WIU professor helps bring comic strip to the stage

WIU professor helps bring comic strip to the stage

One father’s love for his son has gone from a pent and paper (a cartoon strip), to Facebook fans, to a touring production. And he has a WIU theatre and dance professor to thank, in part, for taking his show on the road.

Jason Platt, a single dad who lives and works in the Quad Cities, (IL/IA), was featured in a story in the Quad City Times over the weekend. The story details how Platt’s comic strip about him and his son, Mister & Me, has been turned into a play for kids, thanks to Platt’s partnership with Ray Gabica, professor in the theatre and dance department at WIU. (And to add to the WIU connection to this story, Platt works for LinguiSystems, which happens to have been founded by two WIU alumnae!)

Screen shot QC Times story

a screen shot QC Times story

Professor profile: Ray Gabica

As the QC Times‘ story explains, children in the area got to enjoy the comic-turned play through a performance by the Western Illinois University Regional Touring Theatre Company (RTTC), which is known for putting on touring productions of kids’ shows like The Lion and the Mouse, The Tree House, and Free to Be…You and Me.

Gabica not only leads and designs the RTTC shows, but, in addition, designs from four to six productions a year, and can count among his accomplishments the more than 48 Summer Music Theatre productions, plus more than 60 main-stage shows. Gabica, who has an M.F.A in costume and make-up design from Michigan State University, teaches the costume design sequences on the undergraduate and graduate levels, as well as theatrical make-up and visual concepts for the stage.

As the story points out, Platt is also involved in local theater, which is how he connected with Gabica, who adapted and directed the play:

“I kind of let him run amok with it,” Platt said. “I love and trust Ray so much that I knew he would handle the material with respect. I had no problem with how he was going to adapt the comic.”

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‘Beyond the Bell Tower’ in the News

Tip ‘o the hat to these student writers!

Thanks so much to Lauren Finkler and Samantha Pollock for their interest in the launch of Beyond the Bell Tower.

Lauren’s feature on this new blog was the lead story in a recent issue of the Western Courier. Samantha works as a student blogger for Western’s Alumni Association. You can read her entry about the new blog here!

Kudos to these writers, and keep up the good work!

Taking ag to a whole new horizon

For WIU alumnus John Carroll, farming is a family tradition, but now his family’s tradition is to do something …non-traditional.

Carroll received his bachelor’s (business-agriculture ’02) and master’s (MBA’03) from WIU, where he met his wife, Kelly (Kaufman) Carroll ’03 (accountancy).

And while business and agriculture students may already be prepped for changing markets, Carroll is applying his educational background and family history to a whole new level: farming in Brazil.

As he explained in a recent story from the Quincy (IL) Herald-Whig, (Carroll is a native of the west central Illinois region), Carroll is now CEO of the family farming operation, which includes managing about 20,000 acres of cotton, as well as 9,000 acres of soybeans, in South America.John Carroll in Brazil

“I’d never seen a cotton plant until I went to Brazil,” Carroll said.
Carroll Farms Brazil now owns 8,000 acres and share-crops the rest with U.S. landowners in the state of Bahia, about five hours northeast of Brasilia, the country’s capitol.

Why Brazil?

And how did he get there?

To find out how a Midwestern farm boy become a CEO in another country, read the full story here.

(Check out Western’s business and agriculture programs on our web site at wiu.edu).

History you walk(ed) by every day.

Hey, current students and/or Western grads: ever wondered why that residence hall you call home—or that building you went to most often for the classes in your major— is called “Olson” or “Brophy” or “Simpkins”?

Where do campus buildings get their names?

Olson Hall

Olson Hall... and Olson who?

Or, to put it another way:

  • What do buildings on Western’s Macomb campus have to do with the War of 1812?
  • Is it true, or just a legend, that the windows in Malpass Library really spell out the name of a state—and not the state we’re living in?
  • Which Western building was once the site of a speech by Eleanor Roosevelt?

Western student Matt Fischer recently dug up the answers to these questions and more campus history in his recent feature story, “The names behind the masonry,” for the Western Courier, the student-run newspaper.

For his research, Fischer spoke with University Archives experts who filled him in on some of Western’s most interesting architectural tidbits.

Read the full story from the Western Courier. And add your memories about living and learning in campus buildings in the comments below!

Math teacher ‘adds up’ to AP Teacher of Year

One of our alumni was recently listed in USA TODAY among the AP (Advanced Placement Program) Teachers of the Year!

Amy-Karen Dougan, who received a master’s degree in education from WIU in 1972, has been selected as AP Teacher of the Year for the State of Rhode Island by the Siemens Foundation. According to the Siemens Foundation, the organization provides more than $7 million annually in support of educational initiatives in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in the U.S.

Dougan teaches AP calculus at North Kingstown High School
 in North Kingston, (RI). She was featured along with the other 49 state winners in the Feb. 22 edition of USA TODAY.

USAToday Logo

Top Teachers of Top Students

According to the Siemens Foundation, one exceptional teacher per state is selected for this recognition each year to receive a $1,000 grant to his or her high school to support science and mathematics education.

Teachers with a minimum of five years of teaching experience in math, science or technology AP courses are selected for their exemplary teaching and enthusiastic dedication to students and the AP Program.

Sounds like the best kind of math teacher a high school kid could have. Congrats to Amy-Karen, and keep up the “advanced” work!

Farmer tweets from the field

When it comes to farmers and tools that start with “t,” the first thing that might come to mind?  Tractor.

WIU graduate Colby Hunt

WIU graduate Colby Hunt

But for Colby Hunt ’03, who received his bachelor’s degree in agriculture from WIU, there’s a new tool in town:

Twitter.

Hunt, who lives and farms near his alma mater and now serves as vice president of the McDonough County Farm Bureau, was featured recently in the McDonough County Voice for his innovative use of Twitter.

Hunt believes in using Twitter to help farmers educate the public about agriculture’s impacts on their lives. It’s something Hunt believes fewer people are aware of than in the past.

More and more people have never been on a farm or been connected at all so we’re just trying to find ways to find those people and keep them informed with what’s going on,” said Hunt.

Check out the full story in the McDonough County Voice.

How is it possible to be a college student and work with the Secret Service?

Business major and U.S. Army reservist Nicole Suthard can tell you how.soldier girl

Suthard, from Wheaton, IL, featured in this recent article from the Western Courier,  is attending Western Illinois University while also serving her country.

Sometimes that means having to put school on hold.

But Suthard is getting an education of its own sort in her military duties.

“I have been responsible for people, equipment and millions of dollars, sometimes under extreme circumstances, but each time has given me a building block to become a more dynamic person,” she says in the article.

(Read the rest here.)

Suthard credits WIU staff and faculty with helping her balance both school and military duties.

(And she’s not alone in doing so. Check out our recent nod from G.I. Jobs Magazine here.)