OBU Theatre attends KCACTF Region 6 Conference

By Kendra Johnson, Arts Editor

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Last week, a group of seven OBU students and three faculty and staff members loaded into two vans and drove to Abilene, TX.

They were on their way to attend the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival’s Region 6 Conference February 23-March 1. The weekend after their return, several of the students shared thoughts about the trip with The Bison via email.

Freshman theatre and accounting double major Emma Greathouse reflected on her first time attending KCACTF Region 6, theatre major Grant McGee described attending the festival for the first time as a junior, and senior theatre major Chase Hendrickson discussed the experience of his fourth time at the conference.

Below are some of their responses, lightly condensed and edited for clarity.

The Bison: What were some of the blessings of going to KCACTF Region 6 this year?

Greathouse: I was able to connect more with the members of the department that also went to KCACTF. Also, I learned many skills that will be incredibly helpful as I continue in a Theatre major such as auditioning skills, stage management skills, and working in a large theatre.

Hendrickson: Personally, I’m glad I was able to go to the festival in the first place. I have been going to KCACTF every year since I was a freshman (and not even a theatre major at the time, but that’s a story for another time). So, I’m glad that I was able to round up my time here at OBU with one more trip.

McGee: My scene partner and I were selected to move on to the semifinal round of Irene Ryan’s, which was simply amazing. We weren’t expecting to move on past the preliminary round. Another blessing was seeing how much everyone was achieving at the festival. I especially liked reuniting with people I hadn’t seen since high school.

The Bison: What were some of the toughest parts of going?

Greathouse: Personally, as part of the Honor Crew, I was required to be there at 6:30 am every morning to help load in and load out shows that were being presented at the festival. While being part of the crew was a blessing, it was hard to run on only a few hours of sleep but still be present that early in the morning. Being mentally present was important because safety is the most important thing and the load ins often involved using the fly system (which can be danger if one is not aware of their surroundings). Overall, it was a positive experience, but it was definitely challenging.

Hendrickson: The toughest part that I have found is making sure to stay on top of the classwork that I am missing by coming to the festival. Since it’s a school-sanctioned event my absences are excused, but I still have to find the time to get it done during some downtime at the festival.

McGee: Irene Ryan’s were definitely difficult, because there was a lot of work to be put into the acting. It was pretty stressful for me, and I lost some sleep because of it.

The Bison: What are some of the things you learned?

Greathouse: I learned many things at the festival this year including operating an automatic fly system, auditioning skills, how to correctly write performance and rehearsal reports (for stage management), and the best recipe for Totally Washable, Non-Toxic Stage Blood.

McGee: I learned just how truly diverse the theatre community is, even among other college students. I also learned that it’s important to be as coordinated with your partner as possible, whether that be in acting or color-coding.

The Bison: Describe something that surprised you about KCACTF Region 6 this year.

Greathouse: Something that surprised me at KCACTF this year was the vastness of backgrounds, talent, and choices made by those around me. There is a huge vastness of talent from our region, and it was surprising and wonderful to see how God blesses humanity with good things, even if the people He blesses are unaware of the fact.

Hendrickson: What surprised me the most was how much easier it was to network at this year’s festival, as compared to previous years. In years prior, the festival was hosted at Angelo State University in San Angelo, TX. And so, you would have various areas where various workshops and competitions would take place, but you were also surrounded by a bunch of normal students that weren’t there for the festival and so it was a lot harder to see someone that you had met earlier in the week. Having it at a convention center meant that we were the only people there and were a lot more compact. So, it was a lot easier to run into people that you had met during the workshop earlier that day, and that is what I experienced this year.

McGee: I was surprised by the sheer amount of people that were at the festival. It was so refreshing to see hundreds of fellow thespians in the convention center. OBU has a relatively small theatre department, so it was crazy to see jus this many more people there could be working on a singular show or representing a university.

The Bison: What was your favorite memory from KCACTF Region 6?

McGee: Watching my close friend, Caleb Frank, perform at the final round of the Musical Theatre Initiative. He sang beautifully and was engaging the audience spectacularly. I was and am very proud of him, especially since he placed third overall!

Greathouse: Three of my favorite memories would be (1) the laughter, pure enjoyment, and fun moments that happened in various workshops, restaurants, and experiences throughout the festival; and (2) the costume parade. OBU was given the opportunity to display three costumes from the fall production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It was fun to see reactions from others backstage about the costumes. One woman even asked for a picture before we went on. It made me proud to display the hard work of the costume department and have it appreciated by people who understand the hard work and preparation that goes into each costume. (3) The final memory that I will treasure for a long time is a prayer meeting we had as a department on the second night of the festival. We had just learned that two of our teams had advanced, one to Irene Ryan semifinals and one to MTI finals. We took ten minutes, sat together, and prayed.

Theatre is often looked on as being very liberal and inappropriate, but this week, we were able to show the light of Jesus Christ through our interactions, our character, and our choices.

We wanted to make sure that we had our focus on glorifying God, not ourselves, and it was a sweet moment of unity and togetherness for our team.

The Bison: If you could only say one thing about KCACTF Region 6, what would it be, and why?

McGee: KCACTF is worth the cost. While the trip may cost a bit from your wallet and time away from classes, I say it’s worth it because of how beneficial it is to get involved in the events at the festival. You never know what’s going to happen!

Greathouse: It was a crazy week, it was a hard week, it was an amazing week, and it was worth it.

Dr. Donnelly brings experience to Bison Hill

By Morgan Jackson, Features Editor

Dr. Paul Donnelly has a PhD in Criminology and is currently an assistant professor of sociology and criminal justice at Oklahoma Baptist University.  

Donnelly studied sociology in his undergraduate years at Biola University in California. He earned a Master of Science in Public Administration at the University of Texas at Tyler. Finally, Donnelly earned his doctorate degree in Criminology at the University of Texas at Dallas.  

Prior to working in education, Donnelly worked in the criminal justice field for many years. He mainly worked in juvenile field of criminal justice.  

“I had an adjunct teacher who was a juvenile probation officer, and one of the assignments was to either write a term paper, or you could volunteer with one of the kids on her caseload,” Donnelly said. “Well, that was easy for me. I didn’t want to do a paper if I could avoid it.” 

Donnelly began volunteering with one of the kids, who was eventually arrested. It was during this time that he found his calling.  

“Then I started seeing him in juvenile hall,” Donnelly said. “I was pretty good at relating to this kid. I was kind of a bad kid in my own way, not criminally necessarily, but rebellious. It was like a light came on: this is what I want to do with my life. So, that led to a couple of part-time jobs working with kids that were involved in the system.” 

Many of the children Donnelly had worked with in his early career in California were either gang members or on the path to becoming one. 

“I was really good at it and I really enjoyed it,” Donnelly said. “After I graduated from college I moved to Texas, from Southern California, and got a job working for the Dallas County Juvenile Probation Department in the detention center.” 

He thrived in his job and received many promotions. He spent this next period of his life working in positions that gave him more and more responsibility, and he also went to school to obtain a graduate degree.  

“When I finished that I got a job offer as a chief probation officer in Corpus Christie,” Donnelly said. “I was there for three years. I really love Corpus Christie. It was one of my better jobs. Then, I was hired to run the largest juvenile correctional facility on the East Coast, which happened to be in Maryland.”  

Donnelly has held numerous positions in the criminal justice field that carry great power and esteem. He spent nearly 30 years working in the field, and then made a switch to education. When Donnelly retired from the criminal justice field, he went back to school to earn his doctorate degree.  

“I went back to school and got my PhD at the University of Texas at Dallas in Criminology, which studies the correlates of crime, because I wanted to teach,” Donnelly said.  “I had always hoped to teach so that I could take 30 years of actual experience and combine it with what I learned in the sciences, and then present it to students so they can be prepared to be Christian leaders in the 21st century.” 

One of the many classes that Donnelly teaches is Introduction to Sociology, which many freshmen and sophomore students take. In addition to an introductory textbook, Donnelly employs the use of “Generous Justice” by Timothy Keller to intertwine faith and content learning. He also teaches criminal justice courses. 

“I’ve been here six years, and the first three years I was teaching sociology and preparing a criminal justice major,” Donnelly said. “For the last three years we’ve had the criminal justice and the forensic psychology majors.” 

Donnelly hopes to prepare and inspire leaders who might come out of his classes. Amber Rodriguez is a freshman political science major who has taken class with Dr. Donnelly.  

“My greatest take away from Dr. Donnelly’s lectures was the importance of diverse worldviews and experiences,” Rodriguez said. “Everyone experiences life differently and that can be a very valuable thing to consider when learning. Being aware that there is more to life than what we know is the greatest tool and lesson that Dr. Donnelly has given me.” 

Students and faculty alike acknowledge that the method in which Donnelly teaches is helpful and thought-provoking.  

I appreciate that Dr. Donnelly encourages us to learn from each other, his Socratic approach really opens up the classroom to engage in discussion,” Rodriguez said. “He really makes it easy to find a connection to the lesson on a personal level rather than feeling like it’s just test material.” 

Dr. Kaine Ezell, an associate professor of English at OBU, shares similar thoughts. 

“Dr. Donnelly is a great professor because he himself is a seeker of knowledge and wisdom,” Ezell said. “Because he is seeking, it allows him to provide his students with space to seek solutions to problems based on their own experience and observation. He does not see himself as one who lectures students on the responses he thinks are appropriate to a given question, but he encourages students to provide input into seeking solutions.” 

OBU college of fine arts invites prospective students to one-day event

By Kendra Johnson, Arts Editor

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Visiting campus is often a deciding factor in student’s choices about college. 

Oklahoma Baptist University’s Warren M. Angell College of Fine Arts will give prospective students the chance to spend a day on the OBU campus through Fine Arts Main Event (FAME) Monday, February 18. 

“The idea is for us to expose prospective students to all of the opportunities that they have through the college of fine arts,” Dean of the Warren M. Angell College of Fine Arts and professor of music Dr. Christopher Mathews, “Specifically to introduce them to the degrees we have and at the same time introduce them to our faculty and what our students are doing.” 

The annual FAME event has changed shape over the years. 

“A few years ago, it was more closely attached to Concerto-Aria and students would come on Sunday night of Concerto-Aria and spend the night and then stay,” Mathews said. “When it was that it was mainly music students.” 

FAME is currently one-day event that incorporates students from all areas of the fine arts college. 

“Since I’ve come I try to in the college to keep everything collaborative and open and so we’ve opened that up to our other two divisions and within those division particularly art and theatre since they tend to be the showiest of what we do – easiest to showcase,” Mathews said. 

The event begins with registration and sign in and then includes a general information meeting, College of Fine Arts Showcase, meeting with the individual departments within the college, a parents meeting, complimentary lunch, and the chance to audition for scholarships and major or minor programs. 

Students can register to attend by visiting https://www.okbu.edu/fine-arts/fine-arts-main-event/schedule.html. 

The general meeting comes first. 

“Where we introduce several of the faculty members,” Mathews said. “I’ll speak about the degrees and the opportunities that we have.” 

Next is the showcase. 

“What we want to do is take a snapshot of everything we do in the college of fine arts and celebrate what we’re doing here in this main event – say an hour snapshot of some of the most exciting pieces of art that we’re working,” chair of the division of communication arts and professor of communication arts Dr. Vickie Ellis said. 

There are many options for areas of study in the College of Fine Arts. 

“Theatre [for example] could mean PR, it could mean I’m an actress on the stage, it could mean I’m managing front of house, it could mean that I’m in the scene shop, it could mean that I’m doing light design, it could mean, I mean there’s so many options within that,” Mathews said. 

A BA in an arts field can be taken in many different directions, and this ability to use arts degrees in many fields is something faculty emphasize. 

“Our best advocates for this are our graduates – that we can point to our graduates and say ‘they’re doing this and they’re doing this and they’re doing this’,” Mathews said. “Many times, its related directly to their degree, but you know oftentimes it’s not related but they will cite the interpersonal skills I’ve developed or the opportunities I had to develop my confidence or the team building that I had or something that I learned in the theatrical process readied me for a job that otherwise does not seem a direct corollary for that.” 

During FAME students have opportunity to personally interact with students and faculty members. 

“The more we can help them understand that you’re coming into a family that involves all of the creatives on campus and so if you create on a computer or you create on a stage or you create at your keyboard composing something, this is part of the family that we want you to be a part of,” Mathews said. “That’s what makes it unique.” 

These conversations can help students understand what it would be like to be on campus. 

“We do this with any of our recruitment events on campus, but particularly in FAME what I hope their imagination is doing while they’re hearing us talking and seeing fellow students is that they start imagining themselves in that classroom or with that professor or friends with that students or doing that production,” Mathews said. 

FAME can also benefit the faculty. 

“I love, love, love, love dreaming alongside hopeful, excited high school students who see so many exciting opportunities for the future, and ‘could it be OBU? Oh, and if it is I might get to have a front row seat to that person’s four years of critical thinking’,” Ellis said. 

For current OBU students, the event is a chance to reflect. 

“It has us stop quickly in the middle of the first part of the semester and say ‘wait, what we’re about, let’s share it out loud for a few moments’,” Ellis said. “And it reminds us again of who we are when we’re sharing together and how much we care and respect the creation of others and the gifts that God has given others to share here on Bison Hill.”

Milburn Success Center provides student resources

By Morgan Jackson, Features Editor 

Oklahoma Baptist University’s spring semester just recently began, and it is not uncommon for students to be feeling far less stressed than they will be feeling at the end of the semester. While it is important to enjoy this time, it is also extremely important to find ways to make this semester a beneficial and healthy one.

The Milburn Student Success Center, located on the third floor of the Mabee Learning Center, is open for the semester. The center offers one-on-one help in a multitude of areas and often has group study sessions for exams, midterms, and finals.

Kirt Henderson is the Director of Student Success at Oklahoma Baptist University and oversees the Milburn Student Success Center.

“We have over 50 staff members on our team, and we have co-chairs, an executive staff and coordinators for all of the subjects that we support,” Henderson said. “I’m working with those individuals to make sure that we are promoting the center, communicating with staff, communicating with faculty about study sessions, building class lists so we can email students and a variety of other things at the success center.”

Henderson also meets with students who feel like they want or need academic assistance or are on academic probation.

“I respond to situations as they arise,” Henderson said. “Especially in the spring semester, my schedule is pretty full of students. I really enjoy building those relationships and getting to know students throughout the course of the semester, seeing the progress they have made and working alongside them to reach their full potential.”

As someone who is very familiar with students and their academic issues and needs, Henderson offers some advice on how to have a successful spring semester.

“Students need to do the essential things first,” Henderson said. “That basically includes going to every class, making sure every assignment is turned in on time. When I look at results of students that didn’t fare as well as they would have liked to in the first semester, often there are multiple zeros in their Canvas gradebook”

Henderson also encourages students to find ways to better manage their time.

“On top of that, it’s finding some type of time management system as well,” Henderson said. “Especially for freshmen, who have gone from an 8-3 school day to a school experience that is often spread throughout the day and has gaps in between. Often, students aren’t using their time productively. What we really encourage is maximizing the time from when you wake up until you go to dinner, really making school your job. This means that you’re in class, preparing for class and working on homework.”

Of course, Henderson encourages students to use the resources and help that is available on campus.

“We want students to come in for study sessions for the exams, but we also want people to come in for one-on-one assistance with us as well- whether in math, business, science, writing or foreign language,” Henderson said. “We want people to come in with questions on their homework or from the assignment that day, and we want to provide individual assistance for them.”

The people providing this assistance are the Milburn Student Success Center staff, who each have certain subjects that they specialize in.

“Because I’m in the religion and philosophy department, it tends to be more focused on study sessions,” senior bible and philosophy major and Religion Coordinator, Chandler Warren said. “For our area, we do about 20 to 30 study sessions a semester, and the other thing we help out with is writing assistance. Those are the two big things for religion. Most people come for papers and for tests. My experience has been great.”

Academic success follows when students are persistent in practicing good study habits throughout the entire semester.

“The ones that I see that have the most success at the end of the semester are the ones who are coming in from the beginning, and that’s why we call ourselves the success center, Warren said. “We really believe that if you come in regularly to get assistance, you will succeed in your classes. Every mentor here has been in your shoes. Often, we hire people who have come to the success center. It’s extremely rare for us to hire someone who has not come in and used our services.”

Zach Johns, a junior biochemistry major who assists in the math department said his experiences have been positive and had been visiting the Success Center since he was a freshman.

“There have been many beneficial moments that I have had here,” Johns said. “Every time I come into work it’s so nice to be the person helping someone, because I have been the person being helped before.”

For more information on study sessions, individual help and hiring, visit the Milburn Student Success Center on the third floor of the Mabee Learning Center.


Honors thesis leads to new math discovery

By Loren Rhoades, Assistant News Editor

Senior math major Kelsi Guleserian uncovered a mathematical theorem with the help of assistant professor of mathematics Dr. Cherith Tucker.

The two came up with the theorem while researching topics for Guleserian’s honors thesis.

“I knew I wanted to write a thesis because I wanted to study math more in-depth than what we would in class,” Guleserian said.

The process began with Guleserian’s interest in knot theory, which led them to the topic of the linking of circles.

Eventually, they put their focus on the linking of circles in the three-sphere.

The three-sphere is a sphere that lives in four-dimensional space, unlike the normal sphere which lives in three-dimensional space.

“It’s hard to visualize, because we only have three dimensions at our disposal,” Tucker said.

There are circles in the three-sphere that can be linked together where one passes through the other, or they can be separate from each other.

“We started looking at circles in the three-sphere at how we can tell if circles are linked or not linked,” Tucker said. “It led us to a result that applies in any dimension.”

From then on, they started to work with circles not only in the three-sphere but also in the higher spheres and dimensions.

After getting into the higher dimensions, they started studying the linking of spheres.

“When you go up further dimensions, they can be linked somehow where one passes through the center of the other, but they don’t actually intersect in any way,” Tucker said.

After thoroughly studying the linking of spheres in different dimensions, they came up with a result that can help them to answer questions about how other things are linked together.

For example, they have been looking at Borromean rings, which is another interesting way that things are linked.

Altogether the process of this discovery took about a month to a month and a half.

Now Gulseserian is in the process of finishing her thesis that covers this foundational theorem, in the hopes of having it approved and published. The thesis will cover the history of links and convexity, higher dimensions and their properties and any definitions or already proven theorems that are necessary to prove the theorem they have come up with.

“I’m wanting to make this more accessible by telling a story, the history of it, how it came to be and what you can apply it to,” Guleserian said.

Guleserian and Tucker submitted the first draft of the thesis to the honors board subcommittee at OBU this semester and got it approved.

Now they are going forward with different corollaries, as well as different points they can continue to prove with the theorem.

“I was surprised that we were able to prove something new in math,” Guleserian said, “that’s really cool to me.”

Guleserian and Tucker already have a couple questions they have easily proven and answered since being approved by the board.

They will continue this process until the thesis is complete.

From there the thesis will be resubmitted to the board and an outside reader will look over all the information.

Guleserian said doing this research is helping her to solidify what she hopes to do as part of her profession in the future.

Just knowing she could do the research required for the thesis has put her at ease.

“I’ve always known I wanted to be a professor of mathematics,” Guleserian said. “So having the research for this theorem under my belt is nice and comforting.”

Both Guleserian and Tucker are content with the results they continue to find and are leaving room for the possibility of even more discoveries.

“Kelsi has worked very hard on this, and I am very happy with the interesting result we have come up with,” Tucker said. “I am excited to see where it might lead and what other sorts of results we could get as corollaries to this theorem.”

Students conquer honors thesis projects

By Jonathan Soder, Features Editor

Come fall semester of junior year, students, particularly honors students, are at the point where they must decide whether or not to write a senior thesis.

For those who do, the process will span the last three semesters of their college career and involve extensive research into a specified topic within the student’s major.

While a daunting task for most, the road to a thesis project is well-mapped and traveled by many former and current thesis writers here at OBU.

One of these travelers is associate professor of philosophy and director of the honor program Dr. Tawa An-derson.

A two-time thesis writer himself, first for his undergraduate and second for his Ph.D., Anderson now oversees the thesis writing process for the honors program as head of the Honors committee.

His responsibilities include reviewing and approving thesis proposals in conjunction with the faculty advisor whom the student has chosen to study under.

As an unofficial part of his job, Anderson offers students advice about choosing their faculty advisor.

“Be diligent and regular in meeting with your faculty advisor,” Anderson said.

Anderson said that choosing correctly in the first place involves specific considerations for both the student and the faculty advisor.

“Choose your faculty mentor carefully,” Anderson said. “Ensure that it’s somebody who you really do want to work with because you’re stuck with them for the duration. And, ensure that it’s somebody you know has the time and ability to shepherd you through this process.”

This is advice for any student who wants to complete a senior thesis, not just those in the honors program.

Faculty advisors serve as editors and guides through the process of the contracted study, which is a semester of research that typically happens during the spring semester of junior year.

Research varies widely depending on the student’s major and proposed topic.

Senior math education major Hannah Durkee is writing her thesis over the merits of teaching formal mathematics instead of applied mathematics in primary and secondary education.

During her contracted study, she had to resort to research methods which are less common for most thesis writers.

“There wasn’t a lot of literature, or studies that had been done previously, so I didn’t have that to pull from,” Durkee said, “I decided to do my own survey and interviews and things like that.”

Durkee sent out an email to every person listed on Oklahoma’s Department of Education website as a secondary math teacher, over 3,000 emails in total. Of that total, 169 teachers replied.

Durkee said one of her favorite parts of this process has been reading the suggestions teachers gave in response to several of the questions included on the survey.

“One of them was like, ‘If you could change the state standards, would you. If so, how?’,” Durkee said. “Some of those were really good responses because there’s a lot of people who are, obviously, very passionate about state standards and standardized testing and things like that.”

Durkee also received practical advice as a result of the survey without intentionally seeking it out.

“I just got tons of really good ideas to use with my future classes, which was really cool to be able to read those responses,” Durkee said. “That’s the part of the research that I enjoy the most, seeing things that actually help me and are directly applicable to the things I want to do.”

The enjoyment in learning Durkee expressed is one of the hopes Anderson and the honors program as a whole express for thesis writers.

Another portion of Anderson’s job is a joint effort with the rest of the Honors committee members to guide, review, critique and encourage students throughout the thesis writing process.

“The spirit [of the committee] is one of sharpening,” Anderson said. “The biggest blessing from being on the Honors Committee is that we get to learn an incredible amount by reading through all of these thesis projects each year… We need to approach it with a spirit of openness and teachability.”

The spirit of the committee is two-fold though, just as the analogy in scripture of brothers sharpening one another as “iron sharpens iron.”

“The other spirit that we need to have is one of constructive criticism…” Anderson said. “Although we may not be experts in the discipline or the area that the student is writing, we’re nonetheless intelligent enough that we can follow the research, we can follow the line of argumentation and we can become familiar with the material, familiar enough we’re able to give meaningful input.”

Critiques come primarily from the student’s continual contact with his/her faculty advisor and two progress report meetings with the Honors Committee – one in the fall semester and one in early spring.

Students also send their paper to a reader outside of OBU to have it critiqued after both progress reports have occurred.

Receiving criticism is one of the aspects of thesis writing that Anderson said students consistently struggle with.

Often students misinterpret the suggestions the committee is making for them or are frustrated by the need to return and expand on a project that has already taken nine months of their time.

His tips for dealing with this? Be teachable. Just as the Honors Committee is learning from a student’s research, so too should the student be willing to continue learning about their topic and how to properly explain it even after the bulk of research and writing is over.

As mentioned previously, thesis writing isn’t exclusively for honors students. Assistant professor of mathematics Dr. Cherith Tucker is working on the Honors Committee as well as advising a non-Honors thesis for senior math Kelsi Guleserian.

“I have been incredibly proud of Kelsi Guleserian this semester,” Tucker said. “Our research has taken many unexpected turns and we’ve been stuck many times, but she has had a great attitude and a passion for our work throughout the entire process.”

At this point in the semester, Durkee is approximately a third of the way through her estimated 60-page paper. On October 25, she will meet with members of the Honors Committee like Anderson and Tucker for her fall progress report.

Once that’s done, she’ll continue writing in preparation for her spring progress report, all the while guided by Anderson, committee members and her advisor, Dr. Sarah Marsh.

For any underclassmen interested in writing a senior thesis, Tucker suggests talking to professors before junior year to make sure they are capable and willing to advise.

On top of this, reading articles inside of one’s field of study is a good way for students to begin narrowing their topic even before submitting a proposal.

Jonathan Stewart wins awards for swimming achievement

By Chelsea Weeks, News Editor

Jonathan Stewart, a senior business management major with an emphasis in computer information, received the Pat and Tony Jablonsky Award and the NCAA Academic All-Ameri-can for the 2017-2018 school year.

The Pat and Tony Jablonsky Award is given by the business honors society, Delta Mu Delta, to a business student each year. Stewart was inducted into Delta Mu Delta last spring and has a 4.0 GPA.

The NCAA Academic All-American Award is a prestigious honor that only 18 students nationwide receive.

In order to be considered, athletes must have a 3.50 GPA and make a significant contribution to their team.

Athletes who competed in lacrosse, tennis, hockey, fencing, men’s volleyball, rifle, golf, skiing, water polo, wrestling, gymnastics and swim were grouped together in the at-large category.

“I don’t seek awards, that’s not what I do,” Stewart said. “I just try to do my best in everything I do. So, it’s nice to get awards for your hard work, but that’s not what I started out for. What I shoot for is to have the biggest impact on campus as well as on my team to try and better our team.”

Jacob Usry, a junior journalism and mass communications major, has been swimming with Stewart for three years.

Usry said Stewart is not only a great guy to be around, but also a positive influence when others are not.

“At meets he’s always very pushing in a positive way, like you could do better and stuff like that, but very kind,” Usry said. “He’s a very interesting person to be around and very smart.”

Dr. Sam Freas, physical education, health and human performance professor and swim coach, said Stewart is an exceptional student who makes OBU proud and deserves any awards he receives.

Stewart started swimming at the YMCA in his hometown when he was 14 years old.

“I’m very grateful for my parents,” Stewart said. “Had it not been for them, there’s no way I would have been as successful as I have been throughout my college career. They gave me a great upbringing.”

Stewart has five sisters and eight brothers. He is the ninth child out of 13.

“I credit my competitiveness to my older brothers because they push me,” Stewart said. “Growing up in a big family when you’re on the younger end of things, you always want to be better.”

Stewart is taking 16 credit hours, has swim practice for at least 20 hours a week, is president of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, works two jobs and owns his own business as a web developer, designing websites for private clients.

“It’s a balancing act,” Stewart said. “You have to be really scheduled, very disciplined, make sure you get everything done in advance so when things come up like they always do, you have a little bit of a cushion to work with.”

The advice that Stewart would give is to be involved in everything you can. He said going to athletic events and campus activities make for a great overall experience.

“You’re only here for four years, so enjoy it as much as you can,” Stewart said. “Memories last forever, so have the greatest experience you can.”

On the Hill: Student runs towards excellence

By Loren Rhoades, Assistant Features Editor  (Courtesy photo/Evie Carlswell)

Relationships made with others are what help to mold a person’s character while also teaching them how to grow. Whether it be by blood, romantic attraction or friendship, the relationships a person makes largely impacts who they are and who they will become.

Freshman accounting major Evie Carswell is one example of how relationships can impact character. She said throughout her life she has been pushed to work hard in all areas of her relationships including with her parents, friends, teachers, coaches and teammates. She said it has always been a positive push and has made her who she is today.

“I’ve never felt the pressure to perform. It has just been more of an incentive to do what I want to do, and do it for the Lord,” Carswell said.

Carswell is a member of the track team and said one relationship she has been impacted by since joining the team at OBU has been with Coach Ford Mastin. She said his desire for the athletes to strive in all areas of life has been something that has helped her to push through any struggle in college thus far.

“Jumping from high school sports to college sports I expected it to be really hard, which it was. But he has always encouraged me and made the transition easier by being understanding and continuing to put time into me,” she said.

Carswell said the commitment and time she has put into the track team has bettered her. She said that it has taught her how to manage her time and that if others can do it then she can too. She said watching one of her close friends on the team run track while also striving academically helped to push her in both areas as well.

“It pushed me to be a better student,” she said. “I didn’t want to disappoint, and I wanted to be able to handle it because I wanted to get good grades so that I could succeed and go do what I want to do without being held back.”

While being pushed physically and academically, Carswell has also has been taught to work hard spiritually. She has specifically been given this mindset by her mom and dad. She said they both have taught her about different aspects in her faith and have made it possible for her to rely on God in all things.

Carswell said the main lesson taught by her dad has to do with being a hard worker and that hard work does pay off especially when involving Christian character. He has taught her that trust doesn’t come easy, but it is earned when doing the right thing.

She said that her mom has taught her to be strong in all things and not that other people’s opinions don’t matter, but that they don’t define who she is. She said this has taught her a sense of respect and that she has learned to take people as they are, even when it seems as if their opinion doesn’t apply.

“Both of those things shaping me told me that I can grow up and be what I want and no matter where I am as long as I am being a good steward and living the way Christ wants me to live, then I can’t go wrong,” Carswell said.

The many lessons that Carswell has learned throughout her life and relationships have even made an impact on the people around her. Her close friend from home Madeline Sparks said Carswell is a steadfast friend. She said that she is grateful for both the friendship they have, and the ability Carswell has to make those around her feel valued.

“Evie is one of those rare friends that has known me at my best and loved me at my worst. Even though we now live fourteen hours apart, I know I can still count on her,” Sparks said.

Not only has she made an impact on friends from home but also on friends that she has made upon coming to OBU. Freshman nursing major Ansley Biesiadecki said that knowing Evie has been a blessing to her.

“In every area of her life she strives to be the best she can be. She’s loyal to friends and family, she has a solid relationship with God, she has great dedication to track and is diligent with her studies. It’s been an honor to be her friend,” Biesiadecki said.

Student COMS scholar presents at three conferences

Staff Writer

Most undergraduate students would happily celebrate having one paper accepted at a national conference; they would view such an achievement as the pinnacle of academic success.

Imagine then, an undergraduate who has presented at three conferences.

Senior communications student Braden East did just that this academic year.

Most recently, East attended the Central States Communication Association conference in Milwaukee and presented “Prime Real Estate: Branding University Syllabi,” a study designed to help professors connect better with their students through course syllabi.

Particularly impressive, communications professor and division chair Dr. Vickie Ellis said, is that this paper was written in conjunction with his professors.

East, Ellis, communications professor Dr. Kaylene Barbe and adjunct professor of communications studies and language/literature Ann McNellis submitted the project as part of a professional competitive papers panel.

Collaboration with professors isn’t unheard of, but it is uncommon, as is the diverse approach to communication theory.

East’s work deals with political communication, family communication and public relations, and he is well-versed in all three.

“This is rare,” Ellis said. “In my career, I have never worked with an undergrad who committed to three unique areas and pursued original research in all three areas. Two of his studies were qualitative in nature and one was quantitative,” she said.

“OBU has had countless research successes; nevertheless, in my time as an undergraduate professor, I’ve never seen this level of national conference success. I’m honored to have had the opportunity to be a part of his OBU experience.”

That OBU experience has included courses and mentoring that East said was invaluable to his scholastic achievements.

“Dr. Barbe and Dr. Ellis instructed the two courses for which my first papers were written – that was in the Fall of 2016,” he said.

“I spent several long hours in each of their offices that semester, and they went out of their way to make sure I was fully equipped to produce stellar papers and present them to other scholars in our field,” he said.

“Dr. Ellis taught a course called Communication Research, without which I would have been completely helpless. I’ve had a huge number of faculty and students who really, deeply cared about my academic, professional and spiritual growth.”

Last year, East presented “Branding Trump: Fantasy Themes in Ads from the Clinton Campaign” at the same conference in a research poster session.

That study focused on campaign advertising, branding and rhetoric from the 2016 presidential election—topics that were highly relevant.

This was preceded by “Since When Have You Been Sick? Health Communication Between College Students and Their Families,” which he presented at the National Communication Association conference in Dallas in 2017.

Of the three projects, East said he enjoyed them equally, and found all had deeper educational implications.

“They were all so unique and valuable experiences,” he said. “You learn so much more with every study. The scientific process is always in a state of change and evolution as we try new ways to take our biases out of our research and expose how the world works behind the scenes. Great research is a blend of creativity and objectivity, which is somewhat like a big picture view of higher education itself.”

East said he did not set out to complete and present so many studies during the previous year.

In fact, he said he didn’t really have much interest in scientific research at all before coming to Bison Hill, and initially believed it was not a major component in communication studies.

“I couldn’t be more grateful that I was wrong,” he said. “My first conference was so fantastic, I decided I wanted to attend as many as possible before graduating – but that meant writing as many research studies as possible.”

Those research papers and conference experiences have provided valuable professional skills as well. And, he said he had to actively combat a form of senioritis as he prepared for his final year in college.

“Every senior experiences some kind of purpose ambiguity as they approach graduation,” he said.

“I went through the same thing. It was only this month that I decided to pursue graduate school, get a PhD, and eventually teach college. Now, I know how far behind I would be had I not invested everything into those research projects and classes. Academic research looks fantastic on any resume, but for me, it means I’ll be competent (or at least not incompetent) when I have to write a doctoral thesis or teach a class on research methods.”

Pushing through his “purpose ambiguity” has paid off; his analytical competency and research skills will serve him in future endeavors.

“Braden has already had a host of career opportunities come his way, even in the last few weeks,” Ellis said. “I have no doubt that no matter what he chooses to do, he will do the work joyfully and for God’s glory. I am so excited for him.“

East’s undergrad success may be exceptional, but he said he believes any student can excel with the right mindset.

“To quote Jordan B. Peterson,” he said, ‘stand up straight with your shoulders back.’ Be confident. People who believe they can learn anything, really can.”

He also encourages other students to engage their mind whenever possible.

“Read books. I’m like most students – it’s hard to read on my own time and I struggle with assigned readings. Instead, I listen to audiobooks (mostly nonfiction) on my commute and at the gym.”

In addition to mindset, East said he credits support from his family as a motivating factor.

“My wife [Natalie] is loving, supportive, and challenges me intellectually,” he said.

They are both working on completing their education— he at OBU and she at OU studying nursing.

Because they are both students, he said his wife understands the inherent stress in excelling in the classroom and maintaining positive relationships with professional mentors.

Natalie said she appreciates his accomplishments and credits OBU faculty with much of that success.

“I’m really proud of him and so thankful for his professors,” she said. “I love seeing them pour into him every day.”

Pouring into him means they recognize all of his strengths—not just the ones whom land him in multiple national conferences.

Ellis said she is proud of East, but not only for his intellectual prowess.

“I’m especially proud that through all of his scholarly successes, he has displayed a humble heart and a godly spirit,” she said.

“He consistently puts others ahead of himself. Because Braden has so thoughtfully and lovingly reflected Jesus, those who have had the opportunity to be around him have been inspired to be more caring and more curious. At every conference, Braden will go to support all of his peers and professors. He also encourages professors and peers from other institutions with his insightful questions and comments.”

Ellis said she also admires East’s professionalism and ability to synthesize complicated concepts while debating respectfully with scholars in those areas.

“At the last conference in Milwaukee, two of our OBU scholars were presenting on a competitive paper panel made up of six scholars,” Ellis said.

“At the end, when the panel opened for questions, two professors coming from opposite philosophical perspectives began to argue the merits of qualitative versus quantitative communication research. In a respectful, but assertive tone Braden looked at both of them and said, ‘We need both.’ At that, the professors in the back agreed and the firestorm was over.”

That clear sense of purpose and ability to articulate himself well can now serve other students; he offered current undergraduates some advice based on his own experiences on campus.

East said he encourages undergraduates to take advantage of the tools at their disposal in order to see the maximum benefit from their degree plan.

In general, he said, students should engage in their community and become involved in their field of study.

To that end, East has served as a tutor in the Student Success Center, officer of Lamba Pi Eta (Communication Studies National Honor Society) and as a student worker for the Division of Communication Arts.

He juggles these other responsibilities in addition to his coursework and family responsibilities, and he said that can be a challenge.

But he recognizes the need to take care of oneself in order to realize his or her full potential.

“I’ve learned that self-care is vital,” he said. “Physical health spills over into every other facet of health. Seriously. Good sleep and exercise were the only way I stayed sane and low-stress during especially difficult semesters.”

More specifically, he advises students to bolster their academic experience as much as they possibly can.

“Make the most of being on a campus like OBU,” he said. “Your professors are thrilled when you stop by their office or schedule an afternoon to get coffee with them, but you’re always getting the better end of the deal. These people are the ones who will stand out as glowing references on your resume. Never turn down an opportunity to listen to someone you respect, and ask a lot of questions.”

East also indicated undergrads need to use available tools, ask questions and plan ahead.

“There is a wealth of resources available to students that most don’t know about because they don’t ask,” he said. “This could be as simple as ‘What internships are available in my discipline?’ Ultimately, pray and think hard about your purpose, and write those thoughts down. What could you do and enjoy for the rest of your life? When you have a long-game mentality, it is 100 times easier to make sacrifices and difficult choices for that

Students head to the CSCA convention

By Chelsea Weeks, News Editor

April 4 through 8, seven students and three professors will head to Milwaukee, Wisconsin to present their research papers at the Central State Communication Association (CSCA) convention.

The CSCA was founded in 1931 and hosts a convention every year with the purpose of giving opportunities for scholars to share their research. OBU has been sending students to this convention for over a decade.

“The students worked very hard; they never gave up,” Dr. Vickie Ellis, professor of communication arts and chair of the division of communication arts, said. “We’ve never had every student who submitted get into a nationally recognized and nationally attended conference before. OBU students are amazing! I’m so honored to get to work with such godly, inspiring, and curious young scholars.”

During the 2017 fall semester, Ben Cale, Alena Blakely, Payton Clark, Preston Morris, London Bradshaw and Sarah Claibourn all took the Communications Research class with Dr. Ellis.

At the end of last semester, and even over Christmas break, these students were working on their papers to make them ready for submission by January 12.

“Our students submitted their work to the President’s Undergraduate Honors Research Conference,” Ellis said. “Their research papers were stripped of their names and their institutions’ names and then evaluated by experts in the respective fields of study.”

Students had to use a variety of methods learned in class to create original research in order to answer their research questions for their papers.

“Each paper had to have an introduction containing their research questions, a literature review containing the relevant research conducted by others, a discussion of their methodologies, the results that were assessed from their data mining, a discussion of their results, a conclusion explaining the “so what” of the work and a reference list,” Ellis said. “Many also contained a variety of tables, figures and appendices.”

Alena Blakely, a junior communications major, is presenting her paper “Give to Receive: Egoistical Dynamics in Nonprofit’s Online Appeals” on the President’s Undergraduate Honors Research Conference Competitive Paper Panel.

“I am very excited for the opportunity to go to conference, but at the same time I am also very nervous because it is at the national conference,” Blakely said. “I hope to learn about graduate schools while at [the] conference and I also hope to learn from other research.”

Ben Cale, a junior communications major, just changed to a communications major last March. After only one semester in the new major, he is presenting at a conference which he says feels not only great, but like he belongs in communications.

“I think going to this conference is great because I’m actually new to communications, this is my first year doing it, I felt like it was something that I always should have gone into,” Cale said.

“[Communications Research] was one of my favorite classes and I think it directed me on where I want to go in life. Having this conference, I haven’t experienced it yet, but I think giving my research here is a great experience because I get to share all the hard work that I’ve put into this class and then I think having this on a resume will be great for a future job. Presenting my paper in front of a research board will develop great skills in public speaking, demonstration, organization and leadership.”

This convention gives provides students a chance to network with other scholars and grow in their research abilities.

“The experience of sharing original research with professors and grad students is tremendous,” Ellis said. “Their sessions are also attended by graduate school recruiters and they are invited to a job fair. Additionally, they are honored at a luncheon and get to hear from and meet with the keynote speaker.”