Latest News from Sul Ross March 26, 2013


Dr. Barbara "Barney" Nelson said she likes to joke that she has held virtually every job on the Sul Ross State University campus.

Nelson, a fixture at Sul Ross State University for 45 years as student, staff member and faculty member, will retire at the end of Spring Semester 2013.

"I started out handing out pool cues in the old student union," she smiled. "I fed the pigs and cleaned their pens. I was a secretary and a tutor."

And since 1990, she has been a lecturer, assistant professor and associate professor of English.

"It has been a pretty good ride," she said.

The "ride" began as a student in 1968 and has also included two degrees (B.S. 1971; M.S. 1990), teaching certification (1978); and 10 years as secretary in Range Animal Science (now Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences). After she received her Master’s degree, a lecturer’s position in English became available. After several applicants turned down the position, Nelson was hired – presumably for one semester – shortly before classes began.

Several years later, she took a leave of absence, received her Ph.D. in English at the University of Nevada-Reno in 1997, then rejoined the Sul Ross faculty.

In addition to teaching, she has been a prolific writer and noted photographer, with numerous academic and pedagogical papers, scholarly publications, seven books and hundreds of popular press articles and photos to her credit.

On campus, Nelson has served on numerous committees and councils, including the committee chair and director of the Quality Enhancement Plan, Faculty Athletic Representative, vice-chair of Faculty Assembly, chair of the Teaching Council, Access and Equity Committee, President’s Task Force on Underprepared Students, founding director of Celebrating our Heritage Festival, founder and executive secretary for the ANRS and Rodeo Exes Association. She has also served as sponsor and advisor for The Eyes of Nature Photography Club and faculty advisor for The Sage Literary Magazine.

She has served the Alpine community through the Brewster County Historical Commission and was a founder and director of the Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering, The Shooting West Texas Photography Symposium and Big Bend Ranch Rodeo.

Other work includes service as acquisitions editor for several university presses and professional journals, as Environmental Editor for Range Magazine for 17 years and newsletter editor for the Rural Women’s Studies Association. Professional activities include Executive Councils for the Western Literature Association and the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment and co-director of the Desert Crossings Symposium in the Big Bend.

Growing up in Bellevue, Iowa, on the Mississippi River, where she learned to love fishing, Nelson moved with her family to Arizona at age 11 and she made a smooth transition to ranch country and western life. Many of her writings and photographs depict the cowboy way and she has designed and taught environmental and Big Bend-centered writing classes at Sul Ross.

"I really like the kind of students we attract to Sul Ross; they are polite, fun, good kids," she said, adding with a smile, "of course I only see them in the daytime.

"I have really liked all my classes, too. Sul Ross has given us, as faculty, a lot of freedom to design classes. I am anxious to read my students’ papers, rather than dread them," she said.

"I owe Sul Ross a lot. It is a great school that is unsung and unappreciated."

Retirement will find her working on writing projects, including her memoirs as a livestock journalist and possibly a textbook. She may also spend more time with her daughter and son-in-law, Carla and Chris Spencer, and spoiling her grandchildren, Jorey and Riley.

"I need to take care of some health issues, but I hope to come back and teach part time," she said.




Sul Ross State University music faculty members Dr. Donald Callen Freed and Carol Wallace will present a free recital on Thursday, March 28 at 7:30 p.m. at St. James Episcopal, 6th St. & Ave. A, in Alpine.

The composers Mahler, Chausson, Hahn, Poulenc, Britten, Ned Rorem, Holland Robinson, and Freed will be featured. 

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



Sul Ross State University will be closed Friday, March 29 for the Good Friday observance.

Offices will re-open and classes will resume at 8 a.m. Monday, April 1.



Prospective students and their families can sample campus life and gain information about Sul Ross State University during the second annual Sully Showcase, Saturday, April 6.

Sully Showcase will feature campus tours, visits with faculty and staff and information on admission, financial aid, housing and academic and extra-curricular opportunities.

Registration begins at 9:30 a.m. in the Pete P. Gallego Center, with a 10 a.m. opening ceremony. An open house will be held from 10:30 a.m.-noon. Sul Ross academic departments, student and service organizations and clubs will have information tables available.

Lunch will be served from noon-1:30 p.m., followed by campus tours. A closing ceremony will be held at 2:30 p.m., followed by an open house at the Turner Range Animal Science Center, from 3:15-4:15 p.m.

Following Sully Showcase, visitors are encouraged to explore the Big Bend Region and sample local cuisine at the Viva Big Bend Food Festival. For a preview of the festival, visit Tickets may be purchased online.

To register for Sully Showcase, visit or call 1-888-722-7778 (SRSU) for more information.



"Proof," written by David Auburn and directed by Dr. Michelle Selk, will be performed Friday-Sunday, March 29-31 in the Studio Theatre, Francois Fine Arts Building at Sul Ross State University.

Friday-Saturday performances will begin at 8:15 with a Sunday, March 31 matinee at 2 p.m.

“Proof” on stage at Sul Ross March 29-31

Harold Dobbs (played by Miguel Pena) discusses mathematical findings with sisters Catherine (Missy Embrey, center) and Claire (Ashley Page) in this scene from “Proof.”  David Auburn’s drama will be performed Friday-Sunday, March 29-31 in the Studio Theatre, Francois Fine Arts Building. (Photo Courtesy Michelle Selk)

"Proof" tells the story of a mathematical family torn apart by mental illness. Catherine, played by Missy Embrey, is struggling with the recent death of her father as well as the thought that she may not be as mentally stable as she once believed.

Catherine's sister, Claire (Ashley Page), has returned to town after a five-year absence to take care of her sister. She is concerned that Catherine’s caring for their father may have been detrimental to her own mental health. Timothy Wright plays the girls' father, Robert, who struggles to grasp reality in a world filled with mathematics, and everything is thrown into chaos when Harold Dobbs (Miguel Pea) shows up and starts sorting through his mentor’s vast array of notebooks.

For advanced ticket sales, please visit or contact the Fine Arts and Communication Office, (432) 837-8218.



The Sul Ross State University Department of Education will host the annual Job Fair for Educators on Wednesday, April 3.

Representatives will be available from 9 a.m.-12 noon in the Becky Espino Conference Center, second floor of the Morgan University Center. Anyone interested is invited and welcome to attend. The Job Fair includes recruitment efforts for teachers, reading specialists, educational diagnosticians, counselors and principals.

The Job Fair provides Sul Ross students, area teachers and administrators an opportunity to visit with school district recruiters from around the state.

For more information, contact Dr. K. Fritz Leifeste, director of Teacher Education, (432) 837-8736.


Former SRSU professor in Burma

Dr. Steve Platt, former Sul Ross State University Biology professor, stands atop Mount Saramati, at 12,600 feet, the highest point in western Burma. Platt, the Southeast Asia Regional herpetologist, is conducting research in Southeast Asia for the Wildlife Conservation Society. According to Platt, “We are now back in Yangon after almost two months in the field.  We spent most of our time on the upper Chindwin River and walking through the Naga Hills.  While in the Naga Hills we hiked up Mount Saramati, at 12,600 feet, the highest point in western Burma.  No doubt about it, getting to the summit ranks high among my achievements.  It took us 13 days of walking to reach the summit and get back.  We started at about 550 feet and it took over a week to reach 4500 feet.  The following day we climbed to 9300 feet and established a base camp. The nights were near freezing at that elevation.  From there we walked to the summit along trails that are trails in name only - more like livestock paths. The pucker factor was really high in places with the trail threading along narrow ledges. Once at the summit I had myself photographed in an SRSU T-shirt as promised.” (Photo Courtesy Dr. Steve Platt)