Vintage Lass-O


In the next few issues of the TWU Alumni Connection we will highlight an entry from a vintage Lass-O (now Lasso), the TWU student newspaper that will be celebrating 100 years in fall of 2014.

This 1934 poem, advice from a Big Sis to a Little Sis, cautioned against the habit of borrowing others’ clothing.  It made us smile and we hope you enjoy it, too.

Dear Little Sis:

All dwell alike in peace and light together,

Each wears the covering that “Nacher” gave it;

They never swap a single skin or feather.

So be it with you in your college days, dear,

Wear your own clothes — and let who will be clever –

Beware of starting things it’s hard to finish

and don’t begin a thing like that –not ever!

Another suit may look much better on you–

May be far more your type–much more your style,

It’s not the cost; as usual, it’s the upkeep;

And clothes wear out in such a little while.

So gird that ole will-power all about you,

Your beauty and possibilities fore-swearing;

You may be far more stunning than the owner-

She bought ‘em, Gorgeous; let her do the wearing!

She may have stacks and gobs and scads and jillions-

That doesn’t change the situation – much,

The ‘something old, the new and blue’ we grant you,

Let’s leave the borrowed togs to brides and such.

You may not feel so strongly on the subject,

Denounce me, if you like – and burn this letter-

Go on and be the best-dressed on the campus,

But be it in YOUR OWN -you’ll like it better -

Sympathetically, YOUR BIG SIS

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A Chance to Dance

For Leah McGee, 2011, Doctor of Physical Therapy, A Chance to Dance, the organization she founded, is the perfect combination of passion, opportunity, and knowledge. A Chance to Dance is a Lake Jackson, TX based non-profit that provides professional dance instruction to children with special needs.  Leah holds a bachelor’s degree in Education from Baylor University with a major in health science studies and a minor in dance.  Her advanced degree is from TWU Institute of Health Sciences – Houston Center and she works as a licensed physical therapist.  TWU Alumni Connection interviewed Leah about what inspired her, what her biggest challenges have been and what she sees for the future of A Chance to Dance.  We wish you all the best, Leah!

ACTD Logo by DA designWhen did you start A Chance to Dance?  What or who served as your inspiration?   In 2010, A Chance to Dance (ACTD) began simply as a dance class at a local studio in Clute, TX.  After the first semester, it became clear the program would flourish best as its own entity, so in January of 2011, ACTD was established as a non-profit corporation.

Identifying one event or person responsible for my inspiration is difficult.  I’ve had a love for music and dance since I was born and am blessed to have parents who afforded me the opportunity to start dance classes at age 3.  Dance is a part of who I am and in my soul I’ve always known I wanted to incorporate dance in my life and in the lives of others.  My Mom was, and is involved with special education.  I was fortunate enough to see and hear about different types of children with special needs when I was growing up.  The experiences my mother shared greatly influenced my future decisions.  I remember as early as college, telling my roommate that one day I wanted to the chance to teach dance to children with special needs.

IMG_7086Dance is such a multi-faceted art.  Dance is a way to express yourself, a way to tell a story, a way to keep your body healthy and fit, and to socialize and have fun.  Unfortunately, these children often aren’t given the same opportunities that most of us are given in life, including the chance to participate in art and sports.  Dance has left an impression on my life and I wanted to share that with children who see and face the world in different ways.  My inspiration comes from the love of this art expressed through the unique abilities that I find in these children each day.

I began ACTD as a student physical therapist studying at TWU-Houston and this served as the final piece to the puzzle.  Learning the clinical skills required to physically teach a child in a wheelchair or a child who has difficulty making sense of their environment equipped me with the tools I needed to make my dream a reality.  It was the perfect combination of Passion, Opportunity, and Knowledge.

ACTD web

What has been your biggest challenge as you moved forward?   The biggest challenge initially was building a curriculum from scratch.  In 2010, there wasn’t much research or public information on adaptive dance.  I researched the evidence on the techniques and benefits of therapeutic dance, adaptive ballet, and so forth.  In fact, this research was compiled as a Critical Appraisal Topic (CAT) I submitted as an assignment in physical therapy (PT) school at TWU.  Not knowing how to structure the class elements, define our expectations of the students, or create the criteria of eligibility for the program was difficult.  Simply put, shaping the content of the program around the heart of our mission was challenging.  Fortunately, my Artistic Director, Kyndell Goff, was by my side and brought forth all of her expertise as a dance instructor from main-stream studios and as school teacher for children with autism.  Together, we combined her expertise, and experience with my research and clinical skill to develop a solid foundation for ACTD.  The next challenge was navigating the business aspect of our venture.  We had to educate ourselves on lots of basic business principles and sought help from local business owners.

Dance ClassAs our program has become more defined over the years, the challenge  I face now is continuing to create and learn ways to maximize each child’s function in our program.  Each student is truly unique in his or her needs and so is the way they express themselves through the art of dance, which requires an ever-evolving innovative approach to bring out the very best in each of our dancers.

Is there a particular memory or occasion that you hold as special?   There are so many precious memories that I have from ACTD.  One dancer thanked me for teaching her how to dance- the irony is that truly, she had taught me so much more in my two and half years with her.  I may have given her words to call movements and a room with mirrors that she can move in, but she has taught me that dance transcends past the limbs and technique.  It is much grander than that.  Dance is better captured as the fulfillment of a limitless spirit free of physical barriers.  In almost 20 years of dancing, it took this student and these dancers to truly teach me that.  It’s one thing to know that dance moves past the body, and quite another thing to feel it in your heart that dance is part of the soul.

How did you come to enroll at TWU? Have you kept in touch with the department there in Houston?  Have you returned to speak to classes about your experience?   TWU-Houston was my top choice school for physical therapy, not only because of its high reputation, but also because of the easy access to The Medical Center and the structure of the program itself.  I have definitely kept in touch with the school and continue to attend the annual research day each year.  I lectured on pediatric orthopedics in 2013 and I’ve been lucky enough to receive an invitation to return this year.  I have also enjoyed teaching their current students in the clinical setting at Shriners Hospitals for Children-Houston, where I currently work.  I would love to speak more about adaptive arts and creating opportunities for children as a physical therapist.  It is a great honor to be a part of their lives.  Quite frankly, PT school gave me the rest of the tools I needed to make ACTD a reality.  Realizing that one’s potential as a therapist expands past rehabilitation is enlightening and will move our profession forward.

Recital day - Leah with instructor Kyndell and one of the dancers

Recital day – Leah with Artistic Director, Kyndell, and one of the dancers

What do you see as the future for A Chance to Dance?   I hope to see ACTD become an inspiration and/or model for other studios in hopes of empowering them to create their own programs for children with special needs.  They are most definitely an underserved population and I look forward to sharing all that I have learned in order to make this happen.  I’d also like to see the local program continue to grow to include the older teenage population and I foresee this happening as our current students continue to age.  I was able to meet and discuss curriculum with the director of the Houston Ballet adaptive ballet class prior to its start in 2012, and I would love for ACTD to have more opportunities like this in the Houston area.  I’ve had a few TWU students come and observe/volunteer with our classes at ACTD and I hope to see this continue as well.  Video of Recital  –

An undocumented goal of our program that is inherent to the art of dance is for our students to find their own way to create motion and dance, and to be confident of their motion, especially when taking the stage to perform.  I hope that we are able to allow some of our dancer’s dreams to become realities.

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SMARTTTEL – An Innovative TWU Project

Thanks to a TWU program in Teacher Education, teachers in north Texas rural and small schools will receive training in methods for teaching in classrooms where an increasing number of students are learning English as they study their subjects.  TWU alumnae, Karen Crooks,  2008, B. S. Education and Janae Terry, 1999, B. S. Communication are members of the first cohort of teachers to participate in SMARTTTEL (Science and Mathematics for ALL: Rural Teacher Training through Technology for English Learners), a program was developed by Associate Professor, Dr. Holly Hansen-Thomas.

Dr. Holly Hansen-Thomas, Associate Professor of Teacher Education is creator and supervisor of SMARTTEL.

Dr. Holly Hansen-Thomas, Associate Professor of Teacher Education is creator and supervisor of SMARTTEL.

TWU Associate professor, Dr. Holly Hansen-Thomas describes SMARTTTEL as a collaborative professional development program between TWU, 14 school districts in north Texas and the Education Service Center of Region XI.  The project is sponsored by the Office of English Language Acquisition and the U. S. Department of Education.  Dr. Hansen-Thomas whose specialty is English as a Second Language, realized that teachers in rural and small schools were facing increasing student diversity in their class rooms just as teachers in urban schools were.  However, few professional development programs were available to assist those in rural communities.  Schools that are partners with SMARTTTEL to date are Aubrey ISD, Decatur ISD, Godley ISD, Krum ISD, Little Elm ISD, Millsap ISD, Pilot Point ISD, Poolville ISD, Rio Vista ISD, Texas Education Centers, Tolar ISD and Valley View ISD.  Learn more about the SMARTTTEL program and its services at the official website.

Karen Crooks has better been able to serve her students at Carson Elementary because of SMARTTTEL.

Karen Crooks has better been able to serve her students at Carson Elementary in Decatur because of SMARTTTEL.

Karen Crooks has had a positive experience with SMARTTTEL in its inaugural year.  “It is teaching me how to better understand the needs and background of English Language Learning students, the best strategies to use, and even more about the second language acquisition process.  The knowledge I am gaining will allow me to impact the students so that they can become more successful in science and math.” 

Alumna Janae Terry is one of the class of teachers to receive SMARTTEL training.  She's shown here with her granddaughter, Kylie.

Alumna Janae Terry is one of the class of teachers to receive SMARTTEL training. She’s shown here with her granddaughter, Kylie.

TWU alumna, Janae Terry, feels honored to be a part of the first SMARTTTEL cohort.  “From this program I have gained a better understanding of diversity in education.  As teachers we need to be aware of the changing society in which we live and seek to educate ourselves in the strategies needed to teach in such diversity.”  She notes, “I will not only be able to share what I have learned from the SMARTTTEL program with teachers from my school but also incorporate these strategies in my daily instruction and interactions with my students.”

As she visited the schools, Dr. Hansen-Thomas recognized an additional benefit of the program.  “Not only is it filling an important need — that of better preparing rural and small school district teachers to meet the needs of their English Language Learners — but also of promoting TWU in the wider community.”  When she visits the schools she sees the teachers wearing TWU shirts and promoting the university to students.  “I think our effect is far reaching and beneficial!”

SMARTTEL orientation

Teachers from the cooperating schools participate in an orientation session.

Although most instruction for SMARTTTEL is done online, the incoming cohort, shown here, does meet for an orientation session.

Although most instruction for SMARTTTEL is done online, the incoming cohort, shown here, does meet for an orientation session.

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The Op Ed Project – Diversity of Voices

Public Voices Thought Leadership Program

A Successful Example of “Learning By Doing”

The Department of History and Government with the Op-Ed Project


Op Ed ProjectHosted in the Department of History and Government, Texas Woman’s University is proud to be a leader in increasing the diversity of voices and ideas in the world today as they sponsored the year-long Public Voices Thought Leadership Program, a part of the Op-Ed Project. Along with Yale, Princeton, Stanford, Fordham, Northwestern, and Emory, Texas Woman’s University worked with the journalists and editors of the Op-Ed Project to train women (who are currently only 20% of opinion page writers) to share their knowledge and expertise first through the writing and publication of Opinion Editorials and then through other medium such as radio, television, and even testimony before the state legislature.

Texas Woman’s University, following their commitment to civic engagement, worked with the generous funding of the Boone Family Foundation and the Embry Family Foundation to bring the program to the Dallas area. With the help of the foundations TWU was able to create a unique program that has become a model for future Op-Ed Project programs. While other Universities restricted the opportunity to be a fellow to only their own faculty, TWU saw the chance to reach into the community and lift the voices of women leaders of Dallas area non-profits. The combination of TWU faculty fellows and non-profit fellows has been electrifying.

The success rate of the TWU Public Voices Thought Leadership Fellows has been far and away the most successful of any Op-Ed program. The TWU fellows had a 400% success rate publishing fifty opinion pieces, as well as appearing on radio and television. The women placed their work in The Dallas Morning News, CNN, The Atlantic, The Huffington Post, The Guardian, The Christian Science Monitor, Aljazeera, and more. One fellow stood with the Mayor of Dallas as he called on men to end violence against women, another testified before the state legislature, and yet another was the prominent voice in an NPR program on immigrant laborers.

The TWU fellows have found their voices and learned the practical skills they needed to get those voices heard on a national and international level. The TWU Public Voices Thought Leadership Program is the ultimate example of how TWU’s commitment to civic engagement and its QEP “Learn By Doing” can help change the lives of individual women and better the world.

The Department of History and Government is currently seeking funding to help continue the program for another two years.

For more information on the national Op Ed project see:

The Texas Woman’s University Public Voices Thought Leadership Program Fellows for 2012-2013:

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TWU Graduation Expressions

TWU capIn irrepressible fashion, TWU new graduates brought fun, humor and personal messages to the 2013 Spring Commencement ceremonies via the artwork found atop the mortarboards. 

In six Spring 2013 Commencement ceremonies held May 10-12, Texas Woman’s University graduated more than 1,800 students into alumni status.  For many in attendance at the ceremonies the “mortar board art” expressed by the students atop their regalia was an interesting and entertaining side attraction to all the pomp and circumstance. 

Here are a sampling of the types of expressions.  Thanks to TWU Associate V.P. of Enrollment Services, Gary Ray for capturing these images as the graduates paraded into Pioneer Hall for the ceremonies.  Vote for your favorites!  Keep scrolling down to see all.


A noble profession

A noble profession


Love my school

Love my school

Very fashionable

Very fashionable

Thanks mom

Thanks mom


Get right to the point
Get right to the point


On to the classroom

On to the classroom

 Pretty and pink

Very elaborate

Very elaborate

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Cornaro Professorship 2013 – Dr. Claire Sahlin

Dr. Neely

Faculty gather on a windy April day for TWU Honors Convocation. Provost Robert Neely, shown here, presented many of the academic awards.


The excellence of a TWU education was on full display at the 2013 Honors Convocation.  Outstanding student, faculty, staff and alumni accomplishments were recognized.  One of the University’s most treasured traditions, the event begins with the playing of the processional on the Margo Jones performance hall pipe organ.   Faculty are in full regalia as they parade down the aisle to their seats where they will applaud their peers for their awards and accomplishments. 

Dr. Sahlin

Cornaro professor, Dr. Claire Sahlin, receives her award from Chancellor Ann Stuart

One of the highlights of the occasion is the presentation by the Cornaro Professor, the highest recognition given to a TWU faculty member.  This year’s honoree was Dr. Claire Sahlin, Department Chair, Women’s Studies.  Dr. Sahlin’s remarks resonated with the TWU Community, particularly the alumni in the audience.  See Dr. Sahlin’s message below:

Dr. Sahlin2

Members of the stage party applaud Dr. Sahlin’s remarks

 “During my very first semester at TWU, as I was getting adjusted to my new job and feverishly preparing each day to teach several new courses, I was waiting one afternoon for the elevator near my office on the 11th floor of the CFO building.  Maybe a lot of you have had experiences like mine, as you’ve waited for one of the many elevators at TWU.  As the doors to the elevator opened, and I saw who exactly was already standing inside, my heart raced and my stomach sank a little.  Inside the elevator was Chancellor Stuart, together with the individuals who were the Provost and my college Dean at the time.  After resisting my impulse to make a run for the stairwell, I walked into the elevator feeling self-conscious and slightly flushed with embarrassment. 

As we rode down together, they began asking about my experiences at TWU thus far.  One of them posed a crucial question that has stayed with me ever since:  “What do you think about being here at TWU, our university that is primarily for women?” 

This question—posed so early in my TWU career—has always impressed me as a significant measure of what has been important to faculty, staff, and administrators at this unique and admirable institution.  My answer at the time was about the curriculum.  I replied by saying that I could teach my courses in philosophy, ethics, and world religions with an emphasis on topics related to women.  I said that at TWU, unlike other places where I had taught, I didn’t feel the need to defend teaching about the ideas, roles, or status of women in all of our diversity.

Over the years since then, I’ve become somewhat more relaxed about getting into the campus elevators.  I’ve also been able to reflect even further on TWU’s stature as the nation’s largest university primarily for women, reflections first prompted by that chance encounter on the elevator.  I take pride in our history of empowering women, and I am also delighted to be a member of a community whose core values include promoting learning among students from diverse racial, ethnic, social, and cultural backgrounds.

Many new and exciting things are happening at this university.  For faculty and administrators, this has been a year of reflecting on TWU’s past accomplishments and a year of planning for our future.  Collectively, we’ve reported to SACS, developed a Quality Enhancement Plan, participated in program prioritization, implemented an academic strategic plan, and begun a systematic process of visioning and integrated planning.  As we continue with these activities, it is fitting that we are also asked to thoughtfully consider our university’s distinctive commitment to educating a diverse student body, consisting primarily of women. 

A few years ago, I had the great joy of doing research and writing about the history of TWU for a collection of essays focusing on women’s colleges and universities.*  Through my work in the Woman’s Collection of the Blagg-Huey Library, I learned so many things that increased my respect and admiration for our university.  Our school, as you know, was established in 1901 to be a place where women could receive an education to help ensure their economic security.  Helen Stoddard, one of the our founders, envisioned a school that instilled self-reliance among young Texas women of all social classes, so that they would not be pressured to get married out of economic need.

Opponents of establishing this institution felt that educating women was unnecessary since “instinct,” they said, “is all a woman needs” to successfully raise a family.  Some feared that educating women would make them too independent.  One opposing legislator even claimed—perhaps with tongue in cheek—that if Texas women learned how to support themselves, they “would cease getting married” altogether.  He predicted that if our university were established there wouldn’t be a baby born in Texas within fifty years!

From the beginning, our programs of study have followed the motto suggested by Stoddard and adopted recently as the theme of our new Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP):  “We learn to do by doing.”  TWU’s earliest curriculum was aimed at increasing women’s occupational and life prospects by training them for work in industry and commerce.  The University’s founders also required students to take courses in literature, history, math, science, and the fine arts to develop students into well-rounded human beings.  This emphasis on practical training together with a broad education in the liberal arts and sciences is a hallmark of TWU, even today.

Our university has also embodied paradoxes throughout its history.  In the words of former women’s studies professor Vivian May, “TWU . . . symbolizes a place of both convention and subversiveness, propriety and risk taking, domestic femininity and public leadership.”** The history of this institution, which sometimes has sought to cultivate traditional feminine charm and poise, has been populated with redbud princesses and Texas A&M football sweethearts.  At the same time, our university has educated outstanding artists, athletes, nurses, teachers, therapists, social workers, and pioneering leaders in traditionally male-dominated fields like math and science.

To be sure, TWU is not a university that is only for women.  For the past forty years, many men have chosen to pursue degrees here, often because of our specialized programs and supportive atmosphere.  Yet when the Board of Regents decided to welcome men into all parts of the university in 1994, it pledged to strengthen TWU’s historic focus on the needs and empowerment of women.

Today, TWU also explicitly seeks to provide educational opportunities for students from varied racial and ethnic backgrounds.  With nearly 50% of our student body from traditionally underrepresented minority groups, TWU recently was ranked in the top 10 nationally among universities with the most diverse student populations.

Over the years, as more opportunities have become available to women and people of color, one might question the continued value and purpose of our distinctive educational focus.  I am very pleased that the university remains dedicated to the historic mission and seeks new and innovative ways to achieve excellence while guided by our core values.

We live in a nation in which women still do not participate fully in our economic and political life; a society in which women still do not always have adequate access to health care or receive equal pay for the work that we do; a society in which violence is still perpetrated against women by intimate partners; and a society and a society in which gendered inequities are intertwined with and compounded by racial and ethnic discrimination.  As long as social inequalities exist both in our nation and across the globe, we need Texas Woman’s University to continue to be an educational institution that inspires women and men to be agents of change and makers of peace.

As Hillary Clinton pointed out in April 2013 at the Women in the World Summit, advocating for women’s rights is not merely a “nice” thing to do and it is not a “luxury”; it is a “core imperative for every human being in every society.” As an institution, we have understood the wisdom in Secretary Clinton’s words and have actively dedicated ourselves to promoting human dignity and social justice both inside and outside of the classroom.  It is wonderful that so many students, faculty, and administrators in this learning community are working to promote the empowerment of women in the twenty-first century.

As we go forth this morning, I look forward to our continuing conversations—both inside and outside of the campus elevators—about our vision for TWU and how we can enact and even extend its mission today.  It has been an honor to serve with so many of you who have seen the great potential of a university primarily for women and who have done so much to ensure that the university lives up to its innovative and distinctive mission.”

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TWU and Volunteerism

TWU Alumna Laurie Stokes-Bell, Chair of the North Texas Walk to End Alzheimer’s shown with Walk volunteer, Thomas Owens

Laurie Stokes-Bell, 1993, MMSW, LBSW, Social Work, is so dedicated to finding the answer to the devastating disease called Alzheimer’s that she has chaired the North Texas Walk to End Alzheimer’s to benefit the Alzheimer’s Foundation for the past two years.  The most recent Walk was held September 22 in Denton.  Laurie’s background of volunteerism began at TWU as an undergraduate student where she says that TWU’s School of Social Work provided a rich environment to explore and work to make a difference in the lives of others.   “The rewards from my volunteerism have been innumerable.  I continue to be blessed by the opportunity to serve several vulnerable populations,” says Laurie.

Laurie went on to earn a Masters degree in Social Work from UT- Arlington and is currently employed by Hospice Plus as a Hospice Consultant.  In her caring manner Laurie notes that she is privileged to serve patients and their families at the end of their journey.

Regarding her volunteer role with Alzheimer’s Laurie told us, “I look forward to the day when this devastating disease is no more.  As a social worker, I have watched individuals with Alzheimer’s struggle with the multiple losses they encounter throughout the disease process.  The families of the Alzheimer’s victim are not immune to the ravages of the disease as they watch their loved one slowly disappear.  It truly is the Long Goodbye.”
If you would like to support this cause, visit the Alzheimer’s Foundation or find a Walk to End Alzheimer’s near you.

The spirit of volunteerism and the opportunity to explore its rewards are still very much a part of the TWU culture.  Just this past week the Office of Volunteer Services held its annual volunteer fair called “Find Your Fit.”  Students were encouraged to visit various booths to learn about the possibilities.  Interestingly, two of those booths, Peace Corps and Hearts for Homes, were manned by TWU alumnae.

Through Helping Hands, the largest student organization on campus, hundreds of TWU students sign up to serve the campus and the community.  As alumni director at TWU I continue to be touched by the spirit of caring exhibited by both our graduates and our students!

Share your story of volunteering at TWU or in your community by posting here.

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