SFA University

University one of just five Texas public schools on list

February 7, 2020 Nacogdoches – Stephen F. Austin State University has been named a 2020 College of Distinction, a national honor that recognizes the university’s success in helping students learn and succeed.

With a student-centered approach to teaching and learning, SFA students have traditionally participated in activities that allow them to apply what they learn in the classroom to the needs and interests of society, according to Dr. Scott Gordon, SFA president.

“SFA places a primary focus on meeting the needs of students in an engaged learning environment,” Gordon said. “I am delighted to see the university receive the Colleges of Distinction designation. It is a fitting recognition for the outstanding manner in which SFA faculty members are delivering a well-rounded education to our students.”

The award is unique among popular college guide classifications, which typically rank schools on the basis of ambiguous numbers, such as the size of endowment, selectivity and faculty salaries. SFA’s recognition is based on the excellence exhibited in its classroom, incorporating high-impact practices throughout every student’s undergraduate education.

Such student-centered programs include first-year seminars, community-based learning programs, service-learning programs, alternative spring breaks, diversity and global-learning programs, intensive language programs, intensive writing courses, interdisciplinary programs, undergraduate research, living-learning communities and study-abroad programs.

Tyson Schritter, chief operating officer for Colleges of Distinction, said a truly valuable education can’t be measured solely by rank or reputation.

“Students learn and thrive best when they embrace hands-on learning in a vibrant, welcoming community,” Schritter said. “That’s why it’s so encouraging to find SFA taking such an innovative approach with its curriculum: its high-impact educational practices ensure that the undergraduate experience is worthwhile and unique.”

SFA received specific accolades for its programs in business, education, engineering and nursing, as well as career development.

“In addition to training in their academic areas, students must learn to be adaptable in an every-changing career landscape,” said Dr. Steve Westbrook, vice president for university affairs. “Our Center for Career and Professional Development equips students with job-market research and the self-reflection and networking skills needed to launch their careers.” 

A national resource for school selection and quality assessment, Colleges of Distinction’s evaluation process consists of detailed interviews and research for each institution’s freshman experience and retention efforts alongside its general education programs, career development, strategic plan and student satisfaction. Schools are accepted on the basis that they adhere to four distinctions: engaged students, great teaching, vibrant community and successful outcomes.

“Colleges of Distinction doesn’t rank schools, because we know that every student is different in what they need to best learn, grow and succeed,” said Schritter. “Instead, we value schools that embrace those differences. SFA puts the student experience first, providing all the tools and opportunities they need to become lifelong learners who are ready to take on any challenge in today’s ever-evolving society.

Since 2000, the Colleges of Distinction website and guidebook have honored school throughout the U.S. for excellence in undergraduate-focused higher education. The schools in the Colleges of Distinction consortium distinguish themselves through a focus on the undergraduate experience. The website, CollegesofDistinction.com, and guidebooks provide dynamic college profiles, customized tools and resources for students, parents and high school counselors.

For more information, visit sfasu.edu/CollegeofDistinction

February 5, 2020 - Nacogdoches - Two new housing incentives being offered this year by Stephen F. Austin State University are designed to help students graduate sooner and take on less debt.

Plans for a Spring Transfer Housing Allowance and a Summer Student Housing Rebate approved in January by the SFA Board of Regents are part of a larger university initiative to increase enrollment and semester credit hour production, which drive funding for state institutions of higher education.

More than 20 current SFA students already are taking advantage of the Spring Transfer Housing Allowance, which can be applied during the initial spring semester either to completely offset the cost of a lower-priced residence hall or significantly reduce the cost of a more expensive facility. To qualify for the one-time allowance, students must be transferring at least 45 credit hours to SFA, have at least a 2.5 GPA and enroll for at least 15 hours during the spring semester. This year’s Spring Transfer Housing Allowance totaled $2,034, which is equal to the current cost of living in one of the three lowest-priced residence halls.

“The housing allowance is helping me tremendously this semester,” said Maegan Huddleston of Santa Fe, a transfer student from College of the Mainland majoring in communication sciences and disorders at SFA.

“At first, I didn’t think I wanted to live on campus, but now I am so glad I decided to. It has definitely helped me financially and is also really convenient for me to get to my classes. Having a meal plan has helped, too. I’ve already had a great experience living on campus, and I have met a lot of people. I am really glad I decided to live on campus for my first semester at SFA.”

The Summer Housing Rebate will allow students who reside on campus during the spring semester and complete at least 9 hours across all summer terms (including Maymester) to have the cost of their summer housing rebated if they continue their residency through the fall. The rebate will be applied to the fall semester bill and will be equal to the amount paid for summer housing.

“SFA is now laser focused on student success and finding innovative ways to decrease the cost of a college degree,” Dr. Scott Gordon, SFA president, said. “With our recently unveiled tuition models, a ‘15 to Finish’ campaign and these new housing incentives, we are taking the lead in providing students with cost effective and timely degree completion options.”

The new housing incentive programs have significant benefits for both SFA students and the university, said Winston Baker, director of residence life at SFA. “They are truly win-wins. We will hopefully see an increase in transfer enrollment, semester credit hours, retention and graduation rates while lessening both the short- and long-term financial burden on our students and their families.”

These new programs can help significantly lower the amount of debt students take with them after graduation, not only by reducing overall housing costs but also by shortening the time it takes to complete a degree, according to Dr. Steve Westbrook, vice president for university affairs at SFA.

“We are diligently working to find more creative programs like these to incentivize students to take 15 or more hours every long semester in order to shorten time to degree because we know that is one of the best ways to reduce the overall cost of higher education,” Westbrook said.

For more information about the new housing incentives, contact the SFA Residence Life Department at (936) 468-2601 or via email at reslife@sfasu.edu. For more general SFA housing information, visit sfasu.edu/reslife.

Hosted by SFA’s College of Sciences and Mathematics

February 5, 2020 - Nacogdoches — When Camille Schrier took the stage at the Miss America competition and performed “the catalytic decomposition of hydrogen peroxide” as her onstage talent, she had a specific goal – promote STEM education.

Crowned Miss America 2020, Schrier continues to be a passionate STEM advocate and will serve as the featured speaker at the Women in STEM Luncheon and Style Show hosted by Stephen F. Austin State University’s College of Sciences and Mathematics at noon Tuesday, April 7, in the Baker Pattillo Student Center Grand Ballroom.


The reigning Miss America, Camille Schrier, will be the featured speaker at the Women in STEM Luncheon and Style Show hosted by Stephen F. Austin State University’s College of Sciences and Mathematics at noon Tuesday, April 7, in the Baker Pattillo Student Center Grand Ballroom.

Schrier graduated from Virginia Tech with dual Bachelor of Science degrees in biochemistry and systems biology and is currently pursuing a Doctor of Pharmacy at Virginia Commonwealth University. She was awarded the Engineering Champion Award by the Sigma Rho National Sorority for her efforts promoting women in engineering and technical fields.

The luncheon and style show is a scholarship fundraising event benefiting students committed to the advancement of women pursuing STEM degrees at SFA.

“Building a strong foundation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics is key to supporting the infrastructure of a successful STEM workforce,” said Dr. Kimberly M. Childs, dean of the College of Sciences and Mathematics. “Our keynote speaker for the Women in STEM Luncheon is an outstanding role model who utilizes her national platform and passion for science to promote her social initiative for drug safety. With style and grace, the reigning Miss America, Camille Schrier, encourages and promotes the advancement of women in STEM careers.”

Doors open at 11 a.m. for a gallery walk poster presentation highlighting STEM research accomplishments by SFA students and faculty.

A style show will follow the luncheon with selected men escorting female role models to highlight the importance of having men support women in STEM disciplines. Fashions are provided by The Town House.

The deadline for reservations is April 2. Tickets are $50 each or $350 for a table of eight. For tickets, visit sfasu.edu/womeninSTEM. For more information, email kdcarmona@sfasu.edu.

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

February 3, 2020 - Student success was the top priority in Stephen F. Austin State University’s Board of Regents January meeting. The board approved a number of initiatives aimed at reducing student debt and increasing the opportunity for timely degree completion.

Undergraduate students will now have the option to participate in a fixed-rate tuition and fee plan, allowing them to take up to 21 credit hours at the cost of 12 hours with no additional charge. Tuition and fee rates are variable for students who enroll in one to 11 semester credit hours, but transition to a flat rate at 12 semester credit hours.

The plan is a part of an emphasis the university is placing on its “15 to finish” program.

“By incentivizing students to take additional semester credit hours, the fixed-rate plan will help lower student debt levels, decrease the time to graduation and provide greater academic flexibility,” said Dr. Danny Gallant, vice president for business and finance. “It will create more cost transparency for students and families and simplify the billing process.”

Additionally, students entering SFA in the fall have access to a guaranteed price plan that freezes tuition and mandatory fee costs for a period of four years.

“Timely degree completion reduces the cost of a four-year degree and allows students to begin their careers and capitalize on their lifetime earning potential,” said Dr. Scott Gordon, SFA president. “We are looking at every possible option to make college more accessible and affordable for our students, including a variety of course delivery modes that will allow us to most effectively meet students where they are.”

Regents also approved the consolidation of various fees into a flat tuition charge of $100 per semester for undergraduate students and $75 per semester for graduate students, in an effort designed to simplify the billing process and provide greater academic course delivery flexibility.

“This will replace all course and lab fees for undergraduate and graduate students and will provide the same average level of income,” Gallant said. “It will allow students and their families to better calculate what their expenses will be.”

Scarleth Lopez, a senior psychology major from Dayton and president of SFA’s Student Government Association, believes SFA students will appreciate the initiatives approved by regents.

“I believe this will be really beneficial, especially for first-generation students,” Lopez said. “It will reduce the uncertainty that they may feel about college and incentivize them to take course loads that allow them to reach their goals in a timely manner.”

Regents also approved a price reduction for SFA’s program for registered nurses seeking a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Cost for the 31-semester credit hour online program will be $8,300 for participants who complete the program within four years.

January 29, 2020 Nacogdoches - Stephen F. Austin State University School of Music alumni are part of Grammy Award-winning ensembles following the 62nd annual Grammy Awards presented Sunday night in Los Angeles, California.

Kelli Mikeska Lawless, ’02, and Kammi Mikeska Estelle, ’02, are members of the Houston Chamber Choir whose voices are heard on the Grammy Award-winning Best Choral Performance by the elite Houston Chamber Choir for “Duruflé: Complete Choral Works” with Robert Simpson, conductor (Ken Cowan, organist, Houston Chamber Choir). It is a performance of music by 20th century French composer Maurice Duruflé.

Describing the recording as “a labor of love,” Artistic Director Simpson said, “We are deeply honored, and I want to congratulate my fellow nominees. They have inspired me and our entire field.

“I am honored to accept this award on behalf of musicians of the Houston Chamber Choir. I also accept the award on behalf of the city of Houston, one of the real artistic capitals of our country.” He also thanked “those who joined us on the journey.”

Led by Simpson, the Houston Chamber Choir is composed of 25 professional singers, most of whom have studied at the top music schools and conservatories in the United States including Julliard, New England Conservatory, University of Houston and the University of Texas. The musicians are selected through rigorous auditions, according to information at https://houstonchamberchoir.org. SFA music alumnus Joshua Chavira, ’16 and ’18, is a newer member of the choir.

Tynan Davis, ’02, mezzo soprano, sang the role of Rita the Rat in “Tobias Picker: Fantastic Mr. Fox,” which garnered Best Opera Recording with Gil Rose, conductor; John Brancy, Andrew Craig Brown, Gabriel Preisser, Krista River & Edwin Vega; Gil Rose, producer (Boston Modern Orchestra Project; Boston Children’s Chorus).

In another SFA-Grammy Awards connection, award winner Lizzo often gives credit to her Elsik High School band director, SFA graduate Manuel Gonzales, ’92, for inspiring her deep love of music. The singer, rapper and actress, whose name is Melissa Viviane Jefferson, was born in Detroit but later moved to Houston where she attended the Alief ISD school and began playing flute in Gonzales’ Elsik High School Band.

January 28, 2020 - Soprano Cristina Castaldi will perform works by Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Claude Debussy and Richard Strauss in a guest recital at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 2, in Cole Concert Hall on the campus of Stephen F. Austin State University.

Castaldi is an assistant professor of voice at Wichita State University. Her husband, Gene Philley, who is a former member of the music faculty at Angelina College in Lufkin, is her collaborative pianist. Her SFA program includes Vier Lieder des Abschieds, Op. 14 by Korngold; Proses lyriques, L. 84 by Debussy; and Strauss’ Vier letzte Lieder, Op. 31.

“This is a tour de force recital program,” she said. “The Strauss, in particular, is usually performed with orchestra. The recital is centered around three composers, four songs per cycle.  There is a common thread throughout the recital of the journey of life and the realities of death.”

She described the program as “unique,” in that the Korngold and Debussy works are “special and not regularly performed.”

“Those who know the Strauss (songs) will enjoy hearing them again,” she said.

Castaldi’s recent vocal performances include soprano soloist in“ Carmina Burana” in Prague, Czech Republic; soprano soloist in Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 for Wichita Symphony Orchestra and the East Texas Symphony Orchestra; as well as the soprano soloist for Wichita Symphony Orchestra in Joseph Haydn’s “The Creation.”

Among her operatic roles are Alice Ford in “Falstaff” and Le Prince Charmant in “Cendrillon” (both award-winning productions) as well as Mimí in a concert performance of “La Bohème” with the Rutgers Symphony Orchestra. Another role of note is the title role of Giovanna d’Arco with Sarasota Opera. The Longboat Observer wrote: “Cristina Castaldi, as Giovanna, has a lovely bearing on stage … got our attention … in the final scene … she became radiant as an actress and singer.”

Recital tickets are $8 for adults, $6 for seniors and $3 for students and youth. For tickets or more information, call the SFA Fine Arts Box Office at (936) 468-6407 or visit www.finearts.sfasu.edu.


Two performances of “We the People” on Friday, Jan. 31, in Turner Auditorium on the SFA campus will bring American civics lessons to life. The musical revue is a feature of the Children’s Performing Arts Series, presented by the SFA College of Fine Arts.

January 22, 2020 Nacogdoches – The Children’s Performing Arts Series at Stephen F. Austin State University will present two performances of TheaterworksUSA’s “We the People” on Friday, January 31, in W.M. Turner Auditorium on the SFA campus.

With the U.S. presidential campaign in full swing, it's the perfect time to make learning about democracy fun and accessible, inspiring students to get involved and make a difference. Through rock, R&B and hip-hop, this musical revue covers the three branches of government, the First Amendment and more.

“This show brings American civics lessons to life with a musical revue that makes social studies exciting,” said Diane Peterson, SFA Fine Arts Box Office manager and director of the children’s series.

“We The People” features a book by Joe Iconis and songs by Brad Alexander and Kevin Del Aguila; Eli Bolin and Sam Forman; Joe Iconis; Tommy Newman; Ryan Scott Oliver; Adam Overett; Erik Weiner, Mark Weiner and Jordan Allen-Dutton. Based on a concept by Alex Timbers, the show was originally directed by Gordon Greenberg and choreographed by Michele Lynch. Orchestrations are by Greg Pliska; set design is by Adam Koch; and costume design is by Lora LaVon. The show targets children in third through eighth grade.

Performances are at 9:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. in Turner Auditorium, located in the Griffith Fine Arts Building, 2222 Alumni Drive. Tickets are $7.50 for individuals and $6 per person for groups of 20 or more.

Presented by the SFA College of Fine Arts, the Children’s Performing Arts Series annually features five shows designed to entertain, educate and engage young audiences of all ages, according to Peterson. Study guides provide suggestions for pre- and post-performance activities and discussions for teachers to use in the classroom. A comprehensive study guide for “We the People” may be accessed at cpas.sfasu.edu.

Other upcoming CPAS performances this season include Super Scientific Circus on Friday, Feb. 28; and “Cinderella” on Tuesday, April 28. To order tickets, call (936) 468-6407 or (888) 240-ARTS. Visit the CPAS website at cpas.sfasu.edu for additional information.

January 22, 2020 Nacogdoches — Fashion designer, CEO and philanthropist Kendra Scott will headline the 2020 installment of the Archie McDonald Speaker Series in April at Stephen F. Austin State University.

Scott, who started her Austin-based jewelry company in 2002 with only $500, leads her business on the foundation of three core values — family, fashion and philanthropy. Her company now employs more than 2,000 and boasts a thriving web business and more than 100 Kendra Scott standalone stores. Scott’s merchandise also is sold at retailers that include Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdales. In addition to fashion and fine jewelry, her brand also encompasses home accessories and nail lacquer.

A loving mother, driven entrepreneur and passionate designer, Scott’s vibrant personality and commitment to innovation, quality and detail brought her from a small startup to a billion-dollar business and brand with millions of loyal fans, including celebrities. Known for her use of dynamic color and genuine materials, Scott believes the truest form of success is giving back in a meaningful way.

She has created a brand and culture that authentically values giving back and making a positive difference in the community. The Kendra Scott company maintains a focus on its customers and the causes close to their hearts.

In 2015, Scott launched the Kendra Cares Program, which allows community members to host in-store events for causes and organizations that work to improve health and wellness, education, entrepreneurship and empowerment. In 2018 alone, the company gave more than $5 million in monetary donations, almost $10 million in in-kind donations and more than 2,000 volunteer hours to philanthropic organizations, and partnered with more than 8,000 philanthropic organizations nationwide.

The speaker series event is free and scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Monday, April 20, in the Baker Pattillo Student Center Grand Ballroom on the SFA campus. A private reception for 100 guests will be held prior to the main event. Private reception tickets can be purchased by contacting Sarah Sargent, SFA development assistant, at (936) 468-5406.

“Kendra Scott sets an example for our students on how someone can be super successful in business and also super passionate about making a difference in the world,” said Dr. Steve Westbrook, SFA vice president for university affairs. “The recently announced Kendra Scott Women's Entrepreneurial Leadership Institute is a prime example of how she is sharing her passion for business leadership with others, especially aspiring female leaders. We are thrilled she will be on our campus soon so our students can hear about her work firsthand.”​

In 2017, Scott was presented with the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award. She also has received the Breakthrough Award from the Accessories Council Excellence Awards, was named Outstanding Mother of the Year by the Mother’s Day Council, awarded Businesswoman of the Year by the Women’s Chamber of Commerce, listed by Forbes as one of America’s richest self-made women, named among the Top 100 Entrepreneurs of the Year by Upstart Business Journal and recognized as Best CEO by Austin Business Journal. She is a member of the Council of Fashion Designers of America and maintains her position as chairman of the board of Kendra Scott.

The Archie McDonald Speaker Series was created in 2010 by SFA's College of Liberal and Applied Arts. Dr. Brian Murphy, dean of the college, designed the event to honor and preserve the legacy of Dr. Archie McDonald as a distinguished scholar, educator and community commentator. In the tradition of McDonald's writings and oral presentations, a prominent national figure is hosted annually at SFA to discuss contemporary cultural issues.

McDonald taught history at SFA for 48 years and served as director of the East Texas Historical Association and editor of the association's journal for 37 years. He was a past president of the Texas State Historical Association, past vice chair of the Texas Historical Commission and author/editor of more than 20 books on historical topics. Along with teaching, he was a commentator on Red River Radio in Shreveport and wrote a weekly column for area newspapers. He passed away Aug. 16, 2012.

McDonald participated in the first three events in the speaker series, interviewing former heavyweight champion boxer and iconic businessman George Foreman, Apollo 12 astronaut and professional artist Alan Bean, and the 61st U.S. Secretary of State James A. Baker III. Additional guests have included former U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, Grammy award-winning singer, composer and actor Lyle Lovett, Olympic All-Around Gold Medal winner in gymnastics Mary Lou Retton, legendary head football coach Gene Stallings, noted presidential historian Douglas Brinkley and physician and TV personality Dr. Jennifer Arnold. 

SFA's Student Government Association sponsors the speaker series, which is open to the public. Starting March 2020, passes may be obtained at the Involvement Center on the first floor of the Baker Pattillo Student Center on the SFA campus or at the Nacogdoches Convention and Visitors Bureau, located at 200 East Main St. For more information, call (936) 468-5406.


A reception for Volume II of “Picturing Books: Illustrations in Print from the 15th to the 20th Centuries” is planned for 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, January 30, in The Cole Art Center.

January 21, 2020 Nacogdoches – The second volume of the exhibition “Picturing Books: Illustrations in Print from the 15th to the 20th Centuries” opens January 21 at The Cole Art Center at The Old Opera House in downtown Nacogdoches. A reception for Volume II is planned for 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, January 30, in The Cole Art Center.

Curated by Dr. John Handley, director of SFA’s art galleries, and Dr. David A. Lewis, professor of art history, the exhibition, presented in two volumes, offers a series of “chapters” that explore the evolution of the printed illustration, beginning with the Incunabulum (meaning the first 50 years of the printed book), including the Nuremberg Chronicle of 1493 and continuing up to the 20th century. Volume I was exhibited Oct. 31 through Jan. 5; Volume II will show through March 29.

This extensive and unique exhibition highlights a major art form that is often overlooked, according to Handley.

“Book illustration historically has consisted of original prints in such media as woodcut, wood engraving, etching, copperplate engravings, and later, lithography and process printing using photo mechanical techniques,” Handley said. “As such, this show links the graphic arts with fine arts, since books are not only illustrated but connect those images to text.”

Because the exhibition contains books and other printed items that are hundreds of years old, the materials will be displayed under protective glass. Viewers will be able to “see” additional pages in the books by scanning codes on mobile devices, including phones.

Art exhibitions and receptions are sponsored by the Friends of the Visual Arts, Nacogdoches Junior Forum, William Arscott and The Flower Shop. Admission is free.

For more information, call (936) 468-1131.

January 21, 2020 Nacogdoches – The Wind Symphony and the Symphonic Band at Stephen F. Austin State University will present a program of music with themes of celebration and praise when the student ensembles perform at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, January 30, in W.M. Turner Auditorium on the SFA campus.

Directed by Dr. Tamey Anglley, associate director of bands at SFA, the Wind Symphony will perform “Give Us This Day,” which is a short symphony for wind ensemble by American composer David Maslanka.

“Though the title is from the Lord’s Prayer, it features the choral melody ‘Vater Unser im Himmelreich’ (Our Feather in Heaven) No. 110 from J.S. Bach,” Anglley said.

The Symphonic Band, directed by Christopher Kaatz, assistant director of bands, will perform works by different generations of American composers, including the march “Americans We” by Henry Fillmore; Chorale and Alleluia by Howard Hanson; and “Masque” by Francis McBeth.

“‘Americans We’ and ‘Masque’ are both about celebrations, while Chorale and Alleluia and ‘Give Us This Day’ (which the Wind Symphony will perform) both have connections to religious praise,” Kaatz explains.

“Each composer on the concert represents a different generation of American composers,” he adds, “Fillmore being the earliest and Maslanka the most recent. The concept of the concert is that it is sort of a journey of American composition from the early 1900s to the early 2000s, with each piece written more recently than the one that precedes it.”

Concert tickets are $8 for adults, $6 for seniors and $3 for students and youth. For tickets or more information, call the SFA Fine Arts Box Office at (936) 468-6407 or visit www.finearts.sfasu.edu.

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