to manage Representative Martinez’s schedule and act as the office steward. To briefly explain this last duty, my desk is the first one that everyone sees. This position makes me in charge of greeting and helping people get to where they need to go. Apart from these responsibilities, I prepare bill booklets, analyze bills that go on the floor, and conduct research on Representative Martinez’s committees. Through these duties, I have witnessed the process by which a bill becomes a law, beginning in its infantile stage as a booklet, to being presented on the floor, and hopefully evolving into a law.

Sam Houston Austin Internship Program, SHAIP, Austin Interns, Texas State Capitol, SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Armando Martinez, Mando Martinez

It has been a great experience to work at the Capitol because I have been on the front row seat while legislation is in the making. Not only did I see how the budget was passed last month in March, but in April I got to see the passage of SB4. On that April evening, the House Floor did not adjourn until 3:30am, which was unprecedented this session, unless you count budget night. It was a truly informational  experience where we got to see more on how a bill can become a law.

However, my duties do not end at the Capitol. As a LEAP Ambassador, I still participate in many events. For three of the weekends, I traveled to Huntsville in order to participate in the Democrat vs Republican Charity Football Game…

LEAP Charity Football Game, SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics

….the Wynne Home Easter Egg Hunt…

Wynne Home Arts Center, LEAP Center, Easter Egg Hunt, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, SHSU

and SHSU Founders Day.

SHSU Founders Day, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, SHSU

And last weekend, I was participated in a particularly interesting event here in Austin.

In the city there’s the Austin Bookstore Crawl, which is essentially a scavenger hunt across 13 predetermined bookstores across Austin. To celebrate Independent Bookstore Day in April 29, participants of the event must visit various bookstores and take a selfie with a list of books provided in the event. These pictures are posted on social media in order to enter a raffle with a grand price of $500 worth of book items. All in all, it was a great experience. It challenged me in more ways than one. And even though I do not have a car, I took 7 different buses and walked 3-4 miles to 9 different bookstores. Unfortunately, I did not win, but I did receive a great deal of knowledge and awareness of the bookstores surrounding the area. I even saw a George Rodrigue “Blue Dog” painting in Book People.

George Rodrigue, Blue Dog, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Austin Interns, Austin, Book People, SHSU

Because part of being a LEAP Ambassador is to delve into different cultures, it was rewarding to participate in this community event.

This past month of April has been one of the best experiences I have had in the 2 years of education in Sam Houston State University. I now understand the impact and change caused within myself due to the training I have received as a LEAP ambassador. Not only that, but I have also sought my own exposure to multiple experiences. Even better is that I have been able to expand my family at the Austin Capitol.

Sam Houston Austin Internship Program, SHAIP, Austin Interns, Texas State Capitol, SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Armando Martinez, Mando Martinez


National Book Awards Come to SHSU

The National Book Award Festival (NBAF) at SHSU is the product of hard work by Dr. Amanda Nowlin-Obanion, who has once again brought a group of award-winning authors to Sam.  Sponsored by the CHSS, the NBAF featured the young-adult trilogy March, by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin and illustrated by Nate Powell.  The three spent 24 hours or so at SHSU, mingling with students, faculty, and staff at a reception, formal presentation, and a breakfast.

The evening kicked off with a reception for 80 or so stakeho0lders in the Lowman Student Center, where Lewis, Aydin, and Powell patiently shook hands…

National Book Award Festival, SHSU, Sam Houston State University, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, John Lewis


National Book Award Festival, SHSU, Sam Houston State University, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, John Lewis

…discussed politics, literature, and the weather…

National Book Award Festival, SHSU, Sam Houston State University, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, John Lewis

…and, of course, signed books.

From there, the authors migrated to the LSC Ballroom, where they took turns discussing their book and life experiences for about an hour and a half.  Introduced by Dean Abbey Zink, Benjamin Samuel (NBA Director of Programs), and President Dana Hoyt, the three authors spoke to a packed house of approximately 650 people.

National Book Award Festival, SHSU, Sam Houston State University, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, John Lewis

Illustrator Nate Powell discussed the challenges of drawing pictures that not only advanced the narrative, but also captured the raw emotions of the events: violence, courage, and passion.

National Book Award Festival, SHSU, Sam Houston State University, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, John Lewis

Author Andrew Aydin discussed his career with Congressman Lewis, from his beginnings handling mail to working with emergent digital technologies.  He also took credit for the idea of a graphic novel, as a means of achieving Lewis’s goal of reaching a younger audience.  Pushing a “comic book,” he noted, was a tough sell, but one that Lewis warmed up to over time.

National Book Award Festival, SHSU, Sam Houston State University, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, John Lewis

The crowd was clearly there to hear Rep. Lewis, who responded with a moving biographical discussion and rousing calls to action. He reminisced about his days on a farm in Alabama, his lack of access to college education, his parents’ admonitions “not to get in trouble,” and his own tendency to push the envelope for the right cause.

It’s a strategy that has served Lewis well over some six decades in public life.  He has served in elective office for 46 years, 41 of them in US Congress.  And he encouraged the young people in the audience to heed a similar call: to pursue activism for the right cause, to “get into trouble” for a good cause.

Whatever your thoughts about getting in trouble, the night was clearly a good cause, one supported by hundreds of staff, faculty, students, and locals, who offered thanks with multiple standing ovations and the purchase of probably 200 books.

LEAP students were privileged to be a small part of the proceedings, serving as somewhat ineffectual ushers (people sat where ever they wanted mostly, irrespective of instructions).

Following the event, we were able to pose with a group shot of the authors, the Dean, and event organizers, a special coda to a special evening.

National Book Award Festival, SHSU, Sam Houston State University, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, John Lewis

Many kudos to Dr. Nowlin-Obanion, Dean Abbey Zink, and the staff of CHSS for putting on a first-class event.

Noises Off-Laughter On

By Beatriz Martinez


“Everyone please take your seats, turn off your phones, and open any candy wrapper that needs to be opened. The show will now begin.” The Leap Ambassadors enthusiastically sat down inside the Erica Starr Theatre waiting for the curtains to open as they were waiting for “Noises Off” to begin. This three act play is well known for its converging perspectives that revolve around one plot. It is a “play within a play.”

Noises Off, SHSU, LEAP Center

The main story consists of a theatrical group trying to put together a performance in the midst of personal drama, lovers’ quarrels, quirky characters, and a director with a god complex. During the first act, we are introduced to the different characters during the dress rehearsal of their own play “Noises On.” Just like any other dress rehearsal, there were many missed cues, missed lines, and missing (drunk) actors …”well, you know,” as Garry says. In the second act, the actual performance begins and we see the backstage perspective. The performers have been left on their own and tension is high. Mayhem runs rampant behind the scenes, and at some points even on stage. Regardless of everyone “trying” to get the show on the road, axes fly, bourbon bottles are drunk, and slaps are thrown around, making for a spectacularly silly sight to behold.

The third and final act allowed the viewers to see the final performance of “Noises On” in its full glory.


A very short glory that is, as sardines went flying everywhere along with the actors. Doors opened and doors closed (on the characters). And sometimes they could not be opened again. But we did have to applaud their improvisation skills coupled with a great choreography. It gave the audience a big laugh as we watched their performance go from bad to worse, leaving the audience to ponder Brooke’s “Sorry?”

Noises Off, SHSU, LEAP Center, Double Double


As the remarkable farce ended, everyone laughed and cheered while giving the SHSU performers a standing ovation as the SHSU theater department once more gave an excellent performance.

The Art of the Western: With Dr. Carl Rollyson

By Brian Aldaco

In Dr. Carl Rollyson’s sixth visit to Huntsville, the LEAP Center welcomed him to our Texas town with a screening of Rio Bravo. The film was not only appropriate for the throng of John Wayne fans in town, but also for Dr. Rollyson, whose most recent biographies addressed one of Wayne’s frequent co-stars: Walter Brennan.  Accordingly, this past Friday the LEAP Ambassadors open the doors to the Kathy E. Don Education Center…

LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU, Rio Bravo, John Wayne, Dr. Carl Rollyson

…to make room for the Wayne/Brennan admirers (along with a few newbies to the western flicks) for a night of corrupt land owners, noble peacemakers, and the beloved Stumpy.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Rio Bravo, John Wayne, Walter Brennan, Dean Martin, Ricky Nelson

Before the show, however, the western wearing guests clanked their boots around the center to mingle and enjoy of our delicious punch and popcorn.


It was nice to visit with many friends who attended the screening of the Howard Hawks’ classic.

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Judge Tracy Sorensen brought her son, Cody, and he had seen the film some 15 times.  Indeed, he knew much of the film’s plot, and was heard to complain that “John Wayne didn’t make enough movies”.

Other audience members, including many LEAP Ambassadors, took the time to pose next to our John Wayne cutout.

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Before the screen opened up to the vastness of the West, however, Dr. Rollyson gave us an overview of some of those characters who made up this endless country.

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Dr. Rollyson even acted out a couple of parts…

in his enjoyable and informative introduction to the film.

Before long, Rio Bravo began, and the audience sat still for a hundred and forty minutes of enjoyment. Among the audience we could feel the empathy towards Dude’s (Dean Martin) alcoholic struggle…

Dean Martin, LEAP, SHSU, Rio Bravo, Howard Hawks

…coupled with the amusement towards the numerous comic remarks by Stumpy (Walter Brennan).  Interestingly, one of the well-liked characters was Pedro Gonzales-Gonzales, who was both loyal and maddening to Sheriff Chance (Wayne’s character) but, of course, it was Wayne who was the star of the show.

Rio Bravo, Howard Hawks, John Wayne, SHSU, LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center

Regardless, no matter how young or how old, whether this was the 50th or first time to watch, everyone who left, left with a smile in their face and a craving for more of the Duke, more of the Western thrill, and more of Brennan.

Dr. Carl Rollyson, An American Character, Walter Brennan, Rio Bravo

Fortunately, this latter wish came true for those who left the screening with a copy of A Real American Character: The Life of Walter Brennan, signed by its author Dr. Carl Rollyson.

The LEAP Center was glad that everyone left happy from the screening and couldn’t miss an opportunity to take a group picture with two Texas heroes: John Wayne and Sam Houston.Rio Bravo, John Wayne, Sam Houston, Dr. Carl Rollyson, LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, SHSU, Mac Woodward

The LEAP Center would like to thank Dr. Carl Rollyson for his friendship, expertise, and fine analysis of films and diverse biographical subjects!


Riding Through Time With Jeff Guinn and Henry Ford

As the LEAP ambassadors’ research drew to a close, still more adventures await them on the road. Although the various activities we got to engage in on the way to Detroit were elucidating and interesting, the true focus of our trip was as stated previously, to help Jeff Guinn in researching the Vagabonds.


For that effort, from Monday to Thursday, we followed the same routine; getting to the Henry Ford Museum’s research library around 9 a.m., researching for a few hours, getting lunch with Mr. Guinn and Mr. Fuquay, researching some more, and finally spending an hour touring the museum or the adjacent Greenfield Village.

This was a phenomenal opportunity to see a best-selling author in the research environment. Additionally, we got to hear many stories and see many amazing artifacts.



One highlight was being taken back into the conservation section of the Henry Ford, where we were shown a Lincoln refrigerated truck that was being restored.

1922 Car Used by Vagabonds
1922 Car Used by Vagabonds

Incredibly, this was the very refrigerated truck that Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone, and Thomas Edison had taken along with them on a few of their camping trips! We got to stand next to real history, and see how the team of the Henry Ford is working to preserve and restore such artifacts for future generations to enjoy.

Henry Ford Museum, Conservation

Another special treat was being able to help Jeff Guinn pick out pictures for his book from the Henry Ford’s digital collection.

The Vagabonds, Beson Ford Research Center, Jeff Guinn
Reviewing Vagabonds Photographs for Mr. Guinn’s Book

We sat down and looked through 231 pictures, narrowing these down to about 40. Mr. Guinn will look through other sources before settling on which ones he wants to see appear in the book. At that point, the marketing team for Simon & Schuster, Mr. Guinn’s publisher, will dissect his choices, and they will make the final decisions.

During our breaks, where we could wander freely in the museums. Following our first day, which we spent focusing primarily on the Beatles Exhibit and automobiles in the Henry Ford Museum, we spent the last couple of days looking over planes, civil rights exhibits, Americana, and even furniture.

Henry Ford Museum

But this was no ordinary furniture; many of the pieces were owned by highly accomplished gentlemen. We saw a desk used by Edgar Allen Poe for most of his adult life, for example. It is possible that some of the stories and poems that are so loved today, like “The Raven,” “The Telltale Heart,” or “The Pit and the Pendulum,” were scribed at this very desk.

Edgar Allan Poe, Henry Ford Museum, Writing Desk
Edgar Allan Poe’s Writing Desk

We also got to see John Hancock’s card table and Mark Twain’s writing table!

Mark Twain, Writing Desk, Henry Ford Museum
Mark Twin Portrait & Writing Table

In the planes section, the Museum had a replica of the Wright Brothers’ plane…

Wright Brothers, Henry Ford Museum, Kitty Hawk
Replica of Wright Brothers’ Plane

…and a little known Ford plane, which never really proved successful commercially.

Ford Plane, Henry Ford Museum
Ford Company’s Unsuccessful Plane

In the Americana section, they had a copy of Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense”….

Thomas Paine, Common Sense, Henry Ford Museum
Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense”

… and the chair in which Abraham Lincoln was sitting when he was assassinated.

Abraham Lincoln, Assassination, Ford Theater, Henry Ford Museum
The Abraham Lincoln from Ford Theater

As the above suggests, some of the artifacts were unusual, even unsettling.

On a more inspirational level, the Museum had the bus on which Rosa Parks refused to take a back seat, both literally and metaphorically.

Rosa Parks, Bus, Segregation, Henry Ford Museum
The Bus on Which Rosa Parks Refused to Take a Back Seat

Amazingly, people were even allowed to sit in the seat she refused to relinquish.  The Museum also had guidelines of the “Montgomery Improvement Association” (led by Martin Luther King, Jr.) distributed to African Americans which helped them stand for their rights without putting themselves or others in undue danger.


Wrapping Up

Finally though, Thursday afternoon rolled around, and our time at the Henry Ford drew to a close. We said our goodbyes to Jeff Guinn and Jim Fuquay while thanking them for giving us the opportunity to work with them for a week.

L-R: Jim Fuquay, Brian Aldaco, Jeff Guinn, Paul Oliver
L-R: Jim Fuquay, Brian Aldaco, Jeff Guinn, Paul Oliver

Besides being a great researcher and a great teacher, he is a very personable and amiable man, who really does love his work. The joy he takes in his research is reflected in both his books and in his interactions with others. After spending a week with Jeff Guinn, you can’t help but be interested in whatever subject he’s writing about!

Jeff Guinn and Paul Oliver
Jeff Guinn and Paul Oliver