Each semester, the LEAP Ambassadors invite students, faculty, and staff from across the University to enjoy some ice-cream, snacks, and refreshments with us near the beginning of the semester. It’s a good opportunity to get into the swing of things, while also publicizing some of our upcoming events and activities.
The spring is always a little slower going than the fall, but we still had about 50 students show up for snacks,
This event is always a partnership with the Pre-Law Society, and this semester was no different, with some Pre-Law Society members on hand to assist.
This capable team gave us the opportunity to publicize and recruit for our upcoming events which, like every semester, is extensive.
Kat Talks–Stories of Success–is a brand new program at SHSU that is close in spirit to the world-renowned Ted Talks. Launched by SHSU’s wonderful Academic Success Center, the program will feature four speakers this semester, all of whom work for SHSU. In the future, the Center’s organizers hope to expand the program to incorporate alumni and current students.
Appropriately, however, the program’s inaugural speaker was President Dana Hoyt, whose theme was “being all-in, every day.”
In an excellent talk, she discussed the importance of being fully invested: in work, tasks, classes, and other aspects of the college experience. By getting these things every day, success is moved forward, and the small accomplishments soon grow into large accomplishments.
She punctuated these principles by drawing on quotations from leading thinkers such as Warren Buffett…
…Peter Drucker, Colin Powell…
…and other luminaries. And, as the Executive of a state institution with a 300 million dollar budget, she incorporated characteristics of sound management (and life): courage, confidence, change, and communication. One of the key points we took away was her admonition that, when seeking change, offer solutions.
After the Kat Talk, we grabbed a quick selfie with President Hoyt, and we relished being a (small) part of a new program at SHSU.
This sense of being in on the new, however, came full circle a few days later, when we learned that this semester would be President Hoyt’s last long semester on campus.
The LEAP Ambassadors had the opportunity to see Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Chelsea Clinton at The University of Houston, this is one of the highest-profile speakers LEAP has had the opportunity to see in person. The event was hosted by Brazos Book Store and the University of Houston, highlighting the Clintons’ co-authored novel “Gutsy Women: Favorite Stories of Courage and Resilience”.
The Clintons’ book highlights several important woman throughout history, some taught in classrooms and others not. The book discussion was moderated by Barbara Ann Radnofsky, a UH alum and Democratic politician.
Our conversation started with the significance of Harriet Tubman, someone Hillary Clinton remembers learning about as a young girl. When Clinton was a senator she was able to pass a bill in congress for the pension owed to Harriet Tubman for her husband’s efforts in the Civil War.
Hillary and Chelsea discussed the formation and importance of the book stating that “women deserve to see themselves in history”. When asked about how they were able to narrow down the amount of women in the book, and why Hillary Clinton, despite being the first woman to win the presidential nomination from a major party, wasn’t in it.
Hillary explained that there are so many “gutsy women” whose stories are still happening now like Michelle Obama and Greta Thunberg. When asked if she would consider another presidential as part of her story, she commented that she had been having some fun on Twitter lately.
Our conversation shifted to serious issues that our country is facing that primarily impacts young girls – like how there is no minimum age for girls to be married in 48 states. They also adamantly spoke against voter suppression and how next year will mark the 100th year anniversary of women being able to vote. The audience was able to see a shared bond between the two when they spoke about becoming mothers and a grandmother, both Hillary and Chelsea described the feeling as “soul-expanding”. The evening ended with a standing ovation for our two speakers, and a copy of the book.
After dinner we headed to a Houston Favorite since 1976, Star Pizza. For most of us this was our first time here, but all pizza lovers we were excited to try it. For our appetizer we started with Garlic Bread with cheese and a marina dipping sauce, a classic.
For the pizzas we tried the cowbell (a true Texan pizza topped with BBQ), chicken Alfredo, and a classic margarita. The favorite among our group was the chicken alfredo, with the margarita a close second. After a night of great conversation and food we headed back to Huntsville.
We piled in the car and headed east to Huntsville, way too early for a Sunday morning drive, but we each had long to-do lists awaiting our return. We passed by the Elisabet Ney Museum, to pay small homage to the artist who created the statue of Sam Houston (and of some other Texas hero) in the Capitol. Ney’s historic home and studio museum was not open, so it was truly a drive-by, but it was also close-by our final destination before leaving Austin city limits, Quack’s 43rd Street Bakery.
Topped off with coffees and teas, and the usual plethora of pastries, we headed out. We drove into the sunrise, reliving some of the more interesting, fun, frustrating, and even silly moments of the trip, our favorite panels/sessions, meals/restaurants, and some “honorable mention moments” shone through:
The Stories of 9/11 and One-on-One with Julián Castro (tie for most votes!)
Points of Light
Ed & the Feds
CAVA and Clay Pit (tie for most votes!)
Kerbey Lane Café
Coffeehouse at Caroline
Trip “Honorable Mentions”
Book signing by an author — not on the book signing list (Julian Castro)!
One traveler’s first time to visit the Texas State Capitol – Senate & House floors, Hall of Governors, and learning what the Texas Capitol icon the Goddess of Liberty *really* looks like…
Seeing Austin City Hall at night.
All in all, everyone agreed it was a packed trip, full of interesting information and exciting experiences, and in some cases, the opportunity to gain insights that may even challenge one’s current way of thinking.
The LEAP Ambassadors and Friends had a once in a lifetime opportunity to see three vice presidents in one day. With the planning of the Bush School and Scowcroft Foundation, vice presidents Mike Pence, Vice Presidents Dick Cheney, and Dan Quayle were planned to host an event outlining the significance of the vice presidency. It was also a historical moment because the Presidential Library Foundation was renamed to George and Barbara Bush Foundation. Upon arrival, we could see the heavy presence of security. We were screened by the secret service and then proceeded into the Annenberg Presidential Conference Center. We also saw Chuck Norris.
The event started with a warm Aggie welcome and some introductions.
First, the announcement was made that the many foundations and charities that George and Barbara Bush had founded and oversaw would now be under the umbrella of the George and Barbara Bush Foundation, which is the new name that has been given to what was formerly the George H. W. Bush Library Foundation. This received many cheers and much applause.
Vice President Mike Pence spoke first and shared his experiences in public service and included that he draws heavily from George H.W. Bush and is proud to serve as Vice President of our great nation.
Before the panel, he and his wife, along with Cheney and Quayle, had gone and paid their respects to George and Barbara at their gravesite that they share with their daughter Robin. They had brought lilies from a bush that George and Barbara had planted at the Vice-President’s residence when they lived there.
We saw a sneak peek of the documentary “President in Waiting” by Jefferey Roth which documents the role of the office of the Vice Presidency, and the relationship between the President and Vice-President.
Then followed a discussion with Cheney and Quayle as they shared their memories from their time as Vice Presidents.
Cheney recalled what it was like to be Vice-President during 9/11. He recounted that he was in his office in the West Wing when the first plane hit the World Trade Center, and he was quickly evacuated to the bunker under the White House.
Quayle talked about his time spent with George H.W Bush and what a kind and giving President he had been.
Finally, in a touching tribute to the late President George H.W Bush, we heard a special recording that he made and left to his children. There was hardly a dry eye in the room afterwards.
We dallied in the lobby of the convention center and were pleased to see many faces that were familiar to us. We saw Jean Becker, who was kind enough to set up a tour of the former President’s Houston area office for us in February, and who had just been named as a board member to the newly named Foundation! Congratulations Ms. Becker! We were also able to speak with Ambassador Chase Untermeyer, who came and spoke to a group of our students earlier in the semester. He was kind enough to pose for a quick photo with us before we all had to head out.
After the event, we went to Taz Indian Cuisine in College Station and sampled some of the fare. We tried a crispy bread made from lentils, and some sweet and spicy sauces. Victoria had the Goat Biriyani which is goat and basmati rice with herbs and spices. Francisco had the Chicken Tandoori, a dish made with chicken marinated in yogurt and spices and then cooked in a clay oven called a tandoor.
Stephanie tried the Masala Dosa, a sort of crepe made from rice batter and lentils, and stuffed with onions, potatoes, and other spices. Everything was so good that we were stuffed by the time dessert was offered. Luckily the Gulab Jamun didn’t come in a very large serving, but it was still so delicious!
Last Saturday, the LEAP Center hosted a booth at Scare on the Square. Scare on the Square is an annual Halloween event sponsored by The Huntsville Main Street Program in which approximately 40 different businesses, schools, and local organizations host games and activities for community children. It is sponsored by local businesses and is a safe atmosphere for families to enjoy themselves.
The cost is one dollar per person at admission, but you could have avoided this by embracing the spooky costume fun and dressing up! Keeping with past traditions, the LEAP Ambassadors dressed up in the spirit of Scare on the Square and became Shaggy, Daphne, Velma, Fred…but somehow overlooked Scooby Doo.
With the days ticking down to the spookiest event in Huntsville, the LEAP Ambassadors got together on their own time to design a fun, competitive, and a ghostly game. The idea become “Ghost Bowling” and the community kiddos had a wonderful time playing it.
Just like regular bowling, it required the “pins” (toilet paper rolls that had drawn on ghost faces) to be set and the kids to knock the ghouls down by rolling the ball.
The SHSU Pre-Law Society and Pre-Law Cohort joined the Ambassadors in the event with their own unique games and tents.
The groups each prepared their tent with spooky decorations and helped make the day special for every person who attended. With smiling faces, all the children waited in line to play, ready to bust some ghosts and eat some candy!
In between the hustling the bustling and giving out candy, we amused ourselves by noticing the creative costumes the kids would come in: Concha breads, Paw-Patrol pups, Elsas, a Huntsville Hornet Marching Band Member, as well as some actually frightening costumes.
After the LEAP center’s 2000 pieces of candy were gone, we packed our tent and witchy game satisfied with the 400 plus jolly children that had visited us. The LEAP Center is grateful to all of the sponsors that helped put on Scare on the Square and look forward to another hauntingly spectacular event next year!
In 2017, the LEAP Ambassadors were fortunate enough to host the Texas Supreme Court, which came to SHSU and conducted two oral arguments, while also agreeing to a lunch, dinner, and Q&A period with students, faculty, administrators, and local attorneys.
It was a highlight of our time at SHSU.
Two years later, we received a pleasant surprise when, after we posted on social media that we were in Austin, Justice Jeff Boyd contacted us and offered to “repay our hospitality” by offering us a tour of the Texas Supreme Court. It was an offer that was equal parts surprise and generous, but if there’s anything we know, it’s when to say, “Yes!”
The building is located right next to the Capitol and is actually connected by the underground expansion of the Capitol, so following the inauguration, it was convenient for us to walk over and enjoy this unique opportunity.
We began in the court room that is used to hear oral arguments.
The room is surrounded by portraits of former justices–but only those justices unlikely to hear cases before the court. A former justice who is still a practicing attorney, for example, would be perceived to have an unfair advantage if his or her portrait was hanging in the courtroom.
Interestingly, we saw a portrait of Justice Bob Gammage, who taught at SHSU. (Professor John Domino, a POLS Faculty at SHSU, is currently finishing a book about Gammage and his legal career in Texas.)
Justice Boyd then explained the process of how cases reach the level of the Texas Supreme Court and what type of cases they hear. Furthermore, Texas is unusual because it has a bifurcated top court, with the Texas Supreme Court hearing civil cases and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals hearing criminal cases.
Justice Boyd was particularly insightful when discussing the informal processes of the court, such as when he explained the importance of seniority, which impacts where the justices sit at the bench to how their robes are arranged in the robing room.
Speaking of which, Justice Boyd then took us into the robe room where the justices put on their robes and relax in-between hearing cases.
Justice Boyd even showed us the room where the justices meet once a month for a conference where they discuss their cases.
It was a such an amazing opportunity to watch a Texas Inauguration and then have a Justice of the Texas Supreme Court give us a personal tour. Although the Ambassadors have taken many trips to Austin, this one was particularly special and memorable.
We began our day with a trip to Cedar Coffee and Supply. The coffee shop was incredibly popular and trendy, something unexpected from a small town in the middle of west Texas. We each ordered an assortment of coffees off of the menu and had a delicious breakfast. Half of us ordered the Red Hatter, a delicious Belgian waffle covered in Rose Crème and fresh, organic strawberries.
The other half ordered the Ol’ Faithful, a hearty bagel with bacon, a fried egg and spinach. The morning was full of good conversation and stories told by Mark Burns.
After, Mark left to head back home and we explored the shop next door that had art from local woodworkers.
We went back to the hotel for a few hours of editing, then we revisited our new favorite coffee shop for Coffee milkshakes, Nitro Floats, Rose Lemonade, and a Basil Snap. After fueling up on coffee, we headed to the Museum of The Big Bend on the Sul Ross Campus. We enjoyed seeing the historical exhibits…
…history of photography installation, and an original mural painted by Xavier Gonzalez that is believed to have been painted while he was a student.
While downtown, we wandered into a co-op ran by a coalition of local artist who take turns running the shop. We purchased a couple of pieces, and I stepped in to help the artist running the shop change the receipt paper when it ran out.
While browsing, we met an artist named Tim McKenna, the photographer who composed the images used in the 2018 Big Bend Calendar. He took us to the art co-op next door and told us the stories behind some of our favorite images of his. We all purchased some of his prints, and even got a photograph with him and his wife, Julie.
Once we finished purchasing our pieces of art from the second Co-op, we were all ready for dinner, so we walked across the street to “Guzzi up,” a local restaurant. For starters, we had the garlic bread and spinach artichoke dip.
The appetizers were amazing and devoured within minutes. For dinner we ordered an assortment of items off the menu, a Margherita pizza, The Libby sandwich, a buffalo chicken sandwich, and grilled cheese with spinach and artichoke soup.
After dinner, we drove to the Prada Marfa art installation, which was about an hour from Alpine, Texas. Surrounded by a fence with locks left by people in love, the Prada building contains genuine Prada items, six bags and thirteen right shoes. As the sun set, we photographed the building and fence…
…and even got our signature LEAP shot.
The day was jam packed with lots of coffee, art, sightseeing, and invaluable experiences.