SFA University

April 14, 2015 - Production to feature stage veterans Simmons, Maule

Veteran stage actors Brad Maule and Rhonda Plymate Simmons rehearse a scene from “August: Osage County” by Tracy Letts to be presented by the SFA School of Theatre April 28 through May 2NACOGDOCHES, Texas – When the Stephen F. Austin State University College of Fine Arts and School of Theatre present “August: Osage County,” some familiar professional actors will be seen on stage appearing alongside SFA’s talented student performers.

Directed by Scott Shattuck and featuring Nacogdoches residents Rhonda Plymate Simmons and Brad Maule, “August: Osage County” focuses on what happens to the Weston family when their patriarch disappears and they hurriedly assemble at the rural Oklahoma home of his hilariously caustic, pill-popping wife. Their outrageous conflicts and lies collide to launch the corrosive comedy that won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and became the basis for the hit movie starring Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts.

“August: Osage County” by Tracy Letts will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, April 28 through May 2, in W.M. Turner Auditorium on the SFA campus. A 2 p.m. Saturday matinee is also scheduled.

When Shattuck, who is director of the SFA School of Theatre, saw “August: Osage County” in its Broadway production, he thought it was the best new American play he had encountered in a long time.

“I knew immediately that our audiences would love the soapy story, the delightfully outrageous characters and the painfully hilarious satire of family life in today's America,” he said.

In the ensuing years, Shattuck began talking with long-time SFA’s Friends of Theatre president Rhonda Plymate Simmons, who had a successful career as a professional actor before she moved to Nacogdoches and earned her master’s degree in theatre at SFA, about her desire to return to the stage in one last great role.

“One night as we were chatting, it all came together in both of our minds,” he said. “Rhonda had seen the play and loved it as much as I had, and I wanted to direct it. It has a great ensemble with opportunities for lots of students, including excellent roles for women, but it probably wouldn't work well without a strong, mature female actor in a key role.

“Rhonda said, ‘What about…?’ And I said, ‘I think that's the one,’” he said.

One problem that remained was finding an equally strong, mature male actor to play the husband of Simmons’s character.

“But I lucked out,” Shattuck said. “When I asked Brad Maule, he immediately said yes.”

Maule, best known for his 22 years on ABC’s “General Hospital” playing the role of Dr. Tony Jones, teaches acting and filmmaking at SFA and hosts a morning radio talk show and syndicated TV entertainment shows.

In the play, after Maule’s character, a distinguished but aging poet, disappears one August day, his sharp-tongued wife, who is suffering from cancer and has become addicted to her prescription pain medications, calls her three daughters, her sister and their male partners together to await word of his fate at their otherwise nearly empty house. As her drug-fueled candor becomes increasingly raw, the family's secrets begin to crumble, and the last of the tenuous emotional bonds that had held them together come unglued, Shattuck explained.

“As wild as the story gets, what's most unnerving about the play is how realistic it is,” Shattuck said. “These people are smart and witty, isolated and tormented, but they're definitely three-dimensional, detailed and all-too-recognizable. For better or worse, most of us will recognize the squirm-inducing undercurrents of a picturesque family gathering.

“So I've asked the actors to go for a very authentic, conversational style – even those whose characters are quite flamboyant,” he said. “That seems to make the humor cut all the more deeply.”

Shattuck warns that the language and adult situations make this play unsuitable for children and those who may be sensitive to profanity, obscenity, and drug and alcohol abuse. But adults who are up for a “spectacularly entertaining roller-coaster ride into the acidic guts of 21st century life” will not be disappointed.

“I'd love for our audiences to leave with some of the same excitement I felt when I first saw the play,” he said, adding he hopes patrons experience “that amazement at the power of dramatic storytelling to involve and enthrall and shock us, even without an all-singing-all-dancing chorus or twirling laser lights.

“I hope we'll make some jaws drop the way mine did,” he said.

“August: Osage County” is sponsored in part by Tipton Ford Lincoln. The play is recommended for mature audiences.
Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for seniors and $7.50 for students. For tickets or more information, call the SFA Fine Arts Box Office at (936) 468-6407 or visit theatre.sfasu.edu

April 9, 2015 - The Stephen F. Austin State University Sylvans, a timbersports team, captured its third consecutive championship title at the 58th annual Southern Forestry Conclave in Mississippi.

The team of 35 students, composed primarily of forestry majors, competed in technical and physical events against 14 other Southern forestry schools, including Virginia Tech, Clemson, Auburn and Louisiana State University.

Dr. Jeremy Stovall, assistant professor of silviculture in SFA’s Arthur Temple College of Forestry and Agriculture and the Sylvans’ faculty adviser, said the rigorous coursework undertaken by students in SFA’s forestry program is a key component of the team’s success.

“Stephen F. Austin has one of the best undergraduate forestry programs in the country,” Stovall said. “This really helps with the technical events, which are mostly focused on coursework in subjects like dendrology, wildlife, wood technology and timber estimation.”

In addition to the technical portion of the event, students compete in traditional physical timbersport events such as crosscut sawing, log birling, archery, axe throwing and pole climbing.

To prepare for these physical events, the Sylvans practice daily in the weeks leading up to the competition. During the semester, members are often found practicing events and providing teammates with performance critiques and encouragement in the designated practice area, located behind the Forestry Building.

“This was the best-rounded team I have seen,” Stovall said. “We had 18 different individuals compete in the 22 events, each working hard at perfecting his or her event.”

Out of the 15 competing schools, SFA won first in both technical and physical events, with an overall score of 317.25 points. Clemson finished in second place with 269.5 points, and the University of Georgia finished third with 268.5 points.

The Forestry Conclave is an annual competition between forestry schools of the Southeast featuring both technical and physical timbersport events. Next year’s competition will be hosted by Clemson.

For information about the Arthur Temple College of Forestry and Agriculture, visit www.atcofa.sfasu.edu.

April 9, 2015 - NACOGDOCHES, Texas – Stephen F. Austin State University has been recognized for its commitment to educating all students – regardless of physical challenges – with the 2014 Desire2Excel Award for Accessibility.

The award is presented by D2L, a global leader in educational technology and the creator of Brightspace, an integrated learning platform used by SFA faculty members and students. The company lauded SFA for demonstrating how such partnerships and technology can make education available to more learners.

“It is one of D2L’s core beliefs that education should be accessible to all,” said John Baker, president and CEO of D2L. “Brightspace was built and continues to grow with accessibility in mind. We strive to make our integrated learning platform easy for people to navigate and understand using assistive technologies or any and all devices that support their needs.”

A large part of the university’s dedication to accessibility is ensuring that faculty members are provided with professional development that includes how to make instructional materials accessible, according to Dr. Randy McDonald, director of SFA’s Center for Teaching and Learning.

“We conduct rigorous professional development for faculty members concerning the design of online courses, and we continually collaborate with the SFA Office of Disability Services to help ensure the needs of each and every student are met,” McDonald said.

“The university is able to provide accessible support to students and faculty members using the Brightspace integrated learning platform,” McDonald added. Led by Andra Floyd, SFA’s D2L support team includes student workers who specialize in providing accessible tech support.

SFA’s focus on accessibility for all students is “part of our DNA,” said Janet Kamps, distance education coordinator at the Center for Teaching and Learning. She said that commitment stems from the institution’s origins as a teacher’s college.

“Personalized instruction, mentoring, and respect for and inclusion of all university community members are foundations of our university,” she said. “Brightspace has played a crucial role in enabling us to live up to those ideals and ensure that students’ access to a quality education is not obstructed. Taking responsibility for accessibility is foundational here – it’s something we all do.”

D2L partners with thought-leading organizations to improve learning through data-driven technology that helps deliver a personalized experience to every learner, regardless of geography or ability. D2L’s open and extensible platform is used by more than 1,100 clients and 15 million individual learners in higher education, K–12, health care, government and the enterprise sector, including Fortune 1000 companies. The company has operations in the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, Brazil and Singapore.

March 26, 2015 - Through a partnership between Stephen F. Austin State University’s Arthur Temple College of Forestry and Agriculture, the School of Human Sciences’ Hospitality Administration program and Älvdalen Educational Center, a forestry and hospitality post-secondary technical college in Älvdalen, Sweden, 15 Swedish students and two faculty members from the educational center completed a two-week exploration of East Texas.

Robert Nilsson and Matthew Tunn, instructors at Älvdalen's Educational Center, said the partnership greatly benefits the participating students, many of whom have never traveled abroad.

During their stay, students toured sights throughout the region that were focused on their particular area of study.

Dr. Hans Williams, associate dean of SFA’s Arthur Temple College of Forestry and Agriculture, and Dr. Chay Runnels, associate professor and hospitality administration program coordinator at SFA, organized the visit, which included trips to state parks, historic sites and the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center, as well as logging operations.

The machines used in U.S. logging operations are very different from those used in Sweden, said Daniel Karlsson. Karlsson, who will graduate from Älvdalen's forestry program next year, added that seeing the difference in forest operations has helped him grow as a student.

While the partnership places great focus on the vocational pursuits of the students involved, Williams said perhaps the most important aspect is the personal growth that results from experiencing a different culture.

The broadening of horizons led to the partnership between SFA and Älvdalen’s Educational Center more than three years ago. Since that time, five SFA students also have visited Älvdalen's Educational Center for similar cross-cultural immersion.

“It’s more than just learning forestry, it’s about seeing a whole different culture,” Williams said.

Emma Sandgren, a nature and adventure tourism student at Älvdalen's Educational Center, said while she thought the Texas weather would be warmer, it did not detract from her enjoyment of the local cuisine and people.

The students’ visit culminated in a barbecue and tour of SFA’s Walter C. Todd Agricultural Research Center. Prior to their departure home, the SFA Horseman’s Association demonstrated a range of versatility and skill-based events before facilitating horse rides for the students.

“The welcome we had, the hospitality and the friendliness, has just been overwhelming,” said Tunn.

This May, Runnels and Dr. Mary Olle, assistant professor of human sciences at SFA, will lead a Maymester course titled “Connecting People with Nature in Sweden.” The class will provide participants with the opportunity to explore the confluence of ecology, history and culture through visits to forest, recreation and hospitality resources in the Älvdalen region.

March 6, 2015 - The Stephen F. Austin State University Student Government Association and Hunger Jacks, along with the Office of Academic Affairs, hosted a grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday for the new Food for Thought campus food pantry, located in the Baker Pattillo Student Center on SFA’s campus.

The pantry will serve as a resource to help alleviate food insecurity among SFA student on campus.

Pictured (from left) are Marquice Hobbs, SFA student body president; Roger Van Horn, Nacogdoches mayor; Dr. Miranda Terry, assistant professor of health science at SFA; Dr. Steve Westbrook, vice president for university affairs at SFA; Brittany Hearnsberger, SFA student; John Anderson, Aramark district manager; Dr. Adam Peck, dean of student affairs at SFA; and James Burns, SFA student.

February 27, 2015 - The following students have been named to the President's List at Stephen F. Austin State University for the fall semester: To be eligible for this honor, a student must be enrolled in 12 or more semester hours and maintain a grade-point average of 4.0.

(Name, Major, Department)

Center, TX

     April Broomfield, Professional Accountancy, Accounting
     Kayla Broomfield, Pre-Professional Undecided, Physics & Astronomy
     Lesley Cockrell, Interdisciplinary Studies, Elementary Education
     Yvette Garcia, Mathematics, Mathematics & Statistics
     Matthew Goodwin, Creative Writing, English
     Alex Morris, Art, School of Art

Joaquin, TX

     Nicholas Cheatwood, Biochemistry, Chemistry
     Katelyn Cockrell, Communication Disorders, Human Services
     Jordan Powdrill, Engineering Physics, Physics & Astronomy
     Ryleigh Yates, Interdisciplinary Studies, Elementary Education

Shelbyville, TX

     Casey Lovell, Interdisciplinary Studies, Elementary Education

February 25, 2015 - The following students have been named to the Dean's List at Stephen F. Austin State University for the fall semester:

To be eligible for this honor, a student must be enrolled in 12 or more semester hours and maintain a grade-point average of 3.5.

(Name, Major, Department)

Center, TX

    Stephanie Araujo, Nursing, School of Nursing
    Justin Bridwell, Physics, Physics & Astronomy
    Haleigh Cooper, Communication Disorders, Human Services
    Jorge Figueroa, Accounting, Accounting
    Amber Fountain, Kinesiology, Kinesiology & Health Science
    Briana Gregston, Nursing, School of Nursing
    Whitney Haddox, Communication Disorders, Human Services
    Darby Hudspeth, English, English
    Carsen Jones, Pre-Social Work, School of Social Work
    Jessica Massey, Art, School of Art
    Jami Mosby, Nursing, School of Nursing
    Meagan Nehring, Nursing, School of Nursing
    Kristin Peace, Accounting, Accounting
    Alexandra Tomlin, Nursing, School of Nursing

Joaquin, TX

    William Alger, Kinesiology, Kinesiology & Health Science
    Caleb Hill, Crim Justice Legal Assistant, Government
    Bailee McSwain, Interdisciplinary Studies, Elementary Education
    Tyler McSwain, General Business, Business Comm & Legal Studies

Tenaha, TX

    Michaila Duncan, Computer Science, Computer Science
    Victor Flores, Professional Accountancy, Accounting
    Lindsey Murphy, Interdisciplinary Studies, Elementary Education

Timpson, TX

    Kinsey Carrington, Spanish, Languages, Cultures & Communic

February 25, 2015 - NACOGDOCHES - The following students received degrees from Stephen F. Austin State University during December commencement exercises:

Center, TX

    (Name, Degree, Major)
    Jill Albert, Bachelor of Fine Arts, Art
    John Burns, Bachelor of Arts, Information Technology
    Erin Butler, Bachelor of Science, Communication Disorders
    Briana Gregston, Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Nursing
    Megan Hartt, Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Nursing
    Jennifer Matthews, Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies, Interdisciplinary Studies
    Reese Monroe, Bachelor of Business Administration, Marketing
    Melissa Mouton, Bachelor of Science in Agriculture, Animal Science
    Ashley Murphree, Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies, Interdisciplinary Studies
    Amanda Sellman, Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies, Interdisciplinary Studies
    Dawn Spell, Master of Arts, School Counseling
    Alexandra Tomlin, Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Nursing
    Candice Weatherford, Bachelor of Science, Communication Disorders

Joaquin, TX

    (Name, Degree, Major)
    William Alger, Bachelor of Science, Kinesiology
    Britney Battles, Bachelor of Arts, Criminal Justice Corrections
    Austin Burnett, Master of Professional Accountancy, Accounting
    Johnathan Harvey, Bachelor of Science, Mathematics
    Abby Hewitt, Bachelor of Science, Geology
    Chad Lawrence, Bachelor of Science, Kinesiology
    Tyler McSwain, Bachelor of Business Administration, General Business

Tenaha, TX

    (Name, Degree, Major)
    Michaila Duncan, Bachelor of Science, Computer Science
    Jordan Ford, Bachelor of Science in Forestry, Forest Wildlife Management

Timpson, TX

    (Name, Degree, Major)
    Charlotte Metcalf, Master of Arts, School Counseling
    Chad Pate, Bachelor of Arts, English

February 25, 2015 - Seventeen piano, flute and strings majors from Hong Kong are on their way to Nacogdoches to participate in a 10-day residency through March 7 at the Stephen F. Austin State University School of Music. The students will stay in campus residence lodges, study with SFA music faculty, sit in on classes and perform alongside SFA students in choir, orchestra and band.

February 24, 2015 - The Stephen F. Austin State University Alumni Association recently established the Auren and Alma Smith Memorial Scholarship to support undergraduate students attending the university.

This scholarship was endowed in loving memory of the couple by their daughter, Janyce Smith Brannon. Brannon, a 1957 and 1959 SFA graduate, is a retired CPA residing in Dallas.

The Auren and Alma Smith Memorial Scholarship will be awarded to currently enrolled students with an established major, and recipients must maintain at least a 3.0 grade-point average.

Anyone wishing to donate to the scholarship may send a check payable to the SFASU Foundation with instructions to apply the gift to the Auren and Alma Smith Memorial Scholarship. Donations should be mailed to P.O. BOX 6096, SFA Station, Nacogdoches, TX 75962.