Faculty spotlight: Brandon Skaggs
Mar20

Faculty spotlight: Brandon Skaggs

Dr. Brandon Skaggs strongly advocates getting involved in campus activities. This comes from someone who was very involved in his own student career. When he attended UMHB as an undergraduate, he was Student Body President in 2003 while being involved in multiple organizations. “Every student should be involved in some sort of co-curricular experience, because it just helps them develop as a person,” Skaggs said. Some of the other activities and organizations Skaggs was involved with while at UMHB included Welcome Week, Student Government Association and Campus Activities Board, as well as Stunt Night and Crusader Knights. Now Vice President of Student Life at the University of Mary Hardin- Baylor, he works hard to help students get involved on campus. “We want to provide students with an experience outside of the classroom that can help you grow as a leader, a businessman or woman, a teacher or a civic leader in whatever community God calls you to,” he said. Dr. Skaggs stays very involved himself, opening his home to students and hosting dinner parties for student organizations such as the Association of Black Students, among others. He attends and plans numerous student led events to ensure that everyone has a safe and good time. He has a lot of support behind him in this effort. “I have a wonderful family that is very supportive, my wife loves the ministry we were called to which is the Mary Hardin-Baylor students, and my kids love being up here as well. You cannot do this job without any of them; they are my biggest supporters,” Skaggs said. Graduating with a double major in Business Management and Computer Information Systems in 2003, Skaggs then went on to earn an MBA in Finance and Management from Tarleton State University and a Doctorate in Higher Education Leadership from Dallas Baptist University. He began his career as Director of Admissions Recruitment at DBU, which led him to work as the Associate Vice President for Student Development and Dean of Students at Oklahoma Baptist University before coming home to UMHB. It seems that he brought back to UMHB that involvement and inspiration he had as a leading undergraduate. “Working alongside Dr. Brandon Skaggs has been a delight. I see his desire to “work at all things as if working for the Lord,” Yvette Shackelford, Administrative Assistant to Dr. Skaggs, said. “He has an ability to bring out the best in everyone that works alongside him. It has been a complete joy and blessing to work alongside...

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UMHB’s first Psalm 139 event empowers women through Christ
Feb27

UMHB’s first Psalm 139 event empowers women through Christ

Over 150 women gathered for UMHB’s first Psalm 139 event on Saturday, Jan. 19 in Bawcom Student Union. They enjoyed fellowship and worship together at the conference, which was founded and organized by senior public relations major Sydney Stolz. “The Lord planted this seed in my heart for women’s ministry years ago, but I never would have dreamed it would grow into the Psalm 139 event,” Stolz said. The conference highlighted the message of the psalm, which reads: 13 For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. Psalm 139:13-14 (ESV) Marissa Halvorsen, a sophomore psychology major who attended the event, said that “as women, we think we have to fit the mold of doing everything for everyone and pleasing everybody.” However, Halvorsen said that women already have their identity. “We have to make sure our identity is not found in our peers, parents, significant others, school work, etc.,” she said. “Our identity is in the Lord—He takes the pressure off of needing to please others, we only need to work to please Him.” According to sophomore business major and Psalm 139 committee member Eunice Michaelson, keynote speaker Merritt Johnston’s presentation emphasized the importance of coming to that realization. “She made us laugh, cry, and most importantly realize the truth about our identity in Christ,” Michaelson said. “Merritt Johnston is truly an incredible woman of God.” Johnston is a UMHB graduate who founded SAGE Ministries for girls while she was in college. Now president of the endeavor, she leads a team of volunteer chaplains at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center in Brenham. As she addressed students at the conference, Johnston encouraged them to find their “3:15” moment of realizing freedom, a reference to her time spent on the mission field in Germany where she visited Buchenwald, a former Nazi concentration camp. While there, Johnston was able to see what it was like to be a prisoner inside the walls of the camp and to be able to see the city around the camp – and freedom – right on the other side. She said that when prisoners were declared to be free at 3:15 p.m. on April 11, 1945, the clock stopped permanently, forever a reminder of freedom at that moment. Johnston related the story to everyone’s own personal prisons. “What is your 3:15 moment?” she asked. “What walls are separating you from your total freedom in Christ? When will you declare your freedom?” Sophomore nursing student and member of the Psalm 139 steering committee Amy Luong was deeply encouraged by Johnston’s words of encouragement. “For me, I’ve always been so focused on the future that I don’t realize that once I have Jesus Christ, my life is on track,” Luong...

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SGA hosts debate for student body president
Feb27

SGA hosts debate for student body president

It was a quite a battle between two candidates as UMHB’s Student Government Association held its annual student body president debate on Monday, Feb. 18 in McLane Great Hall. The two students were each asked numerous questions about how they would benefit the university’s community. The night started with junior public relations major Sarah Fox and junior political science and communication major Megan Baumhardt discussing their qualifications for the position of student body president. In her speech, Baumhardt discussed how she had been in leadership positions throughout her entire life. She said that she began in 4-H, working her way up to superintendent. She also went on to discuss how she was able to earn her associate degree at a community college and became a part of officer affairs. At the end of her statement, Baumhardt concluded with, “I want to be your student body president because I have the experience to be able to lead us and bring fresh ideas to the table while still understanding the traditions of where we came from so we both can move forward and honor the past and make sure the students who are new here or feel like they’re not involved all have a voice.” Fox stated that she wants to become student body president to help others. She also described her previous leadership positions. She was a part of the Revival Steering Committee, Psalms 139, Welcome Week and Stunt Night, where she has served as class director for three years. She concluded her response by stating, “I want to be student body president for the students who have and for those who haven’t come to me and expressed their concerns. I’ve been able to serve you for the past two years as Sophomore Senator and currently the Director of Resources for SGA and I’ve loved every single bit of it.” The debate concluded with questions from students tuning in to the debate on social media. Campaigning for Student Body President began on Feb. 12. Both candidates have participated in putting strenuous amounts of hard work towards the election. Some of these efforts have involved social media campaigning, putting up flyers, and handing out goodies. Despite running against each other, both candidates have remained respectful and dignified throughout the election process, and retain a positive outlook. “I am excited for the elections,” Baumhardt said. “No matter win or lose I know that I have made an effort to represent students to the best of my ability but know that both Sarah and I want what is best for the students.” Fox had a similar sentiment regarding the hard work and rewards...

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Campus opens food pantry in Mabee Student Success Center
Feb13

Campus opens food pantry in Mabee Student Success Center

There’s no doubt that college is expensive. After paying for tuition, textbooks and transportation, many students find that there isn’t that much money left over for food. Sometimes, UMHB students can have a hard time getting enough to eat. However, a new resource for students has opened to help alleviate this problem. UMHB Enactus is an organization that focuses on bringing about change through entrepreneurial action. In order to combat food insecurity among UMHB students, the organization founded The Source, an on-campus food pantry specifically for students. The Source opened for the first time on Feb. 4. Dr. Terry Fox, a professor of Business Computer Information Systems, serves as the faculty adviser for Enactus and was instrumental in founding The Source. In 2018, Fox was approached by Dr. James King, another business professor, about opening a food pantry on UMHB’s campus. “He (King) shared with me a newspaper article that was in the Waco paper about Baylor opening up a food pantry on their campus,” Fox said. “We worked with Dr. Skaggs and put together a survey that we sent out last spring to all of our students.” The results showed that over 40 percent of UMHB students have experienced food insecurity in the past year. When they realized the severity of this problem, they knew that something had to be done to fix it. Fox presented the idea to the members of Enactus, who were enthusiastic. “Dr. Skaggs and I worked throughout the summer and last fall putting together what a campus food pantry would look like,” Fox said. “We’ve had a variety of folks across campus that have pitched in and helped with this project.” After plenty of hard work and many generous donations, The Source is officially open. Sadly, food insecurity is a problem on many college campuses. According to The Source’s page on UMHB’s website, “Food insecurity among college students is a cause of poor academic performance, poor class attendance, lack of proper school supplies, and dropping out of college.” Opening The Source is a major step toward eliminating food insecurity among UMHB students. The Source is located in Mabee 228, and it is open on Mondays and Thursdays from 4-5:30 p.m. It is also available by appointment. Students will be asked to show their Cru card upon arriving at The Source, but they will not need to provide their name. Students may also complete an optional questionnaire regarding the food products they need the most. Each student can select up to 15 items per day, and volunteers will be available to answer any questions. With some smaller food items, such as granola bars, students...

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Starr Rivers awarded place on Texas forensics team
Feb13

Starr Rivers awarded place on Texas forensics team

In a room full of college debate students, Starr Rivers stands out. The talented senior film studies major has worked to finesse her forensic speech skills during her college career here at UMHB. Rivers has advanced to the prestigious American Forensic Association National Individual Events Tournament and the National Forensic Association’s Championship Tournament in the last four years. She is also the first student from UMHB to qualify for AFA every year of her college career. At the recent Texas Intercollegiate Forensic Association State Tournament, Rivers was one of 10 students named to the All-State Forensics Squad. “It has been an amazing four years doing UMHB Forensics,” Rivers said of her time with the speech program. “I have grown so much as a performer and person. Doing speech is a lot of hard work and dedication, and I am proud to have stuck with it. It is such a rewarding experience.” While Rivers’ accomplishments are astounding, she feels that she would not have been able to achieve them without continuous support from her professors and a strong work ethic. “Starr’s work ethic is excellent,” Forensics Director Kathy Owens said. “I never have to worry about her getting her ‘homework’ done. We meet twice weekly, and I give her tasks to complete before our next meeting. “In addition to her work ethic, though, Starr has quite a bit of natural talent,” Owens added. “She seamlessly moves from character to character in her performances, showing a great deal of empathy in each one. Through her performances, Starr has not only entertained but has been a fierce advocate for racial equality. Her performances are truly inspiring.” The debate circuit that Rivers competes in is very competitive because it includes all of the schools in the area, no matter how big each school’s program is. Among the schools, the UMHB debate team competes against is the team from Wiley College, which preforms on a $100,000 budget because they are funded by Denzel Washington, who filmed “The Great Debaters” at their college. “The competition is extremely rigorous,” Rivers said. “The competition is hard and challenging, but so worthwhile and beneficial, because it makes you a better competitor.” While Rivers has accomplished qualifying for these events, she must compete at the tough level of competition against thousands of debate students across the country. “Competing on the national level can be intimidating,” Rivers said. “Nonetheless, I feel so blessed and proud to be able to break some barriers that a small school like UMHB has not done yet. I take pride in my accomplishments, but at the same time, I know there is still work to...

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The art of Sofia LeJeune: child prodigy’s artwork featured
Jan30

The art of Sofia LeJeune: child prodigy’s artwork featured

The art of Sofia LeJeune, a 10-year-old legally blind and autistic child artist from McKinney, Texas was on display from December 2018 to Jan. 14 at the UMHB Baugh Center for the Visual Arts. Sofia’s interest in art began when she was just 18 months old, and she has been creating ever since. During a phone interview, Sofia was more than happy to share about her life and her passion for art. She says that it is a great way to “…express your feelings, it looks pretty,” and it’s a “…good way to impress people.” Her mother, Rebeca Gracia, shared the details about how Sofia’s condition has developed over time. “She was severely autistic when she was younger. We have been using natural therapies… for the past five years with great success. Now, she is high functioning, and we thought we would see how she likes public school,” Gracia said. After being homeschooled since the start of her education, Sofia began her first year of public school in 2018. “Sofia’s vision impairment originates in the brain, not the eye. [It] has several components: nystagmus, which is improving, decreased acuity, which has remained the same, and astigmatism, which has worsened since starting public school,” Gracia said. In relation to Sofia’s talents, Gracia said that Sofia’s school does not have a strong art program, so it brings her daughter joy when people share an interest in art and talk to her about her artwork. Sofia said that she tried her hand at pottery and made some books with a lady named Helen. She was talking about Helen Kwiatkowski, who teaches book arts, photography and design here at UMHB. Although Sofia has experimented with various media and subjects, her preference is for drawing animals of all kinds. Using simple pencils and any scratch paper she can find, she creates lively illustrations through contour lines and expression. Sofia was recently diagnosed as legally blind but has struggled with her vision for a while. She described her vision as, “kinda good, kinda bad.” She can see to draw up close but has a very hard time seeing far away. Aside from her artistic hobbies, she, like most third graders, finds additional joy in a large array of things. Her favorite subject in school other than art is, as she said, “Science! Science! Science!” Sofia has also been participating in mixed martial arts for two years and is delighted to share that she has just earned her yellow belt. She also enjoys playing games inside and outside, like checkers, Go Fish and playing pretend. She shows pure excitement when she talks about the fun times she has on her great-grandmother’s...

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