Fall 1998: Alma Matters
Fall 1998: Alma Matters
In royal purple fashion, the Horned Frogs now have their first permanent international beach head with the official opening of the London Center, an educational facility located in the heart of London’s cultural district. The first students spent much of the summer doing what will be the hallmark for the center — getting away from it.
“We used the center as a stepping stone for various activities,” said Journalism Prof. Anantha Babbili, the center’s faculty leader. “For example, about 40 of us went to Paris for four days, where we spent an afternoon with one of the director generals of UNESCO talking about the challenges of the next century in the realms of culture and communication.”
This fall will bring 25 full-time students who will enjoy, among other course gems, an art history class that will meet after hours in the British Museum.
“The entire museum will be open exclusively to TCU students since the course is being taught by the curator of the museum,” Babbili said. “Now that we have actually landed there, we can officially begin TCU’s next phase of internationalization and global studies in the cultural and media center of the world.”
Another layer of color has been added to TCU’s already-rich palette of museum relationships as the first master in art history students arrived this fall, as well as a new pre-Colombian art professor.
The new graduate program, several years in the making, takes full advantage of the extensive collections in the three major museums in Fort Worth: the Kimbell Art Museum, the Amon Carter Museum and the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, said Prof. Mark Thistlethwaite, holder of the Kay and Velma Kimbell chair of art history.
“The program is not exactly a museum studies program,” he said, “but there will be seminar classes on-site at the museums and the students will have internships there.” The track includes the history and management of art museums and a traditional “connoisseurship” course which focuses on the authentication of the art, as well as classes focusing on special exhibitions at the museums.
“One of the benefits coming out of this program is that the librarians from the three museums have already formed a consortium and compiled a comprehensive catalog of their holdings that will be accessible on the Web to TCU students,” Thistlethwaite said. “We just don’t have the resources by ourselves for a program like this, but in collaboration with their libraries, we have a satisfactory number of books.”
Sue Bergh, a doctoral candidate in pre-Colombian art history from Columbia University who arrived this summer, rounds out the faculty for the department. Her expertise covers Mesoamerican art, including Mayan and Aztec, with her speciality in Andean art and Peruvian textiles.
“Given the global interest at the school and our proximity to South America, we undertook a major search for someone in this category,” Thistlethwaite said, noting that TCU already has a small collection of pre-Colombian pottery. “She’s going to bring a new dimension.”
The 12 social work students who spent five weeks this summer living and volunteering in Guanajuato, Mexico, went to give — but ended up receiving much more, said Tracy Dietz, associate professor of social work and one of two faculty who joined the students for the new international program, hosted by the University of Guanajuato.
“We knew it would be a lot of work and stressful,” she said. “But it was even more rewarding than we could have imagined.”
Students overcame a language barrier, culture shock and near-stings from scorpions in order to serve seniors, children and mentally handicapped residents through local service agencies.
The Guanajuato study program, two years in the making, is the social work department’s first foray into international education. Students earned three or six credits for their daily intensive Spanish classes, but the real education came from living with host families and working with the locals.
“Students who will be working here in Texas really need to experience working with people from Spanish cultures,” Dietz said. “On this trip, the students were literally where these people are coming from. After living there five weeks, our students gained a deep sense of how different the culture really is.”
Dietz said students also formed real relationships that will endure. She herself received a birthday phone call from her host mother shortly after returning. “We just became a part of their families.”
Radio Flyer revisited
It was his daughter’s interest in art that inspired graduate student Chuck Wells to move beyond traditional nude paintings and venture into the world of sculpture. And though his work has a certain childlike quality to it, very adult themes emerge, such as the sexual overtones in his untitled work displayed behind the Moudy Building.
“My mother ran a day care in my hometown, and as I studied the kids’ work, I began to see subtle things in the drawings that I recognized as things that might be wrong with their environment,” he said, adding that he knew the family situations of the children quite well. “But the drawings the children make aren’t nearly as rough as my work, which reflects my personality and questions I have about what’s going on around me.”
Round ’em up, mate
Even the cattle might glance up when this trail drive gets underway. The fledgling Ranch Management Institute’s first international expedition will happen for two weeks this November as ranchers head to Australia and New Zealand for “hands-on learning,” said Jeff Geider, the Institute’s director, adding that the trips are open to anyone who wants to learn more about the business end of ranching. The Institute kicked off its domestic program on campus in August with a two-day seminar on cattle marketing. More are in the works for the coming year. Course topics were based on results from an alumni survey, which offered a glimpse into TCU’s influence upon the industry. “We received responses from 20 percent of our 1,500 alumni,” Geider said. “That group alone owns almost a million head of cattle.”
Chancellor Michael Ferrari’s self-appointed task since he arrived in July has been to listen, but he did hammer a few nails into a TCU-built Habitat for Humanity house that went up in a 12-hour framing blitz Aug. 11. A matching gift from Maxwell House Coffee made the TCU group’s house possible; fraternities, sororites and other campus organizations are raising the other half of the $35,000 needed for the dwelling.
A bit of history moved on when Allene Jones, assistant professor of nursing, retired in May. Jones, TCU’s first black faculty member and one of the first two black students and graduates, joined the faculty at Harris College of Nursing in 1968 after completing her master’s at UCLA. A specialist in psychiatric nursing, Jones is best known for her work in the skills lab, above, where she showed “gentle strength” to students.
“Allene has a quiet sense about her, but is forthright in her views and integrity,” said Lazelle Benefield, senior associate dean. “The students will miss her because she’s a careful listener who is able to reflect back what is being said. She has a great appreciation for the student experience.”
Jones’ generosity and giving nature are near legendary — she buys Christmas gifts for everyone in her small hometown community each year.
About 1,700 freshman Frogs — a record-setting class for the second straight year — got a good laugh from fellow newcomers Kenny Oubre, center, Carlo Capua, left, and Ben Wilkinson when they flexed their pecs to Macho Man music during this summer’s Orientation skit, one of the highlights of the nine three-day sessions. A new offering this year, students also received Chaim Potok’s short story, Zebra, in the mail prior to Orientation and then met in small discussion groups.”We thought it would be a good vehicle to talk about transitions and life experiences,” said Kay Higgins, orientation director. Indeed, Potok will be the initial Gates of Chai Distinguished Lecturer for TCU’s new Judaic Studies track. Potok himself broke from an orthodox upbringing into a more liberal element of Judaism. Ordained a rabbi in 1954, he earned his PhD in philosophy from the University of Pennsylvania.
Punching the clock
Learning to safely dispose of chemical waste may not be exactly what Byron Scott expected to do this summer, but working in the Physical Plant with his Vital Link mentor, Glenn Payton, assistant director of safety, did have its benefits.
“Using the computer was cool,” said Scott, a seventh grader participating in the program in June. Scott was one of about 30 Fort Worth students who shadowed TCU employees through their work-a-day worlds during the week-long Vital Link program. For seven years, TCU has participated in the effort, which shows students how education applies to everyday life.
Tickling the ivories
Anna Goldsworthy, a master’s student from Australia, was one of some 40 piano prodigies from around the world who came to learn from the “masters” at TCU’s annual summer Cliburn Institute, which included Germany’s Jan Jiracek, a competitor in last year’s Cliburn Competition. Jiracek said the difference between a good pianist and a great one often is simply taking advantage of opportunities like the Institute. “Sometimes,” he said, “you just need the right push.”