Latest News from Sul Ross July 19, 2013

    Author and Alpine native Don Burgess will present a gallery talk on his new book, “Sierra Challenge: the Construction of the Chihuahua al Pacifico Railroad,” on Thursday, Aug. 1 at the Museum of the Big Bend.
    Burgess’ talk begins at 6 p.m. A book signing will follow. “Sierra Challenge” is a compilation of his father Glenn Burgess’ photographs and accompanying news articles taken and written during the final stages of construction of Mexico’s Chihuahua al Pacifico Railroad, which opened in 1961.     

Called one of the most challenging engineering feats in railroad construction, the Chihuahua al Pacifico Railroad was conceived in the mid-19th century and finally opened over 100 years later. Glenn Burgess covered the final construction for newspapers in Texas, exploring the engineering challenges and the possibilities for commerce.
    Glenn Burgess (1905-1995) worked as a photo-journalist for the El Paso Times and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. At the time, he also taught journalism and photography at Sul Ross State University. His collection of photographs of the Big Bend National Park is housed at the Archives of the Big Bend in the Wildenthal Library at Sul Ross.
    Don Burgess, who graduated from Alpine High School and Texas Western College (now the University of Texas El Paso), has assembled the news articles and his father’s photographs, along with notes and interviews to provide historical and personal context for the news articles. The book includes over 100 of Glenn Burgess’ photos, taken with a 4x5 Speed Graphic camera, as well as several maps.
    The author of numerous books, Don Burgess worked in Mexico’s Sierra Madre while still in college and has since spent his life among the Raramuri or the Tarahumara people. In 2008, he completed the first translation of the New Testament into Baja Tarahumara. A recent publication concerning the Tarahumara culture is a bi-lingual Tarahumara-Spanish work on Tarahumara uses of corn.
    For more information, contact Mary Bones, curator, Museum of the Big Bend, (432) 837-8734 or

    by Steve Lang, News and Publications
    Sul Ross State University student Fernanda Arroyo hurdled a language barrier, then turned the challenge into a McNair Program research project.
    Arroyo, who was born in the United States and graduated from Presidio High School, grew up across the border in Ojinaga, Mexico. She did not start speaking English until the age of 15. Her struggles with the language continued at Sul Ross. Through her first three years in college, she has benefitted from Student Support Services assistance, and hopes to pass on her experiences to benefit others in similar circumstances.
    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.
    Arroyo’s research, “First Generation Hispanic Female Students’ Description of Factors That Deter Completion of a Bachelor’s Degree” involved extensive interviews with five fellow Sul Ross students. She was mentored by Dr. Pat Seawell and Dr. Barbara Tucker, assistant professors of Education.
    Arroyo said she has always received plenty of encouragement from her family to pursue higher education, “but they didn’t know what difficulties I encountered....They didn’t know about FAFSA or taking the ACT or SAT.
    “I did not start learning English until I was 15, and in Presidio, everyone spoke Spanish, so I didn’t need to practice,” she said. “My first two years at Sul Ross were very difficult.”
    At Student Support Services, both as a student and student employee, Arroyo’s English proficiency steadily increased.
    “Working there has helped me a lot. All the bosses speak English, so I practice with them,” she said.
    Her own experiences have led to her pursue a career in bilingual education. In addition, she became interested in the McNair Program through a fellow SSS student employee.
    “She practiced her presentation on me, I asked some questions, learned about the program and got interested,” she said. After further encouragement from SSS director Liz Castillo, Arroyo applied for the McNair Program.
    “Liz is always pushing me out of my comfort zone,” she smiled.
    She praised Seawell for her guidance in editing her research; Tucker for providing assistance in research methodology; and McNair Program director Mary Bennett for encouragement.
    “Both my mentors are great, and Mary kept encouraging me not to quit,” she said. “There were times when I was so stressed and overwhelmed, but the results are definitely worth it.”
    Arroyo’s initial research revealed that most students facing similar language barriers never pursue higher education. “They quit before trying college.”
    Through her interviews, she learned five common struggles – emotional, social, financial, familial and educational.
    “Of these, the emotional struggles are the most severe, and all the others lead to emotional,” Arroyo said. “In addition, the language and time management are also big struggles.
    “On the other hand, all five (students interviewed) had very supportive parents, and they all want to make their parents proud.”
    Arroyo, who will be a senior, plans to graduate in December 2014 after completing her student teaching. She also hopes to participate in McNair Program conferences during Spring Semester 2014.
    “I want to attend conferences to present my project. These conferences can lead to graduate school opportunities,” she said, adding that in addition to teaching, she is considering a career in student support.
    “I really like helping out students and I love what programs like TRIO and Student Support Services do,” she said. “The older the student, the more difficult to overcome the challenges and I want to help them out.”
    Seawell said, “Fernanda's project is of particular value since first-generation students comprise a large percentage of the Sul Ross student population,. Her literature review, coupled with her own research, has given all of us a greater understanding of the challenges first-generation students face. From her own experience and the experiences of the women who participated in her project, we have learned the value of programs such as Student Support Services and McNair.
    “That Fernanda has taken advantage of this opportunity to become a McNair scholar shows her courage and enthusiasm for learning. It has been my pleasure to watch her grow in confidence and in knowledge as she engaged in this project,” she said.
    Tucker added, “It was an absolute pleasure working with Dr. Seawell and Fernanda. Fernanda is a delightful and determined individual. Despite challenging obstacles that she may encounter, she will be successful in achieving her educational goals.”
    Named in honor of the astronaut who died in the 1986 space shuttle explosion, the McNair Program was established at Sul Ross in November 2007. It is funded through the Department of Education’s TRIO programs.    For more information, contact Bennett, McNair Program director,  (432) 837-8478 or

    by Steve Lang, News and Publications

    Kassandra Hernandez’ research produced some unexpected results, but the McNair Program scholar is satisfied with her efforts.
    The Sul Ross State University junior’s study of obesity levels in children may lead to further undergraduate research in children’s health.
    She conducted her research through  the Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program at Sul Ross. The McNair 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.
    Hernandez, El Paso (Bel Air High School), a Sul Ross State University junior, studied body mass indexes (BMI) and percent of body fat of children in three regional school districts to determine obesity levels. Her project, “Comparative Body Compositions in Children Between Rural and Urban Areas,” was mentored by Dr. Chester Sample, professor of Physical Education.
               “Dr. Sample and I spent about a month looking for a project,” she said. “I wanted to do something to raise awareness. With children, one of the biggest diseases is obesity.”
               Through emails and phone calls, Hernandez contacted administrators in a number of school districts, from Marathon to El Paso, seeking students to volunteer (with parental permission) in her study. She and Sample eventually conducted testing in the Ysleta, Fort Hancock and Presidio school districts.  Fort Hancock and Presidio were chosen because of the lack of fast food drive in restaurants and El Paso because of the abundance of fast foods. Related literature indicates a positive correlation between the proximity of fast foods and childhood obesity.

Sul Ross student Kassandra Hernandez measures Body Mass Index (BMI) of an elementary student as part of her McNair Program research. Her mentor, Dr. Chester Sample, professor of Physical Education, is in the background. (Photo Courtesy Kassandra Hernandez)

               With electronic scales and an Omoron Body Analyzer, students’ height, weight, percent body fat, and BMI were measured. Hernandez used a Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (BIA) BIA determines the “electric impedance” or opposition to the flow of an electric current through body tissues which can then be used to calculate an estimate of total body water in muscle and fat tissue. Total body water can be used to estimate fat-free body mass and by the difference with body weight, the body fat.
               After testing 104 students, Hernandez found some surprising conclusions.
               “Before I started testing, I thought the rural children would be more healthy; they didn’t seem to ride around as much and would be more active,” she said. “The urban children (as a group) actually had lower body fat.
    “I have some theories on this (result), but I would need to test further,” she said, adding that she may choose this avenue for another McNair research project next spring. She also plans to present her research at conferences.
    Her ultimate goal is to earn a doctorate in physical therapy and follow in her father’s footsteps.
    “When I first came to Sul Ross, I wanted to be an archaeologist, but I just love what Dad does so much,” she said. “I have followed him at work since I was a little girl.”
    Hernandez applied for and was accepted into the McNair Program after encouragement from Liz Castillo, director of Sul Ross’ Student Support Services. Like many fellow participants, she balances course work, extra-curricular activities (she is a member of the Lady Lobo volleyball team) and employment (she works at the Eskimo Hut).
    She said the preparation for the actual testing – including contacts and follow-ups with school administrators, background checks, obtaining permission slips and scheduling – was extensive and time consuming.
    “Getting to the testing was the harder part; the actual testing was easy,” she said.
    “After I finished the project, I was never so proud to have done something. It (McNair) is a lot of work, but if you are doing something you love, it’s worth it.”
    Named in honor of the astronaut who died in the 1986 space shuttle explosion, the McNair Program was established at Sul Ross in November 2007. It is funded through the Department of Education’s TRIO programs.  For more information, contact Mary Bennett, McNair Program director,  (432) 837-8478 or

    “Fangly Fish and the Military Man,” a Bachelor of Fine Arts exhibition by Sul Ross State University student Alexander Costea, San Antonio, will be on display in the Main Gallery, Francois Fine Arts Building, July 29-Aug. 9.
    A closing reception will be held in the Gallery on Friday, Aug. 9, 3-5 p.m. There is no admission charge and the public is invited. Gallery hours are 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday.

Images from Alexander Costea's BFA exhibition, scheduled July 29-Aug. 9, at Sul Ross. (Courtesy Alexander Costea)

    Costea’s prints showcase the different techniques inherent in the field of printmaking, and show the diversity of achievable results in this artistic discipline. The prints in this collection use many of the techniques available in the printmaker’s arsenal to create unique works of art.  From solar plate printing to lithography, from silkscreen techniques to monoprinting, this artist shows the craft of printmaking is alive and well in Texas. Costea will discuss the various techniques employed and the stories behind the creation of these works during the closing reception..      
    Some of these works have been shown in galleries around Alpine and have won awards in the Sul Ross Student shows over the last two years.  Costea was named the Sul Ross Outstanding Art Student of the Year in 2012.
    For more information, contact Costea, (210) 393-0399.