Featured Work Friday: Kambiz Shabankare

The SJMC’s own photojournalism course instructed by Anna Mazurek has produced some remarkable content! Photojournalism student, Kambiz Shabankare, created this incredible feature story on the Battleship Texas BB-35 and San Jacinto Historic Site volunteer, Charles Smith. Check out his photos and story below!

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Charles Smith: Fighting on Behalf of the History

Charles Smith, while carrying two boxes, walked toward a bench near the Texas Capitol building in Austin, Texas. The bench has been his spot every Saturday for the last four years. Smith opened the boxes one by one. He took out, from the first one, a model of the Battleship Texas BB-35 made of wood and from the other one several books and some DVDs. He placed each of them on the bench in an exact order, like every single object owned a particular area.

“I don’t want to be so close to the Capitol,” Smith said while placing the objects, “I don’t want to disturb the visitors who come to see the building, but this spot is perfect.” His spot is neither too close nor too far. Smith usually stands next to this bench, approaches visitors who are passing by and shares his knowledge of the battleship with them.

“It started 30 years ago. That was the first time I saw the battleship,” Smith said. He was 24 when saw the Battleship Texas BB-35 for the first time. On Aug. 31, 1983, the battleship transferred to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and was placed in Todd Shipyard in Galveston, Texas.

“She fought both first and second world wars,” Smith said, “I had read about her since I was a child, but it’s different when you are touching her beautiful body and walking on her deck.” The first meeting turned into a life changing event for Smith.

On April 30, 1948, few years after the end of the second world war, the battleship retired and became the first battleship, in the U.S history, presented as a memorial museum. The days of retirements seemed to be easy at the beginning. People remembered the battleship and her remarkable achievements during the war. The battleship’s presence in several battles like Iwo Jima and Battle of Cherbourg was not something that the Americans could easily forget. However, as time passed her heroic actions turned into the distant and forgotten memories. In 1956, she was commissioned as the flagship of the Texas Navy and was transferred to the Battleship Texas Commission, where her bravery turned into a nightmare.

“I am wondering if they hated her so much, they left her to die,” Smith said while his eyes were filled with a spark of anger. The commission’s negligent act against the battleship resulted in cracks and gaps in coated surfaces, water intrusion and steel deterioration.

“They knowingly destroyed her,” Smith continues, “they could have done some proper maintenance, but instead they used improper colors and materials. On one occasion, they painted the wall on the captain’s cabin and destroyed a historical world map on the wall.”

“I paid 20 dollars every week for the past two months, now I have it,” Charles Smith said while opening the box of the Wonder Woman action figure. The Comic Relief is one of few places that Smith spends time outside of his job and his passion for the battleship.

Finally, in 1983, Texas State Legislature decided to step in and assigned the battleship to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), and by Aug. 31, 1983, TPWD had the sole guardianship of the Battleship Texas BB-35. “It was a happy day,” Smith said, “She was, finally, going to be with the people who cared about her.” TPWD hired some engineers to repair the battleship. The maintenance took five years. In 1988, the Battleship Texas BB-35 began her final journey to Houston. “The problem was people could not accurately remember her anymore,” Smith alleged, “Somebody had to do something, I mean I had to do something.”

Smith always has been a lonely boy. His childhood memories are filled with being bullied by his brother and by his classmates. “I didn’t have a real friend. I was mostly hanging out with my brother’s friends. They were way older than me,” Smith said. In high school, he fell in love with history. “I was alone during the breaks, so I would go somewhere and read a historical book.” Smith added, “there was no one to protect me, not even my parents.”

Lack of protection and absence of a savior has always been Smith’s concern. Therefore, from Smith’s perspective, the Texas Commission’s negligent is comparable to what he experienced as a little boy.

In 1996, Smith, who was working in Austin mostly in seasonal jobs decided to move back to San Marcos, where he was born and grow up. “I ran away from Austin,” Smith continued while laughing, “My sister-in-law was tried to hook me up with some of her friends. I need my freedom.” He already owned a trailer, so it was a total freedom comparing to his experience of living with his married brother. He was free after all and more isolated this time.

Before moving back to San Marcos Smith realized that reintroducing the story of the Battleship Texas BB-35 to Texans has become the only mission he desired to focus on. “They don’t teach the real history in universities,” Smith emphasized, “She represents some of the most crucial events in the history of the world.” Smith’s first presentation, at the Wake the Dead Coffee House, was a total disaster. “I had my video books and my model of the battleship ready,” Smith said, “there were only a few people and I knew all of them.” After showing the video, when people started to ask questions, Smith suddenly froze. “At that moment I understood, love is not always enough,” Smith smiled and continued, “love without knowledge is incomplete.”

Charles Smith lives in an old trailer in Martindale, Texas near San Marcos. “I have everything I need,” Smith said. Alongside his passion for the battleship and a job that pays his bills, Smith feels there is nothing more he can wish for. “I don’t have a girlfriend or wife and my trailer is big enough for my books,” Smith said.

Smith spent the next two years learning every detail about the Battleship Texas BB-35, WWII, WWI and the history of America’s naval battles from 1914 to 1950. In 2010, He did his second presentation this time at the Grin’s Restaurant. “30 people were staring at me,” Smith said. Two years chasing and collecting the knowledge had paid off. “I was on fire,” Smith added, “there was no question that I couldn’t answer.”

On April 22, 2017, Smith has become an official volunteer at TPWD to represent the Battleship Texas BB-35. “No one is paying me to do it, but still is an honor,” Smith said while was collecting his belongings and putting them back into the boxes. Then he walked toward the horizon and disappeared like a lonely cowboy.

JMC Living-Learning Community Meets with Professionals

Twice during the spring semester, the Journalism and Mass Communication Living-Learning Community traveled to media-related companies for tours and real-world advice from media professionals. The field trips catered to each realm of mass communication: public relations, advertising, electronic media, digital media innovation, and journalism.

First, students toured the Edelman PR firm in downtown Austin where employees discussed different accounts and showed examples of their work for clients like Kentucky Fried Chicken and REI. At Edelman, the Learning Community students had the opportunity to ask interns, newly-hired and experienced PR professionals questions concerning the field and the requirements for working at the firm.

Next, they were immersed into the world of advertising at McGarrah Jessee. The advertising company provided extensive interviews with members of each department to emphasize unique responsibilities and opportunities within the company and industry.

Students learned more about the broadcasting and journalism aspects of the media industry when they traveled to San Antonio to tour KABB Fox 29 and San Antonio Express-News. While at the television station, the aspiring storytellers went behind the scenes to watch a live broadcast of Daytime at Nine from the set. They received a tour of the building from the Lifestyle Associate Producer, Carlos Hernandez. Hernandez, a Texas State alumnus, offered advice on beneficial classes and landing internships in the field.

The last stop at San Antonio Express-News proved the changing industry has much to offer prospective journalists and photographers. After a tour of the newsroom, pressroom, and photography department, the students had a broad understanding of the daily routines at a newspaper. Those interested in sports had the opportunity to meet with the sports editor and receive specific advice.

Each career field trip offered relevant and tangible opportunities of insight and networking that will prepare students for the media professions. We are thankful to have proud alumni and professionals who are willing to spend time with our students!

Story by Lily Reeves, pre-electronic media major

Featured Student Work: Inside the Ring on the Outskirts of San Marcos

SJMC student Victoria Morin created this fantastic piece on Boxing Kings Gym in San Marcos, TX for her final project in Anna Mazurek’s Photojournalism course. Check out the slideshow and her story below!


Jose Perez opened Boxing Kings Gym in 2012 and trains boxers of all ages. It’s about a 10-minute drive off of U.S. Route 281, and is located on the outskirts of San Marcos, Texas.

Perez had been taking his son to train at another boxing gym, Bully Unit, for a few years before he decided to leave and open his own place. Bully Unit was also located in San Marcos and had an efficient facility, with enough space and equipment for training the dozens of members in attendance. The head coach began to sway his priorities away from the children, and staying there was no longer fulfilling for Perez and his son.

One day, Bully Unit was supposed to meet with some of the other boxing gyms from the San Marcos area so the boxers could spar, but the head coach didn’t show up.

“Everyone was ready, but the head coach wasn’t there,” said Perez. “My son was in the ring with no one in his corner. We had to continue without him, and when he finally showed up, everyone was already done. He wasn’t there for the kids, and we weren’t going to stay loyal to someone who didn’t care about his own team.”

That same night, Perez spoke with one of the other parents, Carlos Heredia, and agreed that they needed a new place to train their sons. They originally intended to coach the two kids on the weekends outside one of their homes, but after the other boxers, including Michael Coronado who was fighting professionally, heard about their idea, they wanted to follow. Bully Unit closed five months after that.

It started with four boxers, which was manageable for the pair of newly-proclaimed coaches. They started using a friend’s garage that already had boxing bags set up. Then, as people left Bully Unit and wanted to join Perez and Heredia, it grew from four members, to eight, then to 10 within weeks. They realized the small garage was no longer sufficient. They needed their own gym.

“I opened this gym mostly because I wanted my son to have a stable place to train for the Junior Olympics that were coming up,” said Perez. “After that, he went on to win a couple more fights. Then, all of a sudden he decided he didn’t want to do it anymore. He just quit. We could’ve closed then, but at the same time we want these kids to have a place to train.”

Boxing Kings Gym makes no profit. More money is put into running the gym than the owners accumulate from collecting the monthly membership fee of $40 from each boxer. When someone comes to their gym and isn’t able to afford the fee, they waive it. All the equipment, including the helmets, gloves and bags, was provided by Perez and his wife and is made available to anyone that walks into the gym. He and Heredia built the ring themselves out of wood, ropes and padding.

Perez and his wife, Sara, pride themselves in being able to provide the gym for the community. Most of the current members have been attending the gym since it opened, although not consistently. Most boxers will attend for two or three months, then they stop coming, mainly because of the lack of discipline.

Boxing requires commitment, intense exercise and self-control. Coronado, who is 25 years old, was one of the first four boxers to start training with Perez. He began boxing when he was 16 years old and entered his first fight on his 18th birthday: he won. After that victory, Coronado took a year off.

“Winning my first fight was a big accomplishment for me,” said Coronado. “I felt fulfilled because I had always wanted to box, so I took time off. After a year, I realized how much I missed it, so I came back. Then, I won a couple more fights, took another year off, and it’s been kind of a cycle since. I wasn’t focused, and that’s what killed me. I know if I had more discipline I’d be so much farther by now.”

This pattern is seen frequently by Perez and Jorge Rincon, the assistant coach who joined the team a year after it opened. They will spend time and effort into training each boxer, and then they stop showing up. It’s usually for a variety of reasons, mostly time constraints since most of its members are students. For others, the physical toll on their bodies is too much to bear.

Sebastian Alvarez is another member who has been attending Boxing Kings Gym on and off for four years. He was finally ready to enter his first fight and won, but soon after, he took a blow that was enough to make him quit for a few months. He returned about a year ago and is focused on preparing to fight again.

“He lost passion for boxing all because of that hit,” said Perez. “We train a lot of kids and get to the point where they’re ready to fight, and they disappear. For Sebastian, it took one body shot to make him quit. For others, they don’t even make it to their first fight and they run. They’ll get scared after their first time sparring. They get intimidated. We have the gym, but no fighters.”

Regardless of who leaves or why they left. Perez and his wife still welcome them back. They understand that every one of their boxers has their own obligations that might set them back and keep them from fully committing. It’s more than a team of boxers: it’s a family, and that’s why their members are loyal. When they are ready to return, it’s as if they never left.

If someone comes with the sole intention of getting fit, they are welcomed no less that someone who wants to compete. Each boxer, to the Perez family, contributes something to the gym that increases its value. No one is turned away.

“We’ve been here for those who need us,” said Perez. “How long? I don’t know. As long as the people in San Marcos need a gym, my doors will stay open.”

SJMC’s 2017 Awards Ceremony

The School of Journalism and Mass Communication honored its brightest and best students at the 2017 Awards Ceremony in Old Main on Tuesday. Proud parents, family members, faculty and staff joined in celebrating the scholars’ achievements. Check out the photo slideshow below for a visual recap of the event, and learn about our outstanding student honors!

SJMC alumna and PR professional Jennifer Walsh visits Texas State

SJMC alumna Jennifer Walsh visited Texas State University on Friday morning as a guest speaker in an Intro to Public Relations class. Walsh, who is currently Head of Communications at Covestro, highlighted the importance of writing, personal branding and crisis management as a public relations professional.

Walsh, a former journalism major, said she never imagined she would be working in PR.

“When I was a student, I worked at newspapers and was heavily involved in writing. I never thought I would work with public relations, but now I love it. And I apply my journalism background into everything I do,” said Walsh.

Day-to-day, Walsh is in charge of both internal and external communication for the Bayer subsidiary located in Baytown, TX, including the planning and development of content for electronic billboards, the printed newsletter, the e-newsletter, and even flyers and posters.

“It doesn’t matter where you’re going – you need a foundation in writing,” said Walsh.

Much of Walsh’s job also focuses on building Covestro’s corporate reputation and developing a plan for crisis management. Because most crises can’t be predicted, Walsh explained the importance of being “a good corporate citizen,” saying, “If you haven’t made any donations to charity or you don’t have a presence on social media before a crisis happens, it’s too late.”

Walsh said Covestro has a strategic approach to the events and philanthropies it supports, but it mostly focuses on STEM initiatives, environmental causes, education and workforce development.

“We’re a chemical company, and we have emissions. So much of our strategy is built on how we can offset some of those negative impacts,” said Walsh.

One such initiative is Solar Impulse, a plane that flew around the world last year running completely on solar energy. Covestro not only funded the plane, but its products went into its development.

While Walsh said she loves being part of these positive company-wide efforts, one of the most rewarding aspects of her job is giving back to her local community.

“Especially in this job, I get to do things that benefit the local communities where I live and where my kids go to school,” said Walsh. “It’s things like that that make you feel good.”

Walsh advised students to bone up their digital portfolios and social media. “If I’m hiring someone, I’m looking at your social media,” said Walsh.

Walsh said Twitter, Instagram, Linked In and her personal website have helped her secure her online brand.

Many thanks to Ms. Walsh for speaking to our students on Friday. We love hearing from professionals in the industry, especially SJMC alums!

Alumni Lecture Series, featuring Heloise

The School of Journalism and Mass Communication is honored to feature Southwest Texas State alumna Heloise on Tuesday, March 21 from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. in the Performing Arts Center Recital Hall.

A 1974 graduate, she earned a Bachelor of Science in Education with a double major in Business Administration and Mathematics along with a teacher’s certificate. She is also a recipient of the University’s Distinguished Alumna Award.

Her syndicated newspaper column, “Hints from Heloise,” appears seven days a week across the United States and internationally. She is a contributing editor to and monthly columnist for “Good Housekeeping” magazine, radio host, and author of several books.

Heloise was recognized in 2009 as a Communicator of Achievement by the National Federation of Press Women. She was given the Headliner Award by the Women in Communications and was the first recipient of the National Mental Health Association’s Mental Health Mission Award for her outstanding contribution to mental health education.

The presentation will begin at 5:30 p.m., followed by a reception at 6:30 p.m.. Parking is available at Edward Gary Garage.

Dr. Cindy Royal speaks on integrating digital culture in academia at SXSW

In Saturday’s SXSW Interactive panel “Disrupting J School with Digital Culture”, SJMC’s Dr. Cindy Royal explained how academic institutions can be more nimble by developing a culture of innovation. Joined by University of Southern California Annenberg’s Robert Hernandez, the session started with an introduction to digital culture, then discussed how innovation is happening at each of their respective schools, and ended by providing advice for other academics seeking to introduce digital concepts and topics into curriculum.

Dr. Cindy Royal began by explaining how students have three options when it comes to digital courses in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Texas State University. They can either take digital-focused electives, add a digital concentration to their major, or sign up for a Digital Media Innovation major. With digital courses like the Fundamentals of Digital and Online Media, Coding and Data Skills, Social Media and Analytics and one-credit short courses like Digital Tools: 360 Video & VR, any student has a wide variety of curriculum options from which to choose.

At USC Annenberg’s School for Communication and Journalism, Hernandez said he’s not just preparing students for disruption; he’s preparing them to be leaders of disruption. Through innovative courses that partner with leading media companies such as NPR, the New York Times and ProPublica, Hernandez said diversity in his courses breeds creativity.

“What was magical was the diversity of students from different disciplines and watching them learn from each other. We have students from public relations, communication, gaming, engineering, and each one brings his or her craft to the table. These are different cultures coming together to collaborate, which is what they’ll experience when they enter the real world.”

Overcoming Challenges

Developing innovative curriculum in academia does not come without its challenges. Both Royal and Hernandez explained the disrupting traditional systems is not easy and that funding can often be an issue.

“We do a lot with a little,” said Royal. “Our director Dr. Judy Oskam is great at finding pockets of money for us, and she’s been very open to find funding to support our efforts.”

However, one major misconception about innovation is that it is too costly. While some digital equipment is highly expensive, many tools and hardware isn’t as bad as one might think. The Insta360 camera that Hernandez set up to live-stream the presentation, for example, only cost $199.

“Sometimes, smartphones might be all someone needs for an innovative project.  You can do this with little to no money,” said Royal.

Being a product of a newsroom with a bootstrap budget, Hernandez said he’s used to “hustling with nothing.” Consolidating resources has been one solution for USC, where the school even eliminated some computer labs because so many students already had their own laptops.

Outside of a budget increase, Royal said grants are also a valuable source for funding.”If grants don’t cover equipment, you can set up trips for training,” said Royal. “Get creative, and prioritize your needs.” Both Hernandez and Royal also advised academics to partner and share resources with other organizations and even academic institutions that value innovation.

Building A Culture of Innovation

While a lack of funding can be difficult, affecting the overall digital culture of an organization can be more of a challenge.

“One person can’t do this,” said Royal. “You can’t have that token ‘digital’ person in an organization — you need people who are willing to take their spare time to learn this stuff.”

Hernandez said he often has be his own “hype man” for his projects and goals, especially for those who don’t truly understand what he does.

Overall, the duo’s advice for developing a more innovative culture in academia was to model the behavior first.

“When you show off student projects and successes, people start to take notice. It becomes attractive to other faculty,” said Royal.

Emily Sharp in D.C.

The 2017 Presidential Inauguration was one for the books. As protestors, supporters, heads-of-state and average citizens filled the Capitol building and its grounds on Jan. 20, members of the University Star joined their ranks to cover the big event. Editor-in-chief Emily Sharp attended both the presidential inauguration and the Women’s March, while also covering the Texas State Strutters’ performance for the school newspaper. Sharp sat down with us and shared her experience in Washington, D.C. and attending these historical events.

Q: How did the opportunity come about?

A: “The Friday before we left, we brought it up with our advisor and told him we would love to go but didn’t know if we had the funds for it. He told us he could make that happen and pay for it using travel funds that the University Star had. Going and covering the Strutters’ first-hand was an opportunity we didn’t want to miss. While we were sitting there talking about it, I asked if there was enough money for two people to go. I didn’t want my news editor, Bri, to go alone. It would be dangerous and with the amount of stories to cover, one person wouldn’t be enough. Within two hours they informed us that everything was being sorted out by the travel office and told us that we were going.”

march-in

Photo by Emily Sharp and Bri Watkins

Q: From a journalism and historical standpoint, how important was attending this event to you?

A: “Any inauguration, being able to go to that, for many people, is a once-in-a-lifetime chance, and I don’t know if I’d be able to do that again. That alone was a lot but also the Women’s March, which itself is probably going to be in history books. It was just another thing that I couldn’t believe I got to be a part of. As far as the Strutters’ performance, the university needed to cover something as big as that.”

Q: How do you feel about the backlash received from Texas State students about the stutters performing?

A: “I understand that some people are going to be unhappy about it. I think regardless of the election results people would still be upset that the Strutters attending. Regardless of that, they [the Strutters] get to add to their list of performances that they got to do. They’ve performed in China, they’ve performed at past presidential inaugurations, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. It was a great opportunity for those girls to experience performing on a stage that large.”

womens

Photo by: Emily Sharp and Bri Watkins

Q: What were some main takeaways from attending the inauguration?

A: “Security was ridiculous. I have never seen anything like that up close. The biggest thing I noticed during the inauguration was the split in the people. Whoever went up and spoke had a huge crowd reaction. There were never only polite claps for whoever was up there. Both from the protesters nearby and the people attending the inauguration, there was noise. It was crazy to see the divide so clearly and see all the different types of people. We see a little bit of that on campus, but it’s different to see it on a national scale of people from all around the world.”

Q: What was the Women’s March like?

A: “I noticed the contrast between the people the most. Both [the inauguration and Women’s March] had amazing people and both had not-so-great people. I was so surprised how peaceful the Women’s March was, especially with the slightly violent protest the day before. We expected to see Trump supporters in the streets, but we didn’t see any of that. If we did see someone wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat, nobody was calling them out. It was all very peaceful and I think that was the best way to get their message across. It was huge! It sounded like when you get concessions at a game and you hear the roar of the crowd — that’s what it sounded like throughout the whole city. We were 30 minutes away, walking to our hotel, and you could still hear the roar. It was crazy to see, and the thing I remember the most is seeing the wide variety of ages, types, color — everybody that you could think of to be represented was there. It was something I feel like I’m going to remember for my whole life. Talking to people from both sides really humanized it for me.”

Q: Was there anything that took you by surprise?

A: “The participating peacefully took me by surprise. The amount of security took me by surprise. A lot of people up there [Washington, D.C.] were saying that they’ve never seen that amount of security before. That was interesting to see, I expected to see security but not that amount of security. You felt fenced in everywhere you went, like at any moment you could be trapped in an area. Gates and fences everywhere. They also changed the parade route last minute, so that was a huge surprise. Luckily, we were still able to catch the Strutters. Another thing that took me by surprise was the attendance at the inauguration. The sections were not filled up at all. I was expecting there to be a lot more protesters as well as supporters.”

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to say about your trip as a whole?

A: “I’m really thankful that we got the chance to go. just to be able to record the Strutters’ performance. That has gotten so much attention, there have been people who reached out to us and thanked us for covering it. It was a crazy trip with little sleep but it was so worth it to get these historical aspects and bring them back to Texas State with our coverage on it. There were people from all over following it because we were one of the many news sources covering it. I think if people can, they should attend celebrations of different points of view because that’s the only way to grow and understand. That’s why I do what I do.”

News Engagement Day success!

Despite the disheartening statistics behind Millennials and their involvement with current news, Dr. Kelly Kaufhold spent News Engagement Day (Tuesday, Oct. 4) proving otherwise. Once again, Kaufhold did an amazing job last week engaging students in the best way possible. A “Cash Cab” style questionnaire and fantastic incentives kept the students crossing the front of LBJ Student Center curious. Kaufhold was able to draw in many students enthusiastic to prove their knowledge on current events. Even though some of Kaufhold’s questions left participants scratching their heads, he accumulated large crowds with correct answers! A perfect mix of pop culture and politics revealed that these students are far from letting statistics determine their standards of news involvement.

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Save the Date for Mass Comm Week 2016!

photo-oct-22-1-00-23-pmMass Communication Week (#mcweek) is a few days away, and the SJMC is very excited for this year’s event! The week long conference brings in a wide variety of speakers and panelists, such as Google, Dieste, Univision, and GSD&M, all of which should be of interest to our mass communication students.

In addition to guest speakers and panelists coming to our great school, a variety of workshops and hands-on sessions will be offered to the students. There will be an average of seven sessions scheduled each day. On October 26, there will be a networking etiquette workshop put on by Career Services. The goal is to prepare students for the speed networking event on Oct. 27, immediately followed by the “Network and Chill” informal reception at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday Oct. 27 for students, alumni, faculty, speakers, advisory council and special guests.

Committee Chair Emmeline Olson, said she is looking forward to the various networking and career development sessions. “What seem like basic or innate skills actually need to be learned and practiced,” said Olson. She added, “Some of the other sessions are more knowledge- or learning-based. The soft skills gained from the networking and career development events create that next step toward getting a job.”

Mass Comm Week committee member A.J Arreguin will oversee the Public Relations, Photography and Hachar teams made up of undergraduate students who are putting the entire event together. Arreguin said he is excited to see how his team members will implement their ideas for the entire event.

The full schedule is posted on the website (txstatemcweek.com). Check the schedule and arrive early because space may be limited. You can follow them on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat for the latest updates.