SFA University

An artistic rendering of the 10 granite pillars to be installed on the SFA campus this fall. The monuments will pay homage to the National Pan-Hellenic Council and its “Divine Nine” historically black fraternities and sororities.

July 26, 2021 — Ten granite pillars to be installed on the Stephen F. Austin State University campus will pay homage to the National Pan-Hellenic Council and its “Divine Nine” historically black fraternities and sororities.

The 10-foot monuments will be erected in two rows of five along a pedestrian-only section of Raguet Street between the McGee Business and Miller Science buildings in the heart of campus. The name of each NPHC Greek organization will be engraved on one of the historic markers, and the 10th pillar will recognize the council as a whole.

“I am excited to see the continuous progress of SFA’s diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives through these monuments,” said Dr. Michara Delaney-Fields, SFA’s chief diversity officer. “This project demonstrates our constant commitment to creating a clear and concise path of transformative change.”

The $85,000 installation is being entirely funded through donations and will include lighting, landscaping and site beautification. SFA’s Student Government Association and Interfraternity Council already have contributed to the project. Organizers are hoping the monuments can be funded and installed in time for SFA Homecoming in late October.

“These monuments will provide greater visibility for our historically black fraternities and sororities, as well as honor the historic legacy of these organizations on our campus and across the country,” said Saville Harris, a 2010 and 2013 graduate of SFA and a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity. Until recently, Harris served as the SFA assistant director of student engagement-Greek life, and has been instrumental in the project’s planning.

Engraved benches will be placed between each marker in the colonnade, which is designed to be a place of reflection and remembrance, a designated space for NPHC celebrations and ceremonies, and a destination for campus guests and visiting alumni. Similar installations honoring historically black Greek organizations are located at Texas Christian University and Baylor University.

“Walking through these columns, I think people will get the sense of being in a cathedral or coliseum or some other place of great history, tradition and reverence,” Harris said. “It is going to be a phenomenal addition to the campus.”

Shamia Gipson, a 2020 SFA graduate and past president of SFA’s chapter of NPHC, said the idea for the project grew out of conversations she and Harris often shared about how historically black Greek organizations could be more visible on campus.

“We started talking about NPHC monuments at other universities and how much we would love to have something bold and lasting to spread awareness about the importance of these groups at SFA,” said Gipson, who is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. “It is really humbling and exciting to think that those conversations eventually led to this project being approved, and the incredible history and contributions of these organizations are going to be recognized and celebrated.”

Gipson’s sorority sister Courtney Bradley, a recent SFA graduate who served as the NPHC president during the spring 2021 semester, said she is most excited about the impact the project could potentially have on current and future students.

“One of the most important things in regard to student success is having representation, seeing people who look like you be successful in college and beyond,” Bradley said. “These monuments will be a sacred, historical marker for my culture and my community, a celebration of how far we have come and how far we can go in the future.”

The monuments will be created and installed by SFA alumni-owned Martus Stone-Nacogdoches Monument Company, which is completing the project for the cost of materials alone, according to wholesale manager and two-time SFA graduate Jenny Rhodes.

“We are Lumberjacks, once and always. We’re family,” Rhodes said. “When SFA reached out and we saw the need, we never hesitated. What these monuments stand for — the magnitude of the statement they are going to make for past, current and future students — it was just a no-brainer for us. We can’t wait to start.”

The NPHC comprises nine member organizations dedicated to promoting camaraderie, academic excellence and community service. The organizations, known collectively as “The Divine Nine,” include Alpha Phi Alpha, Alpha Kappa Alpha, Kappa Alpha Psi, Omega Psi Phi, Delta Sigma Theta, Phi Beta Sigma, Zeta Phi Beta, Sigma Gamma Rho and Iota Phi Theta.

To donate to the marker project, visit sfasu.edu/nphc. Those who donate $1,000 or more will be recognized as a sponsor during the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

For more information, contact the SFA Office of Development at (936) 468-5406 or givetosfa@sfasu.edu.

Story by Amy Roquemore, director of student publications and divisional media for the SFA Division of Student Affairs.

July 23, 2021 - Stephen F. Austin State University has named a new assistant vice president for student affairs to serve as dean of students.

Andrew J. Dies recently served as dean of students at Northern Arizona University, where he was chief student conduct officer and the primary contact for students in crisis, in addition to serving on the emergency management team and the academic standards committee.

Dies previously served as dean of students and student affairs campus lead at the Armstrong and Liberty campuses of Georgia Southern University. During his higher education career, he has led or served on committees dedicated to student behavioral intervention, threat assessment, and Clery Act Compliance.

“We had a very strong applicant pool from this national search, and Andrew’s commitment to student success and advocacy stood out during the interview process,” said Dr. Brandon Frye, SFA vice president for student affairs. “He has demonstrated a commitment to helping students throughout his career, and we believe he will be a dynamic and collaborative leader focused on student support, well-being, safety, belonging, resilience and success.”

Dies received his Bachelor of Social Work from the University of Kansas at Lawrence and his Master of Education in higher education administration from North Carolina State University in Raleigh. He is currently completing his dissertation at Georgia Southern University for a doctoral degree in educational leadership.

“I’m excited to join the SFA family,” Dies said. “The student affairs team at the university is highly talented, and I look forward to working with the great students who attend SFA.”

Dies will begin in his new role on August 9, with responsibility for the development and management of Student Rights and Responsibilities, the Behavioral Intervention Team, Counseling Services, Campus Recreation and Health Services. He also will provide advisement of the Student Government Association.

July 22, 2021 — Stephen F. Austin State University’s SFA Gardens will host its monthly Lunch Bunch event from noon to 1 p.m. Wednesday, August 18, at the Brundrett Conservation Education Building, 2900 Raguet St., in historic Nacogdoches.

Participants should bring their own lunch and join staff members from SFA Gardens as they share the topics of this year’s Lunch Bunch meetings, which are geared toward garden-minded individuals.

This event raises awareness for upcoming SFA Garden’s events and volunteer opportunities, including at SFA Gardens plant sales and weekly landscape upkeep on the SFA Gardens grounds. Parking will be available at the nearby Pineywoods Native Plant Center.

For more information, call (936) 468-4404 or visit sfagardens.sfasu.edu.

July 8, 2021 — The Stephen F. Austin State University Police Department recently received accreditation from the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators, the leading authority for campus public safety. Fewer than 100 agencies have earned this endorsement from IACLEA, which indicates compliance with national best-practice standards in the profession.

SFA Chief of Police John Fields“All employees worked diligently to complete this challenging process, and we did so because of our commitment to excellence and a desire to provide professional police services throughout our community,” said SFA Chief of Police John Fields.          

IACLEA accreditation signifies an agency’s ongoing commitment to excellence and state-of-the-art performance in every aspect of its operations. SFA President Scott Gordon said the university’s accreditation is well-deserved. 

“The SFA Police Department demonstrates the highest level of practices, operations and professionalism each and every day,” Gordon said. “I commend Chief Fields and his officers for the tremendous job they do and their commitment to excellence.”

The accreditation standards guide the recruitment, selection, training, and professional development of agency personnel and overall agency operations.

“We congratulate SFA on achieving IACLEA accreditation, a unique distinction among campus police and public safety agencies,” said IACLEA President Eric Heath, associate vice president for Safety & Security at the University of Chicago. “The men and women protecting campus have proven through policy and practice the commitment to operate at the highest level of the profession.”

The department prepared for the onsite assessment by updating policies and operations and ensuring the public had the opportunity to provide comments to the assessors during the onsite visit.

Fields said the department will seek re-accreditation in four years. For more information about SFA’s UPD, visit www.sfasu.edu/upd.

June 25, 2021 — Stephen F. Austin State University’s DeWitt School of Nursing was recently ranked No. 8 in Texas by RN Careers, an online program guide.

RN Careers ranks programs based on tuition costs and national licensure exam pass rates, among other criteria.

The DeWitt School of Nursing received a 97% first-time pass rate on the National Council Licensure Examination in 2020 and prepares students for success with personal attention from faculty.

“Our nursing faculty are engaged and focused on student success,” said Dr. Tamara Harris, director of the School of Nursing. “We have testing procedures that mimic the NCLEX testing and faculty that accompany students to clinicals for the purpose of reinforcing concepts from lecture content.”

With advanced simulation labs and rigorous coursework, students are equipped to provide exceptional patient care in a variety of nursing fields.

“Our students graduate with job offers,” Harris said. “SFA’s School of Nursing has a reputation across the state of providing a great education for nurses.”

To learn more about the School of Nursing, visit sfasu.edu/nursing.

By Joanna Armstrong, marketing communications specialist at Stephen F. Austin State University.

Dr. Christopher Schalk, SFA assistant professor of forest wildlife management, and Dr. Daniel Scognamillo, SFA adjunct professor of forest wildlife management, participated in the first nationwide survey of mammals initiated by the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute. The survey, known as Snapshot USA, comprises 1,509 motion-activated camera traps throughout 110 sites in the U.S. Pictured is a common raccoon documented at the Stephen F. Austin Experimental Forest during the survey.

June 16, 2021 — Have you ever felt as though you were being watched? If so and you were a mammal roaming the 2,560-acre Stephen F. Austin Experimental Forest during fall 2019, your suspicions likely were correct.

Dr. Christopher Schalk, Stephen F. Austin State University assistant professor of forest wildlife management, and Dr. Daniel Scognamillo, SFA adjunct professor of forest wildlife management, are two of more than 150 researchers from across the continental U.S. to participate in the first nationwide survey of mammals initiated by the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute.

The survey, known as Snapshot USA, comprises 1,509 motion-activated camera traps throughout 110 sites in the U.S.

“Our goal was to provide a space for researchers from all 50 states to contribute a subset of their data to a broader initiative to maximize our coverage of the country and better understand drivers of mammal distributions to best inform conservation as rapidly as possible,” said Michael Cove, curator of mammalogy at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.

Schalk and Scognamillo deployed 19 camera traps throughout the SFA Experimental Forest during September and October 2019 and recorded numerous observations of more than 10 mammal species, including white-tailed deer, Southern flying squirrel, bobcat, coyote and nine-banded armadillo.

“These data are really valuable because they allow researchers to address questions and problems on the ecology and conservation of mammals at broader spatial scales,” Schalk said.

The results of Snapshot USA were featured in Ecology, a peer-reviewed journal published by the Ecological Society of America. The 2019 survey data also is publicly available at emammal.si.edu/snapshot-usa.

Story by Sarah Fuller, outreach coordinator for Stephen F. Austin State University’s Arthur Temple College of Forestry and Agriculture.

The ongoing collaboration between art education students at Stephen F. Austin State University and the Nacogdoches membership of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Deep East Texas has resulted in an art show available for viewing from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday, June 19, at The Cole Art Center at The Old Opera House in downtown Nacogdoches.

June 14, 2021 – The first Boys and Girls Club Art Show will be presented from noon to 5pm Saturday, June 19, at The Cole Art Center at The Old Opera House in downtown Nacogdoches.

The show is part of an ongoing collaboration between art education students at Stephen F. Austin State University and the Nacogdoches membership of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Deep East Texas. On display will be artwork created as a result of art education student-lead art lessons presented at the Boys and Girls Club since March.

“SFA art education students have been providing art lessons continuously since the summer of 2020,” said Dr. Maggie Leysath, professor of art education at SFA. “The art lessons are part of an initiative by the art education department to help the BGC build an after-school art program by providing art lessons taught by SFA art education students.

Lessons were initially provided virtually because of the pandemic. But in March, art education students were able to resume face-to-face art lessons at the club facilities and develop a body of work that will be on display in the art show and is representative of the on-going collaboration, according to Leysath.

“BGC members as well as interested community members are invited to join us to share the artwork created by BGC members after school and during the Summer 2021 session,” Leysath said.

Light refreshments will be served just outside the upper gallery where the exhibition will be held. The Cole Art Center is located at 329 E. Main St.

For more information about the show, contact Leysath at leysathmn@sfasu.edu or 936-468-4262. For more information about summer programs with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Deep East Texas, visit bgcdet.org. For more information about the School of Art, visit art.sfasu.edu.

Construction continues on Griffith Fine Arts Building on the SFA campus. The Fine Arts Expansion Initiative will extend the building along North Street. The renovated and expanded state-of-the-art building will also include two dance studios, two new theatres, recording studio, sound stage, audio and video editing rooms, an art gallery, multiple classrooms, rehearsal facilities, faculty offices and the offices of the College of Fine Arts dean. The facilities will house the CFA’s sound recording technology, filmmaking, theatre, dance and musical theatre programs.

June 8, 2021 - Despite the obstacles created by Mother Nature and a worldwide pandemic, construction and renovation work at Griffith Fine Arts Building on the Stephen F. Austin State University campus continues to move forward.

This summer, those passing the building situated on the corner of North and East College streets will see “a building rise from underground and new life be given to the existing structure,” according to Jessica DeWitt, project manager and assistant director of projects and construction at SFA.

The Fine Arts Expansion Initiative will extend the Griffith building along North Street. The project will include renovations to W.M. Turner Auditorium, and the state-of-the-art building will also feature two dance studios, two new theatres, recording studio, sound stage, audio and video editing rooms, an art gallery, multiple classrooms, rehearsal facilities, faculty offices and the offices of the College of Fine Arts dean. The facilities will house the CFA’s sound recording technology, filmmaking, theatre, dance and musical theatre programs.

“This new, fantastic facility is going to be a beehive of activity for decades to come,” said Gary Wurtz, interim dean of the College of Fine Arts. “Watching the progress from a window or through a chain-link fence is both exciting and a test of our patience. The opportunities it will offer for teaching, learning, performing and exhibiting are endless, and we simply can’t wait to move in.”

Building design is by Kirksey Architecture and construction is by KDW. The project, which was designed to take place in two major phases including renovation of the existing building and construction of a new addition, is in various stages of work, Dewitt explained.

“In the renovation of the existing building, there is a lot of above-ceiling rough-in work for plumbing, electrical, internet and air distribution,” she said. “These activities are going to take care of the building’s deferred maintenance needs and bring those systems back online more efficiently.

“The construction of the new addition is in the critical stage of pouring the foundation and underground structure,” she said. “This has been quite the feat, given we are building down instead of up. We’re having to adapt to the slope of the site and maintain the overall relationship to the existing building.”

Adding to the anticipated challenges of a project like this, major winter storms and recent rains, along with a wide range of delays relating to materials and labor as a result of the global pandemic and overall changes in the world have created additional trials, DeWitt explained.

“Thankfully, KDW has picked up some ‘lessons learned’ from the construction of SFA’s new basketball facility to keep work on track,” she said. “As a project management team, it is our job to watch the market, stay in contact with sources, and keep things flexible at all times. To say a project is going ‘as planned,’ or not, is an unfair assessment to the process; the plan is always moving, but our target is clear.”

While it is still too early to narrow down a completion date, DeWitt said the project management team has “strong expectations” that the building will be available for occupancy in mid 2023.

To view design plans and artists’ renderings, and for up-to-date construction progress, visit finearts.sfasu.edu/expansion.

Zachary Hutchens, a student in Stephen F. Austin State University’s Department of Biology, was recently awarded the Student Field Natural History Award by the Southwestern Association of Naturalists for his work studying the Sabine shiner in the Lanana Creek watershed.

June 4, 2021 — For the past nine months, an SFA biology student has ignored unforeseen weather extremes and other hurdles to wade into the waters of Banita and Lanana creeks in search of a threatened fish – the Sabine shiner. The Southwestern Association of Naturalists recently recognized his efforts with the Student Field Natural History Award.

Zachary Hutchens, a senior from Nacogdoches, is conducting research to assess the status and habitat conditions of local populations of Sabine shiner in the Lanana Creek watershed.

“In winter and summer sampling trips, we face extreme conditions, such as freezing and scorching temperatures,” Hutchens said. “Regardless of the weather, we maintain a consistent sampling schedule in order to standardize our data collection.”

The Sabine shiner is a small fish found in clear, shallow streams and is currently classified as a Species of Greatest Conservation Need in Texas, necessitating a need for tracking its geographic distribution in East Texas waterways.

Using a seine, Hutchens and his faculty mentor, Dr. Carmen Montaña, assistant professor in the Department of Biology, collect the fish and mark them with visual implant elastomer tags to study their movements in the creeks.

“It is a species lacking research into their movement patterns,” Hutchens said. “My project has shown that there is an isolated population of the Sabine shiner in Banita Creek, and it does not move very far from the tagging location.”

Because the last study on the fish was conducted 20 years ago, Hutchens’ research will provide a much-needed update.

“That study reported a much higher abundance and stable populations of Sabine shiner compared to what we are finding today,” he said. “This presented a great opportunity to investigate exactly how much this population has changed and search for reasons as to why.”

Once collected, results from Hutchens’ study will be compared to the previous study.

“As a faculty member and a mentor, I am proud of our students,” Montaña said. “They work very hard in the field and lab settings to produce quality scientific data and increase their involvement with scientific research.”

Hutchens recently presented his research to judges, students and other scientists at the 68th annual meeting of the Southwestern Association of Naturalists where he was recognized for his outstanding oral presentation and the strong field component in his research.

“This conference gave students a platform to present their research to a diverse group of scientists and graduate and undergraduate students working in the fields of ecology and conservation,” Montaña said. “Their participation in this meeting allowed our students to grow as scientists.”

To learn more about the Department of Biology, visit sfasu.edu/biology.

May 25, 2021 – Chartwells Higher Education, a food-service company providing dining options to 300 higher education institutions around the country, will begin preparing and serving meals to Stephen F. Austin State University Lumberjacks July 1, replacing Aramark.

Chartwells is the food service provider for several Texas universities, including Texas State University, the University of Texas at Dallas and Texas A&M University at College Station.

The decision for SFA to transition to Chartwells came after a request for proposal and a thorough selection process that included input from students, faculty, staff and administrators.

SFA’s Board of Regents reviewed feedback submitted by the RFP evaluation committee during its quarterly meeting in April and selected Chartwells as its preferred partner. The partnership will provide added meal plan flexibility, greater menu variety and an innovative retail dining experience. SFA’s contract with Chartwells will last seven years.

“Cooked-from-scratch foods, menus developed by season, supporting farmers by sourcing locally, and offering vegan, vegetarian and allergen-friendly options are all trademarks of Chartwells,” said Carrie Charley, SFA director of auxiliary services. “The new dining program will be rebranded as Lumberjack Eats, representing a fresh, student-centric approach to campus dining. Lumberjacks can look forward to a refreshed dining experience with new dining stations in the Baker Pattillo Student Center and East College Dining Hall.”

“The G8 station will be a fresh addition to both dining halls,” Charley said. “It will offer menu selections prepared without the eight major allergens, including wheat. Throughout the dining halls, Chartwells’ menu and nutrition labeling system will help guests make safe and healthy choices.”

For fall, students can expect to see their favorite national brands, including Chick-fil-A, Starbucks and Einstein Bros. Bagels. New additions to retail dining include Jax Burger, serving burgers, tots and shakes, and Above the Board, featuring customizable, made-to-order salads and sandwiches.

All meal plans will remain the same in structure through June 2022. SFA and Chartwells will work collaboratively to develop future meal plan options that provide the best value and flexibility for SFA students, faculty and staff.

Hourly Aramark associates currently working at SFA will receive an employment offer from Chartwells that meets or exceeds their current wage, pending background check, Charley said. SFA will continue to have its own registered dietitian, whose services are free to students, and a new executive chef employed by Chartwells will work with SFA stakeholders to develop new menu items and dining options across campus.

“The SFA community can look forward to a culinary experience that emphasizes quality, made-to-order food, menu customization and value,” said Shannon Mariani, regional vice president for Texas, Chartwells Higher Education. “With ongoing feedback from students and the SFA community, our chefs will create menus Lumberjacks will crave. Diverse and authentic flavors will be infused into stations, and scratch cooking will define the foundation of the dining program. Beyond the plate, we look forward to engaging guests with culinary education through our Teaching Kitchen program and creating memorable experiences through innovative dining events.”

Students are encouraged to apply for campus dining positions. Additionally, Chartwells will launch a Student Success internship program, which provides student access to hands-on work in community health and wellness, hospitality management, marketing, social responsibility and sustainability.

Chartwells also will explore partnerships with departments across campus to build greater opportunities for career exploration with Chartwells and Compass Group, Chartwells’ parent company.

Questions regarding SFA’s transition to Chartwells can be emailed to LumberjackEats@sfasu.edu or to Charley at carrie.charley@sfasu.edu.