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John Kidd, Brandy Bishop, Chanelle Svehla - $7,689

Natural Resources Management Summer Camp as a Recruitment Pathway

Recruitment into undergraduate programs in natural resources management is critical to producing society-ready resource managers in professional career positions. One pathway utilized by other science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines and by other natural resource programs is a summer camp targeting secondary school students. Such programs are frequently holistic in targeting a wide variety of participant outcomes including cognitive, affective, technical skill and ability gains and garnering interest in associated majors at the university level. This Innovation Seed Award proposal documents establishment of a five day summer camp targeting secondary school students to provide engaging activities that enhance forest literacy and natural resource management career awareness. The project will be a collaboration between faculty and staff in the Arthur Temple College of Forestry and Agriculture and representatives of Texas' natural resource management agencies and organizations. The program goal is to create a recruitment pathway to ATCOF A programs through this camp experience that is novel to natural resource management programs in Texas. The camp's first year will be evaluated using pre- and post-experience surveys focusing on forestry and natural resource literacy and intentions to enter a natural resources career trajectory. Estimating 20 participants during its first year, the $7,689 budget covers lodging and meal expenses, counselor stipends, and other commodities. Results will be distributed on campus and externally through publications and newsletters.

Jamie Bouldin, Heather Catton, Ines Maxit, Jason Reese - $5,250

Virtual International Internships: A Pilot project to assess for recruitment, retention, and transformative qualities

Recent research has yielded evidence that study abroad can be a successful student retention tool by creating a more positive feeling of "institutional action" {IA: a measure of how successful the university or college is at helping students through academic and social integration) with greater impact on first generation and minority students. However, real and perceived barriers currently limit SFA student participation in international experiences. As an alternative, innovative virtual international internships, which have gained popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic, are low-cost opportunities known to foster students' academic and social integration with their institution. Just as study abroad has been shown to have a measurable impact on the first-generation student population and considering that 70% of the SFA study body falls under this category, the proposed project plans to evaluate virtual international internships as a retention tool for SFA freshmen and as a supporting practice for the development of globally competent SFA graduates. Furthermore, a unique program, such as a first-year international internship experience, may be the additional incentive that may shift high-achieving students to choose to enroll at SFA.

Brad Meyer - $6,681

Video Recording Pack

FA’s School of Music (“SOM”) is comprised of a talented group of people, consisting of 476 music majors and 61 faculty/staff. The SOM’s Mission Statement embraces the attracting and retaining of high-quality students by providing opportunities to create a variety of quality musical experiences through the presentation of concerts, recitals, and other musical programs at the university, community, region, nation, and international levels in preparation to make students competitive for the job market after they graduate. These goals are in line with SFA’s Mission Statement, which is to offer opportunities in a learner-centered environment for our students.  

Currently, the trend for virtual music making is becoming the norm, and has been dramatically sped up due to COVID-19 and its many factors, which have kept students and faculty from making music together for in-person audiences. This trend towards virtual performances was already present before COVID-19, but now it is becoming the standard for all the performing arts. High-quality video recordings that can be shared via social media, YouTube, and other platforms is the future of music making as well as the future of student recruiting. This proposal seeks to purchase the equipment needed to help SFA’s SOM compete with the other universities that are embracing and experiencing the benefits of increased high-quality online content. The SOM does not have the equipment for faculty to make high-quality videos of their ensembles, their students, and themselves, which has resulted in many faculty members spending their own personal money to hire professionals to do recordings of their soloists and chamber ensembles or not doing recordings at all. The proposed “Video Recording Pack” will allow all faculty to record any performances of the students, ensembles, and themselves, in order to better promote all the amazing activities and performances that are constantly occurring on a daily basis in the SOM.

This proposal seeks funding for a recording pack consisting of three cameras, two microphones, four video recording lights, and the accessories to make all of these items work together. In total, this request is for $6,681.

Hector Ochoa, Collin Timmons - $7,500

Competing to Attract and Retain

In the past, universities have addressed Recruitment and Retention and many ways.  Most universities have concluded that the best way to retain students is by providing meaningful learning experiences and creating a healthy community within the department. In terms of recruitment, most studies have concluded that exposing prospective students to the academic department’s environment and creating a personal relationship is the best way to keep the student’s interest in the university alive. The project " Competing to Attract and Retain" aims to implement a series of friendly competitions that will address retention and recruitment. These competitions will keep enrolled students interested in their programs, and at the same time, create a stronger bond between their peers and other professors. The competitions will also attract prospective students from regional high schools and community colleges, exposing them to the SFA community and the different academic departments. These prospective students will have the opportunity to interact with faculty members, allowing for a more personal relationship. Something that they will not be able to experience at larger universities. These events will help increase retention (Goal 1), and at the same time, will help to raise awareness among prospective students of the programs that SFA has to offer and our great community (Goal 2). This proposal requests the total amount of $7,500 to support students' salaries, event prizes, student travel support, and materials and supplies. Dr. Hector A. Ochoa and Mr. Collin Timmons from the Department of Physics, Engineering and Astronomy will be responsible for administering this project. They will be organizing the events and getting the necessary support from other departments. They will contact the Computer Science department to identify the group of students that would help develop the web portal. In addition, they will use the resources from the STEM Center to get in contact with science teachers to promote the events. Finally, the results obtained from this project will be disseminated using social media, the SFA Sawdust Magazine, Conference Proceedings, and Journal Papers.

Dipak Singh, Keith Hubbard - $15,000

Early Detection and Intervention of Disengaged Students with Deep Learning

Stephen F. Austin State University (SFA) collects many terabytes of data on its students; however, a minute fraction of this data is actively used to ensure student retention and success at present. We propose applying modern data analytics and deep learning techniques to SFA’s existing data, in pursuit of quickly identifying students at a high risk of academic disengagement, and intervening early on to provide necessary help to these students to complete their studies and graduate on a timely fashion. We believe that it is a responsible and efficient use of SFA’s existing data and pivotal to supporting SFA’s Foundational Goal in the strategic plan of “meaningful and sustained enrollment growth”.

Furthermore, it presents a unique opportunity to empower data analytics students to assist fellow students while honing their professional craft. Over the past two years, we have been working to understand and gather institutional data which can be systematically used to identify time-specific student disengagement. In particular, we have large data sets of student meal plan usage, residence hall occupancy, course performance, and Brightspace usage. Only by combining these data and applying advanced artificial intelligence techniques such as deep learning, can the tremendous potential of this data to reaching students be harnessed. We believe there also exist other external data sources (such as social network, demographic data etc), as well as unforeseen stakeholders, that when combined, could help achieve a win-win situation for both the university and the students.


  1. Automatically identify basic risk factors within the dataset which might be clearly recognized and acted on by advisors, Student Success Center personnel, or others.
  2. Apply deep learning to time-series and graph-structured data in order to effectively learn patterns and predict early student disengagement which might include more complex hidden latent variable relationships than might be physically possible for a human to observe.
  3. Engage select SFA data analytics students to acquire a hands-on experience on real world problems that will benefit their peers and improve their marketability in the future.

Sudeshna Roy, Larry King - $14,850

Developing a Framework White Paper for Market Launch of and Recruitment of Eligible Adults in BAAS Degree Completion Programs: A Case Study of the Organizational Leadership Completer Program

According to estimates by the United States Census Bureau (2019) there are 15,028 individuals residing in Nacogdoches County who have some college coursework but no degree. A significant percentage of this population have a combination of the following experiences: documented workforce/technical/vocational training; an Associate of Applied Science Degree (AAS) degree; and Workforce Educational Course Manual (WECM) credit. According to Nacogdoches Economic Development Corporation, adult learners with some college and a combination of the experiences listed above are in the thousands. These are the adult learners who are eligible to become students in our BAAS completer programs. We are applying for the President’s Innovation Implementation and Research Awards Fund to develop a framework White Paper to market launch and recruit those adults who are eligible to join our BAAS degree completer programs with the Organizational Leadership BAAS Completer Program serving as a case study. This grant will provide money for the in-depth research and on-point writing of cutting-edge and innovative message/content and market launch of completer programs to recruit eligible adult learners successfully and sustainably. Creating a framework for such messages/content and the consequent steps towards marketing of such programs can benefit many departments within SFA that want to tap into the local and regional adult student base. This project has four main goals: (1) creating a content/message framework for market launch and recruitment of eligible students in adult degree completer programs; (2) creating website content based on research for such programs in consultation with SFA’s internal BAAS and marketing teams; (3) testing market launch of Organizational Leadership Completer Program in consultation with SFA’s internal BAAS and marketing teams; and (4) recruiting students sustainably for the case study program (Organizational Leadership). The potential impact of this framework in the short term will result in the successful recruitment of eligible students for the case study program (Organizational Leadership) for Fall 2022. The long-term impact could lead to multiple departments within SFA benefitting from the framework White Paper resulting in recruitment of potentially thousands of eligible students to our BAAS degree completer programs. This is the reason why our grant qualifies under the large-scale recruitment project. The total requested funds for this project are $14,850.

Amanda Breitbach - $7,684

Pilot Project in Emerging Photographic Technologies

If funded, this proposal would lead to the implementation of four pilot projects in Fall 2021 and Spring 2022 that present students within and outside the SFA School of Art with the opportunity to begin working with state-of-the-art photographic technologies through assignments that include the use of aerial drone photography, microscope photography (photomicrography), 3-D imaging, and astrophotography. These projects would be realized in collaboration with students and faculty from other departments at SFA, possibly including Geospatial Science, Archaeology, Chemistry, Biology, and/or Astronomy, which creates the opportunity for students in those departments to gain experience and exposure to these technologies as well. These pilot projects will lay the foundation for development of an advanced class in Emerging Photographic Technologies, which could be ultimately offered as a team-taught course for students of different disciplines. The primary goal for this project is to enhance student learning and engagement through hands-on, experiential learning with emerging photographic technology. Another important goal is to create cross-disciplinary opportunities for learning among students in the arts and sciences. Including Art in an interdisciplinary approach to education - STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics) - will promote creative thinking and problem solving and create opportunities for collaboration and experiential learning. Projects that bring together students from different academic backgrounds may also stimulate original research. Student-created video and photographic works shared through a digital exhibition, social media, the School of Art website, and alumni networks will also be exciting tools for recruitment.

Deb Scott - $7,000

Recruiting Tours by Small Ensembles from the School of Music

Smaller music student instrumental ensembles within the School of Music have traditionally not had funding to play concerts and recruit in high school band halls throughout the state. A good recruiting opportunity for the entire university could be utilized through these numerous ensembles.

Sarah Straub - $8,454

Viatoribus: Study Away with SFA

Study Away is an accessible alternative to the traditional study abroad while still providing a chance for students to feel the magic and intensity of these cross-cultural adventures! Students participating in Viatoribus will travel by bus through the Deep South, the East Coast, the Midwest, and the Southwest with intensive experiences in New Orleans, New York City, the Badlands, Boulder, and Albuquerque. Whether we are sleeping in tents, engaging with the Navajo, drinking root beer with the Amish, or learning early childhood approaches while in some of the top schools modeling early childhood theories like Montessori, Reggio Emilia and Waldorf, students on this trip will return with incredible stories to share about studying away with SFA!

Adam Akerson - $7,500

SFA at RELLIS Teacher Candidate Workroom Resources

The Department of Education Studies and the SFA Library are seeking $7500 as part of the President's Innovation Fund Seed Award to develop a SFA at RELLIS workroom with materials and resources for teacher candidates and faculty in Bryan, TX. The project goal is to purchase resources to augment coursework at the RELLIS campus, and field experiences in the Bryan, College Station area.

Jason Bruck - $7,499

DRONES – Drone Research and Outreach in the Natural and Environmental Sciences

Universities are tasked with increasing enrollment and retention through evidence-based practices and active learning. This project proposes to increase retention and enrollment in biology and forestry by incorporating drone usage in life science courses. Students in middle school and high school get experience working with drones as part of engineering curricula. However, many of these students go into engineering programs because of the interest in drones only to have 50% not complete the major. This program can help attract students wishing to work with drones who are part of this attrition. The literature indicates that inquiry-based learning and courses offering hands-on instrument use translates to high academic success in students. Therefore, there is a need to provide students with the opportunity to gain UAS skills and experience in non-engineering majors. This project will incorporate hands-on drone modules to biology courses including Marine Biology and Mammalogy and provide students the opportunity to conduct field research in East Texas. The project has two Specific Aims. Specific Aim 1: Develop and provide hands-on learning for biology students on drone applications through inquiry-based learning that increases students interest in research. Specific Aim 2: Develop a pipeline of students interested in biology and SF A by collaborating with area secondary schools.

The overall budget for this project is $7,499, which includes the cost of purchasing the drone and travel to local schools and Galveston Bay (for dolphin research with drones).

Cleo House, Slade Billew, C Conn, Panola College - Karen King - $7,500

SFA School of Theatre Collaborative Project with Panola College: Ajax in Iraq

We are requesting $7500 to support a collaborative project. This will be a collaborative presentation of Ajax in Iraq by Ellen McLaughlin produced by SFA School of Theatre and Panola College. We will perform the production in Center, TX which is halfway between the two schools and make efforts to reach out to the Center community as well by contacting local schools and groups. This project will increase student contacts with both schools and build community and recruitment connections. The production will also be entered into the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival and, if accepted, taken to perform in Abilene, Texas in February on 2022.


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Physical Address:
404 Aikman Drive
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Nacogdoches, Texas

Mailing Address:
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Nacogdoches, Texas 75962