San Antonio Missions Trail Road Trip

by Davina Sasoon

The Alamo (Mission San Antonio de Valero) was over 100 years old during the famous battle in 1836. While it is the best known of the Bexar area missions, it is one of five built along the old missions trail that connected Mexico with East Texas in what was the largest mission concentration in North America.

Traveling south of the Alamo, from the heart of San Antonio, are four other old missions within a seven-mile stretch now know as the Mission Trail. The original Yanaguana Trail (named for the indigenous people) meandered along the San Antonio River. There, between the end of the 17th and middle of the 18th century Mission San Antonio de Valero (the Alamo), Mission San José y San Miguel de Aguayo, Mission Nuestra Señora de la Purísima Concepción de Acuña, Mission San Juan Capistrano, and Mission San Francisco de la Espada were built.

I was excited to attend the Honors College Road Trip to San Antonio in late February this year.  I made quite a few new friends and met new members of the Honors College.  We explored San Antonio together and made great memories.  A really special part of the trip was seeing the missions in San Antonio.  Most of us have read about the Alamo and the missions throughout school, and though we learn about their purposes in Texas History class, it is a whole different experience to walk through the missions, read the signs, and realize the purposes each area/room served.  As we walked through the mission rooms, they seemed small.  Some students did not fit through the doorways without bending.  We explored the areas throughout the missions and gained a real appreciation for their numerous functions.  My favorite mission was Mission San José. It was founded in 1720 and quickly became a major social and cultural center.  It was very interesting to observe how the missions were much, much more than churches.  They were communities.  We walked through where the kitchen used to be, where the people lived, and we saw the boarded wells.  Mission San José also has a special, beautiful symbolic structure called The Rose Window.  The meaning of this unique window is not fully known or understood. It is believed to have been sculpted by Pedro Huizar, who was living in the vicinity of San José in the 1780s. According to a few of the legends the rose window was so called because it was dedicated by the mourning sculptor to a lost love named Rosa or Rosita (from the Texas State Historical Association web article on Pedro Huizar).

The Road Trip is a feature of Honors College programming each February. In recent years the destinations have included Archer City, the LBJ Library and Ranch in the Hill Country, the ghost town of Thurber, Oklahoma City, and Dinosaur Valley State Park.

Check out our photo gallery from the road trip.

The PAL Experience

by Krisalyn Kuklock

My first experience with the peer academic leader (PAL) program was being a recipient of its services as a first semester freshman in an Intro to professional nursing course. I was intrigued by the idea of a student, who was not very much older than I, allowed a position alongside an experienced faculty member to teach college students.

Of course, I was aware of undergraduate and graduate teaching assistants whose role is to instruct laboratories and/or offer students other avenues of receiving help. In my own laboratory courses, the teaching assistants lectured briefly about material covered in the lab booklet and demonstrated the procedures for the day; but the PAL program was clearly something different.

My initial decision to pursue the PAL program was, not surprisingly, sparked by watching my own PAL stand up in front of a classroom of college students and lecture. As someone who enjoys public speaking and has an interest in becoming a future nursing instructor, I thought the opportunity would serve as a benefit by providing some experience as a sort of test trial to discover if teaching in my future field is something I want to or am capable of doing. However, this past month of PAL training has opened my eyes to the true advantage of a PAL position: a platform for innovation.

I am pursuing a position as a Peer Academic Leader at an exciting time. Our course instructor for the semester-long PAL training course is exposing our class to a new way of thinking; PALs are supposed to be innovative and interesting, as well as relevant and helpful to the students we teach. It should be mentioned that these students are often a year or two our juniors in coursework. This is a difficult task! We are given plenty of ideas on how to make our lectures interesting and engaging, and those two words are thrown around a lot in training; but we all know that the end product of our lectures is learning. So how am I going to get students interested enough to pique their personal curiosity and become active in their personal learning process? What will I do to change their way of thinking and inspire them? These are the questions I am excited to answer and a challenge that I, as an Honors College student, am thrilled to accept. Rather than viewing this role as a way to test my skills in teaching, I now realize that being a PAL is an incredible opportunity to experiment with new ways of lecturing and inspiring students. This may be ambitious, but my goal is to intrigue every student in the classroom; and with forty minutes to an hour each class to do so, the possibilities seem endless.

The PAL position is available to majors with Freshman Interest Groups and First-Year Seminar Courses.
To find out how to become a PAL in your major visit:

The Stars at Night

by Suzanne DeLeon

As a new member of HCC (Honors Constituency Council) this spring, I found that going to Star Night was an extra special way to start the semester. Many years ago, my family and I were invited to the Planetarium to be part of the audience for the filming of the promo videos. We watched Pink Floyd and many other music productions. It was good. But Star Night was great!

Adrenalin Junkie is definitely a term used to describe me! Starting off Star Night with a ride on the Mercury roller coaster had my stomach doing flips more than any ride down the street at Six Flags. We flipped and swung from one end of the planet to the other in a ride that was truly awesome. I cannot wait to come back on a Sunday afternoon to ride all of the roller coasters, one on each planet!

Trevor Howard at the controls of the Digistar 4.

My favorite part of the night was seeing the stars over Arlington. Trevor Henry was our star guide and he had us laughing and learning at the same time. Never have I been able to locate certain constellations in the sky but with his very simple instruction and humorous drawings I was able to find and track where the constellations were.

My boys, age 11 and 9, also joined me on Star Night and loved the opportunity to learn where the constellations were located, something I had never been able to teach them. Upon arriving home to a dark night sky we immediately put our new knowledge into practice and sat back to gaze at the stars and find almost all the constellations we had just learned about. Keeping track of the stars and finding the constellations in the night sky will now be one of our regular activities.

You will never find me outfitted in scuba gear; my one great fear is ocean depths. Very odd for a former lifeguard, I know! Our last Planetarium viewing was of the Coral Reefs. For me this was a very special treat. Seeing the vast amount of sea life and beautiful fish that swarm over these reefs is truly breathtaking. I continue to be amazed at how intricate and beautiful life is even on such a small scale. And knowing that I will probably never have the opportunity to see this type of life up close gave unique meaning to watching it unfold on the vast domed ceiling of the Planetarium.

Star Night was a great night in my semester and I look forward to the other events being sponsored by the HCC, and hope to meet many more of you at these events. Come on out and have fun!

From the Republican National Convention 2012, Tampa Bay, Florida

by Lauren Devoll

My senior year began with a two-week field trip. Instead of climbing aboard a bus with zoo tickets in hand, I boarded an airplane carrying my Republican National Convention credentials to Tampa Bay, Florida.

The day after arrival I triumphantly marched into orientation for The Washington Center’s Academic Seminar, a program that included lectures from esteemed political scholars, journalists, and public servants as well as classroom discussions and fieldwork at the Republican National Convention.

“Wow, everyone here is white,” I so eloquently thought as I waded through the crowd of fellow college students. Ironically, this humorously staunch observation tuned my eye to look beyond the faces and search for the deeper things.

Our keynote speaker for the academic portion of the program was former Congressman Mickey Edwards. His list of accolades built a wall of reverence that I finally felt bold enough to cross at our welcome reception. After carrying on a conversation that felt more like an interview to me, I asked him to dance when the band switched to a slower, jazzy melody. He judiciously declined, but I received his Facebook friend request later that evening. When he sent me a message complimenting my “crazy business card,” I saw the deeper thing. This man who built federal legislation for 16 years was just a person.

One evening I enjoyed a glass of wine at the hotel bar with a fellow student. The man who sat next to us chuckled as he overheard parts of our personal conversation. When I unknowingly extended the conversation to him, the former Governor of Nevada, we talked for twenty minutes about career, family, and faith. This state leader was just a person.

I traveled back to the hotel via trolley one afternoon. A single woman boarded and sat solemnly in front of me. Something prompted me to ask her how she was doing. “Not so good,” she sighed. “I just tripped at the trolley stop and fell on my face. I’m in pain.” We conversed no longer than three minutes, but after exiting she turned and gave me an encouraging wave. This lonely woman traveling to her night shift at the Florida Aquarium was just a person.

My first day working on the Convention grounds, I was placed as a welcome hostess to the delegates as they trickled into the Forum. From 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., I smiled through the humidity and received a variety of attitudes. Many appeared festively happy, but a few felt it their duty to reprimand me for inconvenient circumstances beyond my control. These men and women who passed my welcome, marching to their air-conditioned haven were just people.

Award-winning journalist Aaron Brown presented several fantastic lectures during the program. One day I noticed that he curiously had one hand tucked into the back of his pants as he conversed. I walked up beside him, mimicked his action and made some slightly snarky introductory remark that illuminated a thoughtful and fun conversation. Towards the end he embraced me like a father and kissed my forehead. This man who led the CNN morning broadcast on September 11, 2001 was just a person.

This experience taught me the power of perspective. I did not get the opportunity to meet Mitt Romney or his entourage, but I am fairly certain that after interacting with them I would have concluded similarly. Like the woman on the trolley, like the Congressman, like me, he too is just a person. Every path is lined with people, both commoners and champions. Life is merely a dare to treat them all as such.

From Veneratio, Winter 2012