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Blowing Them Away
The National Trumpet Competition Large Ensemble Division Winners: (from left) Ian Mertes, Lorenzo Diaz, Grant Harper, Noah Mennenga, Greg Evraets, Daniel Montalvo, and Kevin Kamau. Editor’s Note: Grant Harper is an OSU senior, majoring in trumpet performance and vocal music education. He kept a travel log for A&S magazine during his recent trip to the National Trumpet Competition. The highlights follow: Day 1 NTC: The National Trumpet Competition. This year, Columbus State University in Georgia graciously played host. Hundreds of soloists and ensembles ranging from junior high to graduate students showcased their talents for the best players and teachers from across the country. For us, the students of Oklahoma State University, NTC has become an annual trip. In 2016, four soloists (two undergraduate and two graduate) and three ensembles were competing. Dr. Ryan Gardner, our teacher and ensemble coach, has built an NTC dynasty at OSU. We have been preparing for this competition since August, and finally the day came for us to depart. Tuesday, March 8, began with every member of the trumpet studio meeting at the Seretean Center to load cars and head to the Tulsa airport. We arrived in Atlanta around 5 p.m. Eastern, rented cars and got on the road to Columbus. My car was filled with a great amount of enlightening conversation as well as the 1979 recording of Leonard Bernstein conducting a performance of Symphony No. 5 by Shostakovich with the New York Philharmonic. We have to be nerds somehow. After checking into our hotel and getting dinner, we found a janitor who opened the orchestra room at CSU for our rehearsal. All three groups ran our competition day routine: small spots from our pieces followed by full runs. The Silver Ensemble, a quartet, begins with their arrangement of J.S. Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in G minor. Next, the Black Ensemble, a septet that I am in, hits our problem spots and performs a full run, an arrangement of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Russian Easter Overture, arranged by Dr. Gardner. Finally, the Orange Ensemble, a quintet that is performing “Bacchanale” from Camille Saint-Saens’ opera Samson et Delila, thought that they would do spot checks, but instead they cranked out the best full run of their piece to date! So we packed up and called it a night. OSU trumpet performance and vocal music education senior Grant Harper SColumbus, Georgia. He helped OSU win a national championship in the large ensemble division. Day 2 Day 2 of our trip was much more relaxed, with no flying and minimal driving. The only thing on our minds was the competition. One day left to improve and solidify our ensembles. Morning rehearsals at CSU were simple: spot checks and runs. All three groups came in, acted like it was the actual competition day, and each group performed wonderfully. After lunch, Dr. Gardner, the four soloists and I returned to CSU to rehearse with pianists. Each soloist had 30 minutes with a pianist to rehearse — the only time the soloists get to work with the pianists until they take the stage on Friday. The times were all back-to-back, and we returned to the hotel around 4:30 p.m. During our second rehearsal of the day, all three groups performed well, but we each needed to work on intonation and being together throughout the entire piece. After dinner (capped off by a cookie sundae and a “Happy Birthday” serenade to me on my 22nd birthday), we settled in for the evening, all of us feeling some level of nerves over tomorrow’s competition. Day 3 Competition day has arrived for the ensemble division semifinalists. Dr. Ryan Gardner has built a National Trumpet Competition dynasty at OSU. “Next to perform, the Oklahoma State University ensemble performing Russian Easter Overture by Rimsky-Korsakov, arranged by Gardner.” Sophomore Kevin Kamau led us onto stage. We looked out into a 2,000-seat hall that dwarfs the Seretean Concert Hall of only 800. Lorenzo Diaz, a second-year master’s student, leads our bow. I heard the breathing of everyone down the line: a bit shallow but still confident. Freshman Ian Mertes began the piece, and we took off. Seven and a half minutes later, we finished with our unison D, hearing our sounds resonate for what seems like ages. The audience erupts. Now it was up to the judges to decide if we were good enough to make the cut. When the OSU quartet finally took the stage, our nerves were a little visible from the audience. Sophomore Bryson Tuttle, who began completely alone, had shaking hands. The performance went wonderfully as the group put more music into a Bach prelude and fugue than should be allowed. We headed back into Legacy Hall to prepare for our quintet’s performance. This group being the reigning national champions, the crowd grew. The group was greeted by a large gust of applause and cheering. By the end of the piece, no one could believe what was just heard. The sounds filled Legacy Hall for several seconds after the cutoff. It was phenomenal. As the opening concert was coming to a close, the audience got more and more antsy, awaiting the results. Finally, an NTC board member took the stage: “The Large Ensemble finalists are the University of Texas, Oklahoma State University and Central Michigan University.” Day 4 With the ensemble competition over with, we looked forward to a more relaxed day going to the exhibits and listening to solo performances. The exhibits are a special part of the competition. Companies that produce everything trumpet show up with their shiniest and best products to tout to young musicians looking to push their playing to the next level. Many times, students will walk out with new horns. It is also a good time for teachers to try horns that they may want to buy for their schools. Dr. Gardner goes straight to the source for us. He is a Bach performing artist, so he makes the exodus to the Bach factory to try out horns that his students will get to play for free when we’re at the school. However, this is a great place for the students to try out horns on their own. With our experiences at the exhibits wrapped up, we began our first of four competitors in the solo division. First up was Lorenzo Diaz, a second-year master’s student from Duncan, Okla., who is also a part of the large ensemble. He stepped on stage in a regal purple button-down shirt and played The American Concerto by Ellen Taafe Zwilich. It’s not a very well-known piece of music, but it is one of the hardest from the modern repertoire. Next was Justin Weisenborn, a first-year master’s student and member of OSU’s quintet. He performed the Tamberg Trumpet Concerto, another of the hardest pieces in the modern repertoire. Tyler Murray was the last of the four OSU performers for the day. The senior from Checotah, Okla., filled much of the 2,000-seat concert hall with his sound. Day 5 Dr. Gardner asked us to attend the high school semi finals around 11:30 a.m. to hear some prospective OSU students. The three were really talented and impressed us greatly, playing pieces that some of us college students would not dare to play because of their level of difficulty. A short lunch later, performance preparations swung into high gear. We struggled to find an open room suitable for warm-ups, which didn’t help the tension level among us. The 10 minutes we were to get in our official warm-up room didn’t help that much; room monitors interrupted us every couple of minutes to count down how little time we had left to prepare in there. The University of Texas Trumpet Ensemble preceded us on stage. Its wonderful performance motivated us further. I took the stage with the ensemble, feeling confident and knowing we would do well. Ian Mertes began our piece, and from the first note I could tell something was wrong:  There was a weird fuzz in his sound. After the longest eight minutes of my life, we finished our run. There were lots of little mistakes (slight timing errors, chipped notes, chords not as well in tune) but no glaring problems, and for that I was grateful. After getting coffee and a little shopping, we returned to the RiverCenter to hear the graduate and undergraduate solo finalists as our Justin Weisenborn was one. His second run of the Tamberg Concerto was even better than the day before. I knew that he would be hard to beat — and he won the Graduate division of NTC. A little while later, another announcement regarding the Maller Trumpet Large Ensemble Division: “In first place, with a cash prize of $5,000, Oklahoma State University.” Photo Courtesy / Phil Shockley Story by Grant Harper
Tue, 21 Mar 2017 16:26:55 -0500
A Diverse Future – By Design
Pouya Jahanshahi, a third-year assistant professor in graphic design, says the new program is designed with diversity in mind. One boy moved from Mexico to the United States at age 12. Another earned a college degree in South Korea before immigrating. And a third left Iran at age 13, finished his high school equivalency in the U.K. and started junior college in the U.S. at age 15. Two things tie the three of them together: taking risks and starting a Master’s of Fine Arts in Graphic Design at Oklahoma State University. Mario Bocanegra, the boy from Mexico, will be one of six newly admitted graduate students in the program. Phil Choo, from Seoul, South Korea, is the graduate program director, and Pouya Jahanshahi is a third-year assistant professor in graphic design. Each brings a fascinating perspective to the discipline, which is exactly what faculty members had in mind when creating the program. “We wanted a diverse group so they could complement each other,” Jahanshahi says. “Much of graduate learning is to learn from each other.” OSU’s MFA in graphic design becomes its first graduate program in studio art (there is an existing program in art history). It will encompass three distinct areas: visual communication, motion graphics, and interaction design (sometimes called user experience design or UX design). According to Choo, no other program in the Big 12 Conference has that combination. With national organizations already noticing OSU’s undergraduate work, all six allotted slots were quickly filled. In fact, the goal for 2016-17 was to offer three or four spots and grow the program from there. “We’re very thrilled,” Choo says. “Fortunately we have a good group of students from different backgrounds, geographical locations and age groups.” Indeed, with students from India, Korea, New York and Oklahoma, ranging in age from recent college graduate to 44 years old, the student body is a diverse cohort. That level of diversity reflects the faculty and helped persuade Bocanegra to continue his studies after graduating with his bachelor’s degree in fine arts from OSU in May 2016. OSU student Garrett Adams created these branding materials for a fictional restaurant called “Gigabytes.” These examples were featured at OSU’s 2016 Senior Graphic Design Capstone exhibit. “I feel like there will be more surprises,” he says. Bocanegra had many of the faculty members as an undergraduate, and he’s looking forward to all aspects of the graduate program, including research and teaching. Each student is required to take a teaching practicum during their first year and will be able to teach lower-division design courses. That is all part of what makes the MFA a terminal degree for the discipline. Graduates of the program will have the ability to work in industry or academia, making the MFA equivalent to a doctorate. Choo is excited by what OSU has accomplished in getting the program off the ground but feels the success of the program ultimately relies on its graduates. “I want the students to become professors or leaders in graphic design, and our program will grow up with that support,” he says. Both Choo and Jahanshahi feel they grew up during their graduate school years. For Jahanshahi, this was almost literally the case. He was 15 when he came to the United States to live with his uncle in Los Angeles. At 13, his parents moved him from Iran to London. His father was allowed to leave Iran for business purposes and the whole family migrated to the U.K. to at least temporarily escape the bloody Iran-Iraq War. In his two years there, Jahanshahi studied for and passed all five equivalency exams in the U.K. to qualify for college. All he had to do next was change his country, his language, and start college at age 15. “Luckily, I was tall,” he jokes. Because Jahanshahi was not born into the family of a master artist, he had no future as one in Iran. In the U.S., he discovered all sorts of careers he could pursue as an artist. Still, he had to sell his parents on the idea. “I had to convince my parents, who had sent me across the ocean at great expenditure, that a career in the arts and design had a future,” Jahanshahi says. He eventually moved on to obtain his master’s degree with a focus on motion and semiotics, at California State University, Fullerton, where he was introduced to the first Macintosh computers. Jahanshahi still keeps one of the relics in his office at OSU. That degree led to work with advertising and design companies, but something was missing. Twenty years after leaving Iran, he returned and came face-to-face with his ethnic visual culture — the missing piece. He pursued his MFA at California Institute for the Arts, keen to develop a hybrid visual identity for his personal graphic voice. Jahanshahi credits a class called “Image Making” that involved picking a designer and trying to make things like that designer for taking him out of his “safe space” and pushing him to truly define who he was. “That’s what I needed to do the whole time,” he says. “It brought out the Iranian in me and the immigrant in me, the hybrid visual thinker. It was about both finding my identity and allowing myself to fail to find something new out of that.” Choo also sees success coming from taking risks. Like Jahanshahi, Choo found work as a professional designer immediately after graduating from college but felt there was more to know. He decided to study in the U.S. and found a home at Iowa State University. It was not an easy transition for he could read and translate English but speaking the language had not been part of his education. He soon found his American classmates were happy to help him practice his English. He enjoyed researching interaction design, which had just begun to be studied at the time, and especially took to leading a classroom. “I didn’t know I could teach until I had an opportunity,” he says. “Since then it’s become a career, and that’s been 14 years now.” Bocanegra never had Choo for a teacher as an undergraduate, but he got to know the professor through an internship with SST Software in Stillwater. Choo pushed the soon-to-be graduate to apply. “He mentioned the MFA program to me and I was fascinated by it,” Bocanegra says. The department, under the guidance of Rebecca Brienen (who also serves as the director for OSU’s School of Visual and Performing Arts), is justifying such enthusiasm with cutting-edge equipment such as eye-tracker technology, laser cutters, and 3D printers. The department also offers unique opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration with entities across campus such as the App Center, engineering, broadcast journalism, and fashion merchandising. As much as anything, that is what will set OSU apart from the competition. “We looked at what we are as a land-grant institution and saw that what distinguishes us from purely fine arts schools is a spectrum of science and knowledge they don’t have,” Jahanshahi says. Bocanegra is one of six who will be the first to take advantage of these opportunities in the new MFA program at OSU. They will be pushed, pulled, and offered a broad range of possibilities and perspectives. What they take from the program will ultimately come from within. “The most important thing is the curiosity and willingness to take a risk,” Choo says. Photo Courtesy :Brian Petrotta Story by Brian Petrotta
Tue, 21 Mar 2017 16:00:22 -0500
Out of Tragedy, Honor
Stavenhagen (far left) and Knoernschild (bottom right) were two of eight national qualifiers in the annual William Randolph Hearst Foundation Writing Competition. They were selected from 1,261 entrants. “It’s a story you never want to write.” Even if it leads to a national award? Cody Stavenhagen, a recently graduated sports media major from Oklahoma State University, still would have preferred a normal day of covering a Homecoming football game over adding a trophy to his mantle. On Oct. 24, 2015, Stavenhagen and classmate Kaelynn Knoernschild produced memorable coverage of the car crash at the Homecoming parade that killed four people and injured more than 40. Due to their commendable reporting, the two were selected to compete at the 2016 William Randolph Hearst Foundation’s Journalism Awards in San Francisco. The annual competition recognizes the finest student journalism in the country. OSU student reporters Kaelynn Knoernschild and Cody Stavenhagen worked around-the- clock at the 2016 Hearst Foundation Journalism Awards to produce three challenging articles. The fact that two OSU students were among eight finalists in the writing category to attend the competition in California speaks to their mature handling of a tragic event as well as the O’Colly’s surging presence among national heavyweights. OSU finished third in the writing category after placing 10th in 2015 (the first year OSU cracked the top 10). Barbara Allen, director of student media at OSU, says students who have actively pursued positions in student media are proving to be successful. “You find that students who take advantage of opportunities in student media tend to get better awards, better internships and when they graduate, there are a variety of job offers out there,” Allen says. Stavenhagen and Knoernschild were selected from 1,261 entrants from 108 colleges and universities with accredited undergraduate journalism schools. Stavenhagen (who became the first OSU student to compete in the event in 2015) won the Sports Writing qualifier for his article, “And Then There Was a Football Game,” while Knoernschild won the Breaking News Writing qualifier for her article, “ ‘I can’t recall an incident of this magnitude’: Community mourns after homecoming parade.” In addition to the invite to San Francisco, they each received a $2,600 scholarship from the Hearst Foundation. The week in San Francisco was not all trophies and sightseeing. The Hearst Championships deliver rigorous assignments to competitors. The eight-person writing competition charged the students with interviewing Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, then writing both a news story and personality/profile piece. In addition, they were assigned an on-the-spot article about the city’s homelessness crisis. “It is really a test of time management, ability to follow good leads, and acclimate yourself to a beat you’re unfamiliar with,” Allen says. In setting out to cover the homelessness crisis, Knoernschild found herself drawing on lessons learned during the Homecoming tragedy. In shock and mourning like the rest of Stillwater, Knoernschild battled to balance her reporting with her own troubled feelings. Cody Stavenhagen won the Hearst Award qualifier in Sports Writing for his article, “And Then There Was a Football Game.” “Interviewing people in the community but also being a human was really difficult for me,” she says. “I was constantly reminding myself itself it’s OK to be human and to have these emotions as a reporter.” Similar emotions stirred in Knoernschild when she met a homeless woman in San Francisco whose daughter had been kidnapped. The woman lost her job when her efforts to search for her daughter overlapped with her work schedule. It was not a story Knoernschild could have anticipated. “I did not expect to talk with someone involved in kidnapping and who was so open and honest with me about it,” she says. Both Knoernschild and Stavenhagen look back at the Homecoming tragedy with weary sadness. Not only were they processing their own emotions, they had to cover an unimaginable subject. Knoernschild, as the O’Colly managing editor, coordinated photographers and reporters while working on the story herself. A day that began with notions of tailgating at a football game quickly turned into a marathon shift. She eventually left the O’Colly around 1 a.m. for a few hours of sleep before preparing to be interviewed during a live national news broadcast on Fox & Friends at 5 a.m. Sunday morning. By Sunday night, she had her story ready for Monday’s issue of the O’Colly. Stavenhagen had a similar experience. He was set to cover what everyone thought would be an easy Homecoming football win over Kansas. Instead he was jarred awake by calls and texts from friends and family asking if he was all right. Once he figured out why those calls were coming in, he went straight to work. “One of the things about being a journalist is you don’t have a lot of time to process something like that,” he says. While Knoernschild hunted down details of what happened, Stavenhagen made his way to the intersection of Main Street and Hall of Fame Avenue. He surveyed the scene, paying close attention to each “eerie” detail that gave him chills. By the time he reached the press box inside Boone Pickens Stadium, he had a framework in mind for his story. He also knew he did not want to write it. “I remember talking with Nathan Ruiz, the sports editor for the O’Colly, and telling him, ‘I do not care about this football game,’ ” Stavenhagen recalls. In his story, Stavenhagen wove the details of the game with the “horrific event that had rocked the entire community.” Many people in the crowd of 40,000 at the game probably processed the day’s events in similar fashion. Allen feels Stavenhagen’s  ability to tap into that shared experience caught the attention of the Hearst judges. “I think the reason he won such a prestigious award is that he was able to put into words what people were incapable of saying at the time,” she says. Knoernschild produced her award-winning piece with a classic style and relentless reporting. Allen gives her the ultimate compliment by calling her an “old-school journalist.” Thanks to the School of Media and Strategic Communications at OSU and student media outlets like the O’Colly, Stavenhagen and Knoernschild have learned “old school” ethics in the age of modern media. Allen believes quality writing bridges reporting and communication. “We feel that having great writers in a vibrant student media program that is visible on a national level to other academics and professionals is really important,” she says. The industry seems to be taking notice. Stavenhagen graduated in December 2015 and, after landing competitive internships with, The Oklahoman and The Minneapolis Star-Tribune, began full-time work at the Tulsa World. Knoernschild graduates in May 2017 and spent the summer of 2016 in Washington, D.C., interning for the Student Press Law Center. Both students secured scholarships before even setting foot on campus in Stillwater. Stavenhagen hails from Amarillo, Texas. He was drawn to OSU for the sports media program and received enough financial assistance to make OSU more affordable than the major in-state Texas schools. Knoernschild calls Edmond, Okla., home, and both of her parents are OSU alumni. Though they encouraged her to apply to several different schools, they made it clear that wherever she went, she would still bleed orange. As with Stavenhagen, OSU presented her an influential level of scholarship money, and one visit to the campus sealed the deal. “I felt right at home,” she says. This fall, she returns to Stillwater as editor of the investigative team at the O’Colly. Knoernschild heaps praise upon Allen, her SMSC professors and the student editors who preceded her for helping an inexperienced freshman blossom into an award-winning student journalist. “As an editor in the fall, I hope I’ll be able to do some of the same and give back to the organization that helped me fall in love with journalism,” she says. Stavenhagen is similarly fond of his time at OSU, calling the O’Colly his most rewarding student experience. “You’re out there and doing stuff that matters and can have an impact on this campus,” he says. Photo Courtesy / Jakub Moser and Erin Lubin Story by Brian Petrotta
Fri, 28 Apr 2017 09:37:24 -0500
Brewing Something New
Tyrrell Conway Tyrrell Conway pulls on his lab coat and prepares to deliver a lecture. It would be an ordinary day for the professor and head of the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics at Oklahoma State University except that instead of inter- acting directly with college students, Conway is speaking to a camera lens. He is lecturing on the metabolism of yeast as part of the College of Arts & Sciences’ first Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) titled, “Brewing Microbiology.” This is new territory for the scientist and the college but the MOOC generated immediate interest as both a credit and non-credit offering. In fact, by making the class available in both formats, it allowed for an unusual makeup of students. “What I think is really interesting is when I hear a student is enrolled for credit and they’re taking it with their parent, who is enrolled in the open course,” Conway says. The late Dr. Ed Grula (left) offered Tyrrell Conway a spot in his lab, sparking the then-student’s love of microbiology. His wife, Mary (right), stepped in to help the department after Dr. Grula’s death. Credit: OSU 125TH ANNIVERSARY TIMELINE The idea to teach a course on the microbiology of microbrewing sprouted from two seeds: Conway’s growing interest in a rapidly growing industry and his department’s desire to build student credit hours. Noting there are “thousands of courses” that teach the how of brewing, Conway saw an opportunity to discuss why the process works. It proved to be an easy sell after meeting with Arts & Sciences Associate Dean for Outreach Bobbi Kay Lewis. She saw an opportunity to turn Conway’s idea for an online credit course into a MOOC. “I thought it sounded like a fascinating course,” she says. “It went from conception to development very quickly after the initial discussion.” LOCAL TIES It does not hurt to have a popular local brewery on board with the production. Iron Monk Brewery Company, founded in 2014 by OSU alumni Dave Monks and Jerod Millirons, not only opened their doors for portions of the video shoot but also worked to promote the class. It just so happens Monks and Millirons share the professor’s passion for science. Monks earned his doctorate in molecular biology and Millirons graduated from OSU with a bachelor’s degree in biology before pursuing his MBA. The two met while teaching biology at North Central Oklahoma College in Stillwater and discovered their mutual love of home brewing. Now their product is being broken down to its most basic elements for a worldwide internet audience to witness. Their cooperation proved vital to the project. “We can’t offer this course without those guys,” Conway insists. Part of Iron Monk’s corporate ethic is to use grain from Oklahoma, which led Conway to make a connection with J.D. Drennen of 46 Grain Co. in Ames, Okla. He allowed the video crew to record some of the lectures in his rye fields, giving the course a true “on-location” feel. On-campus collaborations also made Brewing Microbiology a success. Conway is quick to credit A&S Outreach with promoting the class and the Institute for Teaching & Learning Excellence with providing the technical talent and exper- tise to produce a quality online product. “The university resources have been great,” Conway says. “They think of things from the student’s perspective.” Tyrrell Conway (left) and Jerreme Jackson prepare a lesson in Brewing Microbiology for the cameras. Help also came within the department from first-year postdoctoral associate Jerreme Jackson. He handled much of the lab work, which often commanded two or three days of prep before the lecture could be recorded. “I can’t put into words how much groundwork goes into making a course available online for anyone in the world,” Jackson says. LEARNING You might think a professor with Conway’s years of experience and level of expertise would be content to spit out a lecture and call it day. However, Conway took on the project to be a student himself. “The MOOC has been a labor of love because I get to study,” he says. “I am having the most fun when I’m learning something new.” That love of learning began in earnest his senior year at OSU. The late Dr. Ed Grula offered a spot in his lab, and Conway jumped at the chance. “Big Ed” passed away at age 54 while Conway was still a graduate student, but the beloved professor left a huge impact on the department. So did his wife, Mary. “She was an amazing, brilliant, strong, sweet woman,” Conway says. He recalls her stepping in to try to pick up the pieces in the department just two weeks after Big Ed passed. Grula’s legacy lives on today, thanks to a graduate fellowship he started at OSU. One of his first Ph.D. students, John Whitney, completed the endowment on that fellowship. Whitney retired as vice president of the Eli Lilly and Co. research labs and was honored as the 2016 Arts & Sciences Distinguished Alumni for Microbiology. Conway stayed in academia. He secured a postdoctoral position at the University of Florida, where he received the U.S. Patent Office’s 5 millionth patent (for creating recombinant E. coli that made ethanol) — a notable enough event that CNN found time around its Desert Storm coverage for a report. The University of Nebraska hired Conway out of Florida and granted him tenure. He moved on to Ohio State University before returning to Oklahoma at the other Big XII institution. That move shocked family members; his brothers, aunts, uncles and father all graduated from Oklahoma State. LEGACY Conway just completed his first year as the microbiology head at OSU, where he is building his own legacy. From instituting a tagline, “Think big about small things,” to enlisting his dog, Chunk, in the Pete’s Pet Posse program, he has worked to build an identity for the program. Brewing Microbiology is his latest success. “The high enrollment in both the credit and free MOOC indicates it will be successful reaching and engaging learners on campus and across the globe,” Lewis says. “The MOOC is an excellent example of the land-grant legacy emphasizing educational access and outreach.” With the university as a whole trying to manage budget cuts, positive numbers are welcome — especially for one of the smaller departments on campus. Conway feels generating student credit hours through the MOOC serves the microbiology and molecular genetics department as well as Arts & Sciences as a whole. “I think it’s important for us to contribute back to the college,” he says. While the MOOC is bringing an unusual amount of attention to the department, Conway knows it is the quality of faculty, students and staff that makes the biggest difference. Just as he has enjoyed learning about microbrewing, Conway appreciates perspectives other than his own, and that quality helps attract talented people like Jackson. Believe it or not, the Brewing Microbiology MOOC was not part of the sales pitch to entice Jackson to OSU. When he did find out about the course, though, his reaction was similar to many others: “I was going to ask Dr. Conway if I could enroll and take it myself.” Instead, Jackson became involved in nearly every step of the project including speaking roles on topics he was particularly qualified to talk about “off the dome.” Jackson sees the value of the course is in teaching students to look deeper. “The whole idea is to encourage students to think outside the box,” he says. “We want them to think of what they can do with the different curricula they’re taking, and that there is a scientific component to the products we consume on a daily basis.” Photo Courtesy / Brian Petrotta Story By Brian Petrotta
Wed, 12 Apr 2017 15:52:02 -0500
20 Years On
Dr. Allen Apblett was recently inducted as a fellow of the National Association of Inventors. He is current working on projects ranging from aircraft to solar energy harvesting. When Allen Apblett was growing up in the Canadian provinces of Alberta and New Brunswick, his father often put on Merle Haggard records for the Sunday soundtrack. However inspirational the music, it was not “Okie from Muskogee” that brought Apblett to Oklahoma. Instead, it was a restless curiosity rooted in chemistry. As he enters his 20th year at Oklahoma State University, Apblett has proven himself as an educator, researcher and inventor. The National Association of Inventors inducted Apblett as a fellow on April 15 at the U.S. Patent Office in Washington, D.C. Though he has garnered an enviable number of awards and grants throughout his career, the NAI ceremony was humbling for Apblett. “I wasn’t sure I fit the crowd,” he laughs. NAI fellows produce an average of 33 patents and Apblett lands on the lower side of that number. But quality over quantity counts: “A patent does not really mean much unless somebody uses it,” he notes. He co-founded (along with OSU chemistry department head Nick Materer and OSU graduate Shoaib Shaikh) Xplosafe, which primarily produces products to test for and neutralize explosives and to purify water.  Just as importantly in Apblett’s eyes, Xplosafe has helped attract several Small Business Innovation Research grants from Homeland Security, USDA and the Department of Defense, creating opportunities for his OSU students. These grants provide seed money for small businesses specializing in technology commercialization. Apblett calls the grants critical to innovation because of their flexibility. “With SBIR grants you can make the argument that an idea should be tried, instead of having five people tell you something won’t work,” he explains. The availability of such seed money was a major attraction for Apblett when he arrived at OSU in 1997. Much of his success has come from seeking an answer to a question and simply following where it leads. “My research has taken me so many different ways,” he says. For example, how could he have guessed delivering a lecture in Texas would land him in Saudi Arabia for a week each year? That journey began when Apblett’s post-doc advisor at Harvard University went to Rice University just as Apblett was moving from Tulane University to OSU. On the way to Stillwater, Apblett gave his lecture at Rice, and an attendee from Saudi Arabian Basic Industries Corp. soon sent a student to study under him at OSU. The relationship has since blossomed, and Apblett has welcomed a stream of Saudi students. Apblett estimates the number of his former students in academia and industry at 50-50. One of the latter includes Cody Cannon, a senior research scientist at Magnesium Products in Tulsa, who credits Apblett’s success as a researcher and instructor to the academia-industry duality of his approach. “He gives students a broader understanding of chemistry through different methods of instruction,” Cannon says. “He has so many different ideas, if you’re ready to take on more projects, he will encourage you.” Cannon recalls Apblett always making time for students, even those in other groups. “He’s very open and helpful,” he says. Following a career in chemistry must have barely registered on young Apblett’s radar, though. His father was a military man (Apblett is a self-described “base brat”) who thought his sons could only be successful in one of two ways — sports or the Air Force. “Unfortunately, I inherited his ability for sports and I can’t take orders,” Apblett jokes. While his brother followed his father into the military, Allen earned a degree with honors at the University of New Brunswick and a doctorate from the University of Calgary. Following a two-year postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard, he landed at Tulane in New Orleans. Though he enjoyed his colleagues and the school itself, Apblett began to search for a place he could comfortably raise his family and a university where he could really dig into research. OSU proved to be the perfect place. He recalls learning the chemistry department had obtained a new piece of equipment but they needed more space — so OSU built a building. “I thought if this place was willing to support research like that, it was the place to be,” Apblett says. He quickly found the research infrastructure (help with budgets, paperwork, etc.) a welcome change. Additionally, the quality instrumentation available to undergraduates and the availability of seed money proved that OSU was dedicated to research. Even better, he was able to step into a lab tailored to his interests from the start and quickly built collaborations with the engineering college. “At this point in my career, nobody will chastise me for working on a little bit of everything,” Apblett says. As of mid-2016, he was trying to solve problems with aircraft, production of chemicals for medical applications and working on kits for measuring chemicals in oil fields. He is even collaborating with faculty members from other universities on solar energy harvesting. “There’s nothing like going in having little clue what the people are doing and then trying to solve their problems. You both learn something new and manage to accomplish something that will make a lasting impact.” Photo Courtesy / Gary Lawson / University Marketing Story by Brian Petrotta
Tue, 21 Mar 2017 15:47:09 -0500
Safety First
Sheryl Tucker, associate dean provost for OSU’s Graduate Education and dean of the Graduate College, stands with forensic science master’s student Dane Robertson and Remy. Both students tied for second place and were awarded $750 at the fourth OSU 3MT competition for thesis master’s and Ph.D. students held on March 3 in the Student Union Theater. This was the first tie in an OSU 3MT finals. It’s no question that great risk is involved in successfully getting people to deep space for extensive missions. In the 2030s, NASA is planning to send people outside Earth’s orbit — specifically Mars — but much must be done before it can happen. Of course, keeping astronauts safe — especially when they face exposure to high doses of radiation — is a top priority. Kahli Remy, a physics doctoral candidate, addressed this issue in her presentation, “High Dose Radiation Effects in Tissue Equivalent Materials.” She won first place in the 2016 College of Arts & Sciences 3 Minute Thesis Finals and second place universitywide. “It is no surprise to me that Kahli did so well,” says Stephen McKeever, a MOST Chair of Experimental Physics, Regents Professor and Noble Research fellow who served as Remy’s research adviser throughout the entire process. “Her enthusiasm shines through in the lab.” McKeever along with Eduardo Yukihara, associate professor in OSU’s physical sciences department, and others helped Remy prepare her thesis, attended her competitions and gave her beneficial feedback. Remy’s thesis centered on the high levels of radiation that could be found in space and identifying and testing materials that could absorb radiation like human tissue does. In her 3MT talk, she defined radiation as “simply waves or subatomic particles that transport energy to another entity, whether it’s an astronaut or spacecraft component.” Physics doctoral candidate Kahli Remy hopes her research will lead to more concrete safety measures for astronauts traveling to deep space. She won first place in the 2016 A&S 3MT Finals and second place universitywide. To Remy, the 3MT was more of an application-based presentation, which is much more than simply explaining the science of what one’s doing — a concept that can be difficult to play out in the realm of science. “This really broke the ice for me regarding presenting in front of people I don’t know,” Remy says.” It was a good first step in gathering information, organizing it in a concise manner — what I want to talk about and why I want to talk about it — and hitting important points, which is hard sometimes in science.” She focused on relaying her message to the audience in a conversational manner — in a way that is relatable, easily understandable and publicly relevant. It left the audience with a call to action — and she did it all in three minutes with only one static slide. In particular, she spoke about the kinds of particle radiation doses that astronauts would experience during prolonged deep space missions and why it’s an important, relevant issue that needs to be addressed and resolved. It’s no question that space radiation exposure is extremely hazardous, but it becomes even more so when we’re not entirely sure what levels will be encountered. The bottom line is that high dose radiation exposure passes through the body’s cells and DNA and can kill them — the higher the dose, the faster cells die along with a lower probability of surviving. Remy highlighted the bigger risks of exposure, such as increased risk for cancer and the possibility of acute radiation sickness during an actual mission —including the risk of cognitive issues if particles were to directly affect the brain. She explained the process of how she would dose specific materials with various types and high levels of radiation, and then devise an energy deposition profile to study how particles deposit energy and thus damage materials, i.e., human tissue. The big picture: she’ll be able to equally compare how such materials/tissue are damaged by certain types of radiation at differing levels with what will happen to the astronauts and how much radiation they can endure. Remy hopes her research will lead to more concrete safety measures for astronauts. Originally from Leona Valley, Calif., Remy completed her undergraduate degree at Southern Arkansas University, where she majored in engineering physics. Soon after, Remy ventured to OSU for graduate school — a simple choice she made after visiting campus for the first time. “She is a leader among the students and is always ready with a smile and a laugh,” McKeever says. “Her hard work, persistence, patience and communication skills — and her grasp of the ‘big picture’ — mean that she is on her way to becoming a very capable research scientist and educator. With her positive personality, she will be a great success.” Photo Courtesy / Oklahoma State University Story by Shelby Holcomb
Tue, 21 Mar 2017 15:47:44 -0500
OSU extends partnership with Tulsa Symphony Orchestra
A unique program that gives graduate music students at Oklahoma State University the opportunity to gain professional experience by playing main stage concerts with the Tulsa Symphony Orchestra (TSO) has been renewed.  The OSU Department of Music and TSO recently announced the renewal, which will also give the five string students involved (two violins, one viola, one bass, and one cello) professional training with the orchestra while they pursue their Master of Music degree at OSU.  Financial support, provided by the Patti Johnson Wilson Foundation, makes the program possible at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center for a two-year span. Only one other program in the country has a similar partnership with a professional orchestra and OSU’s program was the first. “It is invaluable for what we do as performers,” said Laura Talbott Clark, associate professor of violin and viola at OSU.  “Performing with the TSO greatly enhances the odds a student will land a job as a professional musician after graduation.”  The program has increased in popularity since its inception four years ago with the number of student applicants doubling over the last two years. Interest in OSU’s Department of Music is expected to increase dramatically as well with the anticipated 2019 opening of OSU’s McKnight Center for the Performing Arts, and a residency with the New York Philharmonic scheduled that same year.  “We are thrilled the TSO and the Patti Johnson Wilson Foundation have agreed to continue to support our graduate-level string students,” said Dr. Howard Potter, head of the Department of Music at OSU.  The Patti Johnson Wilson Foundation Graduate Fellowship in String Orchestral Performance also provides each recipient with tuition waivers applied toward obtaining their master’s degree. “Tulsa Symphony is proud to be the artistic performance partner and join forces with the OSU Graduate Music Program and the Patti Johnson Wilson Foundation to expand the scope of graduate education for orchestral string majors,” said Ron Predl, executive director of the TSO.  “We believe this innovative artistic and educational partnership may well become a model for other universities and orchestras to emulate across the country.” The OSU Department of Music is committed to enriching lives through music education, performance and research.  With more than 100 years of heritage, the department presents more than 200 concerts, master classes, guest artist events, and student recitals that are open to the public and enjoyed by community residents as well as OSU faculty, staff, and students. The department offers 20 graduate degrees and each year welcomes participation from more than 2,000 non-music majors. PHOTOS:
Tue, 21 Mar 2017 12:20:41 -0500
Student Union receives LEED certification
Renovations recognized for sustainability The U.S. Green Building Council recently recognized the Oklahoma State University Student Union as a certified Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design building (LEED). The third-party verification that the LEED designation represents, ensures a building’s performance has improved in areas that matter most. Certified buildings are resource efficient, use less energy and water, reduce greenhouse emissions, and ultimately save money. The idea for the OSU Student Union to become LEED certified began as a student initiative, and the Student Union team worked diligently to achieve the goal and meet certain building council prerequisites. During the most recent renovation, several features were added to the building to make it more sustainable. Thanks to those improvements, the building now captures and reuses at least 93.2 percent of rainfall, uses at least 46 percent less fresh water, saves more than 2.7 million gallons of drinking water per year and uses at least 15 percent less energy on lighting. “We are thrilled and excited to be officially-certified as a LEED building,” said Mitch Kilcrease, Student Union director. “This began as a student-led initiative, and we are happy to continue our part in honoring OSU’s commitment to sustainability and environmentally-friendly initiatives.” LEED is a globally recognized symbol of excellence in green building. LEED certification ensures electricity cost savings, lower carbon emissions and healthier environments for the places individuals live, work, learn, play and worship. LEED’s global sustainability agenda is designed to achieve high performance in key areas of human and environmental health, acting on the triple bottom line – putting people, plant and profit first. Oklahoma State University is home to the most comprehensive Student Union in the world. A recent $65 million renovation has given new life to the historic building. For more than 65 years, the Union has been a central part of university life with thousands of students, faculty, staff and alumni visiting each day. For more information about the Student Union, please visit or follow OSUUnion on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest or YouTube.
Mon, 20 Mar 2017 09:47:04 -0500
Allied Arts welcomes a diverse group of musicians for season finale
Humorous, talented brass ensemble closes Oklahoma State’s 2016-2017 season  One of the most popular and famous international brass troupes is visiting Stillwater to entertain fans of all genres. Mnozil Brass has captivated audiences across the globe with their blend of immense virtuosity and theatrical wit. They will be performing in Oklahoma State University’s Seretean Center Concert Hall on April 4 at 8 p.m. What began in Vienna, Austria in Josef Mnozil’s Tavern has become so well-known in concert circles that Mnozil Brass now holds more than 120 concerts a year around the world. The ensemble came together as an offbeat performing septet in 1992 and now tour internationally sharing their iconic and clever musical talent. “Mnozil Brass may not be a household name, but it should be. Their music capabilities are unmatched, but it the delivery of the music that has a definite wow factor,” said Brandon Mitts, Arts, Culture and Entertainment manager. “They are hilarious and magical.  I wish everyone at OSU and in the Stillwater area could see this performance. It will be positively inspiring.” Mnozil performs a wide repertoire of music. The group is known for its humorous presentations of classical favorites, jazz standards and popular hits, such as a unique cover of Queen’s 1975 hit “Bohemian Rhapsody.” They utilize traditional brass instruments and more unusual instruments such as the customized rotary valved trumpet and bass trumpet.  Many of their performances also incorporate other elements such as humor and lyrics making for a truly colorful performance. Tickets for the performance are $20 for adults and $10 for OSU students and children 12 and under. Tickets can be purchased online at or by phone at 405-744-7509. Tickets will also be available at the Seretean Center Concert Hall the evening of the performance beginning at 6:30. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. The Mnozil Brass performance is the final installment in the 2016-2017 OSU Allied Arts series. For decades, the OSU Allied Arts office has brought top-notch talent to the Oklahoma State University campus. The Allied Arts office seeks to enrich the lives of students through the arts. Allied Arts will host eight performances during the year. For more information about Allied Arts and Mnozil Brass, visit
Mon, 20 Mar 2017 09:31:09 -0500
OSU psychologist helps advance mental health diagnosis
Dr. Stephanie N. Mullins-Sweatt Dr. Stephanie N. Mullins-Sweatt, associate professor of psychology and director of clinical training at Oklahoma State University, is among a group of international psychologists and psychiatrists who have developed a new mental health model to help clinicians provide more accurate and useful diagnoses. The Hierarchical Taxonomy of Psychopathology (HiTOP) was developed to address several shortcomings in the current classification system, including diagnostic overlap for patients that have more than one condition.  For instance, there is a high correlation between depression and anxiety. “If someone is diagnosed with one personality disorder, 66 percent will be diagnosed with a second, and if someone is diagnosed with a second, they are incrementally more likely to be diagnosed with a third,” said Mullins-Sweatt.
 The HiTOP model offers new ways of classifying mental health disorders, taking into account that a patient may have two or more related conditions or diseases and proposes a view of mental health as a spectrum while simplifying classifications and adhering to the latest biological scientific information.  The ultimate goal is to provide a better framework for both clinicians and researchers.  An upcoming article in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology is an anticipated first step toward reaching a wider audience with the system. More than 50 researchers contributed to the project, with Roman Kotov, Stony Brook University; Robert Krueger, University of Minnesota, and   David Watson with the University of Notre Dame, taking the lead.  Mullins-Sweatt is in her eighth year at OSU, where she heads the Personality and Psychopathology Lab.  She earned her Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Kentucky in 2009. PHOTO:
Mon, 20 Mar 2017 09:27:59 -0500