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The Magazine of the Ellis College of Arts and Sciences

FORGE Turns 20 Stress Science Movie Mentors Gaming Glory

Henderson State University Vol. 20, Summer 2018

From the Dean

Dr. Angela Boswell Dean of The Ellis College of Arts and Sciences

Welcome to the 20th edition of Forge magazine. For two decades, this magazine has provided Ellis College an opportunity to keep in touch with our alumni and to highlight some of the incredible experiences and accomplishments of our students, alumni, and faculty. One of the most remarkable aspects of this magazine is that the articles are written by and the art work produced primarily by current students, under the guidance of faculty members Michael Taylor and David Stoddard. Over one hundred students have contributed to Forge, making lasting contributions to Ellis College memories and gaining valuable experience in producing magazines. Elsewhere in this issue, you will find an opportunity to help continue this fine production and support current students in the process by becoming a “Friend of Forge.� Our Friends will be listed in each future issue, and for their generosity we will be very grateful. It has been an exciting year in Ellis College with many transitions. I was named the dean in December. Dr. Debra Coventry, professor of mathematics, will be the associate dean, in charge of assessment and curriculum, and Dr. Vincent Dunlap, associate professor of chemistry, will be the assistant dean responsible for budgets, planning, student travel and awards.

Dr. Debra Coventry Associate Dean

The Masters of Liberal Arts has a new director, Dr. Megan Hickerson, and two new exciting interdisciplinary tracks: Media and Popular Culture; and Society and Identity. This fall, we will open two new graduate degrees. The Masters of Science in Nursing tracks will be Family Nurse Practitioner and Nursing Administration, with options to earn a graduate certificate in Nurse Education. Henderson is also seeking a status change to allow our first doctoral program to be offered in the future: Doctorate of Nursing Practice. We are excited about the new opportunities for graduate education, but, as always, Ellis College remains dedicated to the undergraduate experience, and changes are occurring there as well. New programs are growing, with our first graduate in Wildlife Biology, and new faculty members in Engineering and Innovative Media. Our long-established programs in the arts, humanities, and sciences continue to thrive, offering students the opportunities to pursue their intellectual curiosity while acquiring those skills that will lead to a lifetime of learning and career success.

Dr. Vincent Dunlap Assistant Dean

I hope you enjoy the articles and artwork in this issue of Forge which highlight just a few of the thousands of success stories that constitute the Ellis College of Arts and Sciences.

Content Volume 20 2018

The Magazine of Ellis College President Glen Jones

Provost Steve Adkison

Dean of Ellis College Angela Boswell

Forge Editorial Board Angela Boswell David Stoddard Michael Ray Taylor Designers David Stoddard Zac Walthall Angela Yang

Editors Angela Boswell Scott McKinnon Michael Taylor Contributors Angela Boswell Rae Dinger James Engman Steve Fellers Heath Herring Ashley Smith David Stoddard Mike Taylor

Cover Illustration Design by David Stoddard based on photos by Zac Walthall

Liberal artists profit on the love of the western world Page 2

Dream Works Page 6

Africa: Up close and personal Page 11

Women change the state of Texas Page 12

Collaborating on stress Page 14

I’m game Page 18

New certificates in Ellis College Page 20

FORGE is published yearly by the Henderson State University Matt Locke Ellis College of Arts and Sciences. Through profiles and current news, the magazine serves as a personal link connecting the college to its alumni and other related communities. The FORGE staff, composed of students and faculty, strives for excellence in magazine journalism through fair reporting and high quality photography and design. To suggest topics for future FORGE articles or to comment on the magazine, please email


Brothers follow their passions to surprising destinations

“We just sort of fell into it by chance.� 2

By Kelly Wood with additional staff reports Heath Herring, left, in the field with Matt.

One reason the brothers Heath and Matt Herring took a while longer than most in their undergraduate careers at Henderson was that each pursued a separate passion on the side. For Heath, a mass media major, that passion was photography and photojournalism. For Matt, at times a communication and marketing major before ultimately switching to integrated studies, the passion was writing, singing and playing rock music. Neither imagined that these side pursuits would lead them to form a growing Internet-based retail business. To get there, each brother had to follow his passion. The two grew up in Bismarck, a small community between Arkadelphia and Hot Springs. Matt recalls roaming nearby fields and creeks with a friend, pretending to be professional adventurers as they skipped rocks and scouted secret fishing holes. After high school, he briefly attended Arkansas State University as a biology major, intending to study insects, but he became interested in mass media and transferred to Henderson, where his brother was involved with student television.

Heath, meanwhile, made a nearly random course selection that would change everything. “Photography was an elective I was reluctant to take, because it sounded like a lot of work,” he said. “But I was late registering that semester, and it was one of the only electives still available.” He took a chance. “I was hooked a week into it,” he said. “I’ve been doing it ever since.” Throughout his time at Henderson, Matt became active in the Little Rock and Hot Springs music scene. His band, She Breathes Fire, recorded an album in 2012 at Starlight Studios in Orlando. They also shot several music videos, including one in which Matt plays a vintage Mafia boss and Heath plays a corrupt Hot Springs policeman. That same year Heath took off for an extended photography job in Hawaii. Eventually, Matt’s band separated and he returned to Henderson to complete his degree. Heath also returned to Arkansas. One day in 2014, the two started complaining about straps— specifically camera straps for Heath and guitar straps for Matt. “We just sort of fell into it by chance,” Matt said.

They both realized they wanted a simple, more reliable strap than anything they had found commercially and decided to make their own. “Almost all guitar straps have been the same for as long as I can remember,” Matt said. “One strap across one shoulder to hold the entire weight of your guitar. It’s simple and gets the job done, but I knew it could be better.” Together they created a design that could work interchangeably for cameras, guitars, and several other things. They focused on comfort by means of double-shoulder weight distribution and gave it an attractive appearance resembling a noir detective’s double-shoulder holster—something like the one Matt had sported as a crime boss in his music video. “When we worked on the prototype, we used leather,” Matt said. “We found out quickly that we had a knack for leatherwork.” When they finally finished the prototype strap, their apartment was a mess. “We knew two things at that point” Matt, said. “We needed to do more


with our newly discovered talents, and cleanup would have to be a constant priority.” The brothers were so happy with their strap design, they started talking about a plan to market it. In the meantime, they began making other leather products, such as phone and passport journals, wallets and cigar cases. Through experimentation, they developed a signature stitch that they used on each new design. “The fact that we saddle-stitch and cross-stitch by hand made our gear ten times tougher than anything you could buy for a few bucks at the store,” Matt said. The two realized they had the basis for a company, one whose focus was “to make gear that looks amazing and lasts forever.” As a result of a feature writing class, Heath had published an essay and photographs about a hike to Hallett Peak in Colorado: “Hallett Peak” became their brand. Using skills developed in student media, they created a website, (not dot-com) including photographs of their designs. Soon orders began pouring in from as far away as Germany. As the business grew, so did Heath’s freelance photography business. Matt gradually took over daily operation, even as he prepared to graduate in the fall of 2017. “This past year has really been a refining period for Hallett Peak,” he said in a recent interview. “My online inventory was all over the place, and I was also going back and forth on some key design elements. It finally hit me that I needed to focus more on brand identity for this thing to really catch a spark.” As with their first effort, he decided the next step was “cleaning up the mess,” which meant eliminating some products from the website. “It wasn’t easy throwing designs out, but I eventually reached the core of what belonged.” “The Castaway” telescopic cigar case was their biggest online seller, so Matt chose that as a flagship item. 4

“Voila!” he said. “Brand identity: Hallett Peak produces luxury handcrafted leather cigar cases with an attractive and exclusive signature stitch.” Matt has worked on increasing production volume with a die-press and custom dies. “Of course, the hand-stitching will always take up a ton of time,” he added, “but that’s not changing; that’s where the magic is.” Heath, meanwhile, landed a series of photographic assignments from the Stetson hat company that sent him to classic western locations over the past year. “I grew up around cowboy boots, Wrangler jeans, ten-gallon hats, farm life and small-town rodeos,” he said. “It’s the one area of my work I can tap into like second nature. When I rediscovered this interest as an adult and created work around this style, it resonated with my audience in a powerful way.”

Each small western photo shoot led to another, so he started reaching out to larger brands. In the summer of 2018 he traveled to New Mexico to photograph a collaboration between Wrangler and Stetson. “Seeing two iconic brands come together for the first time is cool

enough on its own,” he said. “But creating this moment, bringing them together through a project I created and directed, is something I’m still trying to wrap my mind around.” He said the key was the storytelling skills he had taken from Henderson. “When I first left school, I did a lot of writing,” he said. “But then it became a question of ‘How can I make a buck?’” The answer was photography, but after years of honing his craft, he found success by returning to his storytelling and photojournalism roots. “Everything I’ve done for Stetson, and now for Wrangler has been photobased storytelling,” he said. Heath’s visual stories appear in blogs and social media of both companies. “I’m headed to Oregon in September to shoot a documentary photo series for Wrangler,” he said. “We’re photographing the Pendleton Round-Up, a historical rodeo, from a story-driven, lifestyle perspective. Should be fun!” Meanwhile, he continues to assist Matt between photo trips. “I’m active with the business,” Heath said. “But Matt is the mastermind behind everything currently happening with Hallett Peak. I’m involved with a lot of the networking, marketing and content creation, which flows naturally with everything else I’m doing on the road.” Matt feels the business has succeeded to the point where he too can return to his passion. “I’ve been focusing a bit on finally writing a new album that’s worthy of legitimate studio time in Nashville with my old producers,” he said. “Of course,” he added, “Hallett Peak comes first. The new album will happen when the time is right.” After several changes of majors, with starts and stops along the way, he finally completed his Henderson degree. “I have taken away a wealth of knowledge,” he said of his long academic journey. “Skills from every major I’ve studied have all had a huge bearing on the growing success of Hallett Peak.”

Heath still lacks a few credits before he can graduate in mass media, a situation for which he remains unapologetic. “I feel like a lot of people go to college to get a degree because they’re afraid they won’t find a job otherwise,” he said. “Overemphasizing that principal scares some from pursuing things they’re passionate about. I believe this causes people to value the diploma disproportionately more than the education behind it.” He said these thoughts specifically ran through his mind before what should have been his final semester before graduation. “I was presented with a wild business opportunity,” he said. “I took it, and it became the catalyst behind everything my career has become. I had the education without the paper, and I rolled the dice.” He adds that stories like his should probably come with a “don’t try this at home” disclaimer. In his case, he thinks he made the right choice. “It took a long time for me to view college as valuable education rather than a cure for the fear of unemployment,” he said. “While I may never use a degree to seek a specific job, I use my education every day.” He still hopes to graduate for personal fulfillment. “As you can imagine, being mobile is an important part of what I do,” he said. “As soon as it’s possible for me to finish that degree from various remote locations, I’m in.” Photography by Heath Herring Design by Angela Yang



Mentors create success for students, making new mentors.

By Michael Ray Taylor

Design by Angela Yang

A Generous Act In the spring of 2011, Johnny Wilson, a 1995 Henderson art graduate, returned to Henderson to talk to students about his work creating Hollywood special effects. He had come to campus under an Ellis College Margin of Excellence grant, which each semester brings in experts to engage academic programs in a variety of ways: public lectures, classroom visits, art shows, concerts, and other projects involving faculty, students and the community.

Shortly after graduation, Wilson had volunteered to help edit a low-budget Arkansas film, Billy Bob Thorton’s Slingblade. The success of that and other volunteer work in Los Angeles eventually led him to a career producing digital effects for network television shows and bigbudget films, including the 2011 Marvel Studios hit, Thor, a story related in a profile of Wilson in that year’s Forge magazine. As Wilson described his job to a digital art class during his visit, one student hanging on every word was Gabrielle Ray—Gabby to her friends. “I was really floored,” she recalled. “Not only was he working on cool stuff, he was also a Henderson alum, so his career really felt personal and accessible to me.” She had grown up reading comics and “devouring” films, older classics that she thought she was probably too young to be watching, such as Jaws, Taxi Driver and A Fish Called Wanda. Before coming to Henderson, she had drawn her own comics and storyboarded her own movie ideas. As a student in David Stoddard’s class, she had created a short animation, which was one of several student works he showed that day to Wilson. She dreamed of creating professional computergenerated images (CGI or CG for short). “Gabby Ray stood out,” Wilson said in recent a phone interview (given as he commuted to work at Marvel Studios the morning after a wrap party for Ant-Man and the Wasp). “I knew what

it was like to be her. She had a lot of really great questions. They were the kind of questions that I had when I was in her shoes.” He realized this was an opportunity to provide what he hadn’t had, which was Maya software that could be the stepping stone to go where she wanted to go. “She wanted to do CG,” he said. “I remember trying to teach myself CG way before, back in 1995, and it was not easy.” At over $1,000, he knew the software was too expensive for most college students and too specialized for art classes. He also knew he was getting a $2,000 speaker’s honorarium under the Margin of Excellence grant. “I thought even before I came back that if I helped push one student in the right direction it would be worth it,” he said. Wilson recognized Ray’s excitement for film. “Her enthusiasm reminded me of me,” he said, deciding on the spot to donate his honorarium toward the purchase of animation software for her, along with After Effects training for another student. “In a way, it was a little bit selfish,” he recalled. “It was like going back in time and saying to my younger self, ‘I’m going to help you out.’” “The fact that he was so gracious with his gift really touched me,” she said. She was able to learn Maya early, getting acquainted with the software’s user interface and capability before graduating. “It really gave me a head start when I began studying at the Savannah College of Art and Design.”


“It was another example of someone seeing potential in me and reaching out to help me.” – Gabby Ray

Gabby Ray supervised on animation for Spirit Riding Free a series produced by DreamWorks TV for Netflix Fast forward seven years. Ray is an animation artist for the DreamWorks television series Spirit Riding Free, now in its fifth season on Netflix. After working on a baker’s dozen Marvel films since the first Thor, Wilson has become Marvel’s in-house lead compositor. “I’m really happy that she works at DreamWorks,” Wilson said. “I see her out here once in a while and I’m really proud of her.” Both graduates say they owe their careers to a willingness to work hard, to Henderson, and to the breaks they got from specific mentors.

Stepping Stones In Wilson’s case, the mentor who gave him his first break was Gary Simmons, Henderson professor of art. As a senior art student, Wilson was expected to produce a senior show. Because Simmons knew Wilson’s dream was to work in film, he allowed him to skip a more traditional graphic project and instead create an animated film. “I spent two or three months in a little bitty room in RFA shooting a 10-minute stop-motion animation,” Wilson said. “I had a one-to-one


shooting ratio because I didn’t have money or time to go back and redo anything.” He laughed, recalling that “the whole thing was a little out of focus because I just didn’t understand cameras.” But what stood out for Wilson was that his professor had “actually cared enough to let me pursue something in the field I was actually interested in.” At the time of his senior show, he joked with Simmons that one day he would make a film and put him in it. In 2012, he got that chance. That year, he worked as a visual effects supervisor on Odd Thomas, his last film for a company other than Marvel. “I had a nice little break before coming back to work on Iron Man 3,” Wilson said. One day while coming home from the gym, he heard Pink Floyd’s “Time” on the radio. “I started thinking about the lyrics,” he said. “You better do things before the time’s up.” Working at Marvel had not allowed him an opportunity to do anything other than his job. Wilson had always wanted to create computer generated effects such as dinosaurs, castles and dragons, so with several months of free time, he

decided to create and film a script that would let him use effects that he taught himself. “I wrote it in two days,” he recalls, adding, “don’t ever write something in two days and then commit to making it.” He did six weeks of preproduction, then devoted two weeks to shooting the short film Girl of My Dreams. “I always thought it would be fun to keep that promise to Gary Simmons,” he said. “It turned out there was a character in the short that he would be perfect for, so I flew him out here.” The filming went well, but as postproduction began, Wilson had to return to work at Marvel. “I wrote it with the intention of challenging myself to do a different sort of visual effects than I done before,” Wilson explained. “I made it really hard for myself.” It took him four years and six Marvel movies to finish his own film. As his Marvel career continued, the job of compositor became ever more demanding. For the effects-heavy film Dr. Strange, he gave up his daily commute in LA traffic. “I actually rented an apartment right down the street from Disney, so that I could work from

9 until 8,” he said, “and then soon as everyone left I would close the door and keep working until 2 a.m. and then walk home.” With no commute, he could sleep a little extra before repeating the same schedule the next day. Despite working that schedule for nearly five months, Wilson finished “the crazy visual effects” on his own film at the end of postproduction on Dr. Strange. He had to shorten his film’s planned length from 40 to 20 minutes, in the process removing many of Gary Simmons’s lines. After its release in 2017, Girl of My Dreams earned nine separate awards at various festivals, including Best Comedy/Dramedy at the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival, the Grand Prize at the Rhode Island International Film Festival, and the jury prize for Best Narrative Short Film at the Fayetteville Film Festival back home in Arkansas.

A Long Journey Gabby Ray did not immediately catapult herself to Hollywood after Wilson’s visit to Henderson. While at the Savannah College of Art and Design, she was able to do three summer internships. “They gave me the networking advantage that is super important in a small field like animation and visual effects,” she said. The first was as a production assistant on the long-running animated series, The Simpsons. There she met her future line producer of her current show. “It was so valuable to test out living in LA for three months and being able to decide that the city was for me,” she said. Her next internship was in Columbus, Ohio, at a small boutique studio. “I got to wear many hats and be responsible for different aspects of the CG pipeline— texturing, rigging, animation, even some concept work,” she said. Her final internship was at another boutique studio in New York where she worked in online advertising. But when it was over, the company they didn’t have the budget to hire another full-time artist, so she went back to Savannah and applied to as many studios as possible while freelancing from home.

She also used her contacts to look for other production assistant jobs. Despite the low pay and long hours, she knew such “PA” work could open doors within her field. Through her former Simpsons supervisor she landed a couple of PA interviews with DreamWorks. “They ultimately chose someone already in LA,” she said. “I was bummed, but figured it just wasn’t in the cards for me.” Then, in February 2016, DreamWorks called asking if she would like to interview as Animation Artist for the company’s new Spirit show. Something about her previous work and persistence had caught their attention. “I was floored!” she said. “It was another example of someone seeing potential in me and reaching out to help me. I have always been astounded by the kindness in the animation industry. If you work hard and are personable, someone will see it.” Now she works in a supervisory position, coordinating animation scripts with overseas animators based in India. Trying to minimize confusion across language barriers, she writes for every shot, including character motivation or any technical tricks she thinks will help make a shot work.

“I really like it because it allows me to be involved with the entire show and in a sense ‘direct’ the animation,” she said. Like Wilson, she has pursued personal projects around a very demanding day job. She has been developing her own short film, which she hopes to produce within the next year. But she can never forget the act of kindness that first steered her toward her dream career. “I’ve since tried to pay it forward,” she said, “and help out students when I can.”

Images courtesty of Marvel Studios, DreamWorks Animation SKG, Inc., Johnny Wilson, and Gabby Ray


Gabby Ray’s advice for becoming a successful Hollywood animator • Draw every day. Even if you want to go into CG, drawing will inform how you stage a shot and help all of your art skills tremendously. • Intern. Becoming a skilled artist is only half the battle. You have to be friendly and personable, both skills you can develop as an intern. • Play nice. Most studios will be willing to bring on an inexperienced yet friendly person. No one wants to work with a jerk!

From Gabby’s sketchbooks

Crazy Compositing: Johnny Wilson describes his work for Marvel What I do: Compositing is what it sounds like in regards to elements of film. You lay elements on top of one another and create a new composition. It’s kind of like using Photoshop for film. I don’t do stuff that stands out. I don’t put the Hulk into shots or put spaceships in the mix. When it comes to effects I do a lot of wire rig removal and what we call vanity fixes—removing blemishes and so on. An example from Ant-Man and The Wasp: One shot that took me a long time was a 360. The camera moves all around the room with a bunch of characters, and the poor boom guy is trying to follow the camera with his microphone and keep out of the picture. He and his mic kept getting in the shot. There are a lot of windows in the room, and you can see his reflection everywhere. It’s not very exciting, but what you’ll never know while watching the film is that there was a boom mic guy in the 360 trying desperately not to get yelled at. How compositing is changing Hollywood: Digital technology allows us to take steps in film-making that have never been done before. If the microphone guy gets into the shot, it’s not a wasted take. It’s cheaper to remove him than to shoot a complex scene over. Another thing that’s changed is the editing process. When a director can’t decide which of two takes he likes, compositing lets him use both. There may be two people in a scene, and one character has a performance he likes more in one take, while the other character does better in a second take. We splice them together to get the best performance. Post-production editing is almost like reshooting the scene. Errors Erased: Because many cinemas are digital now, they use what’s called a DCP. It’s a big file that theatres access instead of giant reels of film. If someone goes to the theatre and says, “Oh my gosh, you can totally see the wire in that scene,” and they blog about it, people go and see it later and say, “I didn’t see the wire.” That’s because we fixed it in the DCP. Endless revisions: A studio can actually adjust to reactions in the theatre, even after a film opens. If they are unhappy with how a joke goes over, they can make a new joke or use a different clip, and slip it into the DCP. Ant-Man and The Wasp comes out July 6, we’re talking on June 13 and I’m still at work. They had the wrap party last night, and I did a shot yesterday. I’m going to do two more shots today. The film is actually never finished. 10

It was like going back in time and saying to my younger self, ‘I’m going to help you out.’ Have you ever wanted to go back in time and help out your younger self? There are many ways that you can help current students at Henderson. Would you like to come back and talk to a class? Are you willing to help a student network with professionals in your field? Please contact the Alumni Association to volunteer.

Call or Email


Or, can you make a contribution to an academic program or student scholarships?

Visit and contribute to the Ellis College Endowment, or specify the arts, the sciences, or the humanities and social sciences. You may also designate your gift for a scholarship for a student in a specific department by choosing other. Even small donations make a big difference! Thank You.

Dr. Angela Boswell Dean of Ellis College of Arts and Sciences

Africa Journey of discovery Dr. Jamie Engman, professor of biology

There is a certain focus and appreciation for wildlife that comes when, at 2 in the morning, you realize that the only thing separating you and your wife from the lion that you hear outside is a thin layer of tent fabric.

Travel is like that: It can bring a clarity that we may not see at home. As so often happens with travel abroad, a recent trip to southern Africa with Lori Freno, my wife, made clear that however far from home one travels, we are all really one people. We experienced this truth with delightful kids in a grade school in Botswana, with a family in a rural village in Zambia, with our guides in Zimbabwe, and around many campfires with local people singing their traditional songs in remarkable harmonies. It was really brought home, though, on a visit to the township of Soweto, South Africa, where we saw a street corner memorial to slain anti-apartheid activist Stephen Biko. On that memorial was a quote, not from Nelson Mandela or Archbishop Desmond Tutu, but from our own Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Of course, the wildlife was exceptional. There is not room here to list all of the species we saw “up close and personal” from our open-sided 4x4s. We were cautioned never to stand up when viewing wildlife, as they typically see the vehicle as a large, inedible unit, but standing could let them recognize that there were smaller, tastier items inside. Highlights included elephants, giraffes, lions, leopards, cheetahs, zebra, Cape buffalo, hippos, crocodiles, spotted hyenas, jackals … the list

goes on. We even had two unexpected sightings of African painted dogs, the most endangered predator on the continent, with fewer than 5000 remaining. The accommodations were great fun. Our group of 14 stayed in tents, but not quite what most people would picture. These were more permanent structures, with floors and indoor plumbing. The camps were open and unsecured, so it was common for wildlife to move through, including lions, leopards and hippos. Guards escorted us to our tents at night, and we were not allowed to leave until sunrise. Although we were prepared for the weather, it was still a bit of a shock how cold it got. Morning temperatures were frequently in the 40s, and the tents were not heated. May is winter in southern Africa. Most camps were isolated and far from towns, so getting there involved small planes and bush airstrips. In my time at Henderson, I have been lucky enough to take 31 groups of biology students out of the country, usually to coral reef destinations. In addition to providing a vacation adventure for Lori and me, this was an “exploratory trip” to evaluate if a future excursion to southern Africa might make sense for Henderson students. It does.


Lone Star Women Angela Boswell pens comprehensive history of women in Texas By Ashley Smith

The oldest human remains in North America were found in Midland, Texas. Dated at 20,000 years old, they belong to a woman nicknamed Midland Minnie.


From that archaic period to the present day, women have played important roles in shaping the history of Texas, yet the full extent of those roles have often gone unrecorded by historians. With Women in Texas History, to be published by the Texas A&M University Press in November, Dr. Angela Boswell, dean and professor of history, sets out to correct this oversight. “I wrote it because people need to challenge the masculine narrative that is the history of Texas,” Boswell said. Exploring women across all social classes, the book examines the life, limits and legacies of these women within the

historical timeline. It follows her earlier work Her Act and Deed along with several anthologies she co-edited, such as the awardwinning Women in Civil War Texas, published in 2016. Balancing administration duties, a teaching career and the daily stresses of life is never easy, but drafting a book on top of it took discipline and motivation. Boswell found herself getting up at 5 a.m. to achieve at least one hour a day of writing, no matter how tired she was. Writing before “her brain turned on” was the best way to get the work in, even if it was her least favorite part of authoring a book.

“ When we see what they did… it empowers every single one of us because we can make a difference.”

“If you want to be honest, I hate writing,” Boswell said. “I love doing research and I love publishing stuff. But, I do it because good things do not come easy.” Along the way she battled “inner word demons” claiming she wasn’t good enough. Reading through volumes of published pieces, even when they mostly explored what men of the time were contributing, then piecing together tidbits of the women briefly mentioned helped her to create a narrative. Sometimes she realized there was a gaping hole in a chapter, and she had to dig deeper. Endless edits and rewrites were a source of frustration, but Boswell found support within a writers group of other published professors on campus. Meeting regularly to share feedback on each other’s current works in progress, the circle of teachers helped her find direction for the finished book. The book places emphasis on the treatment of women of different races throughout Texas history. A photo on the cover, for example, features an enslaved woman who chose to stay with her former master after emancipation. Boswell’s earlier work as a Southern historian enabled her to apply earlier concepts about women in the South to some parts of the state. West Texas, however, proved a little different. Faced with barren land, settlers there

had to figure out how to build and keep a home. Getting creative, they dug out the sides of hills to live in. In one case, as a woman treated her family and visitors to a proper dinner, “A dang cow stepped through the roof.” “I howled when I read that story,” Boswell said still giggling. “It’s an example of the depravations that women went though and especially the isolation in the west part of the state.” The struggles of Texas women have been explored before, but never with the focus and diversity of this new book, which moves chronologically from prehistory to the late Twentieth Century in its 400 pages. The women she examines along the way ultimately “changed the state of Texas,” Boswell said. “When we see what they did over this period of time, it empowers every single one of us because we can make a difference.” Facing page photo: “A pioneer West Texas picnic party, Misses Mary, Annie and Lelia Smith, and George Mayes eating watermelon which washed down the Blanco Canyon during a flood in 1899.” Courtesy of University of Texas at Arlington. This page clockwise: The cover of Dr. Angela Boswell’s new book. Boswell presenting at the Texas State Historical Association Annual Meeting. Farah Manufacturing Company strikers and supporters, El Paso, Texas, 1972. Photographer unknown. Courtesy of Kheel Center, Cornell University.


Story by Ashley Smith

Ellis College professors investigate the science of stress

Dr. Emilie Beltzer 14


Cortisol Testing Stress

Stress is no stranger to college students, especially during finals week. The university offers stress relief workshops and counseling, yet students dedicated to success too often find themselves overwhelmed mentally and physically.

By Ashley Smith

For over a year, an interdisciplinary study created by Henderson professors of psychology and chemistry, assisted by a professor in mathematics, has involved students as both research assistants and test subjects. The study’s goal: exploring the physiology of academic stress. Dr. Emilie Beltzer, assistant professor of psychology, and Dr. David Bateman, associate professor of chemistry and director of undergraduate research, set out to understand the science of stress using hormonal changes in students taking an exam—which they measured through spit samples. Dr. Holly Morado, instructor of mathematics, help the two devise a plan to examine volunteer students in intermediate algebra courses. They had to create the study in such a way that it would not affect students’ primary goal, which was to pass the test. With approval from Henderson’s Institutional Review Board, researchers and their students began by visitng Morado’s classes on routine lecture days, which were expected to be relatively stress free. 15


+ 2 x

+ x b

“Some coping strategies might be effective for one person but not for the other. It would be

great if future research could sort that out.” – Dr. Alan Reifman

Willing participants were swabbed to measure their cortisol level. Sometimes called the “stress hormone,” cortisol is released whenever stress occurs in the body, even if the stressed person does not realize it. As the college students becomes used to daily stress, they may be unaware of toll stress takes on their bodies. “Cortisol is the biomarker for stress,” Bateman said. “It’s the gold standard.” Because it gives a measurable physiological response, it can be used to monitor how stress changes in a given situation. The lecture day baseline was compared to exam-day stress, when researchers would sample students at different times throughout the test. Surprisingly, as an exam went on, cortisol levels went down. Anticipatory stress seemed to be higher than the actual pressure of taking the exam. “People can stress themselves out simply by what’s happening in their heads,” Beltzer explained. “It’s nothing that’s happening in real time, in front of you.” The team also tested stress by focusing on a common student fear: public speaking. Beltzer did this with teams of two students, randomly assigning one to give a speech and one to observe it. After a bit of time to plan, the speaker would give a minimally prepared talk, no notes allowed, in front of Beltzer and the observing student. Her prediction was on point: The speaker showed signs of discomfort, began losing eye contact, and sometimes even went silent for the duration of the presentation. The observer’s reactions were unexpected, though. Whenever speakers faltered, observers displayed empathy and became uncomfortable themselves. As the stress levels increased in a speaker, they 16

also went up for the person observing. The team faced struggles as the study progressed. Coordinating three professors’ schedules, collecting data, and handling a growing body of data all proved difficult. “We evaluated between two to three courses per semester for three semesters,” explained Colton Lechak, a senior biochemistry major and student assistant to the study. “Data analysis took about an hour per course sample. Naturally, time added up.” Collecting the samples became the biggest obstacle. For willing student researchers and the professors to find the same time to meet to collect samples was a hard enough task. Getting students to ask for spit in a tube didn’t help. “We had a couple of students who were up and coming, really excited for it, but you can never plan for that,” Bateman said. “The training and getting people certified to work with human subjects is very detailed. It can be tedious to learn.” Once student researchers were trained and ready to go, however, the collections tended to run smoothly. “It makes it a lot easier for everyone involved,” Bateman said. One element that kept faculty and students engaged in the project was their own past stress experiences. The initial curiosity to test students became personal and motivated volunteers to keep collecting samples. The study provided an opportunity for interdisciplinary work within a popular academic acronym: STEM, or Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. A STEM field student himself, Lechak wanted to look out for his peers. He felt the chance work on the study could help

with the familiar and well-known STEM problem of test anxiety. “One of the potential outcomes is improving aspects of education, like student study habits, administration procedures or even to improve teaching style,” Lechak said. “These possibilities only help the knowledge given by instructors and received by students. It’s a win-win for everyone.” In recent years, Bateman and his colleagues had seen a rise in students wanting to major in STEM studies, but few graduated within these fields. This decline applied not only at Henderson but throughout Arkansas. Other studies had shown that a strong predictors of persistence in STEM is performance in college algebra, a subject where many students struggle. “I’ve given my class a more structured approach because of this research,” Bateman said. “I know where they’re coming from now. When they know what to expect, they are more at ease, prepared and therefore less stressed.” Beltzer plans to continue stress research by investigating how an individual’s background plays into stress management. “Being able to be curious about something and dig into it is what excites me,” she said. “What can I learn from personality traits? What coping mechanisms will help? Understanding individual differences is key to finding a solution.” Creating stress management methods for everyone may be possible, but individualizing methods may or may not prove to be more effective. Dr. Alan Reifman, professor of human


FORGE and development studies at Texas Tech University, agrees with this unique approach. “Some people are optimistic by nature and others pessimistic,” Reifman said. “Some coping strategies might be effective for one person but not for the other. It would be great if future research could sort that out.” As the Ellis College researchers trek on, preliminary results are pointing toward new solutions for stressed-out students. Eventually, more than students might benefit from these types of studies, as data is analyzed and results are recognized, affecting other aspects of education. The team hopes to see minds and bodies improved. “We’re trying to give numbers to and do something about the stress that we have all felt for years when we go in to take a test,” Bateman said. “Whether it be a driving test or a math test, everyone needs to learn how to manage their stress better.” The team continues this work, one drop of spit at a time.

We hope you enjoyed this issue of Forge magazine. For 20 years, Forge has highlighted many of the accomplishments and activities of our students, faculty and alumni. We hope it has been helpful in keeping you in contact with Ellis College.

If you find Forge valuable, if you want to support the efforts of the students who write the articles and produce the artwork, or if you just want to show your support for Ellis College, please consider becoming a “Friend of Forge.” All who make a $25 donation or more will be listed in our next issue as a Friend. Go to and designate “Friends of Froge” to make an immediate impact, or mail your check made payable to HSU Foundation with “Friends of Forge” in the memo line to:

HSU Foundation HSU Box 7550 Arkadelphia, AR 71999

Thank you

Student researchers prepare samples to test cortisol levels


PLAY POWER “I found I had a talent for scientific problem solving. That turns out to be a big part of opening a small business.” – Coley Henson

Henderson’s founding nerd opens an Arkadelphia gaming store By Rae Dinger


In the fall of 2013, Coley Henson, a general studies major with a love of roleplaying and video games, started a job as a resident adviser in Newberry Hall. As he mingled with hundreds of new freshmen, he began to notice what he called “patterns of interaction” among the male students. “These were the kind of people that I would like to hang out with and share my nerd stuff,” he said. “But different groups didn’t know similar groups existed in the same dorm, just down the hall.” To bring these groups together he announced a meeting for students interested in gaming and fantasy role play. Before long this small dorm club had evolved into a wildly popular Henderson student organization: The League of Nerds. After graduating in 2016, Henson, 24, used his love of nerd culture to create a new business in downtown Arkadelphia.

In September 2017, Atlas Gaming (called simply “Atlas” by loyal customers) opened on Main Street. With Magic: The Gathering card tournaments, weekly Dungeons & Dragons sessions, and gaming consoles set up on a flatscreen TV, the shop has become a haven for local gamers. Henson grew up outside of Hot Springs and attended public schools in Bismarck. Adopted into a foster family when he was six years old, he had always been drawn to into fantasy and imagination. Eventually, he discovered video games on his on his mother’s Super Nintendo system. He and his two brothers spent hours with Donkey Kong and Super Mario World. When their mother bought a PlayStation 2, the brothers began saving and pooling their money for new video games. Henson began to dream of a career that would let him keep playing. “Even before college, I knew I wanted to work for myself and be my own boss,” he said. Once arriving at Henderson, he gravitated toward the general studies program because it allowed him to “hand-pick” the classes he wanted to take. He was especially interested in psychology and philosophy. He found what he called “nerd-based” psychology courses with Dr. Travis Langley, a well-known expert in comics and popular culture, but he also found other courses that helped him understand people and their motivations. Dr. Steven Todd’s courses in logic helped him develop a structured form of planning. As an honors student, he developed good study habits and an academic work ethic through courses with honors program director Dr. David Thompson. “I found I had a talent for scientific problem solving,” he said. “That turns out to be a big part of opening a small business.” Henson set out to combine those “good, studious habits” from the honors program with what he had learned from psychology and philosophy and develop a plan to pursue his dreams. “I knew I wanted to do something to target the nerd demographic after I graduated,” he said. At first he had the idea for an internet café, a place for communal gaming, dining and lounging. After researching that, he discovered that opening a café presented some heavy obstacles for a young entrepreneur. “So I looked into what it took to create a local game store instead.”

With today’s online retail world, traditional brick-and-mortar stores face more challenges than ever before. Henson knew that starting a fully-stocked video game store like Game Stop would be too expensive, so he focused on creating a space for a variety of gaming experiences. It took him about one year to gather the necessary funds and supplies to start making his dream a reality. “I’ve always enjoyed card games, and from that passion, I got to become familiar with what a game store was via my own experience with other game stores,” said Henson. “I felt as though I was confident enough to make my own.” Henson’s confidence is obvious as he speaks with customers. Some nights the shop is packed, every seat taken by a patron playing, Magic: The Gathering, Yu-Gi-Oh, or some other card game. Amid the constant chatter, the shop echoes with sounds of a first-person shooter being played on the video gaming couch. Through all the chaos, Henson is able to simultaneously run his own Dungeon & Dragons game, sell snacks, offer advice and otherwise tend to business, juggling multiple tasks ease and a sense of humor. He credits support from the community as well as from Henderson’s Legion of Nerds organization with keeping Atlas afloat in its first year. Regular patrons include not only Henderson students, but students from Ouachita Baptist University and even as far as Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia. Bryant and Cydney Curtis, theatre and education majors at Henderson, have been supporters from the beginning. “We knew of Coley due to being involved in Legion of Nerds, but we met him when he was opening the shop,” Cydney said. “We’re both big tabletop fans, so a friendly local gaming store that wasn’t an hour away was fantastic.” Soon enough, the couple moved their weekly Dungeons & Dragons games to the shop. Henson joined in on their games, helped the pair with their Magic: The Gathering decks, and played board games with them. “For me, there are really too many fun moments to count. A lot of them happen during Dungeons & Dragons just because we get so invested,” said Cydney. “But I think my fondest memories at Atlas would be meeting the new friends we have now.”

“During the school year, I drive about an hour from Magnolia to come to the shop,” said Race Craft, a computer science major at SAU. “I spend around ten to fifteen hours in the shop on an average week.” An avid collector of Magic cards, Craft is also interested in playing competitively and is known for destroying opponents at his usual table in the back of the shop. Colton Montgomery, an OBU Christian studies major, estimates that he spends about 30 hours a week at Atlas. He first stumbled upon the shop after walking past, between Java Primo and Shuffield Music Company, while exploring downtown Arkadelphia one day. He quickly fell in love with the gaming atmosphere. “I recommend going there to almost everyone that shares the same interest as I do,” Montgomery said. “My favorite memory was probably when we stayed up all night playing Tomb of Annihilation,” Montgomery added, referring to one of the modules used in Dungeons & Dragons. “The first time I played that was really fun,” Craft agreed. “I stole a dinosaur, and my character ended up in jail. He’s still in jail.” “I plan to move to a bigger location relatively soon,” Henson said. “I need more room for customers, and I’m going try to keep the shop in Arkadelphia as close to downtown as I can. Hopefully, within a year or two I plan to make that move happen and keep on growing.” For now, the ten-sided dice continue to roll and controller buttons continue to snap on Main Street as a general studies graduate pursues his very specific nerd dream.

Coley Henson, picture in red, can be found nightly playing a variety of tabletop games with his shop patrons. Photos by Scott McKinnon


It’s Certifiable: New Certificate Programs Broaden Options for Students By Ashley Smith “To give students everything they need, higher education must become appreciably more interdisciplinary,” wrote Barry Glassner and Morton Schapiro in a commentary for the Chronicle of Higher Education published in March. Their essay, titled, “Technical or Cultural Courses? Students Need Both,” suggested one way to fulfill this need is by giving students the option to explore some areas of study through certificate tracks, which require less time commitment than a major or minor. This is something Ellis College has pursued for some time. Below is a roundup of proposed and current certificate programs at Henderson.

Current Certificate Programs Gerontology Students with an interest in learning or working with the elderly now can do so as they earn a BA in human services or sociology. This certificate can improve the skills of nonmajors already in the workforce as well.

elements of a museum career before entering the workforce. This certificate can give anyone new perspective on how museums function in our world today. Creative Writing The future writer can use this 12-hour certificate to learn various techniques, read works of literature and write, write, write. Offering classes with peer criticism, these can promote growth in any writer, regardless of major. Criminal Justice Students can add this certificate to their major and minor as they learn about the U.S. criminal justice system. Law enforcement, court employment and correctional facilities can all benefit from students with a working knowledge of criminal justice.

Proposed Certificates

(Pending Approval by the Arkansas Department of Higher Education)

Academic and Professional Writing A certificate is in the works for students interested in using their words in their careers. Consisting of 12 hours in English and mass media classes, this certificate is for students looking for careers in journalism, administration, business, law and other fields emphasizing writing skills.

Forensics This certificate can improve marketability of anyone who wants to explore evidence and investigations. It is an ideal certificate for students in chemistry or computer sciences, or advance the skills of students interested in corrections or psychology. Museum Studies Expanding knowledge about museums, their role in society and hands-on training will give students a chance to experience 20

Film Studies A film studies certificate challenges students to think and write critically while analyzing the history of films and industry practices. Similar to other humanities fields, subjects explored such include film literature, art history, comparative literature, languages and cultures, gender studies, cultural studies, history and others. Women and Gender Studies Women and gender studies offers courses from across the curriculum and the opportunity to apply critical thinking as

students study the rich body of historical and contemporary scholarship about women, sexuality and gender across cultures. Understanding women’s experiences grounds students in social topics that are applicable today, such as gender, race, nation and cultural background.

Philosophy and Logic Students who earn this 12-hour certificate will immerse themselves in exploring logic in western and nonwestern cultures. Courses emphasize and create a distinct perspective for the typical student while improving their thinking, speaking and writing skills in critical and analytical methods. Study of Religion No, this not a program at OBU. This certificate gives insight to religion from a secular perspective, exposing students to different religions, practices and traditions from around the world. Using humanitiesbased fields such as history, sociology, psychology and literary criticism, this program helps students think about the impact of religion while gaining their own deeper understanding of it.

GRADUATE SCHOOL Master of Science in Education (M.S.E.) u Advanced Instructional Studies Dyslexia Therapy Early Childhood (P-4) English English as a Second Language Instructional Facilitator Interdisciplinary Studies Mathematics Middle School (4-8) Physical Education u Educational Leadership Building Level Leader (licensure) Curriculum Program Administrator Program of Study (licensure) Educational Technology Leadership

Instructional Facilitator Program of Study u School Counseling u Special Education K-12 Developmental Therapist (certificate) Master of Arts in Teaching (M.A.T.) Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) Master of Liberal Arts (M.L.A.) Master of Science in Nursing Master of Science (M.S.) u Clinical Mental Health Counseling u Developmental Therapy u Sports Administration Educational Specialist (Ed.S.) u Curriculum Leadership u District Level Leader

Non-Profit Organization U.S. Postage PAID Arkadelphia, AR 71923 Permit No. 60

The Ellis College of Arts and Sciences 1100 Henderson Street Arkadelphia, AR 71999-0001

Back Cover

Art and technology

IM Reef VR (Manta), Motion Graphics 3D and Special Effects shots (Zardon)

Imagine•Explore•Innovate•Create The Innovative Media program brings together students with a variety of talents. Each project in IM is an opportunity to design interesting visuals in a variety of media both traditional, such as film, print and web graphics, and in new media such as 360° images and video, and virtual and augmented reality. IM students are constantly exploring and experimenting with technology as well as visual expression, searching for new ways of seeing and new ways of thinking. Images and artwork by Zac Walthall, Samantha Deloney, Jeremy Freeman, Cody Sipes, Eilene Nowacki, and IM Project VR team.

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2018 - The Magazine of the Ellis College of Arts and Sciences at Henderson State University


2018 - The Magazine of the Ellis College of Arts and Sciences at Henderson State University

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