Jester Center

The Association of Black Fine Arts Students held its first “Grand Slam Drum Jam” in the Spanish Oaks Terrace at the Jester Center on Friday.

Photo Credit: Marshall Tidrick | Daily Texan Staff

The Association of Black Fine Arts Students held its first “Grand Slam Drum Jam” at the Jester Center’s Spanish Oaks Terrace on Friday to promote art activism in the college

Lakeem Wilson, studio art senior and president of the organization, said the group is centered around fine arts students but invites all students with artistic passions to join.

“The main goal, which is part of our artist statement, [is to] get artists to exhibit their work and give them an opportunity to express their talents, and also to get a community of people to come and break out of their comfort zone,” Wilson said.

The event began with an icebreaker activity called “Catch the Tempo,” in which the members played instruments the organization created from scratch.

“Everyone makes a music circle,”  Wilson said. “The first person will start it and keep the beat — then we’ll see how the energy gets and how the vibes are.”

The organization also had performers, singers and poets from the University perform. The group hoped these performances would encourage other students to express themselves through art and music.

Jessica Bathea, economics sophomore and the organization’s social media chair, also performed during the event.

“As a performer, my goal right now, in the four years we’re in college, is to [relax] because we’re under all this stress as students and receiving dismal information about the world,” Bathea said. “My goal is to provide people with a sense of joy and relief that is past all the negative news, teachings and government.”

The event also included downtime for members to write on the organization’s “Dreamer’s Wall” or grab the microphone and freestyle. According to Wilson, both options were intended to force people to share what they really feel.

Erwin De Luna, President of United San Antonio Pow Wow, speaks to the crowd at the blessing of the American Indians in Texas gallery on Wednesday afternoon. 

Photo Credit: Aaron Berecka | Daily Texan Staff

Elders from 12 different Native American tribes traveled to UT to bless the opening of the American Indians in Texas gallery at Jester Center on Wednesday. 

Lee Walters, Blackfeet tribe elder and associate director at the Division of Housing and Food Service, said the gallery provides an account of the tumultuous 12,000 year history of Native American tribes in Texas.

“We are here to cleanse all the negativity, so this endeavor is blessed for good things,” Walters said.

After the blessing ceremony, tribal elders in full regalia led a powwow in J2 while students sampled dishes from the pre-Colombian menu of indigenous Texans.

Robert Mayberry, executive chef at J2, said that food is integral to culture of a region and traditional ingredients are the flavor.

“The food that you grow up with is intrinsically intertwined with people and landscape,” Mayberry said. “The plants and animals of the surrounding environment were brought to the kitchen, and then families gathered around the hearth fire to eat a meal together.”

Walters said Native American students who come from reservations experience culture shock.

“A lot of native youth feel homesick, so you have to build a community where they feel welcome,” Walters said.

Walters said life on the reservation is difficult, but Native American students have the opportunity to improve conditions.

“We’re starting to see a lot more American Indians come into higher education to get graduate’s degrees and then bringing this knowledge back to the reservation,” Walters said.

Jim Cox, professor of English and associate director of Native American and Indigenous studies, said Native American literature sheds light on issues that do not receive their due recognition.

“In general terms, the predicament of the reservations is misunderstood and neglected because when you talk about Native Americans, you have to talk about unpleasant parts of American history,” Cox said. “There’s an unwillingness to face many of these episodes.”

Cox said these works place an equal emphasis on the horrors that have been overcome as well as hope for an improved future and attest to a people's capability to survive.

 "Land loss, military defeat, alcoholism, poverty and racism still define the experience of many Native American authors, but their literature maintains a spirit of endurance," Cox said.

Floyd Hoelting, executive director of DHFS, said the gallery is part of an initiative to build a culturally inclusive environment.

“A lot of our students have never seen a powwow, never seen celebration drumming,” Hoelting said. “It piques interest in other cultures.” 

Clarification: The article about the native americanAmerican Indians in Texas gallery at Jester Center" in the Oct. 31 issue of The Daily Texan has been clarified. Professor Jim Cox said, "Land loss, military defeat, alcoholism, poverty and racism still define the experience of many Native American authors, but their literature maintains a spirit of endurance." This clarification was run in the Nov. 4 issue of The Daily Texan.

UT President William Powers Jr.’s official speech writer Avrel Seal has been researching and crafting speeches for Powers for 2 years. Seale was previous editor-in-chief of The Alcalde for 17 years which has been attributed with helping him write effectively. 

Photo Credit: Gabriella Belzer | Daily Texan Staff

As a college student in the late ’80s, he worked in the Jester Center cafeteria. A few years later, he fronted a classic-rock band called The Plan. In 1990, he was a file clerk at a freeze-dried food plant. Today, he is UT President William Powers Jr.’s official speechwriter. 

From his office on the second floor of the Main Building, Avrel Seale helps craft many of Powers’ longer addresses, but he’s quick to point out that speechwriting is only about half of his job. When Seale isn’t writing speeches, he’s researching facts, gathering relevant statistics and even finding out whether or not Powers will be speaking from behind a podium.  

“Often my job means doing research and serving as a sounding board,” Seale said. “I’m the caddy and he’s Tiger Woods.”

Each year, Seale helps Powers prepare for roughly 200 speeches, including his annual State of the University address and the presentations Powers gives to the Board of Regents. Preparing the State of the University is a roughly six-week process and Seale said the first draft — which he writes — usually has little in common with the finished product, 13 drafts later.

“We go back and forth a lot on that speech,” Seale said. “I try not to get too attached.”

Seale worked as editor-in-chief of The Alcalde, the Texas Exes’ alumni magazine, for 17 years. Tim Taliaferro, the current editor, said Seale’s background at the magazine helps make him an effective speechwriter. 

“Avrel comes from a background that prizes anecdotes, evidence, clear expositions,” Taliaferro said. “President Powers, God love him, is an academic. He can go sprawling off in any direction, which is a blessing and a curse. Avrel keeps him pointed.” 

Seale said when it comes time to craft speeches for the president, Seale’s personal voice takes a backseat to the voice of the institution. 

“There is an institutionally appropriate voice you have to find,” Seale said. “It’s conversational, but not chatty. Formal, but not stilted. Active, but not passive — and graceful but not flowery.” 

Seale also cited clarity as a key goal in any speech because Powers often delivers presentations on broad or conceptual topics. Kim Gundersen, associate director of the Texas Exes, said making the abstract picture relatable is one of the things Seale does best. 

“A speech is memorable when it resonates with the individual, when there’s something about it that goes beyond the brain and into the heart,” Gunderson said. “To do that, you have to understand your audience, and Avrel does.”

Seale said Powers adds an individual touch to every speech. Powers is a particular fan of “Moneyball,” a book by Michael Lewis that focuses on the importance of correct resource allocation in baseball. Seale said Powers’ arsenal of references is still deep enough to surprise him. Earlier this month, Powers addressed a group in the Cockrell School of Engineering using an extended metaphor from “The Hobbit.” 

Seale also gets to work references into Powers’ remarks every so often. In a recent speech about the Committee on Business Productivity, Powers used a metaphor involving an obelisk that stood in the middle of Saint Peter’s Basilica in 1586. 

“Sometimes I’ll get a particular idea I want to introduce,” Seale said. “I was particularly glad he liked the obelisk.”

When asked if he ever suggests those frequent Moneyball references, Seale shook his head and laughed.

“Oh, no,” Seale said. “Those are always him.” 

Published on February 22, 2013 as "Speechwriter talks".