SFA University

April 28, 2023 — During its three-day quarterly meeting, the Stephen F. Austin State University Board of Regents made plans for the anticipated passage of the bill making SFA a member of The University of Texas System.

As the regents met, Senate Bill 1055 was undergoing its second reading on the House floor of the 88th Texas Legislature in Austin. When it completes its third reading, the bill will be forwarded to Gov. Greg Abbott for signature.

“We don’t anticipate any issues,” said Dr. Steve Westbrook, SFA president. “It’s just a matter of process. It is one of the most universally agreed upon pieces of legislation we’ve encountered.”

Westbrook thanked state Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, and state Rep. Travis Clardy, R-Nacogdoches, and their staffs.

“They have worked tirelessly on behalf of the university on what is a complex piece of legislation,” Westbrook added.

He also thanked Dr. Charlotte Sullivan, SFA’s director of governmental relations, and her counterparts at the UT System along with UT Chancellor James Milliken and UT Board of Regents Chair Kevin Eltife.

“This new era will be a game changer for the university and the citizens of Nacogdoches County and East Texas,” Westbrook said.

The SFA regents proceeded to make recommendations to keep the transition process moving once the bill is signed by the governor.

“We want to be well positioned for the transfer of management and control and make it as seamless as possible,” Westbrook said. “You won’t even see the lights flicker.”

Transfer of management and control to UT System

SFA is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. For SFA to retain its status as an accredited institution, SACSCOC requires that any governance change receive the prior approval of SACSCOC’s Board of Trustees, and that any approved governance change occur within 30 days of its approval.

The regents unanimously recommended that, should the legislation filed to create Stephen F. Austin State University, a member of The University of Texas System, become law and SACSCOC approve the change in governance at its June 2023 meeting, the UT System Board of Regents takes necessary action to accept management and control of SFA when transferred by the SFA Board of Regents effective no earlier than July 1 and no later than July 28, with a target date of July 1. This transfer includes SFA’s operations, real property and other assets.

The SFA regents also granted the SFA president the authority to suspend university policies as needed to manage SFA from April 26 until management and control are transferred to the UT Board of Regents.

Appointment of an interim SFA president

The SFA board will still be the governing body of the university on May 31, the date of Westbrook’s retirement. The SFA regents will collaborate with the UT System to appoint an interim president most likely at a special-called SFA board meeting May 10, during which Westbrook’s retirement will be accepted by the regents.

The interim president will serve until the 11th president is named by the UT System, which will conduct the presidential search after the legislation is signed by the governor.

Other board actions

Regents also acknowledged receipt of the audit services report and approved: 

  • curriculum changes 
  • grant awards totaling $8,240,994 for fiscal year 2023
  • policy revisions
  • and the minutes of previous meetings.

Regents heard general presidential, faculty, staff and student reports from Westbrook; Dr. Chris McKenna, chair of the Faculty Senate; Alison Reed, chair of the Staff Council; and Jada Cartwright and Nathan Lyons, Student Government Association president and vice president, respectively. 

For more information, visit sfasu.edu/regents.

April 28, 2023 — Jason W. Downing ’92, Stephen F. Austin State University alumnus as well as principal, Deloitte and chief operating officer of its clients and markets business unit, will give the commencement addresses during the university’s four graduation ceremonies Friday and Saturday, May 5-6.

Downing, a certified public accountant who earned a Bachelor of Business Administration at SFA, began his career at Deloitte in its audit subsidiary and later transferred to the consulting subsidiary. He has spent the last 31 years in a variety of management and client service roles serving some of Deloitte’s marquee clients that range from middle-market, high-growth companies to the Fortune 50.

Downing also serves on the boards for Deloitte US, the United Way Foundation of Metro Dallas and the SFASU Foundation. He’s a member of the Young Presidents’ Organization, American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and National Association of Corporate Directors.

To attend commencement, guests must present tickets to enter Johnson Coliseum. Tickets are free and will help university officials ensure the venue is not overcrowded. Each graduation candidate will be allotted 10 tickets with an option to request more. All commencements will take place in Johnson Coliseum.

The public also is invited to attend, and community tickets will be issued on a first-come, first-served basis at the coliseum ticket office.

Candidates from the College of Liberal and Applied Arts will participate in a ceremony at 6 p.m. Friday, May 5.

Candidates from the Nelson Rusche College of Business, the School of Human Sciences and the Micky Elliott College of Fine Arts will participate in a ceremony at 9 a.m. Saturday, May 6.

Candidates from the departments of education studies, human services and educational leadership, and kinesiology and health science — all in the James I. Perkins College of Education — are slated for the 12:30 p.m. ceremony, followed by the Arthur Temple College of Forestry and Agriculture and the College of Sciences and Mathematics at 4 p.m.
Degrees to be awarded include 1,120 bachelor’s and 323 master’s degrees. Nearly 550 students will graduate with honors, including 162 cum laude, 142 magna cum laude and 240 summa cum laude. Forty-six students will graduate with the university scholar designation.

For more info, visit sfasu.edu/commencement.

April 20, 2023 — Business owners, travel and tourism professionals, and local economic development leaders are invited to attend the Deep East Texas Travel and Tourism Conference from 8:30am to 4pm May 3 in the Baker Pattillo Student Center Twilight Ballroom on the Stephen F. Austin State University campus.

A collaboration between faculty members at SFA and Tarleton State University, this conference is the first in a series of education and engagement sessions that are part of the larger Texas Forest Country Travel and Tourism Collective.

The collective is focused on enhancing the preparedness of the East Texas travel and tourism workforce, developing new travel packages to attract external guests to the region, improving existing travel and tourism practices and services, and strengthening and diversifying the regional economy. 

“We are expanding the travel and tourism conference we started last year beyond the deep East Texas region to include the Texas forest region, as well,” said Dr. Gina Fe Causin, SFA associate professor of human sciences. “This region includes all cities and counties from Port Arthur to Texarkana.”

The conference will include a student research showcase, legislative and other updates from regional tourism professionals, and a keynote presentation on the economic impact of tourism on rural communities.

“I am excited about our renewed focus on the Texas Forest Country area,” said Dr. Jennifer T. Edwards, TSU professor of communication. “Our small towns and cities will definitely benefit from the information and networking opportunities.”

Outreach efforts related to the conference are funded by SFA’s Center for Applied Research and Rural Innovation.

Register for the conference at tinyurl.com/TXForestCountry.

For more information, Causin at causingf@sfasu.edu or Edwards at jtedwards@tarleton.edu.

April 19, 2023 — The Stephen F. Austin State University Division of Student Affairs announced Michalla Byrd of Joaquin, Heath Sharr of Jacksonville, Jay Teamer of Lewisville, and Curtis Tran of Nacogdoches as recipients of this year’s Best of SFA Awards.

“The committee was overwhelmed with the amazing pool of candidates for the awards this year, yet it was clear these students exemplify the SFA spirit and genuine passion for the institution,” said Lacey Folsom, director of Student Engagement. “We were honored to celebrate these individuals and their achievements.”

The awards are given annually to recognize students who excel in the areas of scholarship, participation and leadership in academic and co-curricular activities as well as service and loyalty to the university. These exemplary students are honored during the Lumberjack Achievement Awards Banquet held each spring semester and go on to represent SFA throughout the following academic year.

Michalla Byrd, a communication sciences and disorders major from Joaquin, received a Best of SFA Award.Michalla Byrd

Byrd is a communication sciences and disorders major. A graduate of Joaquin High School where she was valedictorian, she is the daughter of Teri and Michael Joe Byrd.

She is a Twirl-o-Jack in the Lumberjack Marching Band, a member of the National Student Speech and Language Hearing Association, and a former member of Sigma Phi Lambda. In her spare time, she volunteers at food pantries and sings at nursing homes. She also leads vacation Bible school at the First Baptist Church of Joaquin.

Byrd is a Dean’s List recipient and was voted sweetest Twirl-o-Jack and Twirl-o-Jack of the year by her peers. Upon her graduation in December 2023, Byrd plans to apply for the speech-pathology graduate program at SFA and Baylor University. Her dream is to work as a speech-language pathologist assistant to help children with their speech and language in a supportive environment.

Heath Sharr, a graphic design major from Jacksonville, received a Best of SFA Award.Heath Sharr

Sharr is a graphic design major with a film minor. He is a Jacksonville High School graduate and the son of Heather and Paul Sharr.

During his time at SFA, Sharr has been involved in Omega Delta Phi Fraternity as the social media chair, historian and social chair. He was a Jack Walker and served as the social media chair for the organization. In addition, he has participated in the American Institute of Graphic Artists, American Advertising Federation and Jack Camp as well as served as the Men’s Volleyball Club president.

Sharr also worked with Campus Recreation for promotions and facilities as a student employee. He plans to work as a full-time employee for Campus Rec upon graduation in May and continue his education at SFA. Sharr hopes to impact the next generation the same way he was impacted by seeing how exciting and interesting the behind-the-scenes work can be.

Jay Teamer, a music education major from Lewisville, received a Best of SFA Award.Jay Teamer

Teamer is a music education major with a concentration in voice and an art minor with a focus on graphic design. He is a Lewisville High School graduate and the son of Kim and Dwayne Teamer.

Teamer has been a self-employed musician since 2018 and has performed with SFA’s A Cappella Choir, Opera Theatre and Chamber Singers. He’s held several positions at SFA, including stage manager, usher and music theory tutor. He is a member of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia fraternity and served as vice president and music director.

Outside his passion for music, Teamer was involved in SFA Student Engagement as lead content creator; Omega Delta Phi Fraternity as president, vice president, secretary, service chair and fundraising chair; and Multicultural Greek Council as vice president and public relations chair. He also has contributed to Jack Camp, Orientation, Weeks of Welcome, Order of Omega, Jack Walkers and the Student Activities Association.

His academic achievements include being named to the President’s List two times, to the Dean’s List four times, as a Micky Elliott College of Fine Arts Top Scholar for the Undergraduate Research Conference and as a recipient of numerous scholarships.

Upon his graduation from SFA in May, Teamer will continue his education at Oklahoma City University to earn his Master of Music in vocal coaching and work as a graduate student collaborative piano accompanist. His dream jobs include being a teacher to impact upcoming generations using music as a vehicle and being a music director at a theater company to direct musicals and conduct pit orchestras.

Curtis Tran, a finance major from Nacogdoches, received a Best of SFA Award.Curtis Tran

Tran is a finance major and Nacogdoches High School graduate. He is the son of Sandy Huynh and Binh Tran.

Tran is a Jack Walker, a member of the Rusche Business Mentor and Mentee Program, and an intern at Oakwood Management. A member of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity, he has served as the secretary and public relations chair. Tran is the president and founder of the Organization of Asian Excellence, a student organization that promotes education for Asian culture.

Tran served on the Office of Multicultural Affairs’ Presidents Council and was a recipient of the 2023 undergraduate DEI Student Excellence Award. After his graduation in May, he plans to work for Oakwood Management as an asset management associate. His dream job is to be a chief financial officer for a real estate company and help better the community by offering and being able to build homes for all.

The Children’s Performing Arts Series at SFA will present three performances of “Reading and Rhyming with Mother Goose” on Wednesday, April 26, in Kennedy Auditorium.

April 12, 2023 - Seats are still available for the April 26 performances of “Reading and Rhyming with Mother Goose,” a presentation of the Micky Elliott College of Fine Arts and its Children’s Performing Arts Series at Stephen F. Austin State University.

Targeting children in pre-kindergarten through second grade, “Reading and Rhyming with Mother Goose,” presented by MCP Shows, teaches children classic poems by acting out the stories within them using lively puppets and other props, according to Diane Peterson, Fine Arts Box Office manager and director of the children’s series.
This article is copied from Shelby County Today without permission.
“Children are invited to join Mother Goose, along with Lamby, Mary, Goosey, Itsy Bitsy and her other puppet friends, as she shares the music of language expressed in rhyming,” Peterson said. “Children will leave the theatre with enthusiasm for reading, language and creativity.”

Performances are at 9 and 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. in Kennedy Auditorium on the SFA campus. Tickets are $7.50 for individuals and $6 per person for groups of 20 or more. This show is funded in part by the Texas Commission on the Arts.

The Children’s Performing Arts Series features shows designed to entertain, educate and engage young audiences of all ages, according to Peterson. To order tickets, call (936) 468-6407 or (888) 240-ARTS. Visit the CPAS website at cpas.sfasu.edu for additional information.

Students of the 2022 iMAS Academy enjoyed a variety of investigations in mathematics and science.

March 23, 2023 – Registration is open for day and overnight camps offered by the Stephen F. Austin State University STEM Research and Learning Center.

The iMAS Academy explores investigations in mathematics and science. This hands-on, minds-on camp focuses on scientific inquiry through dynamic teaching and learning experiences led by SFA faculty members and master teachers at no cost to students.

The day camp will be held June 12-16 and the overnight camp will be held July 16-21. Camps are for students 14 to 17 years old prior to the start of camp. Both camps will be hosted at the Cole STEM Building on the SFA campus.

Applications close May 3 with teacher recommendations due by May 9. Announcements of acceptance will be made May 15. Applications can be found at gosfa.com/imasapp.

The iMAS Academy is grant-funded through the Texas Workforce Commission and includes room and board, materials, prizes, snacks and a T-shirt.

For more information, email stemcenter@sfasu.edu, or call (936) 468-5814.

The Sylvans, Stephen F. Austin State University’s timbersports team, claimed top honors at the 64th annual Southern Forestry Conclave, marking the fifth consecutive conclave SFA has won.

March 16, 2023 – The Sylvans, Stephen F. Austin State University’s forestry club and timbersports team, claimed top honors at the 64th annual Southern Forestry Conclave, marking the fifth consecutive conclave SFA has been crowned. The event was hosted by Louisiana Tech University March 9-11 at the Lincoln Parish Park in Ruston, Louisiana.

The accomplishment marks the eighth win of the past nine conclaves and 17 wins total.

“I told the team going into this year’s Conclave there was only one team we needed to worry about this year – SFA,” said Dr. Jeremy Stovall, Bone Hill Distinguished Professor of Silviculture and Sylvans faculty advisor. “Winning the previous four conclaves wasn’t by chance. We’d put in the practice, worked hard to earn and raise money for the right equipment, did our homework, and learned our events inside and out.”

“The Sylvans team has the right culture and is focused on collegiality, fun and sportsmanship,” he continued. “We all bought in and truly worked together as a team. The significance of claiming top honors at this year’s conclave validated our core beliefs: we have one of the best undergraduate forestry programs in the country, the best students and a successful club culture.”

Consisting of 28 students — and with the help of Stovall, 10 alumni and the team’s coach, Chelsea Lopez — the Sylvans scored 293.5 points overall. Clemson University placed second with 236 points. The margin of victory stands as the largest in the event’s 64 years, according to Stovall. Louisiana Tech University finished in third place with 216.5 points.

The Sylvans finished first in both physical and technical events. The physical events are based on the historical logging and forestry events, using tools such as axes or saws. Technical events are based on subjects learned in forestry courses, testing the academic preparation of the students and their ability to recall and deploy information in the field.

Along with the hours of work the competitors practiced to reach their goal, which totaled more than 100 practices in an academic year, Stovall credits this year’s win to something more special: the team’s camaraderie.

“The students genuinely love learning about the events and working with each other as a team to see how good they can become,” he said. “They teach and coach each other, and they are all each other’s biggest fans. The level of sportsmanship they displayed with each other and in support of the other clubs was really phenomenal. As an advisor, I’ve got it easy with this group. I trust them and know they’ll do everything they can to succeed. They’ve made me work harder so I don’t let them down.”

While the Sylvans primarily comprise forestry students, all majors are welcome to join. For more information on the Sylvans, visit sylvanstimbersports.com, or contact Stovall at stovalljp@sfasu.edu.

February 27, 2023 — Stephen F. Austin State University’s JacksTeach program and Center for Applied Research and Rural Innovation are hosting a series of workshops this summer on inquiry science lab solutions for high school teachers.

These workshops are designed to help teachers facilitate and prepare true inquiry-based labs, use lab technology and equipment in an inquiry setting, and maintain a safe laboratory environment.

There will be three different topic-focused workshops: biology, June 5-9; physics, June 20-23; and chemistry, June 26-30. All sessions will run from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

The workshops will be held on the SFA campus and led by university faculty and staff. Participation is free, and lunch will be provided daily. Lessons shared will meet Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills requirements and Next Generation Science Standards.

Attendees will receive a $100 stipend per day of full participation and up to $500 worth of laboratory supplies. To be eligible for the workshops, teachers must be public high school science teachers from the deep East Texas region with confirmed fall 2023 assignments in biology, chemistry or physics.

Applications close March 1, and acceptance emails will be sent by March 15. Spots are limited.

To get more information and request the application link, call (936) 468-3960 or email jacksteach@sfasu.edu.

February 21, 2023 - The Stephen F. Austin State University Board of Regents celebrated Presidents Day by officially electing Dr. Steve Westbrook the 10th president of the university. Here, Westbrook signs the Bible all previous SFA presidents signed before him while surrounded by his family: wife, Dayna, and sons, from left to right, Reed and Bryce. In addition to friends, family and past regents, Dr. William R. Johnson, SFA’s fourth president, and relatives of the late Dr. Baker Pattillo, SFA’s eighth president, attended the board meeting. Westbrook will serve until his retirement May 31. He is not a candidate for the 11th president’s position.

February 20, 2023 — College-bound students and their families are invited to Stephen F. Austin State University’s in-person, on-campus Showcase Saturday event February 25, which offers participants a unique opportunity to experience life as a Lumberjack.

“Showcase Saturday is more than a campus visit — it’s a chance for you to be immersed in the full Lumberjack experience,” said Dr. Steve Westbrook, SFA president-elect. “I welcome prospective students and their families to our beautiful campus for the chance to learn about our academics, ask questions, and take their first steps toward making SFA their future home.”

SFA’s Showcase Saturday provides an opportunity for college-bound students to spend a day experiencing university life firsthand, touring the campus and having all their college questions answered.

In addition to a high-energy Lumberjack experience, participating prospective students will receive discounted and complimentary tickets to a School of Theatre production and a men’s basketball game, respectively. They also will receive a free SFA T-shirt at check-in.

Registration and check-in will begin at 10 a.m. in the Baker Pattillo Student Center Plaza. Several optional early-bird sessions will be ongoing between check-in and the day’s opening program, which is scheduled for 11 a.m. 

Those include a student services fair, campus tours and special interest sessions covering a range of topics, like Veterans Affairs, the Hazlewood Act, and being a first-generation college student and family, among others.

During the opening program, students will attend presentations by college representatives based on their academic major of interest.

Come-and-go events will run from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. These include an academic fair from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in the Student Recreation Center, tours of residence halls and the recreation center from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and a #JacksGetInvolved student organization fair from 1 to 2:30 p.m. in the student center atrium.

A student leader meet and greet also will be available from 1 to 1:45 p.m. in the student center, and tours of our Health and Wellness Hub will be ongoing throughout the day in the Tucker Building.

Thirty-minute breakout sessions will run from 1:45 to 3 p.m. and will cover such topics as financial aid, first-year and transfer admissions, and both Residence Life and Dining Services. A session for parents of admitted students also will be available.

Optional tours of academic facilities will run from 1:30 to 3 p.m. and will allow participants to visit the DeWitt School of Nursing Complex, Todd Agricultural Research Center, A.L. Mangham Jr. Regional Airport, and the Janice A. Pattillo Early Childhood Research Center.

To register for SFA’s Showcase Saturday and for more information, visit sfasu.edu/showcase.

Cutline: Attendees chat with faculty and staff during Stephen F. Austin State University’s Showcase Saturday academic fair. The university will host its in-person spring Showcase Saturday, February 25 on campus.