SFA University

Stephen F. Austin State University’s SFA Gardens will host its annual Garden Gala Day Plant Sale from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 9 and 10 at the Pineywoods Native Plant Center. The sale will feature a variety of extensively trialed plants, including the Lonicera ‘Pam’s Pink’ flower pictured here.

January 7, 2022 — Stephen F. Austin State University’s SFA Gardens will host its annual Garden Gala Day Plant Sale from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 9 and 10 at the Pineywoods Native Plant Center, located at 2900 Raguet St.

The sale will feature more than 300 varieties of hard-to-find, “Texas-tough” plants, including Texas natives, edibles, heirlooms, tropicals, perennials, shrubs and trees, with an emphasis on pollinator-friendly selections, as well as exclusive SFA introductions. The featured plants are extensively trialed before being offered to the public and are produced by SFA Gardens staff members and volunteers.

This popular event benefits the SFA Mast Arboretum, PNPC, Ruby M. Mize Azalea Garden and Gayla Mize Garden, along with educational programs hosted monthly at the gardens. Educational programs provided at the SFA Gardens reach more than 15,000 participants annually.

Parking will be available at SFA’s Janice A. Pattillo Early Childhood Research Center, located at 2428 Raguet St. Visitors are encouraged to arrive early and bring a wagon to haul their plants.

For more information, call (936) 468-4404 or visit sfasu.edu/sfagardens. A full list of available plants will be made available two weeks before the sale.

December 9, 2021 - Gerald W. “Jerry” Schlief, Stephen F. Austin State University alumnus and president and CEO of Auterra Energy LLC, will offer the commencement addresses during the university’s three graduation ceremonies Saturday.

Schlief received a Bachelor of Business Administration in accounting and served as an innovative leader in the independent oil and gas industry in Houston. He has served on the SFASU Foundation Board of Trustees since 2008 and currently serves as chair.

Schlief and his wife, Candy, were inducted into the Stephen F. Austin Society in 2006 for their generous giving to the university, including funds to support the Gerald W. Schlief School of Accountancy in perpetuity, as well as the Gerald and Candace Schlief Tennis Complex, and the Gerald and Candy Schlief Lobby in the McGee Business Building.

Graduates and their guests must present tickets to enter Johnson Coliseum for commencement. Tickets are free and will help university officials ensure the venue is not overcrowded. Each graduation candidate will be allotted one ticket for themselves and a maximum of 10 guest tickets.

Candidates from the Rusche College of Business, the Department of Education Studies, and May and August 2020 graduates will participate in a 9 a.m. ceremony.

Candidates from the Department of Human Services and Educational Leadership, the School of Human Sciences, the College of Fine Arts, and the Arthur Temple College of Forestry and Agriculture will participate in a noon ceremony.

Candidates from the Department of Kinesiology and Health Science, the College of Liberal and Applied Arts, and the College of Sciences and Mathematics will participate in a 3 p.m. ceremony.

Degrees to be awarded include 903 bachelor’s, 157 master’s and four doctoral degrees. Approximately 334 students will graduate with honors, including 105 cum laude, 96 magna cum laude and 132 summa cum laude. Thirty-one students will graduate with the university scholar designation.

The ceremony will be livestreamed on the SFA Facebook page, facebook.com/sfasu. For more information, visit sfasu.edu/commencement.

December 8, 2021 — Stephen F. Austin State University and Panola College recently announced an academic partnership in which students have the opportunity to complete an associate degree and Bachelor of Science in Nursing concurrently.

Administrators from the two schools signed an articulation agreement in November on SFA’s campus to make the partnership official.

“This is a tremendous partnership,” said Dr. Scott Gordon, SFA president. “The relationship between SFA and Panola College is one that is longstanding, and this strengthens that relationship even more.”

Students will be enrolled at both Panola College and SFA while in the program; however, the majority of courses toward the BSN will be completed online. The program strives to reduce the traditional barriers frequently experienced by students who have the goal of being accepted directly into a BSN program at a university.

“The agreement with SFA allows nursing students who are accepted into the Associate Degree Nursing program at Panola College and who have completed required core courses for the Bachelor of Science in Nursing to take online courses with SFA toward a BSN while completing an ADN at Panola College,” said Annissa Jackson, the chair of nursing programs at Panola College.

SFA and Panola College have established a number of partnerships over the years with the goal of creating a seamless transition for students who wish to continue their education beyond an associate degree.

“Panola College is excited about this new framework for an articulation agreement with SFA,” said Dr. Gregory Powell, Panola College president. “SFA is a preferred destination for our students, and this agreement will ease that transition for our students.”

For more information about SFA’s School of Nursing, visit sfasu.edu/nursing.

December 7, 2021 — The Stephen F. Austin State University educator preparation program has earned a seven-year national accreditation from the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation.

“Simply put, this accreditation is quality assurance through external peer review,” said Dr. Christina Sinclair, SFA associate dean of assessment and accountability. “When an institution or specialized program is accredited by CAEP, it has demonstrated it meets standards set forth by organizations representing the academic community, professionals and other stakeholders. To maintain accreditation, the institution or program must undergo a similar review on a regular basis, typically every seven to 10 years.”

Several benchmarks must be reached in order to receive accreditation, including annual reporting, a self-study process, formative review and visit to the campus by the CAEP review team.

CAEP is recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, which affirms the standards and processes of the accrediting organization are consistent with the academic quality, improvement and accountability expectations CHEA has established, including the eligibility standard that the majority of institutions or programs each accredits are degree granting.

“Accreditation by CAEP provides a framework that has pushed educator preparations programs to continually self-assess and conduct evidence-based analysis of their programs and efficacy,” Sinclair said. “These evidence-based shifts, rooted in continuous improvement, are helping ensure preparation programs like SFA’s are more likely to produce successful educators.”

Sinclair points out that accreditation matters to a broad audience, including:

  • P-12 learners – Outcomes-based evidence means all learners are at the center of determining effectiveness as educators.
  • Teacher educators – Since the process is infused with research and development, the knowledge base of effective practice will grow.
  • State education agencies – Provides a stronger partner for quality assurance, helps connect the national consensus on preparation to state-level policy and provides support for a state’s own authorization/accountability system.
  • Education professionals – Rigorous standards elevate the profession.

“Educator accreditation by CAEP is a seal of approval that assures quality in educator preparation. Accreditation ensures educator programs prepare new teachers to know their subjects, their students and have the clinical training that allows them to enter the classroom ready to effectively teach,” Sinclair said.

For more information about SFA’s educator preparation program, visit sfasu.edu/coe/student-resources/educator-preparation.

December 1, 2021 – The School of Theatre at Stephen F. Austin State University was honored by the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival with numerous awards and nominations for the school’s fall semester plays “Bootycandy” and “Ajax in Iraq.”

The KCACTF is a national theater program involving 18,000 students annually from colleges and universities across the country. Since its inception, KCACTF has given more than 400,000 college theater students the opportunity to have their work critiqued, improve their dramatic skills, and receive national recognition for excellence.

“We are truly excited and honored that our students have been recognized for their hard work,” said Cleo House Jr., director of the School of Theatre and director of “Bootycandy.” “I believe this is a record number of SFA students to be recognized by KCACTF in one semester. This speaks to the commitment of not only the students, but also to the dedication of our faculty.”

“Bootycandy” is being “held for consideration” for invitation to the regional festival in 2022, which means that it will be a part of a select list of plays and musicals from university productions across Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Louisiana that will be reviewed, discussed and voted on by the regional committee. The committee’s goal is to select/rank the productions that represent “the best of what our region offers,” according to House. Only the top plays will be presented at the regional festival.

“It may sound corny, but it really is an honor just to be nominated, because some excellent theatre is happening in our region and across Texas,” House said.

The School of Theatre presented Robert O’Hara’s play “Bootycandy” for its first Mainstage production in October. The play is a satiric portrait of American life told through the lens of Sutter, a gay black man on an outrageous odyssey through his childhood home, his church, dive bars, motel rooms and even nursing homes. O'Hara weaves together scenes, sermons, sketches and daring meta-theatrics to create a kaleidoscopic portrayal of growing up gay and Black.

Ellen McLaughlin’s play “Ajax in Iraq” was presented in collaboration with Panola College Theatre in November at the Community House in Center. The play was described as a mash-up of Sophocles' classic tragedy “Ajax” with the modern-day war in Iraq. The schools sought to help their students and communities gain a better understanding of the difficulties U.S. military members and everyone in their lives endure in dealing with war and its aftermath.

The KCACTF commendations are as follows:

“Bootycandy” – Beaumont junior Andr'e J. Hankerson, Irene Ryan Acting Nominee; Texarkana sophomore Daun (DJ) Whaley, Irene Ryan Acting Nominee; Longview freshman Jaz'Lyn Lewis, Irene Ryan Acting Nominee; Waxahachie sophomore Kiya Green, Meritorious Achievement in Acting; Nacogdoches senior Ty Carter, Meritorious Achievement in Acting; Katy senior Alexis Hargy, Meritorious Achievement in Assistant Directing; Cleo House Jr., Meritorious Achievement in Directing; McKinney senior Carson Cook, Meritorious Achievement in Lighting Design; Splendora junior Stephen Bradley, Meritorious Achievement in Properties Design; and cast of “Bootycandy,” Meritorious Achievement Ensemble.

“Ajax in Iraq” – Allen senior Sara Clark, Irene Ryan Acting Nominee; Katy freshman Astrid Maldonado, Irene Ryan Acting Nominee; Cushing junior Drake Willis, Irene Ryan Acting Nominee; Lufkin junior Chance Chunn, Meritorious Achievement in Stage Management; Houston senior Elizabeth Bobbitt, Meritorious Achievement in Stage Management; Ponder sophomore Connor Molen, Meritorious Achievement in Consent Forward Practices; and The Woodlands senior Dorie Bloodworth, Meritorious Achievement in Assistant Directing.

For more information about the SFA School of Theatre, call (936) 468-4003 or visit theatre.sfasu.edu.

December 1, 2021 — Stephen F. Austin State University’s SFA Gardens will host the monthly Theresa and Les Reeves Lecture Series at 7 p.m. Thursday, December 9, in the Brundrett Conservation Education Building at the Pineywoods Native Plant Center, located at 2900 Raguet St.

Dr. David Creech, SFA Gardens director and professor emeritus of agriculture, will present “SFA Gardens: The Plants, People, and Plans for the Challenges Ahead.”

Creech has been at SFA since September 1978. He received his bachelor’s degree in horticulture from Texas A&M University in 1970, a master’s degree in horticulture from Colorado State University in 1972, and his doctoral degree from Texas A&M in 1978. After a long career in teaching, Creech retired in 2007 but returned to direct SFA Gardens in a part-time position.

Creech’s research interests are varied and include fruits and vegetables, evaluating ornamentals for East Texas, conservation horticulture with endangered plants, salinity studies and, most recently, investigating the potential of kiwifruit as a specialty crop for Texas.

Since 1981, Creech has accumulated a long list of international work in Pakistan, Guatemala, Mexico, Nepal, Israel and China. In the last 21 years, he has undertaken more than 25 consultancies in China, working with the Blueberry Improvement Program and Taxodium Improvement Program at the Nanjing Botanical Garden, as well as connecting with the new plants arena in the China nursery and landscape industries. He is an advocate of increasing forest cover and smart use of land and plant resources.

The Theresa and Les Reeves Lecture Series is held the second Thursday of each month. It is preceded by an attendee social at 6:30 p.m. and a rare plant raffle after the program. The lecture is free and open to the public, but donations to the Theresa and Les Reeves Lecture Series fund are always appreciated.

Parking is available at the PNPC and Raguet Elementary School, located at 2428 Raguet St.

For more information, call (936) 468-4129, or email sfagardens@sfasu.edu.

Stephen F. Austin State University School of Theatre, in collaboration with Panola College Theatre, will present Ellen McLaughlin’ play “Ajax in Iraq” Nov. 9 through 13 at the Community House in Center.

November 9, 2021 – Stephen F. Austin State University School of Theatre, in collaboration with Panola College Theatre, will present Ellen McLaughlin’ play “Ajax in Iraq” November 9 through 13 at the Community House in Center.

Past and present collide in McLaughlin's mash-up of Sophocles' classic tragedy “Ajax” with the modern-day war in Iraq. The play follows the parallel narratives of Ajax, an ancient Greek military hero, and A.J., a modern female American soldier, both undone by the betrayal of a commanding officer. Athena, goddess of war, coolly presides over the whole. Inspired by material collected from interviews with Iraq war veterans and their families, “Ajax in Iraq” explores the timeless struggle soldiers face in trying to make sense of war.

“Ajax in Iraq” will be presented at 7:30 nightly Tuesday through Saturday, November 9 through 13, in Community House, 425 San Augustine St. in Center. The play was particularly suited for SFA School of Theatre Director Cleo House Jr.’s idea to develop a show in collaboration with a nearby junior college, according to Dr. Slade Billew, assistant professor of theatre at SFA.

“We have had a good relationship with Panola over the years, so we thought they would be the perfect partner to test this idea,” he said. Billew and Karen King, professor of theatre at Panola, selected McLaughlin’s play.

“We were looking for something that spoke to ongoing issues and concerns in our country and our region particularly,” Billew said. “The experience of soldiers and veterans is an important ongoing conversation, and this play does an excellent job of exploring the timelessness of those questions by connecting the contemporary war in Iraq with the oldest known war in the western tradition, the Trojan War.”

The play also worked well to divide between two locations two casts of students that are only able to all be in the same place occasionally. The play follows two stories simultaneously – the first being Ajax, a soldier in the Trojan war who is driven to destructive behavior by the influence of the goddess Athena.

“This part is loosely based on Sophocles’ ancient play ‘Ajax,’ but it has been updated in its language by the playwright,” Billew said. “The other part of the play is centered on the experience of contemporary soldiers in the Iraq war. It focuses specifically on the experience of a female soldier, A.J., whose journey mirrors that of Ajax. The contemporary parts of the play were created by McLaughlin from interviews with soldiers and veterans of the Iraq war, as well as their families.”

Billew said he believes it is important that the experiences of soldiers, veterans and their families “are seen and shared with the larger community.”

“Often, these groups suffer in silence,” he said, “and the play offers an artistic way for audiences who don’t know these stories to come to a better understanding of the experiences of our military community in a way that is respectful, but also honest about the difficulties of that experience for soldiers themselves and everyone in their lives.”

Of particular challenge in this collaboration is creating a production with two teams that don’t get to be “in the same space regularly,” Billew said.

“In some ways, the tools we have developed through the pandemic for communicating and creating over distances have been helpful here,” he said. “Also, we are performing the show in Center – not at SFA or Panola. The people and leadership of Center have been really supportive and great in working with us. We have about five days to turn a community house into a theatre and figure out how the show works in that space.”

The play’s subject matter and plot also present challenges in directing, Billew said.

“Different students have different levels of relationship to the experience of the military, so some of them are really thinking about these issues deeply for the first time,” he explained. “Also, because we are collaborating, the students have to be even more adaptable than normal. When we do have the chance to all be together, they have to really focus and learn to quickly to work with people they have just met.”

Billew said he hopes military men and women and their families who come to the play “feel seen and believe that we have done our best to reflect some parts of their experience.”

“I hope other audience members get an insight into a part of our country that is often opaque to the average citizen,” he added.

Containing adult language, adult content and a scene of sexual violence, “Ajax in Iraq” is for mature audiences.

General ticket prices are: adult, $15; senior (62+) $10; SFA faculty/staff, $7.50; youth, $7.50; student, $5. Purchase tickets at boxoffice.sfasu.edu or call (936) 468-6407. For questions about the play, contact the School of Theatre at (936) 468-4003. A pre-recorded performance of the show will also be available for purchase a full 72-hour period between Nov. 11 and 13. Cost is $29.95 Access to that may be purchased through get.broadwayondemand.com.

Stephen F. Austin State University’s College of Fine Arts will be renamed the Micky Elliott College of Fine Arts to recognize the Elliott family’s longtime support of the university and the late Micky Elliott’s love of the arts and the Nacogdoches community. The naming was announced in conjunction with the launch of the public phase of SFA’s $100 million fundraising campaign and was approved by SFA’s Board of Regents. Pictured are, from left, Karen Gantt, chair of the Board of Regents, Bill Elliott and SFA President Scott Gordon. 

November 2, 2021 - Stephen F. Austin State University launched the public phase of its $100 million fundraising campaign in conjunction with Homecoming activities on Friday and announced plans to rename the College of Fine Arts in honor of a longtime Nacogdoches resident who had a deep love of the community and the arts.

The new name, the Micky Elliott College of Fine Arts, was approved Monday by SFA’s Board of Regents and recognizes the longtime support of the Elliott family and a recent gift of $8 million pledged to support scholarships for fine arts students.

“With this gift, Bill Elliott is honoring his late wife, providing for our current students and investing in the future of SFA,” said Dr. Scott Gordon, SFA president. “We are grateful for the way the Elliott family has elevated SFA through their generosity.”

Bill Elliott graduated from Louisiana Tech University with a degree in music. He began his career in the electrical distribution industry working for his father. With his own ideas of how a distributorship should be run, along with $20,000 of his own money and an $80,000 loan, Elliott and Micky began their first electrical supply company in Nacogdoches in 1972.

Today Elliott Electric Supply has more than 165 store locations across nine states. It has been recognized as one of the largest electrical distributors in Electrical Wholesaling Magazine, with more than 2,100 employees – 200 of those working at its Nacogdoches location.

“There are many great opportunities to help SFA build on its record of excellence,” Elliott said. “But having a degree in music, I was blown away with the quality of the students, programs and instructors in the College of Fine Arts. The college not only develops professional performers, but offers East Texas residents an opportunity to enjoy cultural opportunities that rival more metropolitan areas.”

Dr. Gary Wurtz, interim dean of fine arts, said the gift is a “game changer” for the School of Music.

“This generous gift will generate substantial scholarship dollars that will allow us to recruit more high-quality students than ever before, placing us in the position to compete against the biggest and best schools in the state and region — if not nationally — for those students,” Wurtz said. “Furthermore, there is an elevated status and pride that comes with being a named college, and we are excited about becoming the Micky Elliott College of Fine Arts.”

Other endowments that have been funded by the Elliott family include the Micky Elliott Symphony Orchestra Scholarship, Micky Elliott Computer Science Scholarship, Micky Elliott Engineering Professorship, the Gary Wurtz Jazz Scholarship and the Gene Moore Professorship.

“Bill Elliott remains an inspiration for his dedication to the East Texas community, and to his business and industry,” Gordon said. “A gift of this magnitude is monumental for SFA and allows us to boldly dream for SFA’s second century.”

Regents approved the renaming during their regular quarterly meeting, which concluded today.

More than $79 million has already been raised in conjunction with the capital campaign, including 12 donations of $1 million or more. More than 8,600 first-time donors have participated in the effort.

For more information about SFA fine arts, visit sfasu.edu/finearts. More about the campaign is available at sfasu.edu/elevate.

November 1, 2021 — Stephen F. Austin State University’s SFA Gardens will host the wreath-making seminar “Deck the Halls: Using Evergreens to Decorate for the Holidays” from 9 a.m. to noon December 11 at the Brundrett Conservation Education Building at the Pineywoods Native Plant Center, located at 2900 Raguet St.

Evergreen branches and garlands once served as symbols of enduring life and a fruitful year to come. Dawn Stover, SFA Gardens research associate, will teach participants how to create elegant wreaths and garlands using these and other materials from the garden.

The principles of wreath, garland and centerpiece construction will be discussed, and seminar-goers will make a wreath to take home for the holidays.

In addition to traditional wreaths and garlands, Stover will introduce new crafts using natural items from the garden and forest. All materials will be provided.

The cost is $30 for SFA Garden members and $40 for nonmembers. Class size is limited. To register in advance, call (936) 468-4129, or email romigad@sfasu.edu.

Stephen F. Austin State University’s SFA Gardens will host “Deck the Halls: Using Evergreens to Decorate for the Holidays” from 9 a.m. to noon Dec. 11 at the Brundrett Conservation Education Building at the Pineywoods Native Plant Center.

October 26, 2021 — For the first time since February 2020, Stephen F. Austin State University will host an in-person, on-campus Showcase Saturday event on Nov. 13, offering college-bound students and their families a unique opportunity to experience life as a Lumberjack.

“The vitality of SFA’s university community and beauty of its campus are things you just have to see to believe, which is why I’m ecstatic to once again welcome prospective students and their families in person at SFA’s Showcase Saturday,” said SFA President Dr. Scott Gordon. “Our Office of Admissions team did an amazing job meeting students where they were during the past year and a half, but there’s nothing quite like the excitement of our on-campus, open-house event.”

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.

Registration and check-in will begin at 11 a.m. in the Baker Pattillo Student Center. Several optional early-bird sessions will be ongoing between check-in and the day’s opening program, which is scheduled for 1 p.m. 

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

“Our Showcase Saturday guests will learn all about the degree programs SFA has to offer as well as meet current students and tour the campus,” said Erma Nieto Brecht, SFA executive director of enrollment management. “We’re here to prepare students for the next huge and exciting step of pursuing higher education.”

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 1:30 to 4 p.m. These include an academic fair from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. in the Student Recreation Center, tours of the residence halls and recreation center from 1:30 to 4 p.m., and a #JacksGetInvolved student organization fair from 2:30 to 4 p.m. in the outdoor student center plaza.

Thirty-minute breakout sessions will run from 2 to 4 p.m. and will cover such topics as financial aid, first-year and transfer admissions, and Residence Life.

In addition to a high-energy Lumberjack experience, participating prospective students will receive a free SFA T-shirt after completing a program evaluation form.

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