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Baylor journalism faculty interview first responders to create first-person account of the West tragedy

April 16, 2014 · No Comments · Faculty

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A year after an immense explosion in West, Texas, left death and destruction in its wake, faculty members from the Department of Journalism, Public Relations and New Media in the Baylor College of Arts & Sciences are releasing a book they researched and wrote, describing both the tragedy and heroism of that day.

The Last Alarm: First Responders’ Stories of the West Explosion includes the first-person accounts of more than 40 first responders who served in the aftermath of a fertilizer plant explosion on April 17, 2013, that killed 15 people and injured more than 160 others.

Amber Adamson, a part-time lecturer in journalism, public relations and new media, is the book’s author, while senior journalism lecturer Sharon Bracken served as the book’s editor and publisher. Baylor graduate Stephanie MacVeigh (BA ’99) did the graphic design for the book, which features photos taken by photographers from the Baylor Lariat student newspaper.

A portion of the profits from The Last Alarm will go to a fund that assists first responder families who were hurt or killed in the line of duty.

We talked with author Amber Adamson to find out more about just what it took to create the finished book.

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Where did the idea for this book come from? And what motivated you and your colleagues to tell this story?

Both my husband Alex, a member of the Waco Fire Department, and my brother Eric, from the Red Oak Fire Department, are career firefighters — so the idea of doing a book about this profession came naturally.

After the explosion I prayed that I might be able to help in some way, and I felt a strong calling that I should capture some of the stories of the first responders who were in West. The book tells the perspective of the fire and EMS personnel who responded in the minutes, hours and days after the explosion, doing fire suppression, triage, search and rescue and honoring the fallen.

Was it difficult to find first responders who would talk about what they experienced?

It was not difficult at all. In fact, I have pages of more contacts I never got the chance to interview. I ended up interviewing almost 50 first responders from two dozen departments — in McLennan County and at least a half dozen other counties beyond.

I started with firefighters I knew, and I always asked for the names and numbers of others who might be willing to talk to me. As the stories took shape I began to understand what perspectives I needed to have, and I reached out to those people. Almost no one told me no.

The amazing thing to me is that none of the first responders I talked to think that the work they do is extraordinary. They do it out of a sense of calling and duty — not for recognition.

Many were emotional as they recounted their stories, but almost all said they were honored to have been there to help. Events like this remind them of the dangers of their calling — but, if anything, it strengthens their resolve to serve.

What a great privilege it is for me to be entrusted with telling the stories of these first responders.

How did you, Sharon and Stephanie divide up the work required to get this book done?

I conducted the interviews and wrote the book. Sharon has been my content and concepts editor and encourager since day one. Stephanie brought an amazing eye for detail in proofreading and creative genius in layout and design of the book.

What do you hope this book will do for readers, and for the city of West?

It is my desire that the book will be a way of honoring the sacrifices of the 12 first responders who died on April 17, 2013.

I hope that people will realize that the men and women who are first responders, either volunteer or career, regularly put themselves in harm’s way for their communities. But they don’t do it for accolades or pats on the back — they don’t want to be referred to as heroes. They do it because it’s a calling, it’s in their blood. They wouldn’t know what to do otherwise.

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In doing her interviews for the book, Adamson worked with Baylor’s Institute for Oral History, which loaned her recording equipment. The interviews with first responders are now being transcribed and will be added to The Texas Collection at Baylor.

A video news story about the book’s publication can be viewed here.

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Arts & Sciences students win Fulbright, Rotary scholarships for graduate study in England

April 14, 2014 · No Comments · Academics, Alumni, Students

Two Baylor Arts & Sciences students and a recent Baylor graduate have been chosen for prestigious international scholarships to study abroad.

FULBRIGHT SCHOLARS

Jonathan Keim

Jonathan Keim (above), a senior chemistry major from Salisbury, Md., was selected to receive a Fulbright Scholarship to study at the University of Nottingham in England. Keim will pursue a Master of Science degree in synthetic organic chemistry during the 2014-2015 academic year.

In addition, Ta-Wei Lin, a 2008 Baylor University Scholar graduate, was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship for the Master of Science program in technology entrepreneurship at University College, London, for the 2014-15 academic year.

ROTARY SCHOLAR

Jesus Sotelo

Jesus Sotelo, a senior biology major from Houston, has been named a Rotary Global Grant Scholar. He will pursue a master’s degree in public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in London, England during the 2014-2015 academic year.

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Baylor’s Diadeloso 2014

April 10, 2014 · No Comments · Photo galleries

Sunny skies and warm temperatures greeted students, faculty, staff and visitors today at Baylor University’s spring 2014 play day — Diadeloso.

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Model UN team shines at Howard Payne conference

March 31, 2014 · 1 Comment · Academics, Students

By Rebecca J. Flavin, lecturer in political science and Model UN advisor

Model UN team Howard Payne 2014 copy 2

This past weekend, 11 Baylor students took part in a Model United Nations Security Council simulation at Howard Payne University in Brownwood, Texas. The team represented Baylor very well and earned top awards.

At the conference, there were two Security Council simulations. The first was a Contemporary Security Council discussing nuclear non-proliferation and sanctions in Iran, with Baylor students representing the nations of Australia, China and South Korea.

The second Security Council simulation was a Historical Security Council discussing events surrounding international intervention in Vietnam in 1964, with Baylor students representing China and Norway.

While the learning experience is always the most important part of these conferences, it is an honor for our students to be recognized for their excellent performance. I am delighted to announce that Baylor students claimed the top awards in every division.

Special recognition goes to Rebekah Stryker and Ryan Gerlach (both seniors in political science), who represented the Republic of Korea and won Best Delegation and Best Policy Memo in the Contemporary Security Council.

Other special recognition goes to Caleb Gunnels (junior, political science) and Eric Vining (freshman, political science), who represented China and earned Best Delegation and Best Policy Memo awards in the Historical Security Council.

Meanwhile, Laura Beth Hooper (Baylor MUN assistant head delegate and a junior in international studies) served as co-chair for the Contemporary Simulation.

The 11 students who attended the conference represented Baylor well, and I’m proud of each of them. It’s especially noteworthy that for nine of the 11 students, this was their first collegiate Model United Nations conference. Two weeks from now, 16 Baylor students will travel to New York City for the National Model United Nations conference, where we will represent Belize.

On behalf of the students, I thank the University for its support of this program, which advances our common goals under the Pro Futuris vision by educating these students for informed engagement through transformational learning experiences.

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STUDENTS IN ABOVE PHOTO:

Bottom row (L to R): Caroline Caywood (freshman, international studies), Abigail Wilson (junior, international studies), Jessica Abbey (junior, journalism), Seti Tesefay (junior, international studies) and Ryan Gerlach (senior, political science)

Top row (L to R): Laura Beth Hooper (Baylor MUN assistant head delegate and junior, international studies), Kate Farley (freshman, University Scholar), Lola Akere (sophomore, political science), Rebekah Stryker (senior, political science), Caleb Gunnels (junior, political science) and Eric Vining (freshman, political science)

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Baylor students win prestigious Goldwater Scholarships

March 27, 2014 · No Comments · Academics, Students

Goldwater winners 2014 (lower-res)

Two Baylor University students have been selected to receive prestigious Goldwater Scholarships, while a third has received honorable mention recognition.

Baylor winners of 2014 Goldwater Scholarships include:

*Ian Boys, a senior University Scholar major from Allen who is concentrating in biology (shown at left in the above photo). Boys plans to earn a PhD in molecular biology, and hopes to one day conduct research in virology or immunology and teach at the university level.

*Rebecca Holden, a senior chemistry major from Allen (at center above). Holden plans to earn a PhD in chemistry. She hopes to eventually conduct research into proteins and protein misfolding diseases at a research institution and teach at the graduate level.

Boys and Holden are among 283 undergraduates from 47 states to be named 2014 Goldwater Scholars.

Baylor and five other universities in the Big 12 Conference had students win Goldwater scholarships this year, and Baylor tied with Oklahoma, Iowa State and West Virginia for the most scholarships with two each. No other Texas Big 12 schools had scholarship winners this year.

In addition, a third Baylor Arts & Sciences student, Thomas Gibson, a senior mathematics and Russian double major from Houston (at right above), has received 2014 Goldwater Scholarship honorable mention recognition. Gibson plans to earn a PhD in mathematics. He also has a goal of conducting research in numerical analysis and differential equations, and plans to study mathematical structures in physics.

The Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program was established by Congress in 1986 to honor Senator Barry Goldwater. Its purpose is “to provide a continuing sourrce of highly qualified scientists, mathematicians and engineers by awarding scholarships to college students who intend to pursue research careers in these fields.”

Dr. Jeffrey S. Olafsen, associate professor of physics and Baylor’s Goldwater representative, said the 2014 results are somewhat atypical.

“Having two Goldwater scholars and an honorable mention is better than our recent average, which is typically one winner every other year,” Olafsen said. “Baylor has now produced 14 winners over the past 24 years.”

Olafsen partially attributes this year’s better-than-usual showing to an especially large and strong pool of applicants.

“I’ve been doing a lot more advertising of the opportunity, particularly in the College of Arts & Sciences, but also across the entire campus,” he said. “We’ve seen a rise in the number and quality of the students applying.”

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New chair sees an exciting future for Baylor’s Family and Consumer Sciences department

March 26, 2014 · No Comments · Academics, Faculty

By Sara Katherine Johnson

Rinn Cloud

More than anything, Dr. Rinn Cloud wants people to know that she feels called to her new role as the chair of Baylor’s Department of Family and Consumer Sciences.

“I feel that the Lord has given me some gifts in this area,” Cloud said. “That can sound kind of like ‘Oh I’m so good at this,’ but truth of the matter is it means I am very accountable to Him.”

This is Dr. Cloud’s fourth year at Baylor. A professor of family and consumer sciences, she holds The Mary Gibbs Jones Endowed Chair in Textile Science.

Cloud began her career as an undergraduate student at Louisiana State University studying apparel design. From there she went on to Purdue University to earn a master’s degree in clothing and textiles, with an emphasis on the social as well as psychological implications of clothing. She then attended the University of North Carolina at Greensboro to get a PhD degree in textile science.

After completing her education, Cloud joined the faculty at her alma mater, LSU, where she taught for 10 years. She later taught at Virginia Tech and Florida State before coming to Baylor in 2010.

Cloud’s research specialty is in functional clothing — specifically protective clothing. Functional clothing can include military uniforms, sports apparel, surgical gowns and even pajamas designed for women experiencing hot flashes.

Despite her new administrative duties, Cloud will be able to devote 25 percent of her time to research and maintain a teaching schedule. She is familiar with this balancing act, since 11 of the 15 years she spent at Florida State she served as department chair.

“As a leader in the unit, I believe in being very open and transparent and communicative,” Cloud said. “I also am a person that very much embraces change and innovation.”

Cloud said one of her least favorite things to hear is “we’ve always done things that way.” She clarified she doesn’t believe in change just for the sake of change.

“I believe in this society, and in this world, if you’re not changing you’re dying on the vine,” she said. “You’ve got to be out there at the forefront of what’s going on in your field. You have to be aware of the latest and newest technologies.” And Cloud praises her faculty for being at the forefront of embracing new technology and even social media.

Cloud looks forward to contributing to the Pro Futuris strategic goals of Baylor. The aspirations she has for the FCS department include increasing visibility of programs as well as increasing research, graduate programs and lab spaces. She also puts growing the department’s prominence in health initiatives and becoming a major player in global mission work on the list.

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New student art in the Baylor Sciences Building is the fruit of interdisciplinary collaboration

March 24, 2014 · No Comments · Faculty, Students

By Sara Katherine Johnson

Art photo 1For the first time since the building opened in 2004, artwork is on public display in the Baylor Science Building. Thanks to the collaboration of Dr. Dan Samples, temporary full-time lecturer in biology, and Julia Hitchcock, associate professor of art, there are now six new pieces of student art displayed on the BSB’s second floor landing.

To lead the effort to brighten the walls of the sciences building with artistic works, an Art in the BSB Committee was formed by Dr. Kenneth T. Wilkins, Divisional Dean for Sciences in the College of Arts & Sciences. The committee was charged with bringing art into the building over a period of time.

Art photo 2“There’s a difference between bringing in art and decorating,” Samples said. “We (on the committee) wanted something that would have some relevance and that might stimulate thought or the creative spark.” With that in mind, Samples offered students of Hitchcock’s Drawing 3 class a chance to view histology slides in his lab for inspiration.

Histology is the study of cells and tissues of plants and animals. The art students examined thin slices of human tissue on glass plates that had been stained for viewing. Normally, there is little visual contrast to the tissue or cells, so using dye for staining helps to bring contrast or highlighting to the tissue. To view the slides, Samples taught the art students how to use high-powered microscopes.

Art photo 3Beginning in October 2013, students made two three-hour visits to Samples’ lab for microscopic viewing. During their visits they took sketches, asked questions and noted the things that made each slide unique. They then spent several class sessions conceptualizing and working on the actual pieces.

Kendal KulleyTo translate the views on the slides into art, the students started with cotton rag paper and coated it with gesso. Gesso is used a sealer and to give pigment something to hold onto instead of bleeding into the canvas. Next, students applied ground graphite, which they were able to manipulate by moving it around on the gesso with alcohol.

“The unknown is where creativity starts,” Hitchcock said, speaking to the value of this kind of exercise for artists. Her students made their own interpretations of what they saw through the lenses when seeing human tissue. Hitchcock said through interpretations with an artistic statement, someone’s trained eye can see elements of the true reproduction of what they are seeing.

Hitchcock said this collaboration between biology and art goes beyond a simple partnership. She described it as allowing her art students to “recontextualize” ideas.

Carolina LowStudents in scientific fields will also benefit from these types of works, Samples added. He explained that histology is a very visually driven field, and to really learn the material students should move beyond merely memorizing images. Looking at artwork, he said, helps develop the observational skills of students.

“My students had to try to figure out how to describe something they might not have the terminology for,” said Hitchcock, who pushed her students to not only visually communicate but also to articulate words. Each student wrote their own statements on the creation process, and these are included on the small plaques mounted next to each work of art.

Art photo 4College of Arts & Sciences dean Lee Nordt presided at a reception held March 21, 2014, to officially welcome the art installation to the Baylor Sciences Building. Two of the artists — Kendal Kulley, a senior studio art major from Leander, and Carolina Low, a senior Baylor Business Fellow and economics major from Yukon, Okla. — were on hand to talk with visitors about their creations.

The six artworks are located on the second floor landing of the BSB, on the north end closest to Waco Creek.

The art committee hopes this will be the first installment of more artwork to come, created by students and others. Displayed works could even include commissioned or donated works. Faculty in the art department and and science departments hope to collaborate on future projects as well.

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PHOTOS:

Photos #1 and 2: New student artwork displayed in the Baylor Sciences Building

Photo #3: Dr. Dan Samples, biology, and Professor Julia Hitchcock, art

Photo #4: Student artist Kendal Kulley

Photo #5: Student artist Carolina Low

Photo #6: Art in the BSB reception, March 21, 2014

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Baylor history professor receives national award for book on Turkish leader

March 7, 2014 · No Comments · Academics, Faculty

George GawrychDr. George W. Gawrych, professor of history at Baylor, has won the 2014 Society for Military History Award in biography and memoir for his book The Young Ataturk: From Ottoman Soldier to Statesman of Turkey (2013). He and the winners from other categories will be honored at the Society for Military History annual meeting April 4 in Kansas City.

The book is a portrait of Turkish leader Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

“In Turkey’s War of Independence from 1919-22, Ataturk defeated the victors of World War I in their attempts to partition his country, and then founded the Republic of Turkey, a secular, Turkish nation state that emancipated women,” Gawrych said. “I chose to write this book because there was no serious military biography of this great leader, and I had the language skills to use primary Ottoman and Turkish sources.”

ataturkIn researching the early career of Ataturk, Gawrych discovered strengths that would prove invaluable to the future statesman.

“My book shows Ataturk to be an excellent role model of a successful military and political career based on serious, eclectic study,” he said. “As a young captain, Ataturk even took four pages of notes from a book on Benjamin Franklin.”

Gawrych earned BA, MA and PhD degrees in history from the University of Michigan, and joined the Baylor faculty in 2003. Before coming to Baylor he taught at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College for 19 years, including one year as a visiting professor at West Point.

Gawrych specializes in the modern Middle East, the late Ottoman Empire and modern military history. His other books include The Crescent and the Eagle: Ottoman Rule, Islam and the Albanians, 1874–1913 (2006) and The Albatross of Decisive Victory: War and Policy between Egypt and Israel in the 1967 and 1973 Arab-Israeli Wars (2000).

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When the Beatles debuted in the Baylor Lariat, the response was not “Yeah!, Yeah!, Yeah!”

February 6, 2014 · 1 Comment · Baylor history

TThis Sunday, Feb. 9, 2014, we will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the introduction of Beatlemania to America. On Feb. 9, 1964, the Beatles were introduced to American television audiences through a much-anticpated performance on the Ed Sullivan Show. The musical sounds of John, Paul, George and Ringo were a bit hard to hear over the screaming teenage girls who dominated the live audience, providing a preview of how future Beatle performances would be greeted all over the world.

While many teenagers welcomed the Beatles, with their British accents and daring longer hairstyles, other Americans were turned off by both their music and their appearance. And many people thought the Beatles and the hysteria they caused were just a crazy passing fad, soon to be forgotten.

That seems to be how the Beatles were treated when they were mentioned in the Baylor Lariat newspaper for the very first time — in a column by Lariat editor Tommy West in the Feb. 11, 1964, issue.

In his regular column titled “Westward, Whoa!,” West reacted to the Beatles as a number of skeptical young men of the day did — seeing the lads from Liverpool as “boys with sheep-dog haircuts” who weren’t letting their inability to sing keep them from getting rich.

On the eve of the 50th anniversary of this momentous event, we offer Tommy West’s column, reprinted in full from the Baylor Lariat.

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Westward, Whoa

I’m in the wrong business.

Why should I slave working part-time after school in a gas station to pay my ailing grandmother’s medical bills when I could let my hair grow, don a guitar and twist my way to fame and fortune?

That’s what I said when I saw pretty young lasses go into emotional fits Sunday night as four young men who call themselves the Beatles twanged and gyrated on a nation-wide television program.

My only reservation was my vocal ability, but then I listened a little closer and that problem was solved.

Oh, there was a time when I wanted to fight all this. I wanted to go back to the good old days, when strong young men split rails and read by the fireside, and when young women were respectable and reserved and had to be wooed by an honest man.

But that is all over. If you can’t lick ‘em, join ‘em. And if young women insist on flinging themselves at boys with sheep-dog haircuts, and if producers insist on paying tremendous sums of money to a fellow who just bought his guitar yesterday…well, I plan to get in on it.

I’ll get three other guys, and we’ll call ourselves the Horseflies. We’ll not only let our hair grow, we won’t shave…and after a few months we’ll be able to cover up any serious drawbacks we might otherwise have.

We’ll pass up the guitar as old-fashioned, and accompany our vocal renditions with a flute, a zither, a B-flat tuba and a Salvation Army bell. I figure if we don’t make any money singing we still might pick up a few donations on the side.

We’ll sing in our own natural voices, but we’ll put every member of the audience in an echo chamber. That way we’ll get in on a little entertainment, and during breaks if things get dull we’ll have the loudest hootenanny in history.

Instead of buying gold Cadillacs, in the true tradition of our names, we will actually learn to fly. When we pass over major cities, we can drop ice cream cones, which will become our trademark, to the screaming teenagers. During the summer months, we may have some complaints from street washers, but this probably could be settled.

In rural areas, we’ll actually sweep down from the sky and bite farm animals, thereby offering photographers and local newspapers good opportunities for pictures and stories.

And after three days of singing and touring the country, we’ll give up our careers to advance to a more legitimate field.

Like building sandcastles, maybe.

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(Reprinted with permission from the Baylor Lariat. Text and graphic courtesy of Baylor Electronic Communications.)

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Baylor journalism professor selected for national program that trains future academic leaders

February 5, 2014 · No Comments · Academics, Faculty

IMG_6141Dr. Mia Moody-Ramirez, associate professor and graduate program director in journalism, public relations and new media, has been selected to participate in the 2014 Scripps Howard Academic Leadership Academy, to be held June 1-5 at Louisiana State University.

Each year, the Manship School of Mass Communication at LSU selects a group of between 12-15 professors, administrators and mass communication professionals to attend the Academy, which is sponsored by the Scripps Howard Foundation. It is designed for new department chairs, deans and directors, as well as faculty and professionals interested in providing leadership in journalism education.

The five-day event brings participants together to learn about the challenges and rewards of leading an academic program. Past Academy topics have included “Professional and Academic Pathways to Administration,” “Budgeting and Fundraising,” “Stimulating Faculty Performance” and “Lessons Learned from the First Year.”

Competition for a spot in each year’s Academy is intense, and Moody-Ramirez said she feels honored to have been selected.

“The Academy will provide an invaluable opportunity for me because it gives participants the chance to meet with veteran administrators to discuss trends in media education,” she said. “It also offers management training for persons interested in academic leadership positions.”

Dr. Sara Stone, chair and professor of journalism, public relations and new media, nominated Moody-Ramirez for this year’s Academy.

“Mia has the best organizational skills of anyone I’ve ever met, and when I learned of the academic leadership workshop, I immediately thought of her,” Stone said. “She is a prolific researcher, an excellent teacher, an unbelievably efficient person, and a super-nice person to boot. She gets more work done in 24 hours than any person I know. She is also a terrific mom and an acknowledged community leader on top of her academic skills. I am so happy for her.”

Past Scripps Howard Academy participants include the deans of communication or journalism at the University of North Texas, Marquette University and the University of Maryland, as well as professors from Penn State, Northwestern, Syracuse and other universities.

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