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Texas Tech Alum

Not so Mainstream, Mainstream Boutique

Empower. Strengthen. Celebrate. These are the powerful words that drew in Kate and her husband, as they began on a new uncharted journey.

Kate Mitchell, a Texas Tech alum, graduated with a bachelor’s in agriculture communications and a master’s in retail & hospitality institutional management. Kate and her husband Michael have two beautiful daughters: 3-year-old Blakely Grace and 12-month-old Elise Faith.

“We just did what we had to do.”

Kate Mitchell

With Michael living in Lubbock almost all of his life, and Kate returning to Lubbock to attend Texas Tech, making the decision to open a business in hub city was an obvious one for these Lubbock locals.

Operating West Texas Lace, LLC, dba Mainstream Boutique, as a locally-owned franchise has allowed the Mitchells to run their business how they see fit while still operating under a proven business model and earning multiple high rankings. Mainstream Boutique is ranked #86 nationally and is #7 in Texas.

The same month the Mitchell’s decided to dive into the entrepreneur experience and had signed all the papers, Kate found out she was pregnant with her second daughter Elise. Although it was an exciting surprise, it created another challenging obstacle to get their business up and off the ground. Kate and her mother Carolyn took on the journey of traveling to Minneapolis, Minnesota, for training when Elise was just 3 months old. The trio spent a week there while Kate attended training seminars during the day, pumped on lunch and coffee breaks, then returned to the hotel at night to join her mother and newborn. It was a lot but having the support of her mother made the educational trip doable and an experience they’ll all remember for a lifetime.

Blakely loves the store as much as her momma.

“By the time Elise was 4 months old she had already flown across the country on 6 different flights. I’ve never felt more angry stares while boarding planes but overall people were nice and accommodating to us. We just did what we had to do,” Kate explained.

Once training was complete, it was time to start the storefront renovations back in Lubbock. Being that Mainstream offers a business model as opposed to a traditional cookie-cutter franchise, Michael and Kate were able to make many of the design choices themselves. Part of that customization process included finding a dream team. Kate chose to post the positions of part-time stylists on Indeed.com, then sorted through the applications, and started hosting interviews. Being that Elise was still too young to join big sister Blakely in their daycare academy, Kate often had to interview the applicants with a baby on her hip. It even turned out that three of the four girls she selected were also pursuing a degree in agriculture communications at Texas Tech University.

The next step in the process was to place orders on materials. Clothing, office supplies, interior/exterior signage, furniture, mannequins, technology equipment, etc. were all part of the supplies list that needed to be paid for and shipped. Once the dozens of boxes began to arrive at the store, then came the endless task of unboxing, steaming, hanging, sizing and tagging. The girls all quickly learned that when matching tags to the clothes, it is best to open the boxes one at a time as opposed to all at once.

“It’s a learning process for all of us!” Kate said.

Attention to detail is very important in the retail business and Kate is hard at work everyday assembling the perfect outfit.

The first couple of days Mainstream was open there was extreme icy weather which had reduced the store’s foot traffic dramatically. After the boutique had quite literally weathered the storm, the number of customers coming into the doors increased phenomenally. Much of that pedestrian success is due to the location in the Hub Shopping Center. The outdoor shopping strip is in a retail center that shares co-tenancy with other like-minded businesses, such as Odds & Ends, Hot Worx, CycleBar, Kadiza Hair Salon, The Lash Lounge, Tea2Go and many more.

In addition to Mainstream’s idyllic location, another essential business resource is the shop’s online presence. The Mainstream’s social media has rapidly grown bigger and bigger since the day that it was created. Setting a goal to reach 1,000 Facebook followers by their first year open, the Lubbock location was able to reach that goal within their first 2 months. In a world where online shopping is extremely popular, a big following and professional online presence is very important. There is a direct link in social media to how a business is able to promote and brings in potential customers.

During this time of the worldwide Coronavirus pandemic, the online presence has forcibly shifted to Mainstream’s only source of profit. Being that this hit before the shop had been open less than 7 weeks, it was clearly not what Kate and her team had in mind for the store. Michael and Kate are hopeful and positive that business will resume as normal and even possibly boom after this mandated time of closure passes.

Between a new baby, freezing temperatures, and an unforeseeable medical state of emergency, there have been many bumps in the road, to say the least. Kate is a very strong woman who is pursuing her dream. Despite the hard times and difficult situations, the Mitchell family has decided to once again pull-up their bootstraps and muster through the storm. Given their upbeat demeanor and support of the West Texas community, it is likely the business will survive and thrive in the upcoming months ahead.

Kate and her husband Michael, hopeful business will return to normal after this worldwide pandemic is over.

A Greater Purpose: Thinking globally, acting locally.

The Williams family
Russell and Julia Williams with son Whitaker in Purpose Coffee Co. shop.

A mission team, composed of eight, travel in a country that experiences conditions most cannot imagine. They arrive to the sight of kids happily playing with a soccer ball in wet and muddy dirt. The kids are excited to see the mission group who has travelled to paint their home, an orphanage. The excitement on the kids’ faces make them forget the conditions and they truly understand the reason they are there: to make life better for those less fortunate.

“It’s like we see, you know, just the ways that people can pour into children and the difference that makes for their future.”

Julia Williams

Russell and Julia Williams of Dalhart, Texas, are more than just farmers and coffee shop owners. In fact, the story of their life together began in Washington D.C, where they were both working at the time.

Russell is originally from Farwell, Texas, where he grew up on the family farm. Upon graduating from Texas Tech University in 2002, Russell moved to Washington D.C. where he worked for the House Agriculture Committee, worked for a U.S. Senator, and later was a lobbyist for the American Farm Bureau Association.

Julia grew up in Dripping Springs, Texas, and graduated from Texas Christian University. After majoring in political science, Julia also moved to Washington D.C. where she worked for the National Association for Federally Impacted Schools and a nonprofit organization that focused on healthcare in Africa.

In 2010, the couple got married and headed back to Texas to continue farming. The farm expanded to Dalhart, so Russell and Julia made the move to take on the new farm. To adjust to life in a new community, they looked to their faith to get involved. Russell said through their church they were able to find a new passion.

“We were in a new community,” Russell said. “And we started getting involved with churches when we found a church we liked.”

When their pastor approached them about a program that raises money for missions using coffee as a source of funding, they could not pass it up. Julia said she had always wanted to own and run a coffee shop of her own but did not know what that would look like.

“There was my background of wanting a coffee shop,” Julia said, “so we jumped all over the project, helped launch it, and then have carried it forward since then.”

It was a mission trip to Thailand that sealed their passion to create sustainable funding for child wellness. The mission trip took them to several orphanages that provide shelter, clothes, food, education and so much more to children who were left with nothing.

Julia Williams on the mission trip.
Julia Williams and one of the kids she met on the mission trip to Thailand.

“It was eye opening just to see these kids happy and playing,” Russel said, “just loving life and being happy to have, you know, this group of people who cared about them that much.”

In 2015, after their mission trip, they began roasting coffee sourced from Thailand. A year later, in September 2016, they opened a coffee shop in Dalhart. The coffee company was named Purpose Coffee Co., which represented their mission.

“It can mean a number of different things to different people,” Russell said.

They sell their coffee to churches and businesses, allowing those groups to sell the coffee to serve as a greater purpose in the community. For example, a special blend named Texas Strong was developed and sold to aide those affected by Hurricane Harvey.

“We’ll do large orders for church groups,” Russell said, “and we allow them to sell our coffee as long as it has an impact in the community.”

The Williams said they wanted to focus on child wellness organizations because they had been exposed to the large amounts of poverty in other parts of the world. They said it was important to them to provide sources of sustainability in other countries, especially to children. The Williams said they were experiencing infertility struggles during this endeavor, but felt like they were always meant to have and help kids.

“We both felt like we were called to have kids and maybe it wasn’t our own kids but maybe it was helping kids through Purpose Coffee,” Julia said.

The Williams were blessed with their son, Whitaker, in 2016, the same year they opened the Purpose Coffee Co. store front.

“It’s kind of like we’ve been raising our child and the coffee shop at the same time,” Julia said.

Julia said becoming parents helped them understand the impact people can truly have on a child’s life.

“It’s like we see, you know, just the ways that people can pour into children and the difference that makes for their future,” Julia said.

Russell said it is challenging to be a full-time famer and small business owner. They said there is not a lot of balance between the two ventures, but he stays focused on the purpose that fuels their passion.

“We just have to keep our eye on what the purpose is and why we’re doing it” Russell said. “It’s a passion knowing that I’m putting something that God gave me to use to help other people.”

Looking to the future, the Williams said they would like to see more growth in partnerships and wholesales to businesses that want to share a greater purpose.

“It’s so special to have these other businesses see our model and want to duplicate that all around the country,” Julia said. “The purpose has always been the primary thing and the coffee is kind of secondary.”

The Williams said it has always been about thinking globally and acting locally. They said they want to continue to inspire others through Purpose Coffee Co., and they hope to see more people impassioned by global causes not just child wellness.

Russell on the mission trip.
Once a Red Raider, always a Red Raider. Russell taught the kids how to do a classic Texas Tech guns up.

Servant Leadership

Picture of David Weaver at the South Plains Food Bank.
David Weaver has been the CEO of the South Plains Food Bank for 27 years.

Growing up in Lubbock and being more interested in theater than cotton, this CEO has had the opportunity to direct his own play – except instead of on a stage – his actors are staff members at the South Plains Food Bank. 

Earning a bachelor’s in sociology and a master’s in theater from Texas Tech University, David Weaver said he has always had a passion for nonprofits. Meeting the director of the South Plains Food Bank in the 90s through affiliation with the Lubbock Community Theater, Weaver said he quickly fell in love when he began doing part-time work at the bank. 

“She asked me to come out to the food bank like 28 years ago and start helping with some basic bookkeeping,” Weaver said. “We were converting from a manual accounting system to an automated system – and I just fell in love with the place.”

Having a specialty in nonprofit management and a heart for volunteering, Weaver soon started working full-time and in 1997, became the executive director of the food bank. 

The Stories

Translating his passion for storytelling from theater into his work, Weaver makes it a priority to tell the stories of the bank’s patrons. 

“We touch 58-60,000 people here and that’s kind of cool to think of,” Weaver said, “but you always remember those are 58-60,000 individual stories.”

For Weaver, the best part about working at the food bank is having the chance to build good relationships and get to know the staff, volunteers and clients.

“It’s really gratifying to just make that connection,” Weaver said, “and to catch up with people and to be a part of their lives at a time when they’re stressed out.”

“We touch 58-60,000 people here and that’s kind of cool to think of, but you always remember those are 58-60,000 individual stories.”

Beyond making a connection with the people at the food bank, Weaver said his success at the bank can be attributed to the staff. 

“I think from my vantage point,” Weaver said, “I see that I’m successful because of so many people behind me. And so when people talk about, ‘Oh, you’ve done a great job’ and things like that, I say, ‘Well, you know, it’s really our staff and our people – we’re all committed.’”

For staff at the South Plains Food Bank, like interim chief operations officer, Jenifer Smith, being committed to her work, she said, is more enjoyable because of Weaver’s philosophy of putting staff first. 

“He kind of has a routine when he comes in every day,” Smith said. “He kind of makes a round and stops in everyone’s office, just kind of checks in; and you may have a 30-second conversation or a 10-minute conversation, just depending, but he’s very personable.” 

David Weaver said he loves going in the warehouse to talk and work with the more than 9,000 volunteers who work at the SPFB throughout the year.

But for others at the food bank, such as chief development officer, Lyn Garcia, Weaver does more than put his staff first. She said the bank is like a family to her, and thanks to Weaver, she was able to realize why she is so dedicated to the bank’s mission. 

“David Weaver, he kept telling me, ‘Why do you feel so connected? You need to think about your story,’” Garcia said. “That’s why I feel like he’s the one that really made me stop and think about really connecting with the organization.” 

Beyond making a personal connection to the bank, Garcia said besides being a great mentor, Weaver always showcases what it means to be a genuine leader. 

“I think that he’s just very genuine about how he feels and how he cares for people and the staff at the food bank,” Garcia said. “He genuinely cares and wants to help them succeed and mentor them – he’s just very genuine.” 

Similar to Garcia, Smith said Weaver has also served as a mentor in her life — teaching her that people are the most important thing.

“Anybody that comes into our food bank for help,” Smith said, “he takes the time to say, ‘Hello, how are you?’ He sees them as people, it’s not just somebody coming in to get food. There’s a story behind every person that walks in the door, so he looks for that story – he wants to know that person.” 

Smith said in addition to Weaver caring about every person that comes into the food bank, he has found the one thing he was drawn to do. 

“I think his personality; I think his educational background; I think the fact that he grew up in this town; all of that really shaped him into really the perfect person to run this food bank,” Smith said.

“I’m sure if you’d ask him when he was in college, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ he would not have said the director of a food bank, but as you go into life and jobs, circumstances lead you down paths and he found his perfect path.” 

Having found his calling, Weaver said he is ready to pass the torch after being at the bank for 27 years, and is excited for the next stage of life. 

The Unexpected

As he prepared for retirement, however, the world had other things in mind. Taking off in March of 2020, news of the coronavirus began to spread. 

“As I learned about the spread of COVID-19,” Weaver said, “I experienced the same range of emotions many of us experienced – moving from disbelief, to fear, to what do we need to do?”

Putting his retirement on hold, Weaver and the staff at the South Plains Food Bank began to converse with other food banks around the state and country to figure out how to proceed. 

They shifted into what Weaver calls “COVID mode” and started serving food to 60% more families. 

Making adjustments to all operations at the food bank, Weaver said they have moved to an online process that allows people at the food bank to receive food through a curb-side pickup or home delivery. Everyone that comes into the food bank has to answer screening questions and have their temperature checked, in addition to wearing a mask, maintaining social distancing, and washing their hands frequently. 

While Weaver said he misses the one-on-one contact with the people the food bank serves, he is thankful for the agricultural presence available in the South Plains.

“The United States is blessed with a robust capacity to grow and process many agricultural products,” Weaver said. “For various reasons, there will be kinks in the supply chain as products move from fields to the grocery stores, but I have faith that our food system remains safe and secure.” 

But while food availability remains constant, Weaver anticipates as unemployment rates rise, so will the level of food insecurity. Weaver said the food insecurity rate in Lubbock is around 15% and could increase to more than 20% as the poverty levels increase. 

Despite the rapidly changing environment of the COVID-19 era, Weaver said there continues to be strong support from the Lubbock community for the South Plains Food Bank. 

“I have been amazed by the response of donors as events are unfolding,” Weaver said. “Their generosity has allowed us to respond quickly and to be flexible in that response.”

The South Plains Food Bank, located off of Martin L. King Boulevard in Lubbock, Texas, serves 20 counties in West Texas.

The Future

Grateful for his community and all members of the South Plains Food Bank, Weaver said he would not want to be anywhere else during this time. 

“I enjoy the work that I do and the people – the board, the staff, and the volunteers – that I get to work with every day,” Weaver said. “At a time like this, I can’t think of any other place I would want to be than with them. They are fearless and amazing.” 

Looking ahead, Weaver is excited to see what the future holds and is fortunate for one last curtain call.

Conservation of Land & Heritage

Dan and Tom Griffin stand strong on their family ranch in front of angus cattle.

 

On the Griffin Ranch, family traditions are a blueprint for decisions about college, livelihoods and ranch management, but are difficult to amend. Tom, Dan, and Ben Griffin graduated from Texas Tech University like their father and are the fifth generation to manage a portion of the family ranch in Borden County, Texas.

Tom and Dan perpetuate stewardship attitudes they learned from previous generations, but have fostered a stronger relationship with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) to improve their conservation practices.

Dropping off the cap

The Griffin Ranch is about 30,000 acres in total and lies right off the caprock, a stunning 250-mile-long geographic border marking the end of the Southern Plains. They also have another portion of the ranch around Channing, Texas.

“You drop off the cap, and it has a lot more character as far as up and down, breaks and creeks,” Tom said. “Every pasture is a little different.”

Tom, Dan and Ben take care of separate portions of the cow-calf ranch. However, the Griffins act as a team during times like branding and weaning and will help each other take care of the ranch regardless of whose “portion” they are working. They treat the ranch as one cohesive family business and “plan to keep it that way,” according to Dan.

The family has been managing the land since 1926 when Thomas Louis Griffin first established the ranch.

Taking back the land

Based on stories from his grandpa, Tom said the landscape was completely different back then. It would’ve looked more like the Rolling Plains with a few short mesquite trees, if any.

“It has changed quite a bit I’d say,” Tom said and chuckled, “but I think it’s always been dry.”

Thomas Lane Griffin, the brothers’ dad, began battling mesquite on the ranch, a struggle that has continued into the next generation. The trees, a problematic invasive species, suppress grasslands and dominate water resources. They are hard to eradicate, but spread easily.

“Whether you get governmental assistance or not, you have to fight it,” Tom said, “or else it takes over. It crawls through and spreads like wildfire.”

Dan and Tom said they administer brush control through aerial spraying, grubbing with a tractor or excavator, and have recently experimented with prescribed burns collaborating with the NRCS.

Firm foundations

“Since I can remember, Dad pretty much took care of the ranch himself with a couple of hands from time to time,” Tom said. “He’s done more on this ranch than we’ve done together.”

Tom explained Griffin Sr. is not resistant to new ideas and management practices, but he is a careful and cautious, especially not wanting to detriment the ranch’s grazing capability.

“He’s seen a lot more drought in his lifetime than Dan and I have,” Tom said. “He has more experience and is still the final say on a lot of things.”

The brothers consider drought a family hardship along with the passing of their grandfather.

“Paw Paw died in 2010,” Dan said, “and then it didn’t rain.”

“Paw Paw died in 2010, and then it didn’t rain.”

Since 1996, the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service reports droughts have taken more than $38.5 billion from the Texas agriculture economy with farm and ranch losses totaling $21.62 billion.

Tom said 2014 and 2015 were positive years for the ranch. Since the “worst” drought Tom has ever experienced in 2011 and 2012, the ranch’s populations of quail, deer, and bobcats have skyrocketed, largely due to the conservation work the Griffins do with the NRCS.

NRCS conservation partnership

With their increasing roles as ranch managers, Tom and Dan have brought new ideas to the table by working closely with the local NRCS’s field office to improve the ranch using conservation enhancements through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program.

The Griffin brothers are able to enroll in NRCS programs as Young Farmer and Ranchers. This incentive gives young families like the Griffins, who are beginning to establish or expand their agricultural operations, a slightly higher cost-share rate on conservation practices and improvement projects.

Dan said the NRCS has helped cost-share projects on the ranch including building fences to help prevent overgrazing, spreading out water sources for cattle, and building a water storage system to save water for drought years.

“Because these improvements are cost prohibitive, we would’ve had to get loans,” Tom said. “The financial assistance from the NRCS makes it easier to do these conservation enhancements.”

The NRCS provides technical and financial assistance but also supports ranchers as an educational resource with a team of district conservationists, water quality and grazing land specialists, and agricultural engineers.

Dan has worked with Matthew Coffman, the NRCS Southern Rolling Plains grazing lands coordinator, to formulate a prescribed burn plan for the Griffin ranch.

“Matt made the entire fire plan, and it didn’t cost us anything,” Dan said. “The prescribed burns have helped with productivity of the grasses and brush control and has made our pastures healthier.”

Dan said working with Coffman and other NRCS staff has sparked his interest to learn more about grasses and how to keep the land productive.

Coffman said he began working with Dan in 2014. He said he is inspired by the large-scale impact on the health of the land from work his NRCS predecessors did nearly 20 years ago.

Coffman said goals for the ranch include building the burn program to the point where the Griffins have applying prescribed burns “down to a science” with a regular rotation of acres and are able to take more control of the process.

“They are just great guys,” Coffman said. “I enjoy working with them, and I can tell they want to benefit their land. They’re working really hard.”

Strong family bonds

Responsible stewardship is one of the many Griffin family traditions that the brothers said is “in their blood.”

Tom said his wife and kids enjoy Texas Tech football games and are able to sit in the same seats that Tom and his brothers did growing up. Tom and Ben were able to get the season tickets their grandparents used to have.

Gloria Griffin, the brothers’ grandmother, still lives at the homeplace and celebrated her 87th birthday in October. Tom said she has plenty of great-grandkids who visit her daily. The brothers indicated their strong ties to their family motivated them to return to the ranch after graduating.

Overall, Tom describes the Griffins as blessed to be able to continue living on the ranch and passing down family traditions and values down to the next generation.

“We grew up riding horses, working cows, hunting, fishing, and going to church,” Dan said. “Visiting grandma next door seem to be about as good a lifestyle to raise kids in as we can think of.”

 

 

Stetson’s New Hat

Stetson Corman took on the role as head coach of the Texas Tech Rodeo Team.
Stetson Corman took on the role as head coach of the Texas Tech Rodeo Team.

During his college days, Stetson Corman proudly wore the Texas Tech Rodeo Team’s black vest with the Double T embellished on his back. The recent alumnus may have graduated, but it did not take him long to land back at his alma mater as the rodeo team’s new head coach.

Gold Buckled Dreams

Corman was born in Lubbock, but was raised in Burlington, Colorado. Growing up on family-owned feed yards and a ranch, Corman spent his time playing sports and rodeoing.

“I was probably roping by the age of five,” Corman said.

Corman’s family is made up of Red Raiders. His mom, dad, and uncles are alumni and his grandmother worked at the university.

He had planned on going to Tech since he was a little kid, Corman said, “That was always in my plan.”

The transition from high school to college was not an easy transition for Corman. He decided to put his love for playing sports aside to focus on rodeo full-time.

“When I came to college, that was kind of the first time I didn’t play sports,” Corman said. “I just started focusing on rodeo stuff, and that was a big deal.”

In August 2012, Corman joined the Texas Tech Rodeo Team.

“It’s a big time deal all across the nation because we are one of the only D-1 schools that has a rodeo team like this,” Corman said.

In 2012, the rodeo team had nearly 30 members. Now, the team has grown to 56 members with 24 women and 22 men.

“We’re one of the best rodeo teams in the country,” he said. “I think the history makes this team successful.”

The rodeo team started in 1923 at Tech. There is a long history of excellence for the team, much longer than other rodeo teams have.

Corman said his four years on the rodeo team pushed him to be a better version of himself.

“Not only did it allow me to grow as a person competing, but it also taught me to grow in everyday life,” Corman said.

Taking the Reigns

After graduation in May 2016, Corman was searching for a job when he stumbled upon the position as head coach of the rodeo team at Tech.

Corman said his friends and family were all “fired up” when he received the call confirming his position as the head coach of the Texas Tech Rodeo Team.

Initially, Corman was unsure of his former teammates and now students’ reactions to his new position.

“I think it was an eye-opener for me at first, because going into it, I didn’t really think about the fact that they’re just kind of almost my age,” Corman said.

Although Corman is close to his students’ age, he believes both he and the team can benefit from it.

Corman's experience on the rodeo team has added value to relationships he has made as a coach.
Corman’s experience on the rodeo team has added value to relationships he has made as a coach.

Since Corman is a recent alum of the Texas Tech Rodeo Team and Tech, he believes he has a fresh perspective that will benefit the team for years to come.

Murphey Black, Corman’s college roommate and former team member, said Corman had a great work ethic while on the team and he expects that to carry over into his new position.

Stetson is competitive and wants to win more than anyone I have ever been around. I think that makes a good team member and a good coach. You always know when Stetson rides in the box he is trying to win.
Murphey Black

Black is confident in Corman’s abilities to achieve his goals for the team.

“He won his first rodeo as a coach so he started out pretty good,” Black said. “With Stetson’s love for Texas Tech and the sport of rodeo, I think this is a great job for him.”

While on the team, Corman had a vision for what the team could be.

“I have always kind of thought that I could shape the program a little bit different and so I think there’s a lot of benefits from that,” Corman said.

Now, Corman has the opportunity to do so. Corman plans to be understanding with students’ schedules and wants to put a new focus on practice.

“I am more able to connect with them because I just went through that,” he said.

Eyes on the Prize

Corman has quite a few goals he wishes to accomplish in his first year as head coach of the team. A few team members are close to qualifying for the College National Finals Rodeo, and Corman wants to get them there.

“For this year, I want to get our men’s team qualified for the CNFR,” he said. “They have a good shot. They’re fourth right now, and they’re 200 points out of second.”

CNFR takes the top two teams in the region. Corman said the Tech rodeo team also has a few women on the women’s team and some team ropers who are likely qualify as well.

This fall, the rodeo team will be launching a new online broadcast feature for its audience to follow along with the Annual Tech Rodeo.

“We are probably going to launch our Texas Tech Rodeo Live in October, so parents who want to watch their kids at home can,” Corman said.

The rodeo team has members from other states as well as in Canada. This feature will give more options to those who cannot cheer on their team member in person. Texas Tech Rodeo alumni will also be able to take advantage of this feature as well as anyone else interested in the events.

Before the next season Corman plans to work on the rodeo team’s facilities. He wants to replace the panels and get a permanent fence installed.

“I have always had a bigger picture for what the rodeo team could be and the facilities we could have,” Corman said.

Back to the Ranch

New Executive Director of the NRHC, Jim Bret Campbell, excited to return to Texas Tech.
New Executive Director of the NRHC, Jim Bret Campbell, excited to return to Texas Tech.

Taking the reins as the new executive director of the National Ranching Heritage Center has brought Jim Bret Campbell’s career full circle.

A “horse crazy kid” who grew up in Hereford, Texas, Campbell has spent the last 19 years working in the horse industry. He worked for the American Quarter Horse Association for 15 years, the Texas Cattle Feeders Association for one year and the National Cutting Horse Association for three years.

Campbell has two degrees from the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources and said he is excited to be back at Texas Tech.

“Moving back to Lubbock and West Texas feels like coming home,” he said.

Campbell said even though Lubbock has changed over the past 25 years, he still appreciates his time spent at Texas Tech as a student.

“The foundation that I got here at Texas Tech as a student and the hands-on training I received as an agricultural communications student led me to my first job,” Campbell said. “I had great opportunities when I worked at the AQHA. It led to me being able to edit a magazine, which I never thought I’d do, but it was extremely rewarding. For things to come full circle and bring me back to Lubbock is just incredible to me.”

Campbell said his past experiences have benefited him with his new career.

“My previous jobs were definitely useful toward my new position,” Campbell said. “I oversee the key priorities at the NRHC, but I think my real job is to use the skills and background in marketing and publications that I have learned in other jobs for the NRHC to a certain degree.”

Campbell said his job also entails getting more NRHC members and to increase its visibility nationwide.

A horse enthusiast from a young age, Campbell said he loves ranching, and his new position at the NRHC is exactly where he is supposed to be.

“I have read every horse book known to man,” Campbell said. “As a child, I was addicted to Texas history, especially the period of the cattle drives. For fun, I read biographies of Charles Goodnight and all of those books that talk about how the ranching industry really came into being.”

My professional background coupled with my love for the ranching industry has made this a dream career for me.Jim Bret Campbell

Vicki Quinn-Williams, director of business management at the National Ranching Heritage Center, said Campbell was the absolute right choice for executive director.

“His connections with ranching, as well as Texas Tech gives him the opportunity to represent the center in the best way possible,” Williams said.

Campbell said he has a bold vision for the NRHC, and he expects to contribute to its growth.

“I don’t want to change much,” Campbell said, “but augment what we already do and evaluate all of our programs and things that we do well and really build on those.”

Campbell said he also desires to develop more collaboration with the Texas Tech campus.

“We share a mission with Texas Tech,” Campbell said, “and we need to have more opportunities for students in the history department, architecture, landscape architecture, agricultural communications, animal sciences and many other departments at the university to develop partnerships with us so that we can expand their experiences and show them what we do here at the NRHC.”

Campbell said in addition to creating partnerships with students in different departments, they have industry partnerships with off-campus organizations.

“We have connected with a few groups such as the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers, the American Quarter Horse Association, and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association,” Campbell said. “But what I really want is for us to build on those and to make sure we are truly maximizing the effectiveness of those partnerships.”

He said he has another vision, which entails the story of ranching and the cowboy hat.

“The cowboy hat resonates with people, whether in downtown Dallas or in Beijing,” Campbell said. “I’ve traveled internationally, and if you show up in Italy in a cowboy hat, people are going to come up and talk to you. It’s because of your story and what they assume you have grown up with that resonate with people; they appreciate those values and the history of it.”

Campbell said he wants to take the story of the cowboy hat to the public to make sure people understand it and its history.

“I want to create enough interest that people are willing to get on an airplane and come to Lubbock, Texas, just to see the National Ranching Heritage Center and learn about what we are,” Campbell said.

Jim Bret Campbell, Texas Tech alumnus, has spent the last 19 years working in the horse industry.
Jim Bret Campbell, Texas Tech alumnus, has spent the last 19 years working in the horse industry.

Williams said it is evident how concerned and passionate Campbell is with the NRHC and his career.

“He is very approachable and open to new concepts from anyone,” Williams said. “Also, he truly cares about people, especially the ones he works with.”

Carl Andersen, former executive director of the National Ranching Heritage Center and Sweetwater native, is a close friend of Campbell’s and said there are many things that make him an asset to the center.

“He is a strong Red Raider,” Andersen said. “He has a deep love for the ranching community, he has knowledge of the ranching industry, and he has professional experience in multiple organizations.”

Andersen said before the hiring process for new executive director position started, Campbell was already brought to his attention by famous country singer, Red Steagall.

“He told me a little about Jim Bret,” Andersen said. “He said he knew him through the multiple associations he has worked for and that he was going to turn in an application. He said I needed to take a long and hard look at his application because he’s the man, and he was right.”

Andersen has been on the NRHC executive board for 20 years and said he thinks Campbell is unquestionably perfect for the executive position.

“We had over 30 applicants from all over the world,” Andersen said, “but after going through the process and deciding that Mr. Campbell was the right man for the job, I am absolutely confident that he is.”

Campbell said he is looking forward developing the NRHC and is enjoying Lubbock and being a part of Texas Tech again.

“I feel blessed to have this opportunity,” Campbell said. “Truthfully, I feel like God led me here.”

 

Jim Bret Campbell said he is ready to enhance the NRHC.
Jim Bret Campbell said he is ready to enhance the NRHC.

Beyond The Focal Point

  • He looks through the lens of his camera, sees his subject, looks back at his camera, changes a few settings and begins to create something special.

He looks through the lens of his camera, sees his subject, looks back at his camera, changes a few settings and begins to create something special.

Jerod Foster, Ph.D., is an editorial/commercial and natural history photographer. He is a professor at Texas Tech University, husband and father of two daughters.

Growing up on a cattle ranch south of Paradise, Texas, influenced Foster to attend Texas Tech University and major in agricultural communications. However, ag comm wasn’t his first choice.

One month before starting his college education at Tech, Foster was enrolled as a food technology major.

While visiting his cousin Brad, who was majoring in agricultural communications, Foster ran into a familiar face that changed his course of action. Several months before visiting the campus, he had attended the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Scholarship interview session. During the interview, he met Matt Baker, Ph.D., who was the chairman of the Department of Agricultural Education and Communications at the time. Foster ran into Baker at the college and wasn’t expecting him to remember him, but he did. Baker stopped and made sure to say hi and ask how he was doing.

“That solidified my decision to change from food technology to ag comm,” Foster said.

He wasn’t quite sure what he wanted to do with the degree, but he had some things in mind. At first, he wanted to become a pharmaceutical salesman. Growing up, he was into music and was in a band in college.

“I thought it would be cool to go to law school and become a patent or intellectual property lawyer,” said Foster.

It wasn’t until spring 2005 his interest in photography was sparked. Foster was enrolled in the ACOM 2303 photography course that semester, which allowed him to be more creative again.

A ‘Junction’ in his Life:

After ACOM 2303, Foster was eager to learn more about photography. So, he enrolled in professional photographer, Wyman Meinzer’s well-known photography course at Texas Tech’s Junction campus.

It was that 15-day intensive course that changed Foster’s life.

“I was planning on attending law school after the next semester upon graduating that December,” Foster said, “I was planning on taking the LSAT that same summer I took the Junction course.”

“That one course flipped a switch.” Foster said

He threw all his law school plans out the window and decided to pursue a photography career.

While pursuing his master’s degree, Foster asked Meinzer if he could take the Junction course again. However, Meinzer wanted Foster to TA the class instead.

In 2011, Foster taught in Spain and had the chance to go back the next year; however, it was also Wyman’s last year teaching the Junction course. Foster was concerned for the future of the course and turned down the opportunity teach in Spain again.

“I saw a more accessible impact with Junction, because people could afford it more easily than study abroad,” Foster said, “I took over solely in 2012, and I have been teaching it ever sense.”

“One of my biggest teaching accomplishments is teaching that class,” Foster said, “I’ve run the whole history of it; I was a student, I was a TA, co-teacher, now teacher.”

Life After Junction:

One of the last classes he took as an undergrad that also helped him define his photography career was the senior-level course that allows students to run and produce The Agriculturist magazine. Foster was the magazine’s editor and photo editor.

The agricultural communications class, he said, did a lot for his career, because it gave him one of his first platforms to show off his work and build his portfolio.

Foster not only graduated Texas Tech with a degree in agricultural communications, but his masters as well.

“Communications is a part of every job; the agricultural education and communications college teaches its students how to communicate, work as a team, and articulate their thoughts,” Cindy Akers, Ph.D., and associate dean of Academic and Student Programs and professor in agricultural communications. “That makes our students very marketable in a job place.”

Foster said agricultural communications allows students to specialize in a particular field. It isn’t just a communications degree. It’s a very well-known field around the world that allows its students to adapt professionally.

“One of the things ACOM did for me was create a sense of diversity in my skill set,” Foster said.

One of the things ACOM did for me was create a sense of diversity in my skill set. Jerod Foster

Life Through the Lens:

As Foster was finishing his undergrad degree and starting his master’s, he began to build his skills in the professional world.

“Along the way, I started freelancing for magazines and different people,” Foster said.

“It was kind of like a waterslide at that point,” said Foster, “I just started picking up jobs and building my portfolio.”

Since then Foster has been featured in numerous publications and commercial jobs, including: New York Times, Pearson Education, Sports Illustrated, Texas FFA Association, Texas Highways, The Nature Conservancy, USDA, and Yeti Coolers.

Foster has seven published books as well.

“A big accomplishment in regards to photography is I was seen as a big enough contributor to not only photography, but also to the people who want to learn how to work in the industry or learn how to be better photographers, that I was very early on asked to write a book,” he said.

Foster has also developed a strong connection with the Nature Conservancy.

“I’m one of the go-to photographers for the Nature Conservancy,” Foster said, “I have a pretty healthy outlook on conservation practices and how conservation can be used to do a number of things, both with agriculture, the field of nature itself and also what it means for today’s youth.”

The Nature Conservancy is the world’s largest conservation organization, and to be a part of that process and mechanism is a huge deal to Foster.

“That is a pretty cool accomplishment,” said Foster, “I love doing that kind of stuff.”

Besides doing freelance work and teaching the Junction course, Foster is also a professor at Texas Tech. He teaches photography, storytelling courses and study abroad.

This coming summer will be Foster’s fifth study abroad trip, He has taught in Spain, New Zealand, Scotland, and Ireland.

Foster has been recognized for all his teaching by being awarded the Presidents Excellence of Teaching award.

“It means a lot to win the award, because my job focuses on me being a good teacher, and being able to bring the industry into the classroom,” Foster said, “receiving that award so early on in my career as a faculty member means a whole lot to me.”

To broaden his job as a photographer and make him the great photographer he is, he travels the world.

“I believe in being worldly minded,” Foster said. “I think one of the best ways to do that is to engage the world through photographs.”

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