News Archives June 19, 2012

News for June 19, 2012



by Steve Lang, News and Publications

Sul Ross State University graduates of the McNair undergraduate research program have produced high marks in persistency as graduate students.

Since 2008, when records were first kept, 87 percent of McNair Program Scholars (33 of 38) who enrolled in graduate school have either earned master’s degrees or are still enrolled. A total of 78 percent of all McNair Program graduates went on to graduate school.

"The whole point of our program is to prepare students to go on to graduate school," said McNair Program director Mary Bennett. "We’re really pleased with those numbers."

The Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program is designed to encourage first generation, low-income students and minority undergraduates to consider careers in college teaching as well as prepare for doctoral study. Students who participate in the program are provided with research opportunities and faculty mentors.

Named in honor of the astronaut who died in the 1986 space-shuttle explosion, the program was established at Sul Ross in November 2007. It is funded through the Department of Education’s TRIO programs.

Sul Ross’ McNair Program annually enrolls up to 25 junior and senior students, and this summer has 17 undergraduates conducting research projects. Enrolled students are from disciplines ranging from biology to creative writing to political science to theater, Spanish to natural resource management, as well as music, communication, psychology and history.

Projects include studies of German prisoners of World War II interned in Texas; peregrine falcons in Big Bend National Park; negative press coverage of Hilary Clinton’s Presidential campaign; analyzing West Nile Virus in feral swine and javalina; and creating an archive of last year’s Rockhouse Fire near Marfa.

One student, Joey Van Noy, New Braunfels, is conducting soil nitrogen research in the Trans-Pecos as his project, while on a paid summer internship at the University of Kentucky.

Although the research projects are due by the end of the first summer session, the process begins much earlier. Students apply for admission in the fall, are paired with faculty mentors and discuss potential research projects. Deadline for submitting a written research proposal is March 1, but Bennett said most proposals are submitted much earlier.

"Students start their research during spring semester, and usually have started working with their faculty mentors at the start of the (calendar) year," Bennett said.

In addition to actual research, McNair students meet at least twice a week with their mentors, have individual and group meetings with Bennett and work with Susan Fox-Forrester, Career Services and Testing director, in developing curriculum vitae and graduate school applications.

"What we ask them to do in a short amount of time is pretty grueling," Bennett said, "but the intent is to prepare them for the graduate school research process."

She praised the faculty mentors for their dedication in guiding students throughout the research process.

McNair students receive a stipend of $2,000 and three semester credit hours (during the first summer session) for completed research projects. Projects include an academic paper, PowerPoint presentation and poster. Research is presented at the on-campus McNair-Tafoya Symposium during the following Fall Semester. In addition, students are encouraged to present their findings at state and national conferences.

"Those conferences are where their research really gets attention," Bennett said. "We want the students to get accepted into graduate programs with funding."

Former Sul Ross McNair students are presently enrolled in graduate studies at the University of Texas at Austin, University of North Texas, Texas Tech University, University of Houston, University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University.

"A lot of students also stay here and get their master’s degrees," Bennett said. A number have received fellowships through the Title V Post-Baccalaureate Project at Sul Ross.

Bennett called the McNair Program "integral at small schools with little emphasis on undergraduate research.

"We like to think we (McNair) have had a huge impact on the undergraduate research at Sul Ross. The students work hard and we have had good faculty support. They are doing an excellent job mentoring students."

For more information, contact Bennett, (432) 837-8478 or




Dr. Donald Callen Freed, Sul Ross State University associate professor of Music, published a book review in the June issue of Choral Journal.

Freed reviewed "Jean Cras, Polymath of Music and Letters," written by Paul-Andre Bempechat and published by Ashgate Publishing.

For more information, contact Freed, (432) 837-8216 or




The Sul Ross State University Upward Bound program was recently awarded funding for the next five years by the U.S. Department of Education. This annual grant of $293,157 will be used by the Upward Bound program to help low-income, first-generation students from four area high schools: Van Horn, Sierra Blanca, Marfa and Big Bend to prepare for and succeed in post-secondary education.

One of eight federal TRiO programs designed to serve individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds, Upward Bound projects provide academic support to high-school students in mathematics, science, English and foreign languages. They also provide mentoring and counseling services to students and their families during the college search and financial-aid process.

In addition to its program during the school year, SRSU’s Upward Bound also offers an intensive six-week summer experience. During that time, high-school students can take classes at SRSU and stay in the residence halls on campus. They also have the opportunity to participate in career exploration through field trips, virtual tours and job shadowing with community partners, local businesses, schools, public offices and nonprofit organizations.

"Upward Bound is one of the most helpful college prep programs for high school students," according to SRSU Upward Bound alumnus, Rolando Hernandez, who now works in the Office of the Controller. "They helped me to be well prepared for college and for job opportunities. Once I came to Sul Ross, I was also able to mentor other students as a residential assistant. The Upward Bound program is family and student oriented in a way that makes a big difference."

Sul Ross has previously been awarded competitive grants to conduct Upward Bound programs, with the most recent five-year program beginning in 2007. Since that time, Upward Bound has served 144 students, grades 9-12. Of the local Upward Bound students who have completed their high school programs, 90 percent have enrolled at Sul Ross.

"We are pleased and honored to continue to support high school students in this region with services through the Upward Bound program," said President Ricardo Maestas. "The more we motivate and educate our youth, the stronger our communities will be in the future."

The Sul Ross Upward Bound program is funded through Department of Education Award #PO47A120109. For more information, contact project director Barbara Vega, or (432) 837-8810.




Installation of a new campus-wide heating system is expected to reduce Sul Ross State University’s energy costs by at least one-third.

The approximately $7 million project, authorized by the Texas State Legislature, was begun May 7 and will be completed by Aug. 20, said Jim Clouse, associate vice president for Facilities Planning, Construction and Operations.

The new system, using high-efficient hot water boilers, will replace the steam heating system installed in the early 1950s. New hot water boilers will be installed in most buildings on the main campus. Boilers installed in the Academic Computer Resource Center (ACRC) will also service Morelock Academic Building and Briscoe Administration Building.

"Everything in the project is about efficiency," Clouse said. "We are using some of the most efficient boilers on the market and expect a 30 to 40 percent reduction in natural gas consumption just as a result of the equipment replacement."

In addition, each building will now house a highly sophisticated automatic control system to strictly monitor energy use.

"Upgrading the controls will enable us to turn the energy response down, or off, if a particular area of a building is not being used," said Clouse. "By following this demand-supply method, we expect to save an additional 20 percent on utility bills."

Conservative estimates call for a 35 percent savings, or $300,000 annually, Clouse said.

Included in the annual savings will be $80,000-$90,000 in lighting costs, due to a campus-wide upgrading. Clouse said present T-12 fluorescent bulbs will be replaced by a more efficient T-8 model.

Brandt Engineering, Schertz, is the contractor on the project. Clouse said Sul Ross is also working very closely with the Texas State University System office in completing the project.

Much of the visible work on campus has been the trenching to install natural gas lines to each building. In addition, hot water lines will be installed between ACRC, Morelock and Briscoe, and the Museum of the Big Bend and Francois Fine Arts Building.

Throughout the entire process, a third party commissioning contractor is reviewing the products used, installation procedures and equipment programming/scheduling to maximize efficiency.

"He (contractor) looks at the end results to see that the products are used for best results," said Clouse. "We feel that efficiency has been optimized from purchase to start-up."




Sul Ross State University Testing Services offer the GED test the last Thursday and Friday of each month except December.

Summer tests will be offered Thursday-Friday, June 28-29, July 26-27 and Aug. 30-31. Fee is $90 for all five tests.

For more information and to set up a registration appointment, call (432) 837-8357 or 837-8178.




This Friday (June 22) marks the opening week for the 47th Season of the Theatre of the Big Bend in Alpine.

Cole Porter’s "Anything Goes" hits the stage Friday, June 22 and plays three weekends through Sunday, July 8 with a special holiday performance on Thursday, July 5. Set on a New York to London-bound luxury liner in the 1930s, "Anything Goes" is a fun-filled evening with vaudeville-style antics and gags and includes classic songs such as "You’re the Top," "I Get a Kick Out of You" and "Anything Goes." 

Texas. Performances are at 8:15 p.m. June 22, 23, 24, 29, 30, July 1, 5, 7, and 8. Tickets are $9 for general admission, $7 for seniors and children. Tickets are on sale now by calling 800-722-SRSU or visiting online at 

The Theatre of the Big Bend’s summer musical is directed by Gregory M. Schwab and choreographed by Dona W. Roman with musical direction by Donald Callen Freed and Chris Dobbins. Celebrating 47 years of theatre at the Kokernot Outdoor Theatre, the Theatre of the Big Bend is a summer tradition celebrated by the entire region and tourists from all around Texas.