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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

What's in a name?

Fall Skyline Room Menu
It all started with Curb Your Enthusiasm. Specifically, there was an episode about a Hollywood deli that named its sandwiches after celebrities. Larry David, creator of Seinfeld and real-life George Costanza, wanted to swap his Larry David sandwich for the Ted Danson. (Hilarious clip contains crude language.)

So why not try named sandwiches here, in the Skyline Room? Our faculty members are our celebrities. So in the fall of 2015 we rolled out a new menu featuring some of our faculty superstars. Bob Blystone, Richard Burr, Bill Christ, Ruben Dupertuis, Coleen Grissom, Paul Myers, and Claudia Stokes all good-naturedly agreed to lend their names to a new spate of sandwiches. Some of the sandwiches were pre-existing. Some were new and customized. Dr. Blystone, for example, was very specific about the sandwich he wanted, which may be why it was almost dropped from the menu.

Indeed, the new chef looked at the menu over break and proposed dropping the Reuben Dupertuis and the Paul Myers from the spring menu. This was nearly a done deal until the serving crew at the Skyline implored me (they actually did), to not drop the Reuben or the Paul Myers. Sure enough, it turns out that the Grissom BLT and the Blystone had the fewest sales. The chef just wanted to rotate out for better variety.

The Bill Christ. Really
Interestingly, when I initially told Ruben Dupertuis that his Reuben was possibly being rotated out... he kind of took it personally. I assured him it was about sales (which turned out to be false). But even that didn't bolster his spirits. He is lobbying for the sandwiches to have tenure so they can never be dropped. He might have a point. I haven't broken it to Coleen Grissom that her BLT is low in sales, but she wouldn't complain. She whines that she wished she was the Claudia Stokes.

This was all a bit more than I bargained for. I was able to convince Dining Services to keep the whole menu, for now, in addition to rotating in the three new sandwiches selected by our new chef. Professors Blystone and Grissom have a reprieve. Paul Myers, indifferent to his sandwich, seems as safe as a Reuben, for at least the spring.

I polled the faculty for nominations to name the new sandwiches and received a robust response. Without further ado, I am pleased to announce the new sandwiches for Spring 2016:

The Brian Miceli Celifornia Chicken Club
Grilled chicken breast with bacon, avocado, lettuce, and tomato on ciabatta.
Brian received several nominations as the ultimate California dude. When I asked him if this would be okay he just said "cool."

The Carolyn True Caprese Sandwich
Fresh mozzarella, tomato, and basil on a ciabatta roll with balsamic pesto dressing.
When I approached her about the Caprese, which does sound musical, she listed all of the ingredients. This is a True match.

The Camille Reyes Cuban Melt
Pulled pork, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles, cabbage, and mustard on a baguette.
Camille is of direct Cuban descent and was so excited to tell her family she is now an American sandwich.

The previously unnamed Pepperoni Flatbread will now be The Mike Wilkins.

Of course Peter Olofsson, Aaron Navarro, and many others provided some interesting suggestions. The response to the sandwiches has been fantastic. The students really love to order their favorite professors. The Skyline use has seen a 125% increase this fall. And the faculty involved have been incredibly great sports. The others who submitted names had fun nominating their friends and colleagues for this honor. This is truly Trinity at its best. And the sandwiches aren't half bad either. I invite readers to check out the expanded menu sometime in late January.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Stolen Endings

Down 31-0 at the half we had seen this story before. TCU trailed Oregon in the 2015 Alamo Bowl in San Antonio, in part, because its star quarterback was suspended. To a handful of people across Texas and the nation, the circumstances were all too familiar. What might have been?

An intoxicated Trevone Boykin snuck out of his hotel after reportedly being tucked in for the night. Then, he found himself in a Riverwalk saloon where words were exchanged, punches were thrown, an arrest was made, and dreams were dashed.

It was December 14, 2002 when Trinity beat up St. John's to advance to the Division III national football championship to take on powerhouse Mount Union. The Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl was a big deal. Airing on ESPN, it was Trinity's chance to shine on the national stage. Finally. The Tigers were led by Roy Hampton, the brazen gunslinger at quarterback, who led the nation in passing in D-III. If any team would beat this Mount Union team it could be a powerful offense like the Tigers.

Celebrating at a party following the semi-final win, Roy Hampton was passed out, reportedly after being tucked in for the night. Then, he found himself in a Riverwalk saloon where words were exchanged, punches were thrown, an arrest was made, and dreams were dashed.

Trinity went on to play its biggest game on the national stage alright. But it was painful. What might have been? The Tigers went on to lose 48-7. So much more was lost that day then a game, though we got another chance when Trinity again hit the news with its Mississippi Miracle in 2007. Perhaps it was our consolation prize.

Roy Hampton and three others were suspended from Trinity University in October 2001. I remember it well: I suspended them. It was an easy decision. The four students had gotten in a scuffle with a Trinity student at nearby Bombay Bicycle Club. They left and within an hour someone shot a gun at that other student's apartment near the Quarry. A public servant was an eyewitness and later identified the four students as present, both at the initial hearing and then the appeal hearing. The suspension was upheld.

The Tigers were eliminated from the playoffs before the suspension went into effect. It was the only time I cheered against our team. The suspension would likely have taken place sometime before the championship if we would get that far. I didn't want that on me.

As a young Dean, this was my first big test. The victim in the case and his family wanted immediate and harsh justice. Among the four students accused were the nephew of a professor and an African-American student, also on the football team. His family alleged racism on my part. The Trinity uncle naturally put his heart with his family. Attorneys of the students were interviewed on the local TV news. "The Dean of Students served as prosecutor, judge, and jury" groused one. A Web page, mostly trashing me and my investigation sprung up. Calls to my house threatening me to back off didn't help. There was more, and it was messy. It was the worst period of my professional life. The Faculty Senate would ultimately move to strip authority from the Dean of Students to make uni-lateral decisions in cases. As a result, the Dean is the least powerful person on campus, which is odd for someone who oversees student conduct.

How did I get there? I loved the Trinity Tiger football team. It was the golden era of our Division III team. You could do a TV show about it. Before Roy Hampton, the brash Mike Burton led the Tigers to the playoffs and won the D-III MVP award for his own talents. Even today it is on display in the Bell Center. He was good and he helped coach Roy, who came right after him. Sometimes the team made it hard to support them with their shenanigans. But they were dynamic, on and off the field, filled with colorful characters. I used to love to take my young sons to meet the players on the field after games and they were very kind and gracious to my boys. In one playoff run we set-up speakers on the Heidi lawn to listen to the game as a community. I was there that night to support the team, following a heart-breaking loss, when the buses rolled back to campus. We would have another day. So we thought.

But in 2001 I became the enemy. Later, amid legal wrangling that happened above my level, there was an admission that "mistakes were made" in exchange for being allowed back in the fall of 2002. The other students never came back, but Roy did. I supported that move for purely selfish reasons. I was off the hook for ruining Trinity football.

Then the incredible playoff run happened, and we finally were headed to the title game. I was ecstatic for the University. But it all came crashing down within days, when Roy's arrest was made public. Trinity was lauded for doing the right thing in suspending him. It was in part because of Roy's previous record. Maybe pundits felt good. Virtually no one else did. Coach Steve Mohr had reached his pinnacle only to have the opportunity ripped away. It was devastating.

According to Roy's teammate, and our current coach, Jerheme Urban, it haunted Roy. How could it not. Coach Urban says Roy never got over letting other people down. Imagine if there were social media then. Roy was wildly popular with his team and friends. He was the life of the party and had charisma. Roy passed away in 2013. There would be no redemption in his story and maybe that is why even Trinity skirted it in its announcement. But when Trevone Boykin repeated history, I couldn't do the same.

Years after all of this I would reach out to Roy over email to see how he was doing. I didn't feel sorry for him. I wasn't worried about him. I guess I just wondered about him. We had a nice, brief, cordial exchange. He was very gracious. You learn after awhile that people aren't defined by one act. They are not two-dimensional. We are all the sum of our parts. You appreciate the complexity of people - especially young people. I eventually made peace with the professors who became deeply involved in the shooting case. Time and conversation heal. Hopefully the players from those teams harbor no ill-will against me. But I understand if they do. We lived through an epic Greek tragedy.

The one positive outcome has been that Jerheme Urban was named head coach after Steve Mohr retired. Jerheme is a high-character man. He included Roy in his football camps in Victoria if only to have time to spend with his friend. He supported him when it would have been easy to write him off. The team is rolling again, under his leadership. He is using his own Trinity and NFL experience to shape young men. They make mistakes too. But he has their blind spot, as he did with Roy.

So this January, trailing by a bundle, TCU would follow suit until its now historic comeback, defeating the Oregon Ducks on ESPN in a dramatic double-overtime come from behind victory. They stole our ending. A similar epic comeback by the Tigers would have gone a long way: for Trinity, for Roy Hampton, for Coach Mohr and the team, and even for me.

When Trevone Boykin threw that punch another one landed. Those of us who remember 2002 took one to the gut, again. You know what? It still hurt.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Half full

The Eighth Annual Dean of Students Half Marathon Challenge and Kayla Mire Food Drive is in the books! What a wonderful group of running partners (several shown above at the starting line). We trained from September through the culmination of the Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon on December 6, 2015. The highlight was running through campus with about 25,000 of our new friends and a very supportive cheering section.Great touch, too, that Trinity alumnus Mark Greene won the full marathon.

We had about 75 people participate in the program this year. Runners ranged from steady participants to those who jumped in near the end after training a lot on their own. The group included students, staff, faculty, alumni, parents, friends, and Rachel's boyfriend Marc. Our charity was the San Antonio Food Bank and the runners and TUVAC collected the equivalent of nearly 15,000 pounds of food ($1 equals ten pounds). The Kayla Mire Food Drive is named for alumna Kayla Mire, who died in 2010 and was an advocate for the homeless.In eight years we have collected nearly two semi trailers of food.

Highlights of our training included a session on running form; a session on running gear; the Alumni Weekend 5K; a Halloween Hill Hell run; the Trinity Turkey Trot; a run around Woodlawn Lake followed by a taco breakfast; and a pasta dinner the night before the race. Kayla Mire's parents attended and Mr. Mire offered a few very touching remarks about Kayla. 

In assessing the program, 85% of respondents said they would do this again. The rest say they are graduating or moving away. Nearly all the students would love to receive a PE credit for the program. Of the 42 respondents, 40 said they would continue to be runners and two were unsure.

Please view the slide show below to gt a sense for the spirit of our runners. They look pretty happy - even in the post race photos. Mark your calendars for December 4, 2016 for the Ninth Annual Challenge.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Gift Exchange - A Trinity Christmas Story

Trinity Registrar Fred Rodriguez knows a good thing (or two) when he sees it. When he came to Trinity he soon identified one of his employees, Claudette Reese, as "a jewel." She helped him transition during a difficult time for the office. She trained him.

Claudette worked at Trinity for two-and-a-half years, from 1999- 2001. Her time here was cut tragically short by an auto accident that left her in critical condition, and her husband Timothy deceased. The vehicle they were in was hit at an intersection in the Dallas-Fort Worth area on December 6, 2000. Claudette accompanied Tim, who volunteered to participate in a webinar for the Social Security Office. Tim passed away from his injuries on December 28, one day after Claudette's birthday.

Injuries and Healing

That Claudette survived was somewhat of a miracle. The list of injuries is as impressive as it is frightening: three broken ribs, punctured lung, broken clavicle, facial lacerations, fractures to the pelvis, dental injuries, and a shattered elbow. Today Claudette is quick to point out that the most shattering wound of all was losing her husband of 30 years. Fred Rodriguez was concerned that Claudette, who was in critical, wouldn't make it. He says the pain was immense and she was still struggling, physically, a year after the accident and is still recovering some 15 years later. 

Claudette would eventually move home to Austin, where she worked as an administrator at Scott and White Hospital.

There is another...

Jennifer Reese was a student at Southwest Texas State - now Texas State - in San Marcos when she learned of the accident. She was preparing for finals. Her mom still can't believe that she completed all of her finals successfully while traveling back-and-forth and not knowing whether or not her parents would survive through the holiday season. Jennifer went on to graduate in 2003. And it was later that year that Claudette would urge Jennifer to apply for a position at Trinity's Registrars Office. Registrar Rodriguez knew he had struck gold again. Jennifer started at the front desk, became the Graduate Coordinator, and now works as the Degree Audit Coordinator. Jennifer received her MBA in Business and Marketing at Texas State in 2009.

Like Mother, like Daughter

Jennifer had been here before. When she came to visit campus after her mom started here she thought the trees smelled like grape bubble gum. For years after she started she would find other reminders of her mom. "I used to go through old files and would stumble upon things that she had put her mark on," Jennifer told me. Claudette had coordinated classroom reservations and Jennifer would see the notes and pictures she left of the spaces in the on-line reservation software system.

Jennifer says she tries to live up to her perfectionist mother. Rodriguez describes the two as very similar in how they approach their work. They are both driven and eager to get down to business. He says Jennifer is a bit quieter and more serious in her approach. Rodriguez says, "They are extra dedicated, sharp, organized, and detailed. Under their exteriors they have great humor." They are not the same person though. Claudette loves classic rock and gambling junkets - Jennifer, tote bags.

Claudette and Jennifer
Christmas Tidings

Despite their tragedy, Jennifer, her brother and sisters, and Claudette, all celebrate Christmas with enthusiasm.The memory of the Christmas they spent at a private Ronald McDonald House in Dallas in 2000 seems like a long time ago. Jennifer says her mom still enthusiastically decorates, placing a tree in every room.  "Mom still makes sure we get ten presents each," Jennifer says with a wry smile. They reminisce about Tim, especially during the holidays. A scholarship at Texas State bears his name.

Claudette describes Jennifer as methodical, patient, and sensitive. She says Jennifer never forgets her family's tragedy and uses it to focus on the human element of the people she works for and serves. Students wouldn't know what Jennifer went through. She is focused on them when they come to her for assistance. They never know her sense of persistence and courage. Jennifer is proud of her 12 years and hopes to stay on for a long time. She has deeper roots than most as a member of the Trinity family.

This holiday season the Trinity community should be thankful for many things, including Claudette and Jennifer. Claudette says that were it not for the accident she may still very well be here. In many ways, she still is. Merry Christmas!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Some people are SO competitive...

Sore winners
There are more dysfunctional work places than bearable ones. I know this because I have met people. I will now go about explaining why we, in Student Development, are not the former, though the evidence may indicate otherwise.

First off, Student Development is the informal moniker for what used to be Student Affairs, but now includes staffs from the Experiential Learning and Career Success and Student Success Centers as well as a few colleagues from International Services and Study Abroad. Basically, we are the ones who serve, support, and challenge our students in so many ways across campus. We are dedicated, hard-working, and professional. We care deeply about our students.

Games of Thrones: The Banners
We have three committees: the Divisional Assessment Team; the Professional Development Committee; and the Social Committee. For our purposes I am going to explain the Social Committee. This is the group that plans our gatherings (end-of-the-year party, Holiday Jubilee, etc.). This year, with the larger Student Development Team in place, that committee decided to split us into four teams to get to know other colleagues from various areas.The idea was to have friendly competitions at monthly lunches. The first was football trivia and October's was a "Minute to Win It" style of games.

It turns out that there are some competitive people in the Student Development area. Apparently, these people, including me (according to some), were split up into different teams. Because it would be rude to name these people I will do so: Melissa Flowers, Jamie Thompson, Stephanie Ackerman, and Lisa Chapa are the worst. It is worth noting that Melissa and Stephanie are from the east coast, so, you know...

There has not been a game yet that hasn't elicited some form of controversy. Apparently dedicated professionals can squabble over the smallest perceived injustices. It is odd to me because every team except mine has found one way or another to cheat. One person used both hands in the stacking ping-pong ball and cup bouncing game, which stabilized what was supposed to be an unstable stack. But it would be petty to complain. We have all gotten over the fact that Wanda Olson's team won the football trivia contest though the night previous, her husband Phil, was in possession of all of the questions. And answers. But karma is a thing, and the same team was shut out in the second competition. Turns out "Blue Steel" lacks a fierce competitive spirit.

Our team, the "Esther Bunnies," is named after our Captain, Esther Kim. It is the most creative team name, though there are apparently no points for that.(Other rejected suggestions: Kim Rats, Kim Dandies, The Fi-esthers, Court Esthers, and Besther.)

While this may be giving us strong connections outside the office, I can say there is definitely tension between me, Megan, and Yvonne on game days. This has become serious. I have to admit to having the shakes as I was (victoriously) stacking lug nuts eight high (on their sides) using a skewer. My teammate, "Brandy the Intern," thought it would motivate me by yelling, "They are all doing better than you," though the careful approach proved the correct one. I don't know if I was nervous about the task, nervous about wanting to win, or nervous about how I would fire my intern.

Who knew that what would bring out the worst in us would also bring out the best in us. But it has. Over the years we have done these really nice events with awards, centerpieces, and words of encouragement and support for how we help our students discover, grow, and become. This year though, there is something different in the air. Competition, complaining, boorish-behavior, a lack of civility, and a keen sense of anticipation for the next game day. Everyone but the "Esther Bunnies" hates me. But I don't care about them. By the end of the academic year we are going to win this thing. Isn't that the sign of a perfectly healthy workplace?

Perpetual Giving

Katie Ogawa chats with a conference attendee.
I once wrote a post about Trinity's over dependence on student Katie Ogawa in campus publications and marketing. She was, of course deserving, but we have many phenomenal students. So I hate to add to the mystique here, but even after graduating in 2014, Katie continues to bring our University the best PR imaginable. On October 31, Katie was flown in from Albuquerque to the Oblate School of Theology "Dorothy Day for Today" seminar. Katie received their first annual Social Justice Advocate Award in the student category. The excellent presentation was made by Chris Plauche of the Catholic Worker House. Check out the introduction and presentation below.