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OSU alums to be inducted into Oklahoma Higher Education Hall of Fame
The Oklahoma Higher Education Heritage Society has selected three Oklahoma State University alumni among the 11 leaders who will be inducted into the Oklahoma Higher Education Hall of Fame during a dinner and ceremony set for Monday, Oct. 30, at 6:30 p.m. in the Nigh Center on the University of Central Oklahoma campus in Edmond. The OSU alums are Susan C. Barber, Marlin “Ike” Glass, and Katherine Kocan. Susan C. Barber recently retired as provost of Oklahoma City University after 32 years of service as a botany professor, department chair and in a succession of strategic academic administrative posts. She has been honored as a distinguished graduate of Oklahoma State University and received the lifetime achievement award from the Oklahoma Academy of Science. State Regent Emeritus Marlin “Ike” Glass provided policy and fiscal guidance for Oklahoma’s constitutional coordinating body for higher education during his 18 years of service through his appointment by both Republican and Democrat governors. Highly successful in the trucking industry, Glass led the establishment of the Oklahoma Transportation Center, a joint venture between OU and OSU to meld business and higher education through research and outreach to establish logistics priorities for the nation. Katherine Kocan demonstrated her prowess early in veterinary medicine research, presenting her first paper as an OSU student in 1976. By her retirement in 2016, she had presented 42 first-author papers and was co-author of 43 more at national meetings of the Conference of Research Workers in Animal Diseases. The primary thrust of Kocan’s research has been the study of parasites in cattle, vitally important to Oklahoma agriculture. She also served as a mentor for several students on their paths to research publications. Distinguished contributions to teaching, research and its application, engineering, management, law, government and public service have marked the professional careers of the other Hall of Fame inductees, which include Tony M. Allison, David A. Bryant, J. Rufus Fears, Roger G. Harrison, Jr., Robert H. Henry, James “Jeff” Kimpel, and Paul W. Sechrist. Maxine Horner, a former state senator, will be inducted for her work to enhance student access to Oklahoma’s colleges and universities. The public is invited to attend the dinner and induction ceremony at UCO in Edmond. Tickets are available for $75 each. More information and online registration is available on the Oklahoma Higher Education Heritage Society website, www.ohehs.org, or contact Joyce Sanders at (405) 574-1201. The Oklahoma Higher Education Hall of Fame was established in 1994 to recognize and honor individuals, living and deceased, whose achievement and leadership in scholarship, teaching, research, administration, staff support, outreach and public service have brought honor and distinction to higher education in our state. This year represents the 24th year to honor these individuals’ distinguished contributions.
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OSU College of Arts and Sciences to induct three Hall of Fame honorees
The College of Arts and Sciences at Oklahoma State University will recognize three Hall of Fame honorees at a private banquet on Friday, Sept. 22 at the Wes Watkins Center. They include Tom Daxon, the youngest individual to win statewide office in Oklahoma; Anita Hill, who is widely respected for her professional and civic contributions to civil rights issues, and Gaute Vik, executive chairman of the world’s largest telecom consultancy company. In addition, the college will recognize four Rising Stars and 21 Distinguished Alumni among its 24 departments in ceremonies that will be broadcast live on OStateTV (www.ostate.tv) beginning at 8:15 CDT on Friday night. HALL OF FAME Tom Daxon B.A. Economics ’70, M.S. Geography ‘78 Daxon is a nationally recognized expert in state and local government finance, who recently retired. He ran for the newly reorganized state auditor and inspector position in 1978. The state election board ruled Daxon ineligible twice due to age, but the Oklahoma Supreme Court unanimously reinstated his name on the ballot, and he became the youngest person to win statewide office in Oklahoma – and the only Republican elected to statewide office that year. Under his guidance, the office’s audits played a key role in exposing a number of county commissioners in what became the largest public corruption scandal in U.S. history. In 1994, Daxon served as Secretary of Finance and Revenue under Gov. Frank Keating, and also spent five months leading efforts to restore Orange County, California, to solvency in what was the largest public bankruptcy in the U.S. Daxon and his wife of 45 years, Linda, were the first couple ever married in the OSU Student Union. They have two sons. Anita Hill B.S. Psychology ‘77 The youngest of 13 children from a farm in Oklahoma, Hill received her juris doctorate from Yale Law School in 1980. She began her career at a private law practice in Washington, D.C. There she also worked at the U.S. Education Department and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In 1989, Hill became the first African American to be tenured at the University of Oklahoma College of Law, where she taught contracts and commercial law. Currently working at Brandeis University, she teaches courses on gender, race, social policy and legal history. As counsel to Cohen Milstien, she advises on class action workplace discrimination cases. Hill is the recipient of numerous grants, honorary degrees and awards. Her professional and civic contributions include chairing the Human Rights Law Committee of the International Bar Association, and memberships on the Board of Governors of the Tufts Medical Center, the Board of Directors of the National Women’s Law Center, and the Boston Area Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights. Gaute Vik Ph.D. Statistics ‘84 In 1982, Vik was awarded a fellowship from the Norwegian government to study statistics at OSU. He earned his doctorate in just two years and was inducted to the National Dean’s List. In 1986, he was employed by Teleplan, a Norwegian telecom consultant company and was the head of business outside Norway. Starting with a handful of consultants and a small local staff in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, he expanded the business to the surrounding countries and succeeded in closing what was recognized as “the largest telecom consultancy contract in the world ever” (Aftenposten and Stavanger Aftenblad, Norwegian newspapers) in 1994. He continued to expand the activities to Southeast Asia, Europe and the U.S. The business was re-organized into a new company with Vik as CEO and was successfully listed on the London Stock Exchange (AIM) in 2008. He currently serves as the company’s executive chairman. Vik is an eager hunter, angler and enjoys traveling challenges. He traveled through Sahara (1972) together with three friends in an old Volkswagen bus before the existence of any roads there, and he has been all over the Scandinavian waters with his boat. RISING STARS Hendratta Ali (Ph.D. Geology/Aqueous Geochemistry ’10) Kimberly Geddie (B.S. Political Science, B.S. English ’09) Matthew Stiner (B.A. Political Science ’07) Wesley Young (B.A. Journalism and Broadcasting, Advertising and Public Relations ’10) DISTINGUISHED ALUMNI Alisa Ben (B.A. Broadcast Journalism ’01) Jerry Burson (B.A. Theatre ’55) Tony Cho (B.M. Music Performance ’98) Barrett Cieutat (M.S. Geology ’92) Emily Drennan (B.A. Spanish ’03) Otto Duecker (B.A. Art Education ’70) Bhaskar Dutta (Ph.D. Physics ’95) Margaret Ewing (M.S. Zoology, Ph.D. Zoology ’61) Bill Fournet (M.A. History ’95) Kimberly Hays-Souter (B.A. Philosophy ’90) Kay Oltmanns Headrick (B.S. Speech Pathology ’85) Elizabeth Hood (M.S. Botany ’80) Brian McDowell (B.S. Microbiology ‘98, D.O. ’03) Fred Regnier (Ph.D. Chemistry ’66) John Rice (B.S. Math ’54) Geoffrey Simpson (B.S. Computer Science ’97) Mike Sloniker (B.S. General Business ’67) William Talley (B.S. Biological Sciences ’55) Jane Thomas (B.A. Sociology ’75) Neil Vandalsem (B.A. English ’91) Vance Winningham (B.S. Pre-Law ’63) For more information, including full biographies of all the Hall of Fame, Rising Star, and Distinguished Alumni inductees, visit: http://ashonors.okstate.edu/.
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New Patrol Unit Brings OSU Police to Heart of Campus
The Oklahoma State University Police Department now has a patrol unit dedicated to the core area of campus. Headquarted in the Student Union, the core campus patrol is made up of three officers who patrol the central part of campus on foot, bicycle or Segway between 7:30 a.m. and 6 p.m., Monday through Friday. The new patrol unit has been added to increase the department’s visibility on campus and enhance its interaction with members of the campus community. Creating this patrol unit in the heart of campus was at the top of Leon Jones’ to-do list when he became OSU Chief of Police on Aug. 1. “In order to have effective community policing, officers have to feel they are part of the community,” Jones said. “That is a challenge for our department because our officers don’t live where they work like police officers do in a city or town. So it is important our department be diligent in making sure our officers feel invested in this campus, its students, employees and visitors.” Lt. Curtis Burns supervises the core campus patrol. He said this patrol is all about building relationships with the members of the campus community through presence, education and enforcement. “This patrol unit gives OSU police a presence in the most visible part of campus — giving officers the opportunities to educate the campus about safety. And because we maintain a daily presence in the core portion of campus we can respond quickly to situations where a patrol car simply can’t go.” In addition to the core campus officers patrolling the area, they also have an office space located in room 225 of the Student Union. “The police department is so appreciative to Assistant Vice President and Director of the Student Union Mitch Kilcrease and his staff,” Chief Jones said. “Their partnership has been vital in making this project get up and running and is important to the success of the patrol unit moving forward.” The OSU Police Department is a fully accredited law enforcement agency consisting of 33 sworn officers. The patrol division consists of 16 officers covering OSU’s 2,600 acres of property, which includes Lake Carl Blackwell and the Oklahoma Research Park located along Highway 51.
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OSU doctoral student earns international honor
The American Society of Plant Taxonomists (ASPT) has selected Oklahoma State University doctoral student Angela McDonnell as the 2017 recipient of the George R. Cooley Award, considered one of the most prestigious early-career honors offered in the field of plant sciences. The award, named after a successful banker who was interested in plants and conservation, goes to a graduate student whose work is judged to be substantially complete, synthetic, original and presented in a clear and engaging manner. McDonnell made her presentation at the annual international botany conference, Botany 2017, which was held this year in Fort Worth. McDonnell’s research used cutting-edge molecular and computational methods to uncover the evolutionary history of the group of plants she studied, and has immediate applications in furthering understanding of North American plant diversity. Dr. Alan Weakley, author of “Flora of Southern and Mid-Atlantic States,” lauded McDonnell’s work on a plant group that botanists in those regions have found taxonomically problematic since at least the 1840s, applauding her “formidable array of techniques implemented with hard work.” McDonnell’s conference talk, titled “Phylogenomics and Evolution of New World Milkweed Vines (Gonolobinae) and Resurrection of Chthamalia: A Genome Skimming and Targeted Enrichment Approach,” focused on elements of her dissertation work, which was accomplished in coauthor and graduate adviser Dr. Mark Fishbein’s lab at OSU as a part of the Milkweed Genome Project. One outcome of McDonnell’s research is that the name for an entire genus of plants (Chthamalia) initially published in 1841 has been “resurrected” after falling out of use in the first half of the 20th century. A 2007 graduate of Edgewood College, McDonnell successfully defended her doctoral thesis at OSU on July 3 and recently accepted the David Burpee Postdoctoral Fellowship at Bucknell University.
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Statement regarding University of Oklahoma President David Boren’s retirement
Burns Hargis, President, Oklahoma State University: “Oklahoma State University commends President Boren on his remarkable career and epic success. His dedication and leadership as President of the University of Oklahoma has contributed to the betterment of our state and higher education. “Personally, I appreciate his collaboration and friendship. He has been a wonderful partner to me and Oklahoma State. “The state of Oklahoma owes David Boren its deepest gratitude. His lifetime of public service has earned him a place as one of Oklahoma’s finest statesmen. We appreciate all he has done and OSU wishes him all the best.”
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OSU students win big at national contest
Oklahoma State University students took home 56 awards, twice the number of any other school entered in the National Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow (ACT) annual competition, held in Snowbird, Utah, this summer. Students enrolled in the OSU Department of Agricultural Education, Communications and Leadership took on 11 other universities in the competition and brought home 12 first-place awards, in addition to the 44 others in various categories that ranged from writing to publication design and layout. “We are extremely proud of what students have accomplished this year and each previous year,” said Dr. Shelly Sitton, professor and adviser for the OSU ACT chapter. Students submitted their communications work in April to be critiqued. The work included portfolio items they completed for classwork and during internships. Awards were given in six divisions – writing, publications, electronic media, photography, design and layout, and public relations. OSU also received the National ACT Outstanding Fundraising Chapter award. Each year, chapters across the nation submit reports about their annual fundraising activities and the award is presented for the most unique fundraising techniques. “The competition was held during the annual Ag Media Summit this year, so it was an incredible opportunity for students to network with future employers and co-workers,” Sitton said. “They also developed professional skills in the various educational workshops at the conference.” OSU students have participated in this annual education and networking event for 19 years. This year, through a competitive grant process that evaluated students’ communications samples, the Yamaha Outdoor Access Initiative granted $3,500 for OSU AECL students to attend. Short Feature Story Category 1st – Kaitlyn Merriman, “It’s Goat Time” 3rd – Tim Taylor, “Powerhouse of Nutrients” 4th – Naomi Lemon, “Memorable Methods” 5th – Katie McKinley, “Get Snacking” Long Feature Story Category 2nd – Bailey Stacy, “Pasta of the Earth” 4th – Kyndal Reitzenstein, “One Family. One Dream.” 5th – Jenna Kool, “From Farm to Field” Short Personality Profile Category 1st – Abigail Arthaud, “Bennetts and Blue Spruce” 4th – Qi Liu, “Footsteps to Success” Long Personality Profile Category 1st – Alexis Shanes, “Mark Your Cards” 3rd – Tim Taylor, “Small Choices – Big Impact” 4th – Chelsea Coulson, “Ag on Air – Courtney DeHoff” Single Blog Entry 2nd – Abigail Arthaud, “Seven Hard Things Every Communicator Must Do” Magazine 2nd – Oklahoma State University, “Cowboy Journal” Newspaper, Tabloid or Newsletter 1st – Julianna Albrecht, “Cowpoke News” Brochure or Pamphlet 2nd – Jera Pipkin, “The Story of Flavor” Short Video Package 2nd – JD Rosman, “Gameday – Gear Up” Long Video Package 1st – JD Rosman, “50th Anniversary Showmanship – NJAS 2016” Video Advertisement Production 1st – JD Rosman, “Own Your Success” Electronic Media Award of Excellence JD Rosman, “50th Anniversary Showmanship – NJAS 2016” Photo Series 2nd – Keely Brown, “Dancing in the Salt” 3rd – Erica Graessle, “Everything I love is at the end of a dirt road” 4th – Braden Schovanec, “Hereford Cattle” 5th – Alexis Shanes, “Czech Out The View” Scenic Photo 3rd – Erica Graessle, “Evening Glory” People Photo 3rd – Morgan Vance, “Happy” 4th – JD Rosman, “In the Zone” 5th – Macy Griswold, “Beauty and the Beast” Animal Photo 1st – Kyndal Reitzenstein, “Diamond in the Rough” 3rd – Dally Clark, “Blue” 4th – Macy Griswold, “Driven” 5th – Kaitlyn Merriman, “It’s Goat Time” Plant Photo 1st – Braden Schovanec, “Spring Time” 2nd – Erica Graessle, “A Harvest Day” 3rd – Dally Clark, “Edmon Low Library” 4th – Paige Crawford, “A Dollop of Daisy” 5th – Wyatt C. Shaw, “Yellow and Pink” Food Photo 1st – Logan Van Allen, “Nature’s Treats” 2nd – Braden Schovanec, “Night in Italy” 3rd – Katie McKinley, “Get Snacking” Other Photo 1st – Spencer Dennis, “A Spark in the Dark” 2nd – Elizabeth Nixon, “The Caretaker” 3rd – JD Rosman, “Sowing the Future” 4th – Braden Schovanec, “Lady Bug” 5th – Reighly Blakely, “Bottle” Photography Award of Excellence Logan Van Allen, “Nature’s Treats” Page Layout 1st – Chelsea Coulson and Erin Larson, “Ag on Air” 2nd – Lindsay Tasos, “Gardening Ghana Style” 3rd – Emily Gould, “Guarding the Fabric of Life” 5th – Kaitlyn Merriman, “It’s Goat Time” Graphic Design for Print or Web 4th – Abigail Arthaud, “Abigail Arthaud Logo” Advertisement Design 1st – Jeromy Lee, “CASNR Recruitment” 2nd – Paige Crawford, “The Cowboy Stampede” 3rd – Julianna Albrecht, “OSU Animal Science Ad” 5th – Michaela Burns, “The Lodge at Rock Creek” Public Relations Single Item 1st – Tim Taylor, “Texas Wheat Annual Report” 2nd – Jacob Sitton and Emily Gould, “OK FFA Foundation Calendar” News Release 1st – Alexis Shanes, “ATV Safety Week” More on the Ag Media Summit: AMS is the largest gathering of crop and livestock media professionals in the U.S. This annual get-together welcomes the agricultural industry’s top writers, editors, photographers, publishers and agricultural communications specialists. The industry-wide gathering offers an opportunity for professional improvement and professional networking. Story by Hayley Bondank The OSU College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources believes in the value of hands-on education and the importance of having a well-rounded student experience. CASNR’s award-winning faculty members are dedicated to developing students and passionate about adding value to the total educational experience. With 16 majors and 52 study options, plus more than 60 student organizations, the college is committed to expanding minds and inspiring purpose. Learn more at casnr.okstate.edu.
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OSU anthropologist works for the return of WWII fallen
Dr. Stephen Perkins, an associate professor of anthropology with the Oklahoma State University Department of Sociology, recently traveled about 2,500 miles west of Hawaii to assist in the return of the battlefield remains of 24 U.S. personnel who were killed on the Tarawa Atoll in the Central Pacific Ocean during World War II. The recovery and transfer to the U.S. of the remains was coordinated by History Flight, Inc., and represented the second-largest recovery of battlefield remains since the end of the Korean War in 1953. Tarawa is one of 33 coral atolls that make up the island nation of Kiribati, which was a Japanese stronghold until it was attacked during World War II by U.S. Marines who took the island in a 76-hour battle that left more than 1,100 of their comrades dead. While 300 or so bodies were located and brought home at the end of the war, it wasn’t until History Flight, Inc., a private, non-profit organization, returned to the island 10 years ago to look for the other World War II soldiers missing in action that many more were found. History Flight’s founder and director, Mark Noah, invited Perkins to return to the island for more volunteer work in helping to identify the remains and join other specialists in an official repatriation ceremony. “The investment of a decade of work and $6.5 million has resulted in the recovery of extremely significant, but not yet to be disclosed, number of missing American service personnel,” said Noah. “Our transdisciplinary team – including many volunteers – such as forensic anthropologists, geophysicists, historians, surveyors, anthropologists, forensic odontologists, unexploded ordnance specialists, medics, and even a cadaver-dog handler, has excelled in difficult conditions to produce spectacular results.” On July 25, Perkins attended the repatriation ceremony for the fallen soldiers presided over by Lt. Gen. David Berger, commander of the Marine Corps Forces in the Pacific, marking the official transfer of their remains from the Kiribati government to United States custody. Berger spoke of History Flight’s contribution to bringing home every warrior who fights on behalf of the United States. After loading their remains into a C-17 military transport aircraft one-by-one with a salute and color guard standing by, they were flown to Hickam Air Force Base in Honolulu, Hawaii, for final identification by the U.S. government’s Defense POW/MIA Accounting (DPAA) and eventual return to surviving family members. “The ceremony is conducted with all of the formality that would normally be accorded someone who was recently killed in combat, except these guys died in 1943 and 1944, more than 70 years ago.” Perkins explains. “I felt really honored to be able to see it. One of the things that really strikes me is that some of those guys flew in on B-24 Liberators, and flew out 73 years later on this huge C-17 aircraft. That represents a lifetime of technology that these guys have not been in the United States. It was an incredible honor to be there.” History Flight and the DPAA continue to work on locating and recovering personnel missing in action from around the world with the help of archaeologists, such as Perkins. His lifelong fascination with World War II and his professional expertise led him to volunteer on Tarawa Atoll. “Anthropology is a field which has a lot of opportunities for interesting experiences all over the world,” Perkins says. “This is just one of those opportunities I was able to participate in.” A native of Stillwater, Perkins earned a master’s degree and doctorate in anthropology from Arizona State University, after receiving his bachelor’s degree in anthropology from the University of Oklahoma. Current or future OSU students interested in this kind of work can enroll in the sociology degree track, which offers both bachelor of arts and bachelor of science options in anthropology.
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OSU’s undergraduate enrollment reaches historic high in Stillwater
Oklahoma State University’s undergraduate enrollment on the Stillwater campus for Fall 2017 of 20,311 is the largest in university history. The number includes 4,220 new freshmen, the second largest freshmen class in OSU history. Freshman facts: 65% from Oklahoma 29.1% are minorities 28.8% have an ACT of 27 or higher 16.9% have a 4.0 high school GPA 26.8% were in the top 10% of their high school graduating class 19.1% first-generation college students Total enrollment for the OSU Stillwater campus, including the Center for Veterinary Health Sciences (CVHS), is 24,274. The total number for the OSU system is 34,568. Enrollment by campus: OSU Stillwater – 24,274 OSU Center for Health Sciences – 966 OSU IT/Okmulgee – 2,509 OSU OKC – 5,839 OSU Tulsa – 980
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First Amendment insufficient for free press?
A historian of American politics and culture, Dr. Sam Lebovic with George Mason University, will argue the First Amendment right to free speech is insufficient to guarantee a free press in the U.S. His lecture, in honor of Constitution Day at Oklahoma State University, is set for Monday, Sept. 18, at 3:30 p.m. in the Peggy V. Helmerich Browsing Room, Edmon Low Library. The lecture is free and open to the public and will be carried live online. Lebovic will share his insight on the strengths and limits of the First Amendment, he will also discuss the effects these factors have on consumers of news and media in the United States, explains Dr. David Oberhelman, W.P. Wood Professor of Library Services and coordinator the Constitution Day event. “Dr. Lebovic is an expert in constitutional history with extensive knowledge of what legally establishes freedom of speech and press,” Oberhelman said. “His topics are very relevant to many students and a great opportunity to learn about our democracy at work.” Lebovic’s new book, “Free Speech and Unfree News: The Paradox of Press Freedom in America,” published by Harvard Press, explores problems ranging from the rise of state secrecy to the corporate consolidation of the newspaper industry. He uses the history of press freedom to ask new questions about the role of the press in American democracy, and to better explain the crises that beset today’s press during the “war on whistleblowers” and the ongoing death of the daily newspaper. The Society of Legal History has awarded Lebovic the Paul Murphy Prize in the History of Civil Liberties to honor the book and the Organization of American Historians recognized it with the group’s Ellis W. Hawley Prize for the best book on the history of the political economy, politics, or institutions of the U.S. from the Civil War to the present. In addition to sharing his insights during the lecture, Lebovic will field questions from the audience. OSU’s Constitution Day is dedicated to those involved in the planning and signing of the Constitution. The OSU Library hosts an event each year to recognize the Constitution’s importance, as well as its lasting impact on America. The Constitution Day event will also be broadcast live at www.ostate.tv. For more information visit library.okstate.edu/constitution or call 405-744-7331. By Teryn Moorman
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OSU student’s idea for banana fabric could be boon for her homeland
When Joyce Nabisaalu taught at Kyambogo University in Uganda and saw her colleague making paper from banana stems, she thought, “Why not more?” Nabisaalu, now an apparel design and production doctoral student at Oklahoma State University, has taken her idea to the next level by researching how to turn banana fibers into fabric. “He’d cut them into small pieces and then blend them into a pulp and create new papers,” Nabisaalu said. “So I told him, ‘Why not make fabric?’ Since my background is in textiles, I thought, ‘OK. I think I can pursue this.’” Nabisaalu first came to OSU in 2014 on a professional fellowship program through the U.S. Department of State, but she had no idea this was where she would pursue a new passion. “At that point, all I knew was that I was coming here to better my teaching and fashion skills,” Nabisaalu said. After receiving her doctorate, Nabisaalu hopes to teach at a university again and help other people learn how to transform banana fibers into fabric. In Uganda, she had a business teaching young, single mothers how to make clothing for a living. “In every way, I want to continue supporting them whenever I can,” Nabisaalu said. “I also encourage them to train someone else, better someone else’s life.” The program that initially brought her to OSU was designed for entrepreneurs in East and South Africa, including Nabisaalu’s hometown of Luwero, Uganda. During the six-week fellowship, she was placed under the mentorship of Dr. Mary Ruppert-Stroescu, a former associate professor of apparel design and textile science in the College of Human Sciences. “At every step of the way, from the time I very first met Joyce, I was very impressed by her professionalism and her ability to take an idea and develop it and make it her own and think of all the critical, problem-solving ways to look at it,” Ruppert-Stroescu said. She visited Nabisaalu in Uganda after the fellowship ended and immediately saw the potential in the banana stem project. With funds from the RIATA Center for Entrepreneurship, Ruppert-Stroescu took on the role of adviser and brought Nabisaalu back to OSU to pursue a doctoral degree and further her interest in clothing made from banana fibers. “Turning fiber into fabric instead of paper may seem like a little idea at first,” Rupport-Stroescu said. “Then you realize that it has the potential to completely transform the economic and aesthetic landscape for a country.” In Uganda, agriculture employs 75 percent of the population, with bananas and plantains being the most popular crop. More than 10 million tons of bananas are harvested each year. With so many farmers growing bananas and discarding the rest of the plant, the materials to make the fibers would otherwise rot and be of no use. “The clothes you find in America, if they are sold in Uganda, are really expensive,” Nabisaalu said. “A dress here could be like someone’s salary in Uganda. No one can afford it. So, some people prefer the secondhand clothes from Western countries. However, since merchants realized there was a demand for secondhand clothes, they are also now highly priced in Uganda.” Ugandan cotton production has been in a steep decline due to the high cost of cotton harvesting and labor, so there is more of a market for natural fibers now than ever. “So, if we have a fiber that can do basically the same thing (as cotton), why not increase our average household income?” Nabisaalu said. The banana fibers make the clothing completely sustainable and biodegradable, something Nabisaalu and Ruppert-Stroescu agree is a large part of why it will be successful. The softening, finishing and dyeing products are also natural. Ruppert-Stroescu said she hopes that work on the project will continue to be successful and help the economic and environmental aspects of life in Uganda. “I don’t think it’s pie in the sky,” Ruppert-Stroescu said. “It’s a big project, but I don’t think it’s impossible.” Nabisaalu will spend the 2017-2018 school year researching the properties and physical structures of banana fibers. After defending her dissertation proposal in May 2018, she will spend the rest of her time as a student learning how to turn theory to practice and banana stems to clothes. “I am just so proud of her and so excited for the future of this project,” Ruppert-Stroescu said. “I have all the confidence in the world that she’s going to be able to do great things with this.” Watch Nabisaalu’s OSU Graduate College Three Minute Thesis presentation on her study of making fabric from banana fibers: http://ra.okstate.edu/STW_Grad/3MC/2017/Nabisaalu/video.html Story by Aubrie Bowlan
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