College railroad crossing set for closure
Feb21

College railroad crossing set for closure

The construction on the new apartments at the back of campus has been noticed by everyone who has driven past it or who has stopped to let a large truck carrying supplies pass by. But road construction will most likely be underway within the year to close off College Street at the railroad crossing. Belton City Manager Sam Listi has been working with  the Texas Department of Transportation  and BNSF Railroad, which originally requested the closure. “They have come to us and basically proposed the closing of the College Street crossing at the railroad track. It’s primarily a safety issue,” Listi said. The  BNSF railroad is concerned with the number of accidents that occur at crossings similar to this one and is hoping that by closing the crossings, the number of wrecks will decrease. Listi said, “The railroad’s long-term goal and interest is to close as many of these at grade crossings as possible. You hear about accidents all the time where a train will hit somebody and cause some injuries or maybe even death.” The problem with closing the crossing is the access it provides to the campus from the nearby neighborhood for better traffic flow. “Is the cost benefit of increased safety something that warrants the closure of that connection?” Listi asked. The city wants to hear the responses of the people living in the neighborhood adjacent to the tracks that will be affected by the crossing closure. Listi has scheduled a community meeting for March 3 and has sent out notices to more than 100 people in that area inviting them to come. He said, “I would expect some reaction, but it’s hard to say whether that will be positive, negative, or neutral.  We’re just going to have to evaluate it and see what the sentiment is in the community about it.” Once Listi and the Belton City Council hear the residents’ opinions on it, the city council will decide whether or not to close the crossing, and, if they choose to do so, will begin the official procedure to make it happen. Listi said, “If the decision is made to close it, the council has to pass a resolution and give that info to TXDOT and the railroad to accomplish the closing and to make the physical improvement necessary to make to the crossing.” Listi has also been in conversation with UMHB about closing the crossing. Edd Martin, senior vice president for planning and support services, has been Listi’s main contact at the university. “There are pros and cons to the possible closing of the College Street railroad crossing,” Martin said. “Positive impacts will be...

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Alums turn idea into livelihood
Feb21

Alums turn idea into livelihood

Alumnus Luke Nunnally is often seen with his Macbook Pro in Bodega Bean working on his website Belboard.com. He sips a Red Bull as he and his business partner and fellow alum, Eliot Barcak, discuss the next sale for their company – a business they began as students at UMHB. Now they own the biggest local websites in both Belton and Waco. Nunnally saw that Bell County really didn’t have an outlet for local advertising. He came up with Belboard to fit that need. “When I was a junior here, I found out about Nami (a local Japanese restaurant), and it’s really great,” he said. “There is no excuse for you to be a junior and not know about it.” The concept of Belboard is simple. The site has a large grid that is covered with ads of local businesses. Every time registered users click on ads, they are sent to that business’s home page. But Belboard randomly makes some ads lucky – meaning some clicks will get users anything from a free California roll from Nami to one of the promoted “Big Ticket” items – like an Xbox 360. Belboard sells the ad blocks to  businesses that will normally get a spike in Web traffic shortly after the ad hits the site. Every click means more Internet traffic for the advertiser and more relevancy for Google searches than before. Sites with more traffic show up higher on searches than less visited sites. Getting their page to the top of Google search results is a marketing goal for most businesses. The idea has been so successful that the alumni also have sites in Waco, Wacoboard.com; College Station, Tamuboard.com; and even a satellite site in Athens, Georgia, Athensboard.com, due to a partnership with the University of Georgia. The coffee shop is an ideal location for the Belboard guys to get work done. They spend much of their time traveling between cities where they operate sites, and a local space with free Wi-Fi is perfect to meet with business owners who may be interested in a chunk of Belboard’s space. UMHB Associate Professor and Chairperson of management, entrepreneurship and marketing department Dr. Barbara Dalby sparked the idea for the site in Nunnally. She was teaching about The Million Dollar Homepage, a site that an English student broke into pixels and sold to universities to raise money for his education. The website made $2 million dollars in two weeks. “I noticed Luke was in the back of the room, and he was asking questions,” Dalby said. “By the end of class, he had bought a domain name on his iPhone.” Nunnally was...

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Writers’ Festival now more open to students

Undergraduates and others interested in writing and literature will get the opportunity to mingle with professionals in an upcoming three-day festival. The university will hold its annual Writers’ Festival February 17 – 19 in the Brindley Auditorium of the York Science Center. Former UMHB English Professor Dr. Donna Walker-Nixon and her husband George Nixon started the festival as a way to showcase their first project – the Windhover journal, which is dedicated to writers of faith. The three-day literary festival is open to the public and will feature special guests Joshilyn Jackson. Paul J. Willis. Jackson, who has been on The New York Times Bestselling List, will present the George Nixon Memorial Lecture Feb.17 in Brindley Auditorium at 7 p.m. Walker-Nixon, who now teaches creative and expository writing at Baylor University bases the success for the event on its growth over the years. “Initially, the idea was to include writers in the Southwest, but then it became broader in aspect when writers from across the United States began to attend and to conduct workshops and readings. The attendance began at 35 the first year, and then the festival gained momentum through the years,” she said. Walker- Nixon admits before her husband George died she sometimes didn’t “feel” literature, earning the nickname “German drill sergeant.” She hopes “students come to feel and experience what they read more than as just dull words on a page.” Assistant Professor of English Dr. Jessica Hooten, who took over the festival for Dr. Audell Shelburne after his leadership of six years, is passionate about her role. “Not enough people support literature, (it’s a) great way to support contemporary arts,” she said. Hooten is looking forward to hearing the keynote speakers whom she discovered at the Calvin Festival of Faith and Writing. “It’s difficult to get top speakers to come to your school …. You have to get people to do it because they love it. Some of the biggest names are difficult to reach because they have some of the biggest pocketbooks,” she said. This year, Hooten posted a video on YouTube, got a website running. moved the festival to February instead of January so students could have an opportunity to attend, and enacted the first student panel. “It’s a prime opportunity to showcase students …. They will be the next writers. We need to get them involved now. Some of them could be our key speakers in ten years,” she said. Senior English major Rachel Yubeta is participating this year and will be one of the students on the new panel. “This is the first time the festival has been open to students. I...

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Campus copes with cold, cancellations
Feb08

Campus copes with cold, cancellations

The Townsend Memorial Library staff arrived around 7 a.m. as usual Wednesday morning, but nothing about their arrival was normal. The building was in total darkness, and the fire alarm was screeching with bright white lights strobing across the shelves of books and computer stations – hardly the quiet environment librarians are used to. Darkness and confusion was common throughout Texas Wednesday morning as The Electric Reliability Council of Texas decided to use rolling blackouts to curb the high use of energy caused by the bitter cold weather. About 8 percent of the power generated in Texas was shut down overnight by the cold, and the Texas grid operator attempted to prevent a more serious energy emergency by cutting the juice all over Texas for short intervals of time. Whatever method the council took to choose when and where the power would be cut was not made known to the public. “We asked our service provider to give us a blackout schedule, and they couldn’t provide us one,” said Director of Information Technology Shawn Kung. “We advised everyone to not turn on their computers. When the computer is on, the hard disk is running. If you lose power, you could get some pretty serious damage to your hard drive.” Only minor damages were caused by the power failures, but IT and police would have preferred to be notified when the power was out to address the situation. “The utilities commission is going to have to find a way to notify people about these blackouts,” Police Chief Gary Sargent said. “They can send me an e-mail that my bill has been paid or is due. They should be able to send me an e-mail that my power is getting shut off.” The librarians, armed with flashlights, did their best to keep the library running and the students able to study and work until the university was officially closed at 11 a.m. Wednesday “This building uses a lot of electricity,” said Director of Learning Resources Denise Karimkhani.  “We’ve had power outages before, but not for that reason – usually it was due to storms. That’s why we bought flashlights because this building is pitch black dark.” The weather effectively shut down the campus, with power outages on Wednesday and Thursday and two inches of snow on Friday. Only 10 a.m. classes met Wednesday, and school was delayed until 9:30 a.m. Thursday. Friday’s precipitation meant lots of glistening snow on top of school buildings, but no one inside them. For many students, the cold white layer was not just an excuse for a day off, but a whole new experience. “I love...

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Nurses find practical partners
Feb08

Nurses find practical partners

“If I can’t feed a hundred, I’ll feed one” is the mission statement that Michael Mutinda lives by daily.  Growing up as the son of peasant farmers in Malikini village in Eastern province in Kenya, Mutinda knows what it is like to be truly hungry. A two-year famine swept through his country when he was 9 years old, causing his family to lose much of their livestock.  Mutinda would walk barefoot for two and a half hours (not including the return journey), twice a week, carrying a bundle of firewood on his back in exchange for a single cup of paddy rice. Mutinda sought out higher education after graduating from high school and received a certificate in business studies from a Kenyan university. He applied for the American Green Card Lottery Program in 2001, and upon receiving a permanent resident visa, Mutinda entered the United States in March 2003. His wife and daughter arrived in October the same year. “I was grateful that the United States of America had given me a chance to pursue my dreams,” Mutinda said. “America was at war. The Army was seeking recruits. I knew it was risky, but it was the right thing to do.” In March 2005, Mutinda became a naturalized citizen.  He served tours in Korea and Iraq and went through a series of promotions in the Army.  Two years later, he graduated with an associates degree in general studies from Central Texas College. He is currently enrolled as a first-year nursing student at UMHB. Throughout his journey, Mutinda has not forgotten where he came from.  He has a vision of helping his home country and has called upon the university to help him fulfill it. Twelve nursing students along with a doctor, dentist and a faculty member will travel to Mutinda’s home village, Malikini, this summer to set up a medical camp. Dr. Sharon Souter, dean of the College of Nursing, will also be a part of the first medical mission team that the college will send out. “In the nursing department, we’ve continually been looking for a place to go and just needed a guide, a place or an idea, and this is it,” Souter said. While on the trip, students will be working as nurses alongside Kenyan physicians performing assessments, handing out antibiotics, dressing wounds and possibly giving immunizations. Senior nursing major Imani Innocent will be returning to Kenya for the first time since he lived there as a refugee. Born in the city of Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Innocent fled to Kenya during the Rwanada genocide to live in the Kakuma Refugee Camp for six...

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Perry vows to hack state spending
Jan25

Perry vows to hack state spending

Freshly inaugurated Rick Perry thinks historians may call this the “Texas century.” It certainly has been the decade of Perry. The governor took the reins of the cow-herding state from President George W. Bush in 2000. On January 18, 2011, Perry, a Texas A&M grad, took his familiar oath of office for the fourth time. The magnificent capitol building, accented with a maroon stage, stood as a backdrop for the event. The inauguration was a celebration for Texans on the grounds in Austin. After all, despite tough times throughout the world, Texas has been relatively unhurt by the recession under Perry’s guidance. “With bloated stimulus spending, record debt, massive entitlement programs, Washington has America on a collision course with bankruptcy. Now Texas – we’ve fared better than most other states,” he said. “While much has changed in the last four years, one thing hasn’t changed – the character, resilience the resourcefulness of our citizens.” Perry emphasized cutting spending where possible. “These tough times mean government doing more with less,” he said in his inaugural speech. “With our nation now mired in more than $14 trillion in debt, accountability and fiscal responsibility won’t come from Washington. It will come from places like Texas.” The content of the speeches by Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst was not only about the success of Texas and shrinking the state government. Much of the event was focused more on Washington than the Lone Star State. The Republican attendees cheered at jabs at the Obama administration and the “Washington way.” “The only thing as outrageous as the amount of money Washington is borrowing from foreign creditors is the amount of money they withhold from states unless we comply with their edicts,” Dewhurst said in his address. “Washington has run roughshod over state sovereignty.” Several thousand spectators, many vocally conservative, endured chilly weather to view the event. Texas flags stuck out in a sea of bundled bystanders. “If some Democrats showed up, we could get some hot air,” an attendee said as chuckles rose from the packed crowd around her. Linda Landrum, mother of UMHB junior theology/philosophy major Curtis Landrum was among the attendees of the event. She used to take her son to the capitol to lobby on educational issues. “I think (Perry) is going to be a very positive influence for Texas for the next four years,” she said. “I happened to be in town, and I’ve never seen an inauguration. I’ve been to the Capitol many times but never seen this part. I couldn’t miss this event.” Landrum wasn’t the only excited party at the ceremony. Local Boy Scout troops volunteered to...

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