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Pro Bono Work: Waco Cultural Arts Fest 2008

17 Sep

I have to admit that before I moved to Waco eight years ago I had never really spent any significant amount of time here. Sure, I had passed through plenty of times on I-35 heading north to the Dallas-Fort Worth area or south down to Austin. However, with the exception of spending a couple of nights for a pop culture conference in the mid ’90s, I’d never done much more than stop to get some gas.

Consequently, I had this idea Waco was a small city with all that implies: a full-fledged local music scene, more than enough used bookstores and independent record stores to choose from, some sort of Alamo Drafthouse or reasonable knockoff, and other related things/places/activities. You know, that stuff you get used after going to college in Austin—the best eight years of my life! <g>—and Denton, Texas.

Well, I was just a skosh off base in my thinking. In many ways, Waco is more of a big small town than a small city. This can certainly be a plus as the cost of living is relatively low and it’s pretty easy to get around town in terms of both size and amount of traffic. But, in terms of a lot of the ancillary activities I was hoping for, that hasn’t really panned out like I expected.

Happily, though, the Waco Cultural Arts Fest is a pleasant exception to all this.

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Conferences & Conventions: NISOD 2008 Wrap-Up

30 May

And, what a week—or at least half a week—it was at NISOD! I had planned to post updates daily but by the end of each day I was ready to hurl myself onto the bed in my hotel room, prop up my throbbing feet, and get caught up on the latest “must-see” (yes, that’s the ironic use of quotation marks) cable television shows given that at home we’re still happily chugging along with rabbit ears and 5-6 channels. (Even though it’s been on TV for a while, this was the first time I’d ever seen Bridezillas, which was certainly a spectacle of sorts in its own right.) Anyway, highlights of this year’s NISOD convention included:

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Graphics Interns: Bird’s Eye View Maps

28 Feb

waco_1892.jpgA couple of years ago I was fortunate enough—a little bit of luck combined with a skosh of foresight—to see an exhibition at the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, Texas, of 19th century bird’s eye view maps of Texas cities like this one of Waco in 1892.

Then, as I am wont to do upon occasion, I had what I considered a really great idea . . . one made even more great by the having heavy lifting—so to speak—left to one or more of our graphics interns.

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Book Publishing Operations: Pro Bono Projects

4 May

Much in the same vein as my previous post about the intent and purpose of our e-journal Best Practices, I wanted to talk about some of the pro bono—that is, free—work we do each semester.

While TSTC Publishing’s primary mission is to produce quality general-use and custom textbooks at reasonable prices for students—our most expensive textbook is $64.95 with the least expensive being just over $10—we’ve also been charged with becoming financially self-sustaining as soon as possible. To that end, I suppose, we could get tunnel vision to the degree that all we did were textbooks all day, all the time. On the other hand, as I’ve talked about before, working at a college means, in my mind, that you use your resources to give back to the college/local community as circumstances allow.

Each semester we try to do at least one or two pro bono projects based on the rest of our production schedule. Last summer we did the catalog for the Waco Cultural Arts Fest and periodically we do graphics work for other departments on campus. (For example, a while back we did a cool series of recruiting posters for the Heart-of-Texas Tech Prep folks.) This is all work we farm out to our interns as much as possible because it is what I’d refer to as piece work: a flyer, poster, brochure, something like that. Interns are well suited to do smaller stand-alone projects like this and they make for good portfolio pieces as well. Finally, many of these projects are a nice break from the day-to-day work we do—page layout and technical graphics—and as my dad always said, everyone needs a job they find interesting every day.

This year, for the second year in a row, we did the poster (and tickets) for the Waco Junior Chamber of Commerce Music Fest and Chili Throwdown. Now, when I say “we” that is the same as the “royal” we that gets used a lot. In reality, and more specifically, it means that our work study student worker Grant Jurries did most of the work. Grant has been an intern since last fall and this spring interned while also being a work study which means that he was in the office about 25 hours a week. This is a real luxury for us because with him here so much he has the time to work on more complex projects in addition to being available to pick up work at a moment’s notice. (If you click on the thumbnail below you can see the poster he put together in the space of just a few days.) I really like the background that he came up with which is a combination of two photos: one of the weathered boards with a sunset on top of it. Put together, the effect is quite nice.


For anyone who is in Waco, Texas, on May 12 I would heartily recommend attending this event. It benefits Waco Habitat for Humanity as well as the Waco Junior Chamber Scholarship Fund. Chili, barbecue, good music, beautiful locale (Cameron Park East on the Brazos River), helping good causes . . . what more could you ask for?


Book Publishing Operations: Best Practices

25 Apr

My whole life I’ve grown up and/or lived around different colleges and universities. I was born in the hospital next to Sul Ross State University in Alpine, Texas, when my parents were students there and, given that my dad was a college English teacher (and, later on, an administrator), I’ve always been, with a few brief exceptions, kicking around the campuses of various schools.

My father, in particular, ingrained the idea into me from an early age that teaching was more than just a job. It meant being a part of the college community. At Tarleton State University he was the faculty advisor/sponsor for a variety student groups, was always game for participating in moderately bizarre fundraisers like donkey baseball/basketball, and acted in the faculty theater production almost every year. None of this was done for any quid pro quo reasons but, rather, because in his mind working at a college meant that you participated in all kinds of school-related activities just as a matter of course.

I suppose that we—that is, in particular, men and, more specifically, men in Texas—can never really live up to the expectations we create for ourselves by virtue of having an idealized vision of our fathers constantly in our mind’s eye . . . but one does what one can. To that end, when I first moved over to TSTC Publishing from the TSTC Waco English department I had the idea that I wanted to publish a journal focusing on general higher education topics, not to make money per se but to just create, promote, and participate in collegial “conversation” for its own sake.

Out of that impulse came the first issue of Best Practices in December of 2004. Over the next year and a half we published three more issues but as the realities of a new business start-up began to sink in—making enough money to be financially self-sustaining as soon as possible—loss leader ventures like this just weren’t a realistic use of our limited resources. Consequently, our most recent (and last) issue, much to my despair, was published in May of 2006.

Then again, as a result of our ongoing efforts to make TSTC Publishing an institution all of its own instead of just an interesting idea going nowhere fast, we now find ourselves—thanks to additional technology and personnel resources—in a position to relaunch Best Practices with a new, more focused mission to promote dialogue throughout the TSTC System, both geographically and hierarchically.

This summer we will begin producing and posting new content—inteviews, feature articles, reviews—to the revamped Best Practices Web site once the final logistical details are worked out. Until then, I would invite people to visit this site to see a sampling of articles from the earlier incarnation of Best Practices as well as to provide input as to what topics they think we should address in the future.

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