My Take On TU: First-Generation Student Blazes Trail

Stephanie Mandujano personifies the definition of determination. As the first person in her family to attend college, she is blazing the trail for her younger siblings. The Tulsa native recalls a drive to succeed that began at an early age and says she always knew she would continue her education beyond high school. Acceptance letters arrived from The University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State University, the University of Arkansas and The University of Tulsa. Mandujano’s heart told her that one stood apart from the others.

My Take on TU: Internship at Center for Space Nuclear Research

Matthew Wells is a junior from Wichita, Kan., majoring in Mechanical Engineering and minoring in Computer Science. This past summer, Matthew interned at the Center for Space Nuclear Research in Idaho Falls, Idaho. Wells was one of only five undergraduates from across the world selected for the position. He spent the summer at the Idaho National Laboratory where he searched for an alternative material to a composite in the protective shell of plutonium inside what’s known as the multi-mission radio isotope thermal electric generator.

My Take on TU: Apprenticing with the Tulsa Artist Fellows

Sophie Spoo is a sophomore Fine Arts major from Tulsa, Okla. Read ahead as she writes about working with artists who have received Tulsa Artists Fellowships and the knowledge she gained by having this real-world experience in the art world.

As I finished my freshman year at The University Tulsa as a fine art major with an emphasis on painting, I was offered the wonderful opportunity to apprentice under not only one or two but three phenomenal artists who have been awarded Tulsa Artist Fellowships. In no particular order, my first apprenticeship was with Jave Yoshimoto, primarily a painter, who uses a graphic style, reminiscent of Japanese woodcuts, to illustrate narratives involving social and political issues. At first glance, his paintings might seem to be prints of some sort, using clean lines and solid color delineations, but they are actually very detailed and precise gouache paintings.

When I entered his studio, it was mostly bare, lit only by natural light filtering through one large window. A small table with neatly arranged tubes of gouache paint stood beside a larger drafting table, where Jave sat working quietly and diligently. My first task was to paint reproductions of his work, a task both daunting and exciting that gave me just a fraction of insight into his extremely intensive and exhaustive way of working.

My second apprenticeship was with Cynthia Brown, whose paintings are energetic and spontaneous, non-objective and expressive. Her thickly layered canvases seem to move and surge long after the paint has dried. Cynthia’s work is unplanned, revealing itself to her as she works through it. Her rich marks and bold use of color take your eye in and through the painting, and then back again as you discover something you hadn’t noticed before.

As I entered her studio, I could feel the creative energy; music played and Cynthia stood there, barefoot amidst her paintings and tools. She welcomed me with absolute openness and kindness. Her studio is filled with all sorts of paints, mediums, tools and other odds and ends that she uses to create her work. One of my first tasks was to organize her paints and mediums, which even then overflowed the shelves and continued to resist my best efforts.

The third apprenticeship was with Monty Little, an artist who uses his experiences as a marine in wartime and his Native American heritage to create work ranging from the expertly rendered to the loose and abstract, usually a mixture of both. A student of poetry, painting and printmaking, his work translates abstract written ideas into the physicality of the canvas.

Monty’s studio was dim, with hardcore-type music playing, as he sat in the corner hard at work. One of my first tasks was to take images of celebrities who had appropriated Native American culture by wearing headdresses and crumple them up and scan them for possible use in a later series of work.

While the artists I worked with were diverse in terms of their work, they were all welcoming and happy to have me in their studios. As an art student, I found it invaluable to be able to work alongside these artists and ask them questions not only about their work but also about the art world and what it’s like to be a working artist. From a range of diverse tasks with Monty, to creating spontaneous works of art on large canvases with Cynthia, to working long and structured hours with Jave, I feel all my experiences were wonderfully formative for me as an artist. They would not have been possible without the arrangements made by Professor Teresa Valero of the University of Tulsa’s art department, to whom I am grateful. I am excited to be a part of a department that does so much for its students both inside and outside of the classroom.

Making TU Your Home

Katie Snyder is a 2017 TU graduate from Des Moines, Iowa. She graduated with a degree in Media Studies and recently accepted a position with JNA Advertising in Overland Park, Kan.

Katie Snyder does not wait for opportunity; she creates it. In four years at The University of Tulsa, Snyder has established a legacy of not only finding her place in nearly every TU community, but also making TU her home.

Leaving her hometown, Des Moines, Iowa, Snyder launched a new adventure in Tulsa. Without knowing anyone, “It was hard to put myself out there, but it is something that you absolutely must do if you want to get the full experience out of college,” Snyder said.

Her communications prowess was triggered her first year by assisting the TU Athletic Department. From softball to basketball, Snyder did media relations for more than 500 games. As a freshman, Snyder won an award from the Association of Women in Communications based on her sports and public relations experience.

Through the TU Undergraduate Research Challenge (TURC), Snyder interned at the Tulsa Sports Commission for class credit. From the tourism perspective, Snyder learned the importance of room availability in hotels and even how to set up soccer nets for the U.S. Youth Soccer National Championship. “It was some of the hardest work I’ve ever done,” she confided.

Vince Trinidad, the executive director of the Tulsa Sports Commission, described Snyder as a “dynamo” and explained that her internship coincided with major national-level sporting events. No matter the challenge, “her enthusiasm and energy knows no limits,” Trinidad said.

Throughout her TU career, Snyder interned at Propeller Communication and Saxxum. She advertised for events like Tulsa’s Great Raft Race, Tulsa Oktoberfest and Tulsa Tough. It was not long until the Media Studies faculty found a rising star.

Media Studies adjunct faculty member Bill Hinkle knew Snyder was special on the first day of class. “There is nobody that is more committed, more polished and more driven to be successful than Katie Snyder, nobody,” Hinkle said.

With Hinkle’s mentorship, Snyder discovered advertising along with professional opportunities to test her advertising skills. The National Student Advertising Competition allows students to create advertising campaigns for a national company and present them at a conference. As a sophomore, Snyder was the runner-up presenter for a Pizza Hut campaign, which meant she was tasked to memorize the entire script.  On the first day of rehearsal, “She shows up Monday and had already memorized all 20 minutes, of everybody’s part. That never happens,” Hinkle said.

The following year, Snyder led the team in an advertising campaign for Snapple. Because Snapple is in a precarious glass bottle, grocery stores place them on the bottom shelf, and with the TU team’s tagline, “bottoms up,” Snyder knew they were taking a risk. To glorify the bottom shelf, they even rewrote the words to “Friends in Low Places.”  Snyder’s team chose humor to highlight where customers can find Snapple. Unfortunately, the judges were not amused.

“I’m proud that when we failed, it wasn’t because we came in with a mediocre idea that could be easily overlooked. We came in with something bold that makes them think differently about their product. I think that that’s our job,” Snyder explained.

The Snapple defeat did not deter Snyder, and she received the highly competitive Stickell Internship, which showcases the 16 best advertising students in the nation. The internship included placement in a top public relations firm. Snyder worked for PulsePoint Group in Austin, Texas, which focuses on digital consulting and crisis communication. Snyder’s first client was a Japanese energy company, which had a nuclear disaster in the past. When it comes to a crisis, “always have a human voice and be quick and decisive with your communication,” Snyder said.

Snyder flexed her public relations skills for TU in the NOVA Fellowship, which is managed by Associate Professor of Marketing Charles Wood. NOVA helps students problem solve and bring big ideas into fruition. “I tend to have big dreams, and I don’t know how to make them happen,” Snyder said. Her innovative project was to bring TEDx talks to TU. When Woods heard the TEDx plan, “I believe I shouted ‘Yes’ and threw my arms up like they had scored a touchdown,” he said.

After months of planning, Snyder interviewed 40 speaker candidates, and with the theme of “innomagine,” which combines innovation and imagination, TU held its first TEDx. The event was so popular that TEDx has agreed to be an annual TU event. “It’s a gift to TU that I get leave when I graduate,” Snyder said.

Snyder has worked as a university ambassador, freshman orientation leader, resident assistant, and she also won an Outstanding Senior Award. Snyder credits her accomplishments to supportive faculty and TU’s friendly environment. She advises incoming freshman to “jump in and take advantage of all there is here.”

The University of Tulsa is Snyder’s home away from home: “We’ve got enough for it to be home to anybody, and if you don’t have it, you can create it.”