Thursday, March 22 was definitely an insightful day for the LEAP Ambassadors. After visiting with former US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales for an hour and a half, and discussing literature with novelist Stephen Harrigan, the Ambassadors attended the 2018 version of “Let’s Talk,” an event designed to raise funds for the University’s excellent Elliot T. Bowers Honors College.
To maximize our coverage of the tables and to broaden our experiences, we set (mostly) at separate tables, allowing us to share experiences in our after-action meeting. So, Professor Yawn and Stephanie sat with artist Dan Dunn; Ryan Knesek, Christina Perez, Chase Kennemer, and Beatriz Martinez sat with novelist Stephen Harrigan; Bianca Saldierna and Kaitlyn Tyra sat with Dr. (and Texas Representative) Tom Oliverson; Sawyer Massie sat with Dr. Christopher Maynard (our Associate Provost and an expert on the Cold War); Makayla Mason and Karla Rosales sat with Nadav Morag (an expert on Homeland Security); and Ryan Brim sat with Benjamin Park (who discussed the phenomenon of “Hamilton”).
But before the actual program began, renowned speed painter and Sam Houston Alumni, Dan Dunn gave a presentation to the audience.
As burgeoning art fans, it was a treat for us, and his skill at creating intriguing art rapidly is something to behold, as this video attests:
His talent wowed the audience, and his performance showcased humor and ingenuity.
In the meantime, between the painting and before the auction which occurred at the end, students were given the opportunity to converse with successful Alumni and professors. Topics were given free range and each personality at the table contributed something new to the conversation. To break the ice, we discussed several topics relating to our generational gap. Our earliest memory of a historical event, ranging from the Cuban Missile Crisis to 9/1, and sparked discussion about what made it so impactful on lives and how it impacted the world. Along with the discussion of historic events, we discussed our favorite authors along with movies, and how those works have adapted over the years. The LEAP Ambassadors were able to talk more with Stephan Harrigan about his experiences working with Robert Duvall and other experiences that revolved around Texas history, gaining a little more insight on what they do as writers.
As the event wrapped up, we were able to catch a few of the special guests before they left; getting in some last-minute questions, opinions, and laughs. We appreciate all those who were able to bring this together including Sam Houston’s very own Ms. Woodward, who was gracious enough to sponsor our table. We also had a chance to meet Dan Dunn…
…and speak with him about his craft…
…and pose with him in front of his newly-created art!
LEAP had an excellent time at the Honors College event and look forward to our next event: Mock City Council!
With an initial rocky start of forgetting to pick up Brian from Willis, and having to turn back at Conroe which caused a delay of 25 minutes to our trip, we finally headed for Big Bend. To mark the first day of our West Texas Tour, we joined Mark Burns in Houston’s Hermann Park. What brings us to Hermann Park when our destination is Big Bend Canyon, you ask? In the middle of the entrance rotunda of the park, as some may remember from our previous Hermann Park visit, stands a statue of a horse-mounted General Sam Houston (created by Enrico Carracchio) that greets all visitors into the park.
To honor the statue of this great Texas hero, Mr. Burns decided to photograph its grandeur.
Standing a few feet behind the camera-wielding Burns, we captured his photographic process through still and motion photography.
This we will do along the trip as we continue to record Mr. Burns at his craft for his documentary.
During his photo session, he explained to us how he framed the shot, pointing out different factors in the scene that could beautify his subject.
He also mentioned how he was waiting for the perfect lighting conditions in the cloudy sky.
After a few shots, we cleared the area, but not before taking some striking footage of Mark Burns. Mr. Burns soon finished his photoshoot in Hermann Park, and after showing some of his impressive photographic instruments, we climbed into our vans and headed towards San Antonio.
Along the way, however, we decided to soothe our grumbling stomachs with a short stop in Columbus, Texas. This quiet, quaint town, located about an hour west of Houston, is home to Keyser Market. Among other things, it is also home to an architecturally impressive courthouse. Even though we were unable to explore much of the town, we did enjoy a delicious sausage and chicken meal from Keyser. With our hunger satisfied, we got back on the road.
Soon, the country-land of vast pastures gave way to a network of highways; we had made it into San Antonio. On our first stop was the McNay Art Museum, located on the northeastern side of town.
Before we began our trip, we learned that the McNay had recently acquired a Robert Indiana LOVE sculpture. Excited, we entered the museum with the plan to pose by this LEAP favorite artwork. But more on that later.
As always, we went through the museum’s exhibits identifying artists that we were familiar with. In the first room of artworks we were amazed with an art piece by Alexander Calder. Snake on a Table, is a bronze, snake-like sculpture designed by Calder that balances on a table top while standing upright. The physics that makes this possible are incomprehensible to us as the snake balanced precariously on the edge of the round table. Nonetheless, the beauty in balance was just as inspiring. In the room, we also noticed pieces from other LEAP favorites such as Georgia O’Keeffe, Edward Hopper, and Diego Rivera.
We also saw work by a recent LEAP favorite, Jim Love…
Moving on to the next room, we noticed two Pablo Picassos, Crouching Woman and Portrait of Sylvette. Acknowledging the impressive pieces, we decided to commemorate the artworks by LEAPosing for a photograph.
Every artwork had its own beauty, but the two that called our attention were a Pablo Picasso from his “blue period” and a non-minimalist Piet Mondrian. These artworks that differed immensely from their typical paintings, demonstrated the versatility of the artists. As LEAP offers eclectic opportunities to its students, we like to think that we are also versatile. Weather our varying talents include photography, you will have to judge our photos throughout the trip to answer this question.
In the meantime, we continued to explore the museum’s awe-inspiring collection. Before heading off to the sculpture garden on the grounds, we took a quick look at the south-western exhibit. We found the warm colors in the pieces to be soothing. Within the exhibit, we also marveled at a few artworks by Georgia O’Keeffe.
With the indoors artwork all viewed, we wondered onto the sculpture garden in search of LOVE, or at least Robert Indiana’s sculpture of LOVE. We explored the grounds and noticed some impressive sculptures that captivated our imagination. One sculpture by Joel Shapiro captured our attention with its gravity-defying qualities. However, we still had not found the sculpture that prompted our visit to the museum. It was with great dismay that after walking through the entire garden and coming back to where we started, we found a rectangular cover made up of panels. With trepidation, we neared the plaque at the foot of the enclosure. The plaque read “Robert Indiana, LOVE.” We learned that the museum is in the process of installing a new exhibit. To prevent certain sculptures from being damaged during the installation, some outdoor artworks had been covered, consequently denying the view of the public. With sadness, and feeling little love, we still posed in front of the covered sculpture with the determination to leave with a photo.
As we were sure that no one was left behind (including Brian), we climbed into our van, eager to continue our adventure.
The Alamo, The Saga, and Mi Tierra, by Christina
After exploring some San Antonio art and scouting out potential photography areas–including the Alam0…
…we headed to dinner at the Mi Tierra Cafe y Panaderia. Since there were many Hispanic/Mexican among the group, we wanted to make it as authentic as possible. That is how we ended up in the Mexican Historic Downtown Market. As we walked into Mi Tierra, we could see colorful piñatas hanging from the ceiling and with each room that we passed the walls differed in colors. It was hard to decide on what to eat because everything sounded delicious. Brian ordered The Sonora Special, which included beef tips with ranchero salsa smothered on top. Brian is (or so he likes to think) our authentic Mexican food specialist. The others chose a wide variety of Mexican dishes including the Mole and guisado. While we waited for the food, we even had some mariachi sing the “Caminos of Guanajuato”, For dessert, we all shared some exquisite flan and it was scrumptious!
After dinner, we arrived at the San Fernando cathedral for “The Saga”, which is a light show that electrified the audience with its mesmerizing scenes. It told the story of San Antonio from the Alamo to the present day. To accompany the lights in the storytelling, there was also a collage of songs to represent the different changes of time.
The show lasted about 25 minutes. We decided to walk off our food and since Beatriz had never been to the river walk, we decided to take a stroll along the river walk. Finally, after getting lost a couple of times, we headed back home for some rest and to get ready for the early start tomorrow.
Austin Intern Beatriz Martinez shares her experiences at the Sam Houston Birthday party in Austin, TX.
In 1879, one of the greatest Texas universities was established to honor one of Texas’ greatest heroes. In 2017, current and former Bearkats traveled to Austin to pay tribute to this great hero, General Sam Houston. Even though his date of birth is March 2nd, we decided to party a little early. On February 28, a grand celebration was held in Austin to commemorate Sam Houston’s birthday.
Early that day, SHSU alumni banded together to visit fellow SHSU students that are a part of the Sam Houston Austin Internship (SHAIP), bearing gifts for their offices in the true Bearkat-giving spirit. In total, there are 10 different SHSU interns working in different offices: Alejandra Galvan with Senator Kolkhorst, Beatriz Martinez with Representative Armando Martinez, Christina Perez with Representative Jim Murphy, Brian Aldaco with Representative Will Metcalf…
Later that evening, the SHSU Alumni Association sponsored and hosted a reception to invite Legislators and their staff to join in the Bearkat celebration at the Austin Club. Guests included SHSU professors and staff, Texas State University System (TSUS) Regents, administrators, legislative staff, and legislators. The LEAP Ambassadors had the pleasure of meeting with former-Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives Gib Lewis…
…TSUS Chancellor Brian McCall, Vice Chancellor Mike Wintemute, TSUS Vice Chancellor Sean Cunningham, and former Regent and SHSU alum Trisha Pollard. Some of the legislators in attendance were accompanied by their interns: Beatriz Martinez with Representative Martinez, Christina Perez with Representative Murphy, and Brian Aldaco with Representative Metcalf.
Fur us, it was a lot of fun, one of the most pleasant events in which we participate. In addition to the Austin interns, Professor Yawn brings in volunteer students from SHSU to assist the President’s Office and the Alumni Association. Several of these students were selected because of their promise as future Austin interns, and it’s a chance for them to meet with the current Austin interns and learn more about the expectations and responsibilities of the job.
As guests mingled, President Dana Hoyt spoke to the audience, thanking the guests for attending. She shared some “fun facts” about SHSU, including the University’s retention rates in school districts around the state; employment rates for Bearkats; and rankings of various departments in SHSU.
SHSU alum Todd Kercheval (and President of the Alumni Association) also spoke, highlighting more of the University’s achievements.
And Chancellor Brian McCall spoke, illuminating some of the accomplishments of SHSU and the entire TSUS system.
As a Ph.D., a former Representative in the Texas Legislature, and as Chancellor, McCall has a unique perspective on realistic goals and the means to achieve those goals.
It was a fun event, with SHSU freshmen and sophomores serving as volunteers; Austin interns who are mostly juniors and seniors; and alumni on hand. It was a great chance for Bearkats of all generations to spend time together and with legislative staff.
By Allison Faith
SHSU freshman Allison Faith shares her perspective of participating in the Sam Houston Birthday.
As a freshman and new student to the LEAP Center, I was fortunate to volunteer at this fun-filled event. After driving from Huntsville to Austin in the early afternoon, we arrived at the beautiful Austin Club. One of our main tasks at the Sam Houston Birthday Celebration was to hand out name tags.
Attendees of the event included The Board of Regents, Chancellor Brian McCall, LEAP Center ambassadors, Austin Interns, SHSU alumni, Texas legislators, and University faculty. While handing out name tags, we had the opportunity to meet many of these individuals in a short amount of time. Once the event started, we were able to mingle and network as well. I took this time to also chat with the Austin interns about their experiences working at the Texas Capitol. They provided valuable insight to what the internship was like as well as advice for what I can do now to prepare for the upcoming session in 2019.
My favorite part of the event was getting to meet Mike Wintemute, the Executive Director of the TSUS Foundation. As a student interested in pursuing a career as a communications officer or press secretary, I greatly enjoyed learning about his background and job opportunities in this field.
But the whole evening was wonderful, and it was a great opportunity to meet senior students, alumni, legislators, and staff, all of whom went out of their way to make the evening enjoyable for the novices in the crowd.
The LEAP Ambassadors would like to thank President Hoyt, Charlie Vienne, Charlene McWilliams, Riley Kleppelid, and Meagen Korenek for including us in the event.
Coby Steele and Kevin Hernandez–After arriving in Austin late in the evening (2:30am), we had an early morning beset by cold weather. In fact, our planned trip to Capitol Hill was delayed a bit, but we did not let this deter us…
Following some roaming around the Capitol…
we met with Senator Charles Schwertner’s staff: Chief of Staff Tom Holloway and District Director Leah Alexander. They walked us through the workings of the Senator’s office in both the Legislative and non-Legislative years, as well as their duties. We were surprised at the amount of work for such a small staff, and we found the policy side of things particularly interesting.
Elected officials rely heavily on staff to explore model legislation, analyze the costs and benefits of legislation, and to summarize existing legislation. There’s a lot of work that goes into these bills, and only a small portion get passed.
After our visit in Senator Schwertner’s office, we broke from the Capitol for lunch at Frank and Angie’s Pizzeria in downtown Austin. The restaurant is so named because of the original owner Angie having a strong affection for Frank Sinatra. There we were joined by a fellow LEAP Center student, Brian King, who is currently interning at the Capitol for Representative Senfronia Thompson. We all got to enjoy the Pavarotti, a vegetarian pizza; the Chairman of the Board, a type of supreme named for Sinatra; and our favorite was the Sicilian which incorporated bell peppers into the pizza. A single pizza was the equivalent of a large delivery pizza, so there was plenty to fuel us for what still lay ahead.
Following lunch, another treat awaited us. Nikki Cobb, Chief of Staff for Representative John Otto, and Chris Griesel, the Parliamentarian of the House of Representatives, met with us on the House floor to discuss the process of how a bill becomes a law.
The discussion was very engaging; Mr. Griesel displayed an encyclopedic knowledge of history and procedure, as well as frequent bursts of humor to lighten what, in other hands, could be a dry topic. Mrs. Cobb was very helpful in answering questions about the legislative process, while also providing details on her career path. Both spoke about a common theme of working together with other legislators and not making enemies or bridges because they said one day “they may need you to pass a bill, and another day you may need them.”
After our exclusive and unprecedented experience in the House chamber we met Todd Kercheval, a man with a diverse resume. His work ranged from being a Legislative Aide to Chief of Staff to work in an executive department to lobbyist. While most of our day was more oriented to the different formalities of the Texas legislature, Mr.Kercheval touched on the essentials needed to work efficiently in the fast paced world of Texas politics. He emphasized two points: initiative and integrity.
After a day of amazing presentations, we had an amazing dinner. In our case, it was at Fogo de Chao, a spectacular Brazilian steak house, which is a short walk away from the festive and ever-exciting 6th street. We were joined by old colleagues and recent alums Brian King, Emily Johnson and Will Phillips, who all provided great conversation through the rest of the night. The experience was new for a good portion of us, and the quantity and quality of the food was a bit surprising, as was the speed of its delivery to the table. This was one of the best possible ways to end an overall marvelous day on our visit to the Heart of Texas.