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The air was warm and sticky as more than 300 Texas A&M University-Kingsville (TAMUK) students joined forces with the City of Kingsville for last Saturday’s “Bigger Event”. The event was organized and sponsored by the Student Government Association (SGA) and brought together many different student organizations, like the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) and the Peer Educator Program (PEP Talk). Many of the university’s student organizations put a strong emphasis on community service, so seeing so many student volunteers wasn’t surprising. Graduate student Adekola Mayukun represented NSBE and was excited to participate, he said. “We have always been involved in community service, for us it’s an integral part of why we are here,” Mayukun said. “This kind of event aligns very strongly with our organization because we like to raise socially viable students; people who show responsibility to society.” The residents of Kingsville have consistently shown support and adoration for TAMUK events, said SGA President Chelsea Nkrumah. “This event means that we are not separate from the community; we are apart of Kingsville and we are not just a university within itself,” Nkrumah said. Nkrumah spent the day making sure all of the projects went smoothly, she said. The help from the Javelinas was not unnoticed. Susan Ivy, Director of the City and Parks Department was thrilled to have as many helpers as she could at the Kennedy Park and the Brookshire pool sites. “The students from the university and all of the groups are very generous with their time and we take advantage of it as often as we can,” Ivy said. “ I don’t know what we would do without them.” Because the Bigger Event is sponsored by SGA, each student senator leads a group

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in one of the many beautification projects around the city. Senior double major Jacob Gaslin led a group in the cleaning of the cities bandstand along with Downtown manager, Cynthia Martin. “Community appearance is very important to the city and is one of their big initiatives,” Martin said. “Kingsville has had a band as long as it’s been a city and they played music here.” Many members of SGA like Gaslin and Nkrumah have participated in the bigger event more then once and to them it’s a social duty. “This is my third year doing this because I see how much the community does for the university and this is my home away from home so I like giving back,” Gaslin said. The day ended in the tailgate area at Javelina stadium, with laughter and food as the volunteers met to discuss the contributions to their home away from home.

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The crisis in the Middle East was the central topic in a panel discussion hosted by the International Affairs Group of Texas A&M University-Kingsville, Feb. 27 in the Memorial Student Union Building.

Dozens of students and faculty of the university attended the discussion, which focused on the rise of ISIS and the causes of the problem.

Political science professors Richard Hartwig, Nirmal Goswami and Mario Carranza led the discussion on how the crisis in the Middle East began.

Carranza gave three reasons that ISIS was able to gain a foothold in the Middle East: the repressive government in Iraq which did not integrate Sunni Muslims in the political process, lack of pressure on the Iraqi government from the United States and the Civil War in Syria.

Unlike other terrorist groups, ISIS has been successful in conquering and holding territory, Carranza said.

Goswami stressed that the Middle East can’t be looked at as a general region, but rather a group of different countries with different cultures.

“If you view it as one block, you will miss the difference of each country,” Goswami said.

Although ISIS carries out their violence in the name of Isalm, Muslims are the ones who are hurting most from it, Goswami said.

“The victims of terrorism have largely been Muslim,” Goswami said.

After each professor gave their findings, students and faculty in attendance were able to weigh in on the issue.

One student quoted the Qu’ran, noting that violence was not permitted by the standards of the Islamic holy book.

Yousef Al-Murad, engineering student, also brought up different influence in the region, including the United States, Russia and China.

“There are a lot of hidden agendas in the Middle East,” Al-Murad said.

The solution to the problem, however, is not as clear. The U.S. resorted to using force since September in an effort to wipe out ISIS.

Carranza did say, however, that ISIS wouldn’t be around for much longer, since no governments have recognized ISIS as a state.

In fact, the countries that resent them most are the ones ISIS is trying to represent, he said.

“They’ve managed to make an enemy out of every Muslim country in the world,” Carranza said.

The panel discussion was coordinated by TAMUK’s International Affairs Group, who are hoping to hold other talks like this one in the future.

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Kelsey Timmerman, author of “Where am I wearing?” visited Texas A&M University-Kingsville Feb. 25 at Jones Auditorium to answer that very question. He told his story to the TAMUK UNIV freshman class, and the rest of the community.

“When I walk into my closet, I think about the hundreds if not thousands of people around the world who had a hand in making my clothes. Jeans are no longer just jeans, shirts no longer just shirts, shoes no longer just shoes, cloths are no longer just clothes. Each is an untold story,”   Timmerman said of his journey around the world seeking the people who made his clothes.

Over a decade ago, Timmerman began his search with a simple T-shirt which took him to Honduras.

At first, it was an excuse to travel, Timmerman said. After going to college and receiving his anthropology degree, he became a scuba-diving instructor and saved up some money to travel.

He began writing about these travels and was published in small magazines and other publications.

“I knew that I could go anywhere in the world to travel and write about it I just wasn’t sure what next,” Timmerman said.

It began with a T-shirt he had that says “come with me to my tropical paradise.” From there, he got inspired.

“I thought what if I went to wherever this T-shirt was made and I checked the tag which said Honduras. I booked a ticket and had all the adventures I wanted and thought well the least I could do is go to the factory where the shirt was made and maybe meet the person who made it,” Timmerman said.

Visiting the factory, he struggled to get in and eventually waited out for the workers to come out.

He then met 25-year-old Amilkar, who worked for the factory where Timmerman’s shirt was created.

As he learned about Amilkar and his life at the factory and outside of it, he got to know him and avoided the questions he wanted to ask.

“I didn’t ask the questions about how much they made, how they were able to support their families because I didn’t want to know. I didn’t think I was ready for the answer,” Timmerman said.

After traveling all over the world for this book as well as his new book, Where am I eating? He felt connected to those he met with different but similar lives as him.

“I was connected to the world in an interesting way. In the end you find out how similar we all are,” Timmerman said.

Visiting TAMUK’s UNIV freshman class his goal was to educate the students about life and how they should broaden their horizons, think outside the box and see life outside of black and white.

“I want to the students to learn that worlds not black white that the reality is an ugly grey middle,” Timmerman said. “I think its really important for students to explore and see the global connection we have around the world, it can really broaden our world perspective.”

He is also the founder of the Facing Project, an organization which helps people to tell their stories and publish them. Timmerman helps students, writers and communities get together to find their stories while helping the community tell their story.

So far the Facing Project has been with 20 communities.

After traveling and writing Timmerman visits different colleges and universities. Timmerman visits nearly 30 campus’ a year telling his story about his travels to students throughout the country.

Different campuses who have used “Where am I wearing?” as their common read have made study abroad trips. The university invites Timmerman to join the students on the trip to explore those places he visited for his book. He traveled with West Texas A&M university when they traveled to Honduras.

“It’s interesting to see students see the rest of the world for the first time. I want to inspire students to never be a jaded traveler, always travel with open eyes,” Timmerman said.

Timmerman’s plans are to continue spreading the Facing Project and telling his story. His next trip will be to Costa Rica with the Ball State university students in May.

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Students used their creativity along with their engineering skills to design something that traveled some distance.

Engineers Week is celebrated nationally and the Texas A&M University-Kingsville Frank H. Dotterweich College of Engineering also took part in the festivities.

The purpose of Engineers Week is to call attention to the contributions to society that engineers make and also to emphasize the importance of learning math, science and technical skills.

TAMUK chose to celebrate it by inviting 277 students from South Texas schools to visit campus and compete in a challenge where they were required to build a project up from scratch.

“We chose to celebrate it by having this competition,” said Stephan Nix, Dean of the College of Engineering. “They will also tour the engineering facilities.”

Nix said the competition exposes students to the designing process and what it means to create something new.

“Our first mission is to keep them interested in engineering,” Nix said.

He said that some of the skills the students had to use was creativity because they get a bag full of stuff to create a car or something that travels some distance.

Doug Dalglish, Professor at Presbyterian Pan American School, said such events are important because it gets students out of the classroom and they actually apply their knowledge to the real world.

“It helps them have some knowledge about friction, weight, and force, but lots of it is just common sense and working with what they are given,” Dalglish said.

Dalglish said seeing projects without any wheels was very interesting. He said the competition was all about making it practical.

“A lot of things in the world are possible but engineers take what is possible and make it actually practical,” Dalglish said.

Dalglish said the experience has been pretty good for the whole school and for the students to really think about applying the theoretical knowledge to a practical problem.

Luka Budilo, senior from Gregory-Portland High School was among the many students and said he had a fun experience and enjoyed working as a team with other students.

“We had a team building exercise where with the materials provided we tried to construct the most efficient car that we could,” Budilo said.

Budilo said he was very excited to see that his team’s car was one of the best.

“I was very excited, it was a proud moment when we saw how far it went,” Budilo said.

Budilo plans to be an engineer and plans to enroll at A&M-College Station and said his father, who is an architect, inspires him.

Budilo is enrolled in AP classes and the top math and science classes.

Team working and efficiency were essential to the success of Budilo’s project, he said.

“Working in a group builds team building skills and helps you within the bounds and constrictions of real world activities,” Budilo said.

“It also shows how much you can do with so little.”

Some of the materials the students used were bottle caps, plastic bottles, CD’s and balloons.

Members of the Kingsville community and Texas A&M University-Kingsville were invited to Austin to tour the capitol from Mar. 26 to Mar. 27, as part of Kingsville Day in Austin.

The attendees were welcomed by State Rep. J.M. Lozano on Mar. 26, who said he was pleased the community could make it.

“Kingsville Day is not only important because it’s my hometown, it’s important because it’s a part of this state’s history,” Lozano said. “It’s home to the famous Naval Air Station, the university and it is important part of South Texas and its future.”

To continue TAMUK’s growth and give it a better future, President Dr. Steven Tallant and other members of the TAMUK administration gave presentations to the legislation and had a list of items to request from them.

Tallant said he felt the presentations the university gave were well-received, and he is optimistic about getting funding for the educational complex and music building.

“In the last session, we came very close to receiving funding. Many of the legislators remember us and recognize our need, and I am hopeful that they will fund tuition revenue bonds and that we will be on the final list,” Tallant said.

The item requests were funding for renovations and expansion to the music building, funding for an educational complex, $7.5 million over the biennium to support engineering education, research and outreach, $500,000 to support the National Natural Toxins Research Center, $500,000 to support the native plant restoration program and $500,000 for the Master of Science in Social Work program.

“In general terms, the exceptional item requests are aimed at increasing our research capacity, providing support for students, and increasing our outreach efforts,” Tallant said.

The renovations and expansion to the music building are essential to the program’s accreditation, and because of the unprecedented growth on campus, the educational complex is a necessary addition, Tallant said.

“There was one message I repeated to the legislators whenever I could: this is not about something we want; this is about something we need,” Tallant said. “We are not making dozens of requests or asking for funding without demonstrating a real need for it.”

Kingsville Day is the chance to highlight the community and talk directly to legislators about TAMUK’s needs, Tallant said.

“We submit reports and make requests, but Kingsville Day gives us a chance to meet face-to-face and reiterate what we need. We get to interact with legislators and their staffs, and we can answer questions and get feedback,” Tallant said. “It sets the stage for the rest of the session.”

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Graphic by Thalia Perez

After conducting research and viewing other university policies, Texas A&M University-Kingsville administrators have outlined a Title IX policy that more specifically addresses sexual misconduct.

The new policy, which is currently up at the A&M system for review, would supplement the current 08.01.01 K1 policy that the university follows, said Amy O’Neill, Title IX coordinator of TAMUK.

Once that happens, the university can take steps to change the TAMUK Title IX website page.

“I do hope by the end of semester (the website’s Title IX page) will be a comprehensive Title IX page that not only deals with understanding sexual misconduct policy, but also the rights of pregnant parenting students, as well as having links regarding (the Office of Civil Rights) information and links regarding local resources,” O’Neill said.

The announcement of a policy first appeared in a letter to the editor in the South Texan, written on the behalf of President Steven Tallant. This letter was a response to a previous letter, written by concerned students, who made “several highly charged allegations,” according to Tallant’s letter.

Tallant’s letter also stated the university was looking into hiring two more professional counselors at the Health and Wellness Center.

Angel Hoodye, TAMUK’s present professional counselor, has been with the university for five years and is trained for crisis intervention, which encompasses mental counseling for students, said Jo Elda Castillo-Alaniz, Director of the Student Health and Wellness Center.

“The two individuals that we are pursing are going to have their license. They will be able to meet the student’s health and wellness needs. Of course, when we are looking for these people, we want to make sure they are the best fit for our university,” Castillo-Alaniz said.

Students, faculty and staff will also be able to turn to the five newly appointed Title IX deputy coordinators: Kirsten Compary, dean of students, Gina Smith, director of residence life, Marques Dantzler, assistant athletic director, Susan Roberson, assistant dean for the College of Arts and Sciences, and Leon Bazar, executive director of human resources.

“We looked particularly at who had a lot of contact with students…we then knew through our policy that we needed to have someone from academics and the staff ranks because Title IX doesn’t just affect students, it affects faculty and staff as well,” Compary said.

Students and staff don’t have to go to the coordinator in their area, however. They can go to any of them, Compary said.

The coordinators have also had training to be able to handle their new responsibilities, and more trainings are planned for students, faculty and staff.

By looking at bystander intervention and how to avoid being a victim, students can also learn not to be a perpetrator or offender. PEP Talk has been instrumental in helping educate students, Compary said.

In addition to PEP Talk, the “Know Your Nine” posters around campus have been helpful in generating feedback, Compary said.

“You look for information on a website if you have a need to look up the information. Stuff like (the poster) raises awareness, and when you see these, you think, ‘Oh, there is a resource out there.’ While the website is an important resource, it’s not the only way we should be getting information out there,” Compary said.

“The slightest little message helps remind people…they just probably haven’t put it together yet, thinking, ‘Is this Title IX?’ There are just so many factors of it,” Castillo-Alaniz said.

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If you’ve seen a cow wandering around campus, then you understand culture: that is, culture of writing.

“Culture of Writing” is the title of the QEP, which makes the acronym C.O.W. And in the past few weeks, there has been a COW figure wandering around campus campaigning the writing center.

The Undergraduate Writing Center at Texas A&M University-Kingsville is on a goal to help students become better writers.

The UWC is part of TAMUK’s Quality Enhancement Plan which has the following three goals; to improve student writing proficiency, increase support for student writing and improve the infrastructure for teaching writing on campus and lastly to create a “Culture of Writing” on campus, whereby writing is more visible, vibrant, and ingrained part of students’ experiences at TAMUK.

Sunny Hawkins, Undergraduate Writing Center director, said the UWC currently has 17 Writing Consultants and has been very successful in assisting students this semester and in the first 17 days of the semester they conducted 142 writing conferences.

“Promoting the UWC through a quirky, memorable campaign seemed important to us,” Hawkins said. “There is such great potential for creativity with the cow-plays on words like, “hoof it over to the UWC” or “the UWC is udderly cool.”

Hawkins said she hopes the cow figure reinforces the message to students that writing, even academic writing, does not have to be dry and dull.

“We encourage students to be experimental with their writing processes and to play around with ideas and strategies until they find what works for them,” Hawkins said. “We work hard, but we have a lot of fun doing it and I hope the cow helps people see that.”

Hawkins said she also hopes the cow can make students feel comfortable about going to the UWC for help.

“Anyone who has been to the UWC will tell you it is not an intimidating place and our writing consultants are helpful and supportive.” Hawkins said. “We are not afraid to do silly things like don cow costumes and hide cow-shaped stress balls around the UWC for one another to find.”

She also said the cow figure is pretty much ingrained by now and the UWC along with Marketing and Communications are working to host a contest for naming the cow; the prize will be an iPad mini.

They already have cow-shaped stress balls and Hawkins said she is working

on buying a stuffed javelina so that both the javelina and the cow can have adventures on Instagram.

Cesar Garcia, Spanish & English Cultural Studies Graduate Student is one of the 17 consultants and said he appreciates his job because he feels he is making a change in the students’ live by improving their writing skills.

Garcia said the cow figure was the best decision the QEP committee made.

“I think the cow mascot was a great idea since we live in a region of Texas where agriculture, farming, and cattle is a big part of people’s lives,” Garcia said. “I think it has been very successful, and the center has had more students come in for help because of it.”

Photo courtesy of Austin Peay State University.
Photo courtesy of TAMUK
Photo courtesy of TAMUK

Dr. Rex Gandy, provost of Texas A&M University-Kingsville, will be leaving in June to Austin Peay State University in Clarksville,Tennessee, according to an announcement from President Steven Tallant.

Gandy said the move was due to family-related reasons. He will assume the position of provost and vice president for academic affairs at Austin Peay.

“I am proud of the improvements that have been made in academic affairs (here at TAMUK), however I am not satisfied. Improvement is always possible,” Gandy said.

Even so, Gandy said he does not have any regrets.

“I am not the type of leader that spends a lot of time second-guessing decisions,” he said.

Gandy said he moved to TAMUK because he wanted to be the provost of a university. Previously, he had served as dean and professor in the College of Science and Technology at the University of Southern Mississippi.

He was also associate dean for research in the College of Sciences and Mathematics at Auburn University and chair and professor at the University of Idaho.

“After being Dean for six years at the University of Southern Mississippi, I wanted to be a Provost and Texas A&M Kingsville had an opening at that time,” Gandy said. “During the last six years I have truly come to love South Texas. The people are welcoming and friendly and I will miss the area.”

In the last six years, under the leadership of Tallant, the university has grown significantly, Gandy said.

“We have also seen improvement in first year retention, graduation rates, and most importantly, more students are graduating,” he said.

Now, Gandy will help Austin Peay do some of the same things.

“Austin Peay State University wants to grow enrollment, improve research productivity, and improve student success. These are the areas I will work with the university community to move forward,” Gandy said.

Tallant said in his announcement that he will be sad to see Gandy and his wife go.

“I hired Rex about six years ago, and we have accomplished a great deal together. While I am sad to see him go, I truly wish the best for him and Laura,” Tallant said.

Tallant said the university would begin a national search for provost immediately.

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Texas A&M University-Kingsville administrators held their annual Institutional Effectiveness Presentations meeting to report on current progress in individual departments and determine what resources they still need going into the next school year.

The IEP meeting was held from 8:20 a.m. to 5:20 p.m. on Feb. 17 and presentations ranged from 20 to 30 minutes each.

Improvements were reported in multiple areas, including student retention, expanding academic programs and increasing campus security.

“Students are taking more credit hours and getting out in time, so we’re doing a better job at teaching and getting students out,” said President Dr. Steven Tallant.

Rex Gandy, the vice president for academic affairs, said first-year retention is up 63.5 percent from 55 percent a few years ago and 6-year graduate rates are up 35.7 percent from 25.1 percent four yeas ago.

The university has also added a criminal justice degree, a criminology master’s degree, a music performance master’s, a cultural studies master’s and a PhD in engineering.  Research expenditures have also increased, Gandy said.

“Our objectives for 2016 are to increase the number of tenured faculty, give faculty a raise, support engineering growth, continue improvement in student academic success and receive SAC reaffirmation,” Gandy said.

Residence hall occupancy is 2,135 this year, and there has been a steady increase in the number of international students, from 480 in Fall 2012 to 809 in Fall 2013, said Kirsten Compary, dean of students.

Five University Police Department officers have been trained in rapid response, received their mental health certification, and have completed their sexual assault and family violence investigators training.

“We’ve also added 13 security cameras across campus, bringing monitored cameras to 200-plus,” Compary said.

Requests were made at the meeting for additional security equipment, more campus lighting, an app to replace the Blue Light phones, and student services, including a student food bank, an expansion of the Blue and Gold Express Shuttle services, and upgraded wi-fi.

Each department presented resource requests for the administration to consider going forward.