SFA University

April 19, 2016 - Stephen F. Austin State University’s hospitality administration program welcomed approximately 200 high school students to its second Cooking Up Careers event on Friday, April 15.
The event was designed to introduce SFA and the program to high school students who are interested in taking hospitality and culinary courses.
“It was wonderful having more than 200 students on campus to experience our hospitality program firsthand,” said Dr. Chay Runnels, SFA hospitality administration program coordinator and associate professor. “We are one of four hospitality four-year programs in the state, and the only program with a culinary focus. The students who attended were able to learn about career options in the industry and college life at SFA.”
Dr. Judy Abbott, dean of SFA’s James I. Perkins College of Education, and Blake Loggins, the Lumberjack mascot, welcomed students before the festivities began. Janet McLeroy, assistant director of admissions, and Brittany Fish, SFA hospitality administration graduate, spoke with the participants.
During the event, students were divided into groups and attended two 45-minute sessions. Industry professionals delivered a session on careers in the hospitality industry and discussed how to make a positive impression during and dress for a job interview. Panel participants were Bric Alverson and Ryan Russell from Aramark; John McLaren, The Fredonia Hotel general manager; Marty Prince, Texas Forest Trail executive director; Jessica Gilligan, sales manager at Courtyard by Marriott in Lufkin; and Claudann Jones, Nacogdoches County AgriLife Extension agent.
Eight SFA seniors also conducted a session and discussed college life at SFA, choosing a major and how to successfully transition from high school to college.
High school teachers in attendance were invited to attend two sessions, which informed them about SFA, how to help their students prepare for college, and new and existing resources available to teachers.
As the sessions were convening, Todd Barrios, chef and clinical instructor at SFA, hosted a Market Basket Challenge with seven culinary teams in the Human Sciences North Building lab. The East Texas Restaurant Association awarded $600 to the top culinary teams. Challenge judges included Roger Lumley, owner of Pappasito’s in Tyler and current president of the East Texas Restaurant Association; Bob Westbrook, retired restaurant owner and past president of the East Texas Restaurant Association; Chef Jack Bretzke, East Texas Chef’s Association member; and Chef Jackson York, chef of Lakeview Methodist Conference Center and Texas Chef’s Association Chef of the Year 2010.
Participating high schools included Carthage, Diboll, Marshall, Hallsville, Beckville, Union Grove, Gilmer, Alba-Golden, Pine Tree, Lufkin, Winona and Nacogdoches.
Cutline: Seven culinary teams comprised of visiting high school students competed in a Market Basket Challenge during Stephen F. Austin State University’s hospitality administration program’s Cooking Up Careers event.

April 15, 2016 - NACOGDOCHES, Texas — Tables decorated in purple and white and adorned with science-related centerpieces were packed last week during the second annual Stephen F. Austin State University Women in STEM Luncheon and Style Show in the Baker Pattillo Student Center Grand Ballroom.

SFA Regent Nelda Luce Blair — an attorney and president and owner of the Blair Law Firm in The Woodlands  — presented to the audience three guiding principles she said comprise some of women’s “Super Natural” traits.
“We have a whole bunch of those super natural traits, but we are only going to talk about three today,” Blair said, “Optimism, which is very natural to us; encouragement, which we do as an inborn trait; and ‘seriously?’ I will explain that one later.”
Blair related personal struggles she encountered as a female lawyer that mirror issues facing women in STEM disciplines, especially the underrepresentation of females in STEM professions. According to Change the Equation — an organization working to ensure all students are STEM literate through collaboration with schools, communities and states — female STEM students are 6 percent more likely to change their major. Also, only 30 percent of elementary school teachers feel well prepared to encourage girls to participate in science.
“Motivation is the heart of encouragement, because if you give people a motive to do something, that’s encouraging them,” Blair said. “I bring in women and young girls during the summer and have them work in my law office because it helps them realize they can do anything they want to, just like women pursuing STEM fields.”
After detailing personal stories and urging women to “seriously, not to take yourselves or others too seriously,” Blair joined a dozen other professional women and female STEM students on the runway to model clothing designs ranging from business to formal wear. Fashions were provided by the Town House, a Nacogdoches boutique.

April 15, 2016 - Dr. Steve Bullard was appointed provost and vice president for academic affairs during Stephen F. Austin State University’s Board of Regents meeting Tuesday.  
Bullard has served as interim provost since July 2015 and has been dean of the Arthur Temple College of Forestry and Agriculture at SFA since 2009. He also holds the Henry M. Rockwall Chair in forestry. Prior to his employment at SFA, Bullard served as chair of the Department of Forestry at the University of Kentucky from 2004 to 2009, and as a faculty member and administrator at Mississippi State University from 1983 to 2004.
Bullard received a bachelor’s degree in forestry and a master’s degree in forest management-economics, both from Mississippi State University, as well as a doctoral degree in forest management economics from Virginia Polytechnic Institute in 1983.
Dr. Kenneth Farrish, director of the division of environmental science and professor of forestry and environmental science, was officially named the 2016-17 SFA Regents Professor during the board meeting.
Reserved for exemplary role models to the university community, the title of Regents Professor is the highest honor SFA bestows upon faculty members and is held for one academic year.
Farrish joined the SFA faculty in 1996. In 2003, he was named the Arnold Distinguished Professor of Forest Soils and Environmental Science.
Faculty members granted tenure by the board included Luis Aguerrevere, human services; Mary Catherine Breen, secondary education; Andrew Brininstool and Christopher Sams, English; Ellen Caplan, library; Dusty Jenkins and Sarah Savoy, psychology; Leah Kahn and Pamela Vaughn, elementary education; Kelly Noe, accounting; Mark Schaub, economics and finance; and Linda Post, art.
Regents approved the following faculty promotions:
To professor – Mario Ajero and Christina Guenther, music; Kwame Antwi-Boasiako, government; Jeremy Becnel, mathematics and statistics; Linda Bobo, kinesiology; Philip Catton, history; I-Kuai Hung and Matthew McBroom, forestry; Kefa Onchoke, chemistry; Mark Scanlan, economics and finance; Scott Shattuck, theatre; Le’Ann Solmonson, human services; and Chris Talbot, art.
To associate professor – Luis Aguerrevere, human services; Mary Catherine Breen, secondary education; Andrew Brininstool and Christopher Sams, English; Karol Chandler Ezell, anthropology, geography and sociology; Brandon Fox, elementary education; Dusty Jenkins and Sarah Savoy, psychology; Kelly Noe, accounting; and Linda Post, art.
In addition, regents approved the appointment of Eralda Lameborshi as visiting lecturer of English and creative writing.
Regents approved the appointment of Kyle Keller as head men’s basketball coach, as well as Christopher Morriss, coordinator of intramural sports and camps, and Katherine Yandell, Campus Recreation coordinator of aquatics and safety; Elizabeth Chambliss, financial aid officer; Tanh Nguyen, postdoctoral research associate, forestry and agriculture; Aparecida de Fatima Cordeiro Dutra, research associate in the Center for Regional Heritage Research; Amanda Romig, compliance coordinator in the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs; Gavin McCarty, post office manager; and Cynthia Haile, director of parking and traffic.
Appointments in the Office of Admissions included Lauren Manzanares, regional coordinator, and Chelsea Pitts, counselor. Changes of status in the office included Ryan Horne, from assistant director to regional coordinator; and Janet McLeroy, from senior admissions counselor to assistant director.
Other status changes included Kristen Smith, from financial aid officer to student loan manager in the Office of Financial Aid; Gary Wurtz, from professor of music to professor and interim director of the School of Music; Katie McClain, from human resources specialist II to human resources representative; Veronica Weaver, from assistant director of orientation to director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs; Randall Scott, from director of Piney Woods Area Health Education Center to manager of transportation and special services; and Laura Turner, from academic adviser in the Nelson Rusche College of Business to academic adviser in the College of Sciences and Mathematics.
Promotions in the Ralph W. Steen Library include Johna Von Behrens to librarian II and Dillon Wackerman to archivist II. Status changes include Hayley Gillen, from program associate in the James I. Perkins College of Education to supervisor, library acquisitions and loans; Barbara Olds, from supervisor of library acquisitions and loans to manager of library e-resources and assessment.
Donald Brent Burt of the Department of Biology was granted faculty development leave for the fall 2016 semester. Faculty development leave for the spring 2017 semester was granted to Philip Catton of the Department of History and James Van Kley of the Department of Biology.
Regents honored three long-term faculty members who have recently retired with the title professor emeritus: Libby Rhodes, kinesiology; Kathleen Belanger, social work and Robert Strader, computer science. Regents also approved the retirements of John Goodall, associate dean of the College of Fine Arts; Rebecca Greer, professor of human sciences; and Mark Turner, assistant professor of music.

Submitted by Shirley Luna, Ed. D.

April 14, 2016 - Members of the Stephen F. Austin State University Board of Regents viewed schematic drawings for a new Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics facility during the group’s April quarterly meeting and voted to name the facility in honor of long-time SFA benefactors Ed and Gwen Cole.
“The Coles have changed lives at SFA,” said Jill Still, SFA vice president for advancement. “Funding provided by Ed and his late wife, Gwen, supports fine arts, audiology, nursing, student scholarships, faculty development, athletic programs and more. Their generous gifts have impacted student success, which was a passion that they shared.”
A glass atrium planned for the four-story Ed and Gwen Cole STEM Building will highlight the 50-foot dome of a new planetarium, which will seat more than 100 people and provide significant viewing opportunities for SFA students and the public.
Barry Nelson, Board of Regents secretary and chair of the building and grounds committee, said the committee members enjoyed the challenge of working with the architects to develop a design that was unique and impressive while meeting the budgetary requirements of the project.
“The building will have a stunning entryway that will draw people in,” Nelson said. “The facility will define our campus, and it will be a structure that others will come to see when they are planning STEM facilities and even other types of building projects.”
In correlation with current educational trends, the facility will showcase “maker spaces,” which are classrooms and laboratories focused on hands-on learning. Dr. Kimberly Childs, dean of the College of Sciences and Mathematics, defined maker spaces as “unscripted labs where students go to invent, imagine and build.”
Dr. Danny Gallant, vice president for finance and administration, said the university is moving forward to the next design phase. Construction is projected to start in November, and the expected completion and move-in date is August 2018.
When the STEM facility is complete, space will become available in other buildings on the campus, particularly the E.L. Miller Science Building. During a special meeting Friday, the board heard presentations from two architectural firms to determine space requirements and develop programming for the science building.
Members approved hiring Facility Programming and Consulting, a company that specializes in space utilization. Facility Programming and Consulting worked with the university on the new STEM building and has completed projects across the nation. The company will identify renovation needs in the Miller Science Building and provide recommendations to ensure the best use of institutional space in the building.
Regents also approved construction of a parking lot adjacent to the parking garage on Feazell Street to replace spaces that will be removed as a result of the STEM facility construction.
SFA’s 2020 master plan addresses the need for additional space for the College of Fine Arts, including the development of a performing arts district. Three architectural firms presented material and ideas concerning this project to the board during Friday’s meeting.
Regents approved the hiring of Houston-based Kirksey Architecture to review the university’s needs, requests and limitations pertaining to the performing arts center. Kirksey Architecture will create “a recipe book for building” the performing arts center through fact-finding, facility tours and research. Kirksey Architecture also played a role in the design of SFA freshman residence hall Lumberjack Landing.
The board approved renovations to the William R. Johnson Coliseum men’s basketball locker room, which includes converting 200 square feet from the shower area to provide more room for team gatherings and meetings.
In other business, regents approved the allocation of scholarship funding to support enrollment in the Department of Secondary Education and Educational Leadership in the James I. Perkins College of Education. Board members approved a reduced rate for students in the online educational leadership program, which will save each student in the 18-credit hour certificate program more than $2,000, while each student in the 30-credit hour master’s program will save almost $4,000. The rates will allow SFA to remain competitive among peer institutions.

Additionally, regents ratified a five-year agreement with AcademicWorks, a financial software program, to help centralize the scholarship process and make it easier for students to apply and search for scholarships.

Regents approved the fiscal year 2015-16 summer budget and ratified $82,125 additional grant awards allocable to the 2016 fiscal year; the funds are a portion of the $6.7 million in grant funding for the fiscal year.

When the Stephen F. Austin State University Foundation was created 40 years ago, members of the SFA Board of Regents at that time served as foundation board members. On Tuesday, regents honored the current foundation board members and reaffirmed the university’s relationship with the foundation, a non-profit organization that exists to serve and benefit the university.

Regents heard reports from Hilltop Securities, the Faculty Senate, Student Government Association and President Baker Pattillo. Regents received an update on the university’s marketing campaign and new SFA website, and approved the campaign’s budget.

During the Tuesday meeting, the board received a report from the SFA auditor and also approved:

  • building and grounds policy, academic and student policy, and financial affairs policy revisions;
  • the redistribution of funds from the sale of property donated to the university;
  • curriculum and core curriculum revisions;
  • an amended agreement with the Educational Advisory Board through June 2021;
  • an amendment of SFA’s and Texas A&M University’s investment agreement; and
  • increasing Aramark’s financial commitment to the university as it continues to diversify its food service program.

Submitted by Shirley Luna

April 13, 2016 - NACOGDOCHES, Texas – Stephen F. Austin State University’s Steel Band will present a multifaceted program when the band, also known as Jacks of Steel, performs at 6 p.m. Sunday, April 24, in Cole Concert Hall on the SFA campus.

“The concert will consist of a diverse variety of styles, including traditional, contemporary, pop songs and even some ska music,” said Dr. Brad Meyer, director of percussion studies for the SFA School of Music.

The Steel Band will perform the fun ’80s tune “Take on Me” by A-Ha! and the Ernies’ “Inspector 8,”  which is an energetic ska tune arranged by Brian Nozny. Ska is a modern style of vocalized Jamaican popular music, which emerged in the 1950s as a blend of African-Jamaican folk music, calypso and American rhythm and blues.

The band will get the audience “grooving and moving,” Meyer said, with “Happy” by Pharrell Williams and “Uptown Funk” by Bruno Mars.

Cole Concert Hall is located in the Tom and Peggy Wright Music Building, 2210 Alumni Drive. 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.
Meyer described the Steel Band as “one of the most popular and requested ensembles in the School of Music.” With 16 members, the group uses a full set of steel pans, including three leads, two double tenors, two cellos and bass pans as well as a large rhythm section with drumset, electric bass and various Latin percussion. The group performs a wide variety of music, including traditional Caribbean music, pop, rock and Latin.

“The nature of the ensemble allows for student members to develop skills in improvisation and music arranging,” Meyer said.

Membership is open to both music and non-music majors with consent of the instructor. The band is available to perform at private local events. To reserve the group to perform, contact Meyer at meyerbe@sfasu.edu.

April 12, 2016 - NACOGDOCHES, Texas – The SFA Friends of Music will accept reservations through noon Monday, April 18, for Extravaganza 29, Stephen F. Austin State University School of Music’s annual gala banquet. The event is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Friday, April 22, in the Grand Ballroom of SFA’s Baker Pattillo Student Center.

This year’s Extravaganza, “The Rising Stars of SFA,” celebrates the 29th anniversary of the gala and fundraiser, which features gourmet dining, performances by student soloists and ensembles, and the presentation of student awards in an exciting evening of music, according to Dr. Gary Wurtz, interim director of the SFA School of Music.

“There is no better way to experience a cross section of what the SFA School of Music has to offer than at our annual Extravaganza,” Wurtz said. “While enjoying a good meal, those in attendance hear performances by the top choir, band, orchestra, jazz band, student recitalists, opera performers, and more. Our fantastic students provide both dinner music and a dance to end the evening. It is really a lot of fun!”

Part music student awards ceremony, part formal dinner, and part musical potpourri, Extravaganza will feature jazz, harp, wind ensemble, choir, opera, string quartet and orchestra. Additional highlights include awarding the Outstanding Music Alumnus of the year and Outstanding Recitalists of the year.

As is tradition with Extravaganza, the music faculty has selected an outstanding alumnus to honor, and this year’s recipient is George Faber of Tyler, director of visual and performing arts for Tyler ISD, as well as a very active and respected musician throughout East Texas. Faber has performed with such notables as Grammy Award-winning song writer and trumpet player Tom Browne, Ray Charles, Chubby Checker, Percy Sledge, Glen Campbell, Johnny Mathis, Lou Rawls, Bill Cosby, Charlie Daniels, The Statler Brothers, The Oakridge Boys, "Blue Lou" Marini of the Blues Brothers, Jon Faddis (director of the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band and former trumpet player with the Doc Severson Tonight Show Orchestra), Mark Mullins (trombonist for Harry Connick, Jr. and founder of the New Orleans-based group Bonerama), and many others.

The Extravaganza 29 committee includes John and Melinda Rohrer, co-chairs, Habiba Awan, Caryl and Harold Hall, Carolyn King, Dee Allums, Gloria and Cecil Settle, Gloria Williams, MaryAnn and Farrar Bentley and Ed Cole.

“The Extravaganza is a wonderful opportunity for our community to enjoy performances by the gifted students of the SFA School of Music,” said Melinda Rohrer. “It is a fun event with excellent food and beautiful music.”

This year’s Friends of Music officers include Jackie Warthan, president; Caryl Hall, president-elect; Missy DeVine, secretary/treasurer; and Carrie Ventura, past president.
Tickets are $40 for adults and $10 for students. Patron level tickets range in prices from $65 to $140, and donations will be accepted for the Friends of Music scholarship fund. For tickets or more information, call the SFA Fine Arts Box Office at (936) 468-6407 or visit www.finearts.sfasu.edu.

April 11, 2016 - Nacogdoches, Texas – The University Band and the Symphonic Band at Stephen F. Austin State University will present the concert program “Inspiration” when the bands perform at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 19, in W.M. Turner Auditorium on the SFA campus.

The selected works to be performed were inspired by folk songs and dances, tragic life events and the dream of flight, according to Dr. James Dreiling, interim assistant director of bands at SFA.
The University Band will open the concert with “Into the Clouds” by Richard Saucedo and guest conducted by graduate assistant Dwight Watson of Lavon.

“This lively fanfare is filled with rhythmic energy and was inspired by the composer’s dream of flight,” Dreiling said.

The University Band will also perform “Festivo” by Czech composer Vaclav Nelhybel and the popular ballad for band “As Summer Was Just Beginning” by Larry Daehn, who was inspired to write the piece following the untimely death of gifted actor James Dean. Graduate assistant Taylor Goodwin of Ennis will guest conduct.

The University Band will conclude its portion of the concert with the march “Liberty Fleet” by Karl L. King.

“Along with John Phillip Sousa and Henry Fillmore, King is known as one of the most prolific march composers, having composed more than 180 marches,” Dreiling said. “This march, composed in 1942, is one of his lesser-known marches and was inspired by a fleet of war ships used in World War I.”

The Symphonic Band opens the second half of the concert with “Westport Overture” composed by SFA music faculty member Dr. David Campo, director of the Lumberjack Marching Band, who “has a growing reputation as a composer for wind bands,” Dreiling said. The Symphonic Band will also perform “Variations on a Korean Folk Song” by John Barnes Chance and “Heaven’s Light” composed by Steven Reineke.

“This moving piece was commissioned by Evans High School in Evans, Georgia, after the death of high school band member Holly Spivey and her parents in a house fire,” Dreiling explained.

The concert will conclude with the celebratory piece “Albanian Dance” by Shelley Hanson based on the popular Albanian folk tune “Shota,” which seeks to re-create the festive mood of a raucous village dance, Dreiling said.

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.

April 6, 2016  - NACOGDOCHES, Texas – College of Liberal and Applied Arts and the School of Theatre at Stephen F. Austin State University are preparing to host the Region II Conference 5A UIL One-Act Play Contest Thursday, April 21, in W.M. Turner Auditorium on the SFA campus.

The One-Act Play Contest is a precursor to the UIL 2016 Regional Spring Meet for Region II Conference 5A that will take place on the SFA campus Friday and Saturday, April 22 and 23. In addition to contests in journalism, speech and debate, STEM activities, and theatre and film, the UIL offers activities in several other subject areas, including business skills, language arts, social studies and essay contests.

Six plays will be performed back-to-back beginning at 1:30 p.m. Thursday, and acting awards will be announced following the conclusion of the final play that evening. Two plays will advance to the state contest, according to Melissa McMillian-Cunningham, SFA School of Theatre faculty member who is overseeing the One-Act Play Contest.

The state is divided into four regions, and each has schools in 1A to 6A size categories, with 6A being the largest. Competition begins at the zone level and continues through district, bi-district, area, region and state.

“Usually, by the time a school’s play gets to region, it has advanced from three contests minimally,” Cunningham said. “By the time they get to region, we have 24 schools still in the game that will then get compressed down to eight for the state level – two from each region.”

“Even to get to regional contest is super huge,” she said.

Three adjudicators selected by the state UIL contest will independently rank each play. Each school will be critiqued.

“It’s very focused on theater education,” Cunningham said of the process. “It’s not just about a contest. It’s about supporting theatre in the schools and helping high school students develop their artistic process. This allows students to hear different points of views about their work.’

Schools competing are located in a region from north of Dallas to the East Texas area.

For many smaller schools, UIL is one of the more important activities in theatre for the entire year, Cunningham explained.

“The good thing about UIL is that it really encourages the development of theatre programs,” she said. “It gets communities involved with this process as students travel with their plays. It teaches high school students some skills in terms of flexibility, or moving from space to space during a contest, that they may not otherwise have experienced performing a play at home. They get to take their show on the road, which is exciting.

“From my own personal experience, I feel like my initial success with one-act play as a high school director really awakened my administration to the attention that a quality theatre program could bring to our school district,” she said.

As the schools tour and judges observe students, recruiting opportunities are plentiful, Cunningham said.

“Hosting this event brings faculty members and administrators to our campus,” she said. “One of the great selling points of SFA is bringing people to this beautiful campus and town and allowing students from all these different schools to see what we do here. This heightens awareness of the possibility of these students coming here.”

Another benefit for the university hosting the play contest is that it allows SFA theatre teacher certification students to be involved in the process, “so that as they are training to become theatre educators, they will have had this experience as a crew member, or working in the back stage area, that helps them understand the process from a different perspective than they had as a high school student,” Cunningham said. “This helps to prepare them to be a high school theatre teacher.”

The contest also provides a great opportunity for SFA students and faculty to observe “this level of work,” she added.

“I would encourage area high schools to come after school or perhaps to take a field trip to attend and see the work and learn from it, and to support these schools,” Cunningham said.

Tickets to see all six plays are $10 and can be purchased in the lobby of Griffith Fine Arts Building the day of the contest.

April 4, 2016 - NACOGDOCHES, Texas — Stephen F. Austin State University’s Nelson Rusche College of Business will host its third College to Career Conference from 12:30 to 5 p.m. Thursday, April 7, in the Mattress Firm Commons in the R.E. McGee Building on the SFA campus.

C2C, a professional development event, will feature sessions throughout the day with speakers from across the state representing companies such as Southwest Airlines, Mattress Firm, Edward Jones and Wells Fargo.

“The C2C is one of the best ways we can connect business executives with our students,” said Chelsea Heidbrink, director of career success and corporate engagement for SFA’s Nelson Rusche College of Business. “It provides professional insight into the job market and prepares students for the realities they will face after graduation.”

Sessions will focus on career-readiness topics, including communication skills, post-graduation budgeting and finances, and first impressions. Additional topics include information concerning the job search, competing in the job market, using social media for branding and the importance of lifelong learning.

Students can earn Student Success Passport Program points for each session they attend. The Student Success Passport Program aims to help SFA students hone their professional skills while competing for scholarships within the Nelson Rusche College of Business.

“With more than 20 professionals attending, C2C gives our students the opportunity to expand their personal network and build connections that may help them as they search for jobs and internships,” Heidbrink said.

C2C also will feature Rusche Real Talks presentations, which will give attendees personal insight into the experiences and business ventures of many successful SFA alumni and friends. During the conference, students also can participate in career counseling and mock interviews.

Additionally, from 5 to 7 p.m., the Nelson Rusche College of Business will host an employer reception where many of the college’s juniors, seniors and graduate students can meet and network with potential employers. The reception will be held in the Mattress Firm Commons area.

For more information, contact Heidbrink at (936) 468-2339 or heidbrinc@sfasu.edu.

April 1, 2016 - NACOGDOCHES, Texas — Stephen F. Austin State University’s Braille and Cane Club within the Department of Human Services has been recognized with the Natalie Barraga Award from the Texas Association for the Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired.

In conjunction with the award, the City of Nacogdoches is proclaiming April 7 Braille and Cane Club Day. The first formal reading of the proclamation and display of the Barraga award will be at 3:15 p.m. Thursday, April 7, in the Human Services Building, Room 314, on the SFA campus.
The Barraga award acknowledges excellence in public school programs for students with visual impairments, and it is given in honor of Dr. Natalie Barraga for her long and distinguished career in the education of students with visual impairments and in university personnel preparation.
“This is a tremendous honor, and we are so proud of the club’s initiative and achievement in the field,” said Michael Munro, SFA visual impairment and orientation and mobility program director. “I am very proud that our Braille and Cane Club has become such an incredible resource for students and families in and around the SFA community.”
The SFA Braille and Cane Club is a student-governed organization that strives to raise awareness about visual impairments. Shannon Dwyer serves as the club’s president and is an SFA senior majoring in rehabilitation. She attributes the club’s success to its members and past officers, such as Laura Poyner and Ashlynn Peterson, who have worked to elevate the club’s standing within the community.
“Receiving this award not only means we are getting our name out into the community, but also that we are getting closer to achieving our mission statement,” Dwyer said. “It truly is an honor to be recognized and to receive the award.”
The club was established in 1999 and promotes advocacy, encourages empowerment and provides education to the surrounding community. Club-sponsored events, such as the annual Christmas and Easter celebrations, White Cane Day awareness, Dining in the Dark, Disability Pride Parade and more, have become important resources for the community and families of individuals with visual impairments. The club has approximately 40 current members.